Booklist for Experiential Metaphysics

Your help is gratefully needed.

I am putting together a reading list for a coming course ‘Experiential Metaphysics.’ It is the reading list for what we were calling a modern Mystery School.

Below you will see a provisional list. I hope to bring it down to twelve titles that students must read. The books need to cover the essentials: cocepts and practices.

Please put your suggestions and edits in the comments box at the bottom of the page.

Many thanks 🙏

 

A Course in Miracles: Book 2 Work Book and Manual for teachers

Alice Bailey: Glamour – A World Problem

Barbara A. Brennan: Hands of Light: A Guide to Healing through the Human Energy

W. Y. Evans-Wentz: Tibetan Yoga and Secret Doctrines: Books of Wisdom of the Great Path

Dion Fortune: The Mystical Qabalah

George Frazer: The Golden Bough

Michael Harner: The Way of the Shaman

Marvin Harris: Cannibals and Kings

William James: Varieties of Religious Experience

John & Caitlin Matthews: Walkers Between the Worlds — The Western Mysteries from Shaman to Magus

Jane Roberts: Seth Speaks – The Eternal Validity of the Soul

Edouard Schuré: The Great Initiates – A Study of the Secret History of Religions

Stephen Skinner: The Complete Magician’s Tables

Starhawk: The Spiral Dance – A Rebirth of the Religion of the Ancient Goddess

Malidoma Patrice Somé: Of Water and the Spirit: Ritual, Magic and Initiation in the Life of an African Shaman

Rudolph Steiner: Knowledge of the Higher Worlds

Tenzin Wangyyal Rinpoche: Wonders of the Natural Mind – The essence of Dzogchen in the Native Bon Tradition of Tibet

The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali (Trans Alistair Shearer)

72 Virgins and Ecstatic Spiritual States

Martyrs who die fighting for Islam are promised seventy-two virgins in paradise.

Scholars argue over whether this was actually ever promised in sacred texts. They debate too whether there was a correct interpretation of the concept. One scholar, Christoph Luxenberg*, suggests that a more accurate articulation would be something like ‘white raisins of crystal clarity’ rather than delightful virgins.

Of course, the whole idea is a metaphor for the pleasure that awaits the faithful in the after-life.

My own musings on this, deconstructing the patriarchal sexism, have pondered whether the promise of middle-aged, male virgins would be quite so alluring.

Fight the good fight and your reward will be a posse of clumsy, embarrassed and apologetic blokes nervously awaiting your advances.

Like geeks the world over, they might suggest that all your problems could be fixed if you would just switch off the machine, wait a few seconds and then switch it on again. A bit like death and reincarnation.

All of this is a preamble to a spiritual rant against certainty and religious indoctrination. Religious leaders, all leaders, should have higher ethical standards. They should know better than to manipulate insecure people with false promises. Seventy-two virgins!

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There are essential tools that everyone should have in their tool bag of spiritual skills and practices. One of these is to be wisely sceptical of snake-oil salesmen, false prophets and spiritual teachers who offer certainty. To put it another way, people on the path of spiritual development need to be comfortable with unknowing.

The path of love, compassion and expanded consciousness, is full of mystery and unknowing.

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I was in an enjoyable dialogue recently with a group of Jungian therapists. For me, that is a good mix: Explore archetypes and unseen connections, and care for people.

One very nice guy pondered that the path of spiritual growth seemed to him to be a complete waste of time. You end up, he mused, in this eternal, ecstatic, white light state. That was it. A brick wall. Nothing more. Boring. A waste of time.

I loved the provocation.

No, I responded, it is not like that at all. In my experience, and echoing many other mystics, what happens is this:

On our spiritual journey, we do indeed enter an ecstatic state. But it does not end there.

Using spiritual practices, we repeat being in that ecstatic state.

We develop those practices (usually in meditation) so consistently that the ecstatic state becomes a plateau, a normal experience. It is no longer a peak experience. We have expanded and that altered state of consciousness is now our norm.

Then, from that plateau, we continue to develop and grow. Our consciousness, our awareness of all that is, expands. And so we then, on a higher turn of the spiral, reach a new peak, a new plateau of experience

But that process of consciousness expansion and spiritual growth is always at an edge of mystery.  It is a mystery because we are not capable of comprehending what comes next.

That is the essence of consciousness expansion. To repeat, we are not able to comprehend the next state – because it is beyond our current level of consciousness.

We don’t know what we will meet when our consciousness expands. We can only guess at, intuit or imagine, what the next state of consciousness will be like.

It is an unfolding mystery.

So . . . Far from ‘enlightenment’, ‘samadhi’ or ‘nirvana’ being a boring waste of time, a brick wall, the end,  there is further exploration of the new — into something even more divine, extra-ordinary and metaphysical. It is an unfolding mystery.

It is essential then that we have that tool in our spiritual tool-bag, that we can be comfortable with unknowing.

It also calls for courage and purpose, wisdom, increased love, compassion and benevolence — as we melt and rebirth in the ocean of cosmic fire.

What could be more exciting?

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Ah, asks the martyr, what about the seventy-two virgins?

The middle-aged geeks? I respond affectionately. I don’t think so.

The real reward is far more extraordinary, incomprehensible and enjoyable.

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* ‘Die Syro-Aramaische Lesart des Koran’ quoted in The Guardian https://www.theguardian.com/books/2002/jan/12/books.guardianreview5

 

My Way of Making Important Decisions

A friend was recently faced with a life-changing choice. She was temporarily stuck as she weighed up all the pros and cons.
Looking for some support, she reached out to me and asked for advice.
The best I could do was share how I do it.

What follows therefore is the strategy that I use after I have done all my research and weighed all the pros and cons.

Recently, for example, I needed to decide whether I should take on a hefty load of new work. I was uncertain which way to go. From one perspective, it was a good idea. From another perspective, it was problematic.

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 So here is how I make these decisions It is a process that I have used for a long time and it has proved reliable for me. (And God laughs when we make plans . . .)

 At the end of this blog, I am hoping that you might want to add your own strategies.

 Calm –> Question –> Answer

 Calm
If you know me, you’ll know that I have a mind that can just whizz away. It whizzes very effectively and usefully, but sometimes I just cannot find clarity.
So I have learnt that I need be quiet and have a calm brain when I am faced with difficult decisions.
If I am speeding, aroused or anxious, then I know that my adrenalised nervous system will skew my thinking.
Especially when it is a challenging or emotionally charged decision, I can find it difficult to get calm. I have learnt therefore to locate these decisions inside my meditation practice.
Sometimes, however, I serendipitously surf a calm state, for example, when out in nature, or watching television . . . I close my eyes . . .

 Question
Inside this calm I focus softly on the issue.
I check that my breath and body stay at ease.
I then pose the issue as a very simple and straightforward question.
“Should I do this – or not?”

 Answer
I then allow my body to either lean forward or lean backward.
If my body leans forward — it is a Yes.
If my body leans backward — it is a No.

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It is as simple as that. I use my whole body as a dowsing rod, trusting that its intuitive wisdom will give me the right direction. (Like muscle testing.)

I 100% trust this process.

Afterwards I take no notice of any recurring anxious thoughts and feelings, except to comfort them.

Sometimes, when I am a few months into the new situation, I may have reasonable and rational doubts. I then repeat the process.
Also, of course, after a period of committed time, I may wonder whether it is time to exit. I repeat the process again.

 Always, of course, this is within an ethical and reflective framework. Do no harm. Be compassionate. Do not abandon. And so on.

 I hope that is helpful for some readers. And I am sure that many of you already use a similar method.

 If you have your own decision-making strategies that may help others please feel free to add them.

 

 

 

Draft Mystery School Curriculum

Following my previous blog on what a modern mystery school might be like, I received a wonderful engaged response. Thank you!

I now want to take a further step. I want to spend some time fleshing out the school’s curriculum. In the previous blog I made a brief attempt at this. In this blog I want to begin to expand the list. It is very rough. It is work in progress.

What I welcome from readers are suggestions as to what is glaringly missing.

GATEWAY
The applicant meets these criteria:
– My heart has opened and I prioritise compassion.
– I have a sense of connection with a benevolent cosmic mystery (known by many names.)
– I have a sense of subtle energies, patterns and archetypes.
– I am humble in the face of this wondrous cosmos.
– I am responsible for myself.

METHOD
There would be taught introduction-overviews to each topic.
Students would then do their own research and action-learning supported by tutor groups and masterclass seminars.
We would create a Wiki of resources from the world’s diverse traditions, ensuring students explore and find their own insights.

YOUR CENTRE
Map where you live – geology, landscape, historical maps, peoples.
Map where you were born – geology, landscape, historical maps, peoples.
What of significance is N, S, W, E of where you live?
Attune to the land. Give a gift or ceremony.

EMBODIMENT
Techniques of earthing.
How it feels. Purpose.
Inner smile – cauldron, bowl, tree of life, etc
Map what you know of your ancestry. Acknowledge/bless them.

EARTH, SUN, COSMIC MOTHER
Locate, map, acknowledge your place in space. Which planets? Stars?
Creation myths. Astrology

CONNECTION
Develop daily practice of connecting, yielding, emptying, surrendering, soaking.
Open-Close. Psychic protection.

PSYCHIC MECHANISM
Your mode of cognition and interpretation.
Reflective practice.
Oracles etc
Projection, imagination, perception, assessment, discernment

PLANES, DIMENSIONS, BEINGS
Metaphysical maps
Metaphysical beings, spirits, angels, souls, avatars, etc

ESOTERIC ANATOMY
Chakras, meridians, dantiens
Modes of healing

METAPHYSICAL CONTEMPLATION (OCCULT MEDITATION)
Daily practice of quiet scanning and interpretation

ENERGY WORK
Sacred space, magic circle, altar, grove
Ethics
Laws of magnetic resonance; correspondences; manifestation; talismans.
Channelling. Radiation, Invocation. Healing.
Cooperation

SOUL’S JOURNEY
Whence, why, whither?
Birth, life, death . . .
Contracts, karma, constellations

PSYCHOLOGICAL DYNAMICS
Ups, downs.
Dark nights, emergencies.
First aid.

OUTCOME
Deep daily practice of
–       Mystic connection
–       Metaphysical contemplation
–       Energy work (magic) that compassionately serves
+ Ongoing peer support and community

What is a Contemporary Mystery School?

So here you are.

Your heart has opened. You have an instinctive sense of compassion.

At the same time, your psychic abilities have woken up and you find yourself sensitive to energies and atmospheres, perhaps with some mystic intuitions and impressions.

Where do you go now?

In the Greco-Roman culture two thousand years ago, you would have sought entrance to one of the Mystery Schools. There, through ritual, sacred drama and direct teaching, you would have been introduced to the Mysteries.

Across the world, other traditions were providing similar mystic and esoteric trainings, but using different ceremonies and symbols. Look to the Druids, or Taoists, or Hopis, for examples.

In this blog I want to suggest some features of a contemporary Mystery School.

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First though we need to recognise some profound transformations that have happened in our social and cultural circumstances. These developments must, in my opinion, be influential. Let me briefly list them. They are fairly obvious, but often we do not appreciate their implications for spiritual study.

  1. Global Village
    The first shift is that we now live in a global village of shared knowledge. It is no longer possible for any school or teacher to claim any special access to wisdom and spiritual connection, when there are hundreds, perhaps thousands, of other schools and teachers, some of them very good. A thousand years ago we could travel thirty miles on a good day to find a teacher. Today we can travel anywhere digitally in the blink of an eye or click of a keyboard.
  2. No More Secrets
    Second, the core secrets of the Mystery Schools are now open knowledge. Historically these secrets were only divulged privately, usually after an initiation. Today they are commonplace in movies, television shows and books. Here is my brief digest of these once esoteric secrets:
  • Within and behind the material world perceived by our five senses, is a more subtle world of energies, patterns and archetypes. They influence and determine the material world. We can develop senses to perceive them more fully.
  • Using imagination, thought and other strategies it is possible to cooperate with and influence this subtle world and its manifestations.
  • We are not just material human beings with one life, but we are souls on a long journey of learning and development; and we are supported by souls who are further along this path. More love. More compassion. More connection. More consciousness.
  1. Hierarchy to Democracy
    Finally we have also to acknowledge a profound change that is happening in social and cultural structures. There is a general shift from top-down, often bullying, hierarchical leadership, towards democratic communities of networked and equal individuals. Seniorities by virtue of age, birth, gender, ordination or lineage, are being replaced by egalitarian mutual respect and natural wisdom. You will recognise that this particular shift is currently creating friction, as old hierarchies have trouble accepting this new reality.

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Given these substantial shifts – not to mention astrological and cosmic dynamics – how then might we imagine a contemporary Mystery School? What might its features be?

Here are a few ideas.

Entrance

The applicant to a Mystery School needs to self-assess as meeting these criteria:

  • My heart has opened and I prioritise compassion.
  • I have a sense of connection with a benevolent cosmic mystery (known by many names.)
  • I have a sense of subtle energies, patterns and archetypes.
  • I am humble in the face of this wondrous cosmos.
  • I am responsible for myself.

Curriculum

Now to the curriculum. Here is a brief list of what I suggest would be the essential components of a contemporary Mystery School.

  • Spiritual Experience
    Using person-centred teaching methods each student is enabled into a deepening daily practice of spiritual connection.
  • Reflective Psychology
    Students learn the psychological dynamics of spiritual development and how to manage them. Bliss to shadow – and back again.
  • Esoteric Meditation
    Students learn how to be quiet scanners and receptors, wisely guiding and assessing subtle sensations and impressions.
  • Soul’s Journey
    Before birth, through life and after death, students explore the nature and purpose of this journey.
  • Psychism
    Students understand their own psychic interpretive mechanism, and how best to manage and develop it.
  • A Map of Subtle Dimensions and Beings
    Students explore and develop maps of subtle dimensions and beings.
  • Compassionate Magic and Energy Work
    Students learn how to cooperate with and influence subtle energies to the benefit of all.

Lifelong Learning

The course, I imagine, would need to last between one and three years. After that, everyone would be supported in an ongoing community of peer support and lifelong learning.

 

Teachers

The teachers would need to be people who themselves practise and have experience of the topics. Most importantly they would be emotionally intelligent and could teach-facilitate in a way that respects each student’s individuality and learning style. The guru-acolyte model would be replaced with mutual respect and collegiality in the context of experiential learning.

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So those are my thoughts.

In fact, I have been pondering a modern mystery school for decades and waiting for such a school to appear.

Years ago l would have applied to be a student.

Today I might have the chutzpah to apply to be on the faculty.  I once thought that the Findhorn Foundation might be a Mystery School. Perhaps it still could be.

Over the years I have also noticed a few esoteric schools, but they have all been glued to a particular teacher or teaching, and have not practised, in my opinion, a holistic and contemporary method of student-centred learning.

Good education, including spiritual and esoteric education, builds on personal experience and not, in my opinion, on sacred texts. Authoritative and sacred texts, though, can be crucially helpful in unpacking and expanding personal experience, but this requires teachers who are wise facilitators and not proselytising a particular tradition.

