There is thought to be a relationship - a positive correlation - between effort and reward. It seems fair that way, and we somehow do feel that justice is a cosmic law - against all the evidence!
Yet it is not struggle that brings abundance. Never has been, never will be.
Abundance is not a reward, it is an attribute of consciousness. Those with a high degree of awareness will necessarily experience abundance. Outer circumstances could not influence the inner sense of it. In any case, outer circumstances must always reflect ones inner state - and abundance is an inner state first and last.
Let us, however, be aware that materiality has a corrupting influence. When it corrupts the spiritual state of Abundance, there is distortion that shows as Greed, an ugly ne'er-satisfied beast.
Ya Mughni Ya Karim
Each of us perceives the reality of Life in a unique way according to various factors - what we have previously perceived, what we want, what we fear, what we expect. These factors are forms of thought and emotion and thought and emotion are as mutually connected as the depth and surface of a river.
What is "real" for us inside becomes real for us outside so that physicality cements our more subtle reality into hard fact. That process of becoming real is worth consideration. Attention given and received is what motivates the transition of astral reality into materiality. If attention is given to another is sufficient measure there must be a response - perhaps attraction, perhaps repulsion yet certainly an expression of preference with emotional currents. Thus atoms, animals, people and planets create bonds, which for a time bind together a form, a material reality.
The absence of this bonding is chaos - absolute formlessness. We become a reflection of what we have focused our attention on. We choose our lives in this way by focusing on security, sex, money, prestige, TV, food, music or prayer in some dynamic combination. The face, the body, the mind and heart all show clear proof of the history of where we have focused our attention throughout life. Perhaps a gardener is more patient than an artist who is more appreciative of beauty than an accountant who is clearer minded than a drug addict who is more liberal than a gardener.
Yet one person can experience all of these attitudes during one lifetime and gain a width and depth of understanding. What is real is only real because a number of separate entities (atoms, people, etc) have joined together in a way that acts out an inherent energy field. These fields of energy are astral realities: zeitgeist, ethos, vision, hopes, dreams, fashion, fantasies, corporate image, national pride and so on (these are Neptune's forms).
Without creating one of these first, nothing physical can manifest. First the idea then the reality. A person - the person, who exactly finds words to capture the Neptunian form becomes the spokesperson for that reality and by speaking it apparently creates it. Indeed that is how it is created - by the word of this spokesperson. Historical figures, pop stars, inventors, film stars, TV newsreaders (with their carefully manicured voices) all become icons of the age because they give voice to the idea that is yearning to come into material reality. So spiritual persons are careful to develop their astral reality out of optimism and devotion to God. They choose carefully how to allocate attention and indeed to respond indifferently to attention from unwanted sources.
Consider the source of one's beliefs. Consider also the process of forming belief out of ideas. One can easily acknowledge that an individual is influenced by others, often those having a strong emotional impact especially in earlier years. One is also moved by well-reasoned writings or exciting images which appeal to ones imagination. Is it clear that belief is formed by subjective processes of mind? Our beliefs reflect our hopes and fears, our emotional bonds, our need and wants and only in some cases could we truly say that belief is impeccably reasonable.
If then we create our image of God out of belief are we seeing anything more than a simple reflection of ourselves? As mysticism and science grow closer and closer together one can more easily see how very little of the phenomenal world is fixed by universal laws. Also if one studies human behaviour in different countries at different periods one can see almost any behaviour, opinion or attitude of morality can be acceptable to someone at sometime. If belief is not a trustworthy indicator of God then what is?
What is actually truly knowable? It is not required that we believe in God, it may even be said that such belief is an unnecessary limitation. Belief is a construct of Mind, "belief in God" is a god, a lesser form and therefore not true. It will be useful for the early stages of development to hold onto belief as a helpful tool towards knowledge and yet one must throw away the crutch of belief if one is truly to walk in knowledge.
In the early days of life, the boundaries of self are not strong and external atmospheres and pressures mould each of us. As years go by, individual malleability is reduced and the psyche crystallizes into a personality that reflects our most frequent and most intense experiences. We can see from this that our neuroses and our character are shaped by the same forces, and in fact are aspects of each other. Perception depends entirely upon these crystallized patterns of energy and one would place them in the Solar Plexus. Here is the membrane that is sensitive to all sensory input, and it is sensory input that activates perception. This question of the membrane's sensitivity is all-important since the form taken by the membrane creates what we think of as external reality. Negatively, sensitivity can be seen as the speed of the ego's reactive (neurotic) nature; positively, it can be seen as the more subtle and fuller awareness of our immediate surroundings.
The membrane's correct functioning depends upon a relaxed and fluid emotional nature since intense or fixed emotions corrupt its subtle sensitivities. One seeks a state of sensitive indifference, which can be developed with breathing practices and concentration of mind. Careful to mute our responses to outside stimuli, one is unattached to any emotional expression, yet very aware of inner feelings and able to employ emotion as an added dimension of communication and relationship. Look within, breathe light in and out through the Solar Plexus, become one with that light until all distinctions dissolve in a field of light. Relax your world-view; see how it is light that connects. It is light that connects. Stand back from yourself and look at who you are, be aware of the parts never shown, let them breathe at last, let them relax and influence your responses and your choices. Be not ashamed of whom you are, celebrate the best and be open and humble about the rest.
mysticism, miracle and authority
One of the greatest writers in world literature was the Russian novelist Dostoyevsky whose profound insight into human nature is most succinctly captured in his statement about the only three things by which the typical person is truly moved: mysticism, miracle and authority. Perhaps it seems strange to include such an essay in the context of dance and yet the writer hopes to be able to relate these three primary motivations to his spiritual path and explain something of the perceived connection between these principles and the material in this work. Can we first consider the inter-connectedness between the three? Could they be seen as three faces of one primary urge: the urge freely to create creation in God's name? Is it self evident that we are with this study, concerning ourselves with religion (whose auspices most certainly include miracle and mysticism and, as a social phenomenon, authority too)?
Then we ask: what is religion, its purpose and practices, and the extent to which it achieves its purposes with its practices? One would hope to be able to affirm that its primary purpose is to bind back its adherents to Universal Truth, and that its practices are designed to lead in that direction and only in that direction. We can easily accept that there are many paths which lead from separation to Unity and so there are many religions which teach different practices - yet we would hope that these practices would have some similarities, especially the closer we get to Unity. Happily we find this to be the case, that even when very different forms of religion are examined with the consciousness of a mystic it can be seen that the essential message is repeated again and again.
The mystic has an equivalent mystical insight whatever his or her religious background. Affirming this, Hazrat Inayat Khan has given us the message emphasising the unity of religious ideals. A mystic seeks direct experience of Unity and is given to practices which have the effect of lightening his vibration, reducing his involvement in the worldly and softening his sense of self in order to surrender to God. Miracles are reported to have occurred on numerous occasions throughout history and are generally associated with saints, prophets and masters. There clearly is the expectation that a miracle in some way is related to the mystical leanings of the miracle-worker, that this person is already a mystic and is demonstrating a certain level of attainment by intending to create a change in material world phenomena which goes against our perception of natural law. These types of events are recorded in Buddhism, Hinduism, Judaism, Sufism, Islam, Christianity, Shamanism and so on.
In some cases the more prosaic word magic is used to describe the event - a magician being one whose capability to focus "supernatural" powers results in unusual physical manifestations against the expectations of ordinary reality. Such a magician would most certainly have to have been engaged in practices that enable him to control mind, body and breath, very similar to those of the mystic. In fact it is argued that mystic and magician are actually engaged in the same activity, one focuses more away from the earth, the other towards the earth and each can expect to reach a stage of competence in both states of awareness when each can annihilate his ego in meditation and each can bend the accepted laws of the physical world. Authority is an expression of identity. It is the "I am" of an organisation, that which identifies it as what it is, in other words the reach of its influence, the extent and limit of its power.
Whether this organisation is an institution or an individual, these ideas seem to apply, a person having a well developed sense of identity exudes an aura of authority and is more able to influence and less ready to be influenced by the overpowering authority of another. It is interesting to note that the phrase "…in the name of…” is a declaration of authority as well as an invocation - and a mystic would consider it a practice of attunement (Bismillah, Beshemi, Shema). It is also noteworthy that certain words which appear to be statements of authority can also been seen as mystical affirmations ("Inana" of Jesus", "I am .... that which shapes" of Amairgin, and "I and I" of Rastafarian linguistic structure).
Therefore a link can be drawn between principles of authority, mystical awareness and magical capability and one can use the model of an hourglass to good effect. Looking away from the earth, the mystic is empowered by the authority of God, looking towards the earth the magician is empowered by the authority of self. Authority here is the strait gate of self - God - knowledge. Know yourself and you shall know God. What has this to do with one’s spiritual path? One can study ideas and develop a subtle understanding of a sacred path with its wisdom and perhaps a code of behaviour that helps one to live well in accordance with decided ethical guidelines. This is exemplary and yet it is not mysticism. A mental approach to God is not complete since we are more than mind. To embody the teachings of the masters, we do practices that train the body to have different appetites and responses.
We learn how to walk the talk. With chants one can go more deeply into the emotional commitment to devotion, one can learn to align one's feelings with one's beliefs and during the process of fully integrating the knowledge in this form, very often an emotional purification takes place. To dance goes further into this process of embodiment, the physical body is more involved of course and the healing is better integrated. On a simple level - some dancers cannot hold a 4/4 rhythm in their walk. It requires considerable concentration to avoid losing the simple beat of the melody. These types are not often well earthed, they tend to over-conceptualize and miss the obvious basic realities. Others are heavy ponderous and slow to notice changes in the dance, rarely expressive of joy and these types may be in need of a more light hearted attitude to life generally. No amount of book-learning will help either person towards a beautiful balance of energies, and yet dance will help, and chanting would go some way to re-balance the emotional dysfunction implied.
Beyond the scope of Dances of Universal Peace are other exercises taken from various paths of mysticism. These include breath, wazifa, zikr and other techniques which each have a particular effect upon the student. Let's look at some of these within the context of a programme of spiritual practices. It is taught within Sufism that there is a complete equivalence between the rhythm of one's breath and the rhythm of one's life and to master breath is to master life. Hence one studies breath as a major component of a programme of development. Wazifas are known as the Beautiful Names of God and are taught to be living beings, archetypes with awareness. In calling into one's atmosphere a wazifa, one is invoking the presence of a vast, powerful living entity. The interaction with this being has a permanent irrevocable effect upon the student and so is carried out with reverence and under supervision.
The power of rhythm is used to great effect, not only by the repetition of a mantra a certain number of times, but also repeating those same practices at the same time daily and then establishing an annual rhythm of retreat. Full moon zikrs and meditations can also be used to underline a moon-orientated rhythm of practices. In this way sequential time loses some of it tyrannical grip. One conditions one's body to orientate itself to achieve a sacred resourceful state and thus one can develop a powerful protection for times of personal crisis.
Other spiritual paths have various methods quite accessible to the sincere enquirer. In Britain it is fairly popular to mark the changes with celebrations of festivals within the traditions of Wicca, Druidry and Paganism. Perhaps some people need to be shown that Christianity is not all dogma and blame, some of its wisdom is truly inspiring and the image of Christ one of great goodness and selfless love. Concepts in Buddhism, the Tao Te Ching, the Mahabharata and other Eastern words are subtle and lovely, as are some of those to be found in Judaism, Islam and the Baha'i faith. Native American and other Earth-Sky systems have a more direct experiential approach and yet even their writings seem also to have very close correspondences to the religions "of the book".
We are taught that it is important to put one's path into a form because form is needed to contain essence and offers discipline to the student. It is also recommended that one involves oneself with another or others who can offer guidance - even if the historical abuse of spiritual authority causes us to scream and squirm - without a guide one's wanderings are unlikely to be directed and one's fearful ego will dominate the quiet voice of the soul. Since we embark on our spiritual journey hoping to improve our lives, we must not be surprised to find changes occurring - in relationships, in work, at home and in our friends. In many cases it is necessary to let go of what was in order to be open to what will be.
energy, mood and perception
Energy is the capacity to do work. It is variable from one person to another and from one day to another. Mental energy enables one to do mental work, physical energy gives strength to do physical work. We can also consider emotional energy and other forms. Power and robust good health show high levels of energy. Mood relates primarily to feelings and is also variable from day to day and person to person. Mood communicates in subtle ways and yet is all-pervasive within a given group. Indeed, there is the idea of the universal world-mood of a particular moment in history (called in German the zeitgeist or time-spirit). Individually one's mood can change quickly or slowly and be more or less influenced by many factors including weather changes, personal expectations, sexual questions and more. Perception is an inner quality of consciousness.
Sensory data touches upon the physical body and stimulates impulses within and then they are grouped together to form a graspable item of awareness. Thus are created the building blocks of our individual reality systems. Does mood affect energy? Does energy effect perception? Does perception affect mood…? Yes of course they do, if fact we can say that these three qualities are inter-related. Boundless energy, absolute awareness and ecstasy are all found in a truly advanced being while depression, dim-mindedness and sluggishness are seen in less-developed types.
Once upon a time there was a puppet made of salt who had travelled a long time through dry and desert places until one evening he came upon a sea which he had never before seen and didn't know what it was. The puppet asked the sea: "What are you?" "I am the sea" it replied. "But" the puppet insisted "What is the sea". "I am". "I don't understand" said the puppet made of salt. "I want very much to understand what I can do to know you!"
The sea replied "That's easy, touch me!"
The salt puppet timidly touched the sea with the tip of his toes. At that moment he realized that the sea began to make itself perceptible, but at the same time he noticed the tips of his toes had disappeared. "What have you done to me? he cried to the sea. "You have given a little yourself to understand me" the sea replied.
Slowly the salt puppet began to walk into the sea with great solemnity as though he were about to perform the most important act of his life. The further he moved along, the more he dissolved but at the same time he had the impression that he knew more and more about the sea.
Again and again the puppet asked "What is the sea?" until the wave covered him completely. Just before he was entirely dissolved by the sea he exclaimed:
Anon (through Rabia)
salt puppet in 7 Words as a metaphor for the 7 planes of consciousness
Teaching stories have arisen throughout the world and throughout history as a method to present students—often children of course—with an easily digestible small package of ideas. Typically they can be entertaining; all types of people like to be entertained. Usually they are humorous and often the ‘moral of the story’ is fairly clear. This clear moral however, may not always be the main message. A more subtle understanding can sometimes be teased out, especially if traditional symbolism is included, which is known within the culture that gave rise to the story. This applies to certain of the stories, that are held alive by their entertaining qualities and survive as profound teachings in a hidden, seemingly innocuous form. Tarot Cards are examples of the same principle.
We can look at the Salt Puppet story as a way to discuss a Sufi idea to do with the ‘7 Planes of Consciousness’, the teaching that inspired the 7 words. The first of the 7 Planes of Consciousness unfolds as the Earth plane. This is the lowest grade of light, the slowest. It is perceived through the 5 normal senses as the physical universe. The word No is used to represent the fundamental reality here on Earth—that no two objects can occupy the same space at the same time. Things are necessarily defined—and what defines their identity is a physical boundary. Every aspect of all realities is mirrored on Earth, so there is tremendous richness in form, each type realizing an idea and examining the truth of that idea. Everything is one thing or another—so choice has to develop and so do patience, perseverance and steadiness. Out of these qualities, the personality grows more beautiful and develops mastery as it attempts to find balance and rules for living that help to provide for nourishment and protection. Once upon a time there was a puppet made of salt who had travelled a long time through dry and desert places…
The realm of time necessarily refers to the Earth plane because it is the only one where time is experienced as sequential and historical. The puppet image is of an unreal caricature whose movements are rigid and dependent upon external forces for motivation—the metaphor of an ordinary person. The salt indicates that the person is dry and can only survive in this form by staying in the desert, with its lifeless imagery. The 2nd plane is called the Astral and is described as the psychic realm. It relates to our thoughts and emotions. Here the waves of vibration (of light) are experienced in the mind as thought and imagination, dreams and intuition. It is very creative and playful realm where freedom, mischief and fun are more the norm. When we are more in tune with this level of vibration, we delight in making up new ways to do things, especially to solve problems or be artistic. It is here that we experience resourcefulness, genius, intuition, talents, clarity, the understanding of others’ emotions and views. Our sub-conscious desires sometimes surprise us by popping out willy-nilly. People like Peter Sellers and Mozart are typical of this plane—‘djinn spirits’ for whom routines and committed relationships are difficult and whose genius offsets their social ineptitude. …until one evening he came upon a sea which he had never before seen and didn’t know what it was. The puppet asked the sea: ‘What are you?’
The astral realm contains the sense of following intuition just for the sake of curiosity and without minding whether it’s right or wrong—because the djinn spirit is careless and carefree. Our salt puppet—at evening time, just before night befalls him—has followed his intuition and found something entirely new to play with. He’s curious and asks ‘what are you?’ (not ‘who are you?’). This is the Hello stage. The 3rd plane is known as the Angelic Realm, the plane of Love, Harmony and Beauty. Love is beyond mind; it obeys its own laws and is not constrained by logic or ideas. It feels in the heart. To access this vibrational level we look for joyful beauty, subtle gentleness—which we see in flowers, trees and landscapes, artistic expression of harmony, the watery sensitivity of relationship and the practice of compassion. We appreciate the value of things and give of the heart in response to these feelings. It equates to Thank You. ‘I am the sea’ it replied ‘But’ the puppet insisted ‘What is the sea.’ ‘I am.’ ‘I don’t understand’ said the puppet made of salt ‘I want very much to understand what I can do to know you!’ The sea replied ‘That’s easy, touch me!’ the salt puppet timidly touched the sea with the tip of his toes.
