Tag Archives: Angels

… there is a place …

Imagine a circle of people, 20 to 40, adding their voices to the drone and tune of a reed organ, repeatedly singing a phrase for an hour, or longer, with short intervals when the organ’s tune breaks into musical improvisations, only to return to the melody and phrase. In the end the sound slows and fades, leaving the echo of your voice as an indispensable part of all voices.

Then imagine a deep silence.

One of many musical tunings my spiritual Sufi friend created went with these words:

There is a place of beauty –

There is a place of peace –

There is a place of harmony –

In me

Before you grunt at the sheer illusion of such place, consider the evocation of beauty, peace and harmony as an ideal, a means –  not a goal – a means towards the hub of the mill, where the grain is ground to flour in a process of transformation.

Musical tunings are regular events among Sufi friends. Their rhythmic repeating, with or without words, produces a trance-like state in participants – not aiming at escape, but at a homecoming. Fazal Inayat-Khan’s teachings broke rules, exceeded conventions. While honouring the value of traditional methods, he introduced  contemporary phrases, like the one above, and responded to his audience with spirited musical improvisations.

The purpose of such events is remembrance of the Self, or the One. In traditional Zikr it would be Allah, God, though in strict Islamic circles music is not allowed.

I occasionally play and sing the above tune on my reed organ, especially when distressing incidents happen around the world and I have a need to tune mind and body. The place of beauty, peace and harmony only exists in the imagination, as a timeless inner realm, a state where duality co-exists, a state of unknowing, where the spirit of eternal potential lingers.

For me these group events were profoundly renewing. The body, my temporary home, became a tuning fork brought into resonance with the ground and the marrow of my bones. Suffused with consciousness, any mind-chatter merged with the yearning sounds, and my atoms realigned in new constellations.

A darker cover for my novel I wish I had used.

Intention does not bring us to this uncharted and unmeasured inner place. And even glimpsing a truth flashing from there may shock the angels in us. Catching such truth can happen equally through other means … nature, art, dance, literature, drugs, breath work, praying, guided imagery, computer programming, psalm singing, sport, silence, fasting, dreams, etc., but resonance is needed, and a deep desire for truth must lurk in the heart.

While practices towards this ungraspable inner realm may have repetitive elements, the place is never repeated but ever fresh. It is where the breath of life pulses, just not at our timescale.

Returning from the inner realm to the contemporary flow of time, we get on with life. Yet such deep memories remains and will respond to a sincere recall, where we detect once more how matter is revealed in its essence and shine. For the psyche this is gold. This inner place shows that while we embody birth and death, light and darkness, good and bad, past and future, in true essence we are pure consciousness.

To remain grounded and prevent the fate of Icarus, I tolerate the company of my little devils.

My angels like it so, agreeing that while the obscure company I keep makes living complex, painful, a challenge, it also makes existence more interesting for that, and aids the psyche’s expansion of consciousness.

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behind the scenes – traders – angels who build, fix & maintain things

We take traders for granted. We hardly talk about the people who are often highly skilled and confident in their particular field. The term traders doesn’t sum it up but must do, since ‘crafts’ has come to define rare and often vanishing artisan work.

I’m talking of plumbers, heating-engineers, electricians, carpenters, construction workers, farm workers, roofers bricklayers, plasterers, waste collectors, sewage workers, tree surgeons, gardeners, transport personnel, car mechanics, fire fighters, nurses, cooks, carers, postal workers, IT engineers … and many, many others …

basically anyone who upholds the functioning of everyday life for us.

There are some cowboys, and I had my share of them, but mostly they’re well trained people, dedicated to their job, know their stuff, and serve everyone with sophisticated practical and theoretical knowledge.

I’m talking about hands-on work … work with the elements and under innumerable atmospheric conditions. These people deserve praise and should be given medals. Our lives would be severely disrupted without their expertise, and, frankly, societies would come to a standstill.

My experience with a skilled and highly intuitive heating engineer prompted this post. Combining a new boiler with an old pipe system is never straight forward. After many anxious months, John has solved a long-standing problem by exchanging misaligned pipes. I’m immensely grateful for a warm Christmas, thanks to my angel John.

You mayor may not have noticed,  my blog site is now called http://www.courseofmirrors.com only.  No more silly adds, thanks to my son’s sanguine advice and expertise.

Though we can’t take it for granted, I’m wishing you, my readers, warm and joyful festive days wherever you are, and whatever your tradition.

And a little peace from the virtual world.

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… letting go of letting go & duende …

An apple doesn’t drop by itself before it’s ripe. And unless fate delivers us a hard blow natural ripeness applies equally to experience. Experts are quick to tell us, or we tell ourselves, to let go of whatever – an attachment, a fear, a grievance, an addiction, a desire, melancholy, sadness, the ego, and so on, while we are enmeshed with our life and its phenomena. The best chance of ripening towards a possible potential lies in keeping one’s balance on the tightrope of contradictions, that is, the fine line between the particle state and the wave state – as in Blake’s ‘Kiss the joy while flies.’

Natural letting go happens every second. We breathe, well, we are breathed, though we mainly notice when the rhythm of our breath is disrupted – through pain, exhaustion, anger, anxiety, anger or sheer exasperation, when anyone uttering, ‘Calm down,’ deserves a punch.