One thing we need to hold in our hearts about mystery schools is their purpose.  They enable independent and self-managing adults, who are supported on the Path of Liberation, to the service of all.

All of that said, maybe it is sufficient for life itself to be the Mystery School.

On the other hand, a helping hand from loving companions is always useful.

More love. More compassion. More connection. More consciousness.

What Is the Angel of Findhorn? An Enquiry

This article is an enquiry into what people mean by the “Angel of Findhorn.” At the end of it I hope that you will add your own thoughts and interpretations.

First, though, advance warning that we are going into metaphysical territory and concepts. Materialist intellectuals – beware.

Second, for those of you who do not know Findhorn, we are talking here about what many consider to be Europe’s most important and influential eco-spiritual community. It is located on the east coast of Scotland between Aberdeen and Inverness.  Out of respect to the actual village of Findhorn, which is beautiful in its own right, we should properly call the community the Findhorn Foundation.

A bit of background: The Findhorn Foundation was started in the 1960’s and has been hugely influential in pioneering a contemporary approach to spiritualty, that integrates mysticism, metaphysics, ecology, and a holistic approach to wellbeing and personal development. All faiths and none are welcome.

One its most successful features is that it has also managed to avoid the usual pitfalls of utopian communities. It is free of gurus and sectarianism. It has also sustained a balanced culture, avoiding excesses in psychedelia and random partnering.

Most important there is, as nearly everyone who visits it says, a magic to the place. In fact, one of the first books about it was titled ‘The Magic of Findhorn.’

Of course, many places have a magic to them: sacred sites, temples, beautiful buildings and areas of landscape that radiate a blessing and harmony.

Buildings at Findhorn

But something else happens at the Findhorn Foundation, which has a certain uniqueness. People’s spiritual awakening is quickened and this is accompanied by a new awareness of how enjoyable it is to be connected to everyone and everything.

Here, I notice, is the difference between a normal spiritual awakening (if there ever is such a thing) and an awakening that happens at Findhorn. The Findhorn type of awakening has, it seems, a unique vibration in it. I am struggling for appropriate words. A gentle glee. A happy knowing. A sense of graced revolution. Like a snake discarding an old skin and emerging as . . . the same snake but with a freshness. All with an agreeable awareness that all life is connected.

So here is the question: how and why is this transformational effect achieved? A shorthand answer has always been that it is the work of the “Angel of Findhorn.”

Let’s explore what this might actually mean.

To begin, it is worth knowing something about the founders and their vision. These founders are Eileen Caddy, Dorothy Maclean and Peter Caddy. I also want to add David Spangler who set up the foundation’s core educational programmes.

I am fortunate to have known all of them and to have spent relaxed time with them. They blessed me with friendship and collegiality.

I want to propose what I think are the concepts and beliefs, which sit deep in their hearts:

  1. They were practical mystics, believing and experiencing that the universe is an ocean of unconditional love that seeks to express itself in and through everything.
  2. They acknowledged that we are all souls on a journey, and our purpose is to develop more love, compassion, connection and consciousness.
  3. They also experienced and were sensitive to the metaphysical world of subtle energies and beings with whom we can cooperate to the benefit of all.
  4. They believed too that our planet and species are at a crucial stage of evolution, and their purpose was to cooperate and support this evolutionary step forward —through the project of the Findhorn Foundation.
  5. They also believed that the Findhorn Foundation was part of a divine plan and they followed inner guidance on how to lead its development.

Thought-Form

One possibility then is that the Angel of Findhorn is the combined thoughts of these four founders. Energy follows thought. These combined energies created a ‘thought-form’, a cloud of inspirational, good ideas. This thought-form then influences anyone who comes into its aura and radiance.

 

Angels of the Mystery Schools

Another possible source of Findhorn’s magic builds on this idea of the thought-form.

It suggests that this thought-form became the clothing, so to speak, of a great archetypal being, or beings, who were attracted to incarnate into it. Thus, the cloud of thought energy is a vehicle that is inhabited and dynamized by one or more spiritual beings.