The sea was identified at first only verbally—appearing therefore only to the mind of the salt puppet, who persistently attempts to engage in a shallow relationship—and yet felt frustrated by his inadequate level of knowledge. He asks for guidance and receives an instruction that is new to him—he has never been asked to touch water before. He feels timid now because he’s on unfamiliar territory—as we all do when we are overtaken by the heart of love. He touches another—with an exquisite sensitivity and sense of crossing a line that may not later be re-crossed. The 4th plane has a lot to do with crossing the line. It’s called Heroic plane and is associated with masters saints and prophets—types like Jean d’Arc, Gandhi, Alexander the Great, Martin Luther King and thousand others who had no willingness to compromise. It is accessed through the practice of truth—no bargaining with your soul. Christ certainly had a 4th plane aspect—turning over the moneylenders’ tables in the temple. Qualities associated here are fiery conviction, missions, strength of character, power, faith, will, transformation, struggle, mastery, confronting injustice—and eventually surrender to divine will, wisdom and the ability to balance forces. It is the Goodbye vibration—realization, decision, completion and moving on. At that moment he realized that the sea began to make itself perceptible, but at the same time he noticed the tips of his toes had disappeared. ‘What have you done to me? he cried to the sea. ‘You have given a little yourself to understand me’ the sea replied.
A real moment of truth—the instant of realization, the arising of an inner force—that could easily have been expressed as anger or violent rejection—but which is confronted within oneself instead. The need for instantaneous decision and the movement into the unknown. There’s a profound sense of the release of childishness as adult wisdom unfolds with a depth of personal responsibility. Rites of passage are 4th plane. The 5th Plane is called the Plane of Splendour. It has associations with knowledge of perfection, sacredness, excellence, praise, prayer, cathedrals, glorification, peacefulness, Goddess in Nature, self-respect, dignity, chanting, rituals, majesty, bringing God into life—the priestly vibration. The word Please is enacted within this atmosphere of wanting to bring a sacred vision to Earth. Slowly the salt puppet began to walk into the sea with great solemnity as though he were about to perform the most important act of his life. The further he moved along, the more he dissolved but at the same time he had the impression that he knew more and more about the sea.
The solemnity of his gestures, the walk of dignity, the sense of fulfilling the soul’s act—the most important ever—are clues of his inner state of great reverence. The salt puppet has come to know that, for him at least, the sea is God, here on Earth. He wants this now, like never before. Having touched God, nothing else will do, the world begins to disappear, the self begins to disappear. The 6th plane is known as the Immaculate State. Its access is through forgiveness. ‘Life is lived fully only when one feels free to die.’ Purification, purity, hope, rebirth after the despair of despoilment, soul’s innocence, pure light of consciousness, desire for perfection, indifference to other desires, no interests, detachment. Holy Spirit. The word Sorry is truly said to engender a state of forgiveness and brings about refinement of the individual, a sense of egolessness. (That is why it’s so difficult for so many of us to say it sincerely.) Again and again the puppet asked ‘What is the sea?’ until the wave covered him completely.
Even though the sea is salty, its essential nature is not salt; similarly the puppet’s essential nature is not lifeless salt, in isolation. There is a deeper truth within the ocean of God. Drawn by a something in the briny sea that it senses is akin to itself, yet infinitely greater, it has to lose all of its imperfections—those unyielding aspects that he had come to love passionately as self—and unite with a greater being to lose itself in the ocean of spirit in order to go forward into God. Sufis call this fana (effacement). The 7th Plane is transcendental—beyond all phenomena and beyond description. Just before he was entirely dissolved by the sea he exclaimed: ‘I exist!’
The story of the Salt Puppet ends with the two words ‘I exist’. In the beginning, his identity was established and appeared incorruptible because the dry desert—a place lifeless and without the greening of water—was safe. He knew nothing of water, and was curious to find out—so he risked his toe. He then knew of surrender, and equally he knew of the sea. Choosing the mystic life, he undertook an act of great sacredness and gave up his primary attachment, his physicality, in order to gain knowledge of God, which the sea here symbolizes. Quite by surprise and without any previous expectation or hope he discovers existence is not what he had thought before—and now he has it! I exist! Are we willing to risk a toe in order to discover for ourselves whether existence is not quite how we thought it to be? The journey from No to Yes begins and ends with identity: ‘I exist!’ Perhaps the emphasis has changed now, whereas in No we were proudly proclaiming ‘I’, now we are more humbly acknowledging ‘exist’.