(Thanks Joe Linker for the great doodle)

Emotional balance wavers from day to day, but when self-blame knots up our muscles it makes sense to focus on the body. There are plenty of ways to relax: exercise, sex, music, singing, mantras, doodling, magnesium, weed, pills, wine … or to imagine brilliant light circling through the breath, like the basic drone of a reed harmonium or a tanpura holding up multiple sounds. Everything in nature has an essential frequency, which tends to flush out what obstructs its flow, even if it takes earthquakes, storms and floods. To right imbalances of the planet is beyond individuals, we can however bring a clear intention towards balancing our body’s frequency. Try this:

Inhale through your nose – draw brilliant light from head the chest – counting to 7   

Exhale through your mouth – let the light flow to your feet and out – counting to 11

Imagine the out breath taking along the tensions held in your muscles. A few rounds of this ritual should calm the heartbeat for a while. Being in resonance with your body draws the shy soul closer, bringing a sense of oneness – satiating our thirst for belonging. And it makes us aware that beauty is not in things, but in the soul of things, even the tiniest thing has soul.

Enjoy the circular sound by the wonderful mantra singer Hein Braat.

However, a constant sense of oneness is not what evolution is about. In a time and space structured cosmos we cannot cage harmony. Reality is the result of contradiction.

Our struggle for balance can be intense. But each of us has the chance to live with zest, inspired by the earth spirit and its dark power for spontaneous creation born of sadness and pain. Garcia Frederico-Lorca talked about art being inspired in three ways: by muses of the past, angelic visons of the future, and by duende – inspiration of the present. Duende springs from the core of one’s being in direct confrontation with death. You can read Lorca’s remarkable speech here: ‘Theory and Play of the Duende.’  

… You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves …  from – Mary Oliver, ‘Wild Geese’

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… guiding spirits & stones …

Contemplating buzzwords relating to my soon to be published novel, Course of Mirrors, I thought I make a start with guiding spirits, or angels.

We each have one, so ancient, such intimate presence, so discreet and soft spoken, we fail to notice. My protagonist forgets hers, despite obtaining an object of remembrance she takes on her journey as talisman – a shiny black stone, polished by the elements,  holding aeons of memory and embodying her first encounter with spirit in matter, the invisible in the visible:

“I was bridge, river, riverbed and water falling from the cliff, the aria of water. I was air, breeze and water dust rising. I was mirror to mirrors yet looked from beyond mirrors. Behind my eyes a truth flashed.”

When, seemingly by chance, she does remember her treasure, a timeless power is released, the miraculous happens, aligned with nature’s power to transform.

‘All time is contained in now.’ – Meister Eckhart

‘Time is eternity living dangerously.’  – John O’ Donohue

These related posts open new pages, so you don’t lose this one:

Oh my sweet crushed angel.

The magic of remembrance.

 

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… silent blessings …

I’m sure I’m not alone in practising daily silent blessings. What, you may ask, does she mean by blessings?

Sylvia Selzer’s photo of the Angel of the North is the most poignant image of an angel I’ve come across.

 ‘The Angel of the North’ – photo by Sylvia Selzer

In my small world, ever since I can remember, I felt guided.  As a child I had a lucid vision of an angel, possibly an aspect of me – or us – existing in another dimension. My upbringing was not religious, but I developed a deep appreciation for beauty – of movement, sound, rhythm, light, colour, form – as well as a healthy disrespect for hypocrisy.

Then, during the 1980s I was ordained as a Cherag  – the Sufi term for someone who performs worships and conducts ceremonies. I questioned the honour. Performing is not my strength. The response of my Sufi teacher – Fazal Inayat-Khan – was heartening: ‘You’re a light-bringer (which is what Cherag means,) and whether or not you formally worship is irrelevant. You have the capacity to bless. Go and bless the world.’

It works like a pebble thrown into a still pond, along with a loving desire, which then ripples outwards.

To bless can become a habit.

You may ask – who’s she to dish out blessings? And anyway, what can it possibly achieve other than making her feel good? Precisely, it makes me feel good.  I don’t seek evidence – measure, weigh or put value on the practice. Being no saint, I also have plenty of less generous habits. But as regards blessings – think about it, what’s there to lose?

It is not the road ahead that wears you out – it is the grain of sand in your shoe.’     Proverb

The Angel of the North is a contemporary sculpture, designed by Antony Gromley, located in Geteshead, Tyne and Wear, England. Sylvia Selzer’s photo of ‘The Angel of the North’ is the most poignant image of an angel I’ve come across.

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… the wonderful visit …

I loathe most talk of angels since they became best-selling brands, but the synchronicity of Annie Lennox wearing wings and singing to an angel at the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, and the discovery of a rare book among my shelves, brought angels up close.

H G Wells (1866-1946) has been referred to as the Father of Science Fiction. A neglected story, The Wonderful Visit, published shortly after The Time Machine, was regarded as a mocking reflection on attitudes, beliefs and the social structure of a typical English village in Victorian times. I read the social commentary as ornamentation, the comical human attempt to stay the same, round a more essential theme, the conflict that can accompany awakening.

The edition below is from 1922 and has an illustration by Conrad Heighton Leigh. The line under it is from chapter 5 – ‘He fired out of pure surprise and habit.’

A strange bird was sighted.

Ornithology being a passion of the Vicar of Siddermorton, Rev. K. Hilyer, he was going to outdo his rivals and hunt the strange bird. So it came to be that on the 4th of August 1895 he shot down an angel.

… He saw what it was, his heart was in his mouth, and he fired out of pure surprise and habit. There was a scream of superhuman agony, the wings beat the air twice, and the victim came slanting swiftly downward and struck the ground – a struggling heap of writhing body, broken wing and flying blood-stained plumes … the Vicar stood aghast, with his smoking gun in his hand. It was no bird at all, but a youth with an extremely beