Dimitri chuckles to himself as he watches Jakob, his father, rehearsing a troupe of clowns. Amid scenes of much hilarity they attempt and spectacularly fail to persuade three stubborn billy goats and a group of five lively piglets to perform a series of circus tricks.
Eventually Jakob is happy that the choreography has been established and moves on to rehearse another part of the act. It involves a performer of very short stature and an ass. The performer, Nidhar, is dressed as a Sikh, complete with black silk jacket and pantaloons and black turban; he boasts a bushy beard as black as soot. His short act is scheduled to precede that of Savitar, and is intended to be a humorous parody of the great horseman’s demonstration. Continue reading
We join Dimitri as he discusses the subject of horses and horsemanship with the circus horse-trainer and performer, Savitar. Although it is perhaps more of a discourse than a discussion, for Savitar is in full flow and full of enthusiasm for his favourite subject. In the ring Savitar is renowned for his ability to ride two horses at the same time, standing with one foot on one horse and the other on the back of its brother.
From one point of view, Savitar explains, it could be claimed that they are power itself, or energy in motion, in contrast to energy at rest or at peace. Li-Ho refers to them as yang. My father once confided that to understand the horse fully we must also understand something of the nature of fire; and certainly, they seem capable of drawing on energies which are at the very basis of life.
And remember, Dimitri, whether a Chiron or an Eurytion, for so long as we are humans we cannot escape the human predicament. In a way we shall always be horsemen of one sort or another; so it is as well to give horsemanship and all that it entails its full and merited due. Continue reading
A certain master-juggler, Li-Ho, once told Dimitri, his apprentice, a story about the legendary Yiliao. It was said that he was the first to achieve the near impossible feat of juggling nine balls at once. In a battle between the states of Chu and Song, the two armies confronted each other. When Yiliao appeared at the head of the Chu troops, juggling all nine balls with consummate ease and composure, the Song warriors and their officers lost heart and were so bewildered by Yiliao’s demonstration that they fled the battlefield, giving victory to the Chu.
“This,” Li-Ho said, “is a supreme example of the perfect performance to which all performers aspire.” Continue reading
“Life is but a rehearsal for the Great Performance to come. You’ll come to know that one day,” Arturo said.
“The public think that circus people are odd-balls, freaks who can’t or plain refuse to live a normal, everyday life: forever on the move, without roots, aloof, outsiders with their own language, strange traditions and of course the secrets of their trade.
But they, the public that is, know very little about the real life of a circus performer. They judge from their own narrow, particular point of view, and so can never be fully right. They only consider the surface. They can’t perceive the heart and soul; they can’t feel the loving kinship that binds us; they know next to nothing of the trials, the sweat and tears; and they do not even wish to understand our pursuit of the elusive perfect performance.” Continue reading
Even if we don’t have direct experience we all know, or at least we all think we know, what it means to have advanced far along the path. The trouble is that in the early stages we all imagine something different. We sometimes take too much notice of the sensational accounts of those who claim to know more than they do. We sometimes confuse the advanced man’s inner abilities with their outward expression. We cobble together idealised personal traits from this or that celebrated figure – saints, sages, poets, seers, mystics, prophets, philosophers, magicians, men of action and the rest – to produce in our mind’s eye something we convince ourselves best represents the advanced man as he goes about his business in the workaday world of material life. Continue reading
Non-duality is an experience. It’s also a theory about the way the universe works; and its influence is as widespread as the mystical impulse itself. We can encounter ideas about non-duality in a whole host of places. As a religious concept non-duality has been predominantly associated with Hinduism, Buddhism and Taoism. In recent years however it has formed a conspicuous element in what is often called the new age movement. The growing enthusiasm for this and other similar concepts have also been bolstered by observations on the subject by scientists working mainly but not exclusively at the margins of the mainstream. Continue reading
The study and practice of the virtues is a vast science, containing many things of beauty and wonder for the seeker of the Way. If we approach it in the right manner the subject can open up to reveal the pivotal part they play ‘in the mingled yarn’ of material life, as well as on the spiritual path that leads us home. And though he may appear knowledgeable, the seeker of Truth who doesn’t appreciate the importance of the virtues will fail in his search. Continue reading
Each fully developed virtue is like a beautiful jewel. Many of our brightest may still lie hidden, still to be mined; or perhaps mined, but still to be cut, or polished and set. These are the latent powers of our inner light, of which most of us are as yet only partly conscious, if at all. They are the unique qualities inherent in our true and higher Self. They develop within, and shine out from, the central awareness of the master within.
However, introspection also reveals a lower side to human nature: a self of unruly lower desires, compulsions, restrictions and a whole host of unhealthy and potentially destructive states of mind. This lower self is the counterpart of the higher, and presents us with the hard lessons we have to learn in order for us to progress along our path of return. Continue reading
We commonly define articles of faith as the set of doctrines a person or a group holds to be true. In a religious context we sometimes refer to believers as members of the Anglican faith or the Hindu faith, for example. Faith in this sense expresses our deeply held belief in the teachings of our religion accepted by us as true despite the impossibility of ‘proving’ them to the satisfaction of the unbeliever or the purely material thinker. We take on trust that they are true because our intuition tells us that they are. At its best our faith constitutes the substance and the evidence of those truths which our material reason cannot fully know, but we believe because they have been revealed to a higher part of our nature. St Paul’s definition is as good as any:
“Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen”. (Hebrews)
The subject is an important one. Reflecting sincerely on our own faith helps us to a better understanding of who we really are and where we truly belong. However, important as it is, this aspect of faith is not the main subject of this article. For the ancient mystical traditions recognise a hidden power in faith which no seeker of truth can afford to ignore; for those who do not gain a measure of it will never travel far along the mystic path. Although it has been alluded to in many different ways in the past, we refer to it here as ‘Trust in God’. Continue reading
In the ultra-materialistic West many of us have the sense that our normal everyday lives seem disconnected from anything we might consider spiritual. However even here and now there are those who feel an ‘inner something’ drawing them to look further and deeper into the spiritual side of things. There has never been a time when men and women have not been aware of this ‘something within’. Though the terminology varies, all the leading religions, spiritual philosophies and traditions have something to say about it.
The mystical traditions in particular speak of those who have experienced contact or even union with the spirit of God within themselves. Some traditions identify this inner spirit with the higher self, the real individual ego. We can read of the great mystics who’ve been ‘gathered up to God in a cloud of light’, or of those inspired seers, illuminated by the light within, who henceforth know wisdom and love beyond the measure of normal men. The ‘something within’ is often represented by the mystic traditions as a kind of junction with the divine, a mysterious spark from the fire of God. It is characterised here as the master within. Continue reading
Abrahamic religions apart, beliefs about reincarnation are ancient and widespread across much of the world. However, even among those who believe in it there are also important disagreements. Not least of these concern the conditions the self may find itself in following the death of the physical body. It’s clear that the original teachings on this and related subjects have been variously distorted during their transmission from generation to generation and from culture to culture; and anyway, even if this was not the case, the truth of these things cannot be proved or disproved to the satisfaction of all. No complete agreement, even between believers, is possible.
In spite of this the best of the ancient teachings are clear. And while these brief notes can only provide a starting point for further study and reflection, the sincere seeker of the ancient way will find in them some of the important principles originally established for our benefit by great men many centuries beyond the reach of our historians. Continue reading
Interest in magic is on the increase in the West. There’s plenty of evidence that witchcraft, magic spells, ritualistic and ceremonial magic, white magic, black magic, sorcery – the list is almost endless – are attracting inexperienced seekers of all ages and backgrounds. The growth of the internet seems to have stimulated some of the curiosity, and the number of monthly online searches using keywords linked to magical practices is staggering. It’s more than just an internet phenomenon however. In fact throughout the last century, and particularly since the fifties, there has been a mushrooming of groups, brotherhoods, societies and circles, all purporting to reveal the ancient secrets of the magical arts. Continue reading
Any survey of religious faiths will uncover a mind-boggling hotchpotch of differing conceptions of heaven and hell. Every culture has had something to say about the immortality of the soul and its progress after death to a more or less perfect existence. They are very ancient and persistent ideas. Consequently, our beliefs about the afterlife, and the various experiences we might have therein, have created an immense labyrinth from which it’s not easy to emerge with anything resembling the pure and simple truth. Perhaps the full truth on such matters cannot be communicated in words alone. And even if they could, these brief notes can’t cut through the maze entirely; but they can provide a clue. Continue reading
Struggling with the concepts of good and evil, and particularly the so-called ‘problem of evil’, has led some to question the notion of God as the All-fair, the All-true and the All-good. The material thinking part of our nature seems bound by the logic that either God is not absolute, or is in some way the cause of evil in the world. However, the mystical traditions have ever sought a truer and deeper insight into the nature of good and evil than is available to our intellectual reasoning faculty. Continue reading
There can be no more significant achievement than to gain a measure of inner peace. It is the foundation upon which is built all progress for all men and women. It’s almost impossible to exaggerate its importance for seekers. It is the master-key, the first, middle and final step. At all stages of the path to light, inner peace is both the way and the destination. Continue reading
Beauty in its essence is one of the everlasting Powers of God. We cannot hope to comprehend it. As with Truth and Goodness we cannot somehow rise above it to consider it objectively, in the round, as it were; we cannot pass cool judgement on its actual nature. For man to gaze upon Beauty itself is impossible; and even when that Beauty is reflected in the splendour of the heavenly realms it cannot be defined or translated into words. It cannot in any way be weighed or measured; and nor will it ever be contained by the intellectual theories of man. Continue reading
Many of the current debates about God are noisy and ill-humoured; and sometimes they are spiteful and cruel. In the West aggressive materialists appear determined to stamp out all expressions of religious faith from public life. From their perspective, belief in God is an outdated superstition, delusional, and incompatible with a modern civilised world. Some of them openly argue that religious faith is the root of all evil. Continue reading