Who is this other being or beings? There are contenders. There are many archetypes, angels and spirits associated with the ancient mystery schools that focused on our souls’ journeys, and how to cooperate with subtle energies, beings and forces. Angels. Gods. Goddesses.

In the western mystery tradition, for example, these beings are known by names such as Hermes, Sophia, Athena and many more.

 

Avatar of Synthesis

But all these suggestions so far do not explain that magical Findhorn experience of something new, exuberant and vital. So let’s explore more deeply the metaphysics.

All four founders of the Findhorn Foundation were trained in metaphysics and esoterics. By this I mean that they were educated and practised in the principles and concepts of subtle energies and their cosmic context. Their major sources were the Rosicrucian, Hermetic and Theosophical schools.

One important feature of all these schools is their teaching that planets, solar systems, stars and constellations are all beings. They have identities, and they have consciousness and purpose. Just as a tree is a being, so too is a galaxy. Hinted at in astrology, the being of a constellation is a huge cloud of awareness and influence.

Within this worldview the cosmos is itself a consciousness that we humans can hardly even begin to understand. Billions of stars . . .  The apparent infinity of space . . . Dimensions beyond time and space . . .

In the writings of Alice Bailey, who was the secretary for a wonderful Tibetan teacher, Djwal Khul, there is this idea that humanity is a single entity or being. You and I may think of ourselves as self-contained individuals, but  we are also part of a collective, our species – and our species as a whole has a character, personality and consciousness of its own.

Humanity is a single being. Moreover it is a single being that needs help.

From this perspective as humanity emerged from the terrible world wars, there was a wonderful opportunity for growth. We were recovering from mass trauma and at the same time entering a new age of electronic communications and global interdependence.  We needed help. As a single species we collectively created an unconscious mass request-prayer for support and aid.

The cosmos responded.

Or to be more exact, a particular energy, or being, or avatar heard and responded to this inchoate call.

This avatar carries a vibration and experience of joyful connection. It can perhaps be understood through the metaphor of the hologram. I am in you and you are in me and we are all in each other and everything. At the same time it has an upbeat vibration. It is not just a sober knowing. It is permeated with a soft joy. It recognises and seeks to soothe the pain and suffering, yet is positive and bouyant

If we are touched by the Avatar of Synthesis, then our whole being – body, mind and spirit – is magically inoculated and tingled into an upbeat sense of connection.

In the writings of Alice Bailey this being is sometimes referred to as the “Avatar of Synthesis.”

So the suggestion here is that the Findhorn Foundation was purposefully created as a vehicle through which the Avatar of Synthesis could land and help humanity and Gaia.

As well as touching down through the Findhorn Foundation, I have heard people suggest that it also landed in other places such as the Esalen Institute in California and Auroville in India. There are, I imagine, other localities which I do not know.

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So here we have some interesting possibilities for understanding the Angel of Findhorn. It is:

  • The thought-form created by the combined energies of the founders
  • The spirits and angels that incarnated into this thought-form and energy field
  • The Avatar of Synthesis
  • All three working in synergy together
  • A mystery

Whatever the Angel of Findhorn actually is, it is a force for good. What intrigues me now is how its vibration and initiatory energy can also inoculate people without necessarily having to visit the actual place. Of course, visiting Findhorn is a great thing to do. I do not want to replace it.

Yet at the same time, this Angel, this avatar, can deliver its inoculation in at least two other ways.

  • It can happen through shared meditation and online meetings
  • As a benevolent infection it can also be carried by us as individuals

Whenever and however it is experienced, its wonderful influence can inspire in all of us a felt idealism and a lived experience of how humanity can develop.

It is, I believe, contagious. Not through our communications, talk and activities, but through our vibration and our attitude.

More love. More compassion. More connection. More consciousness.

 

Please join the conversation in Comments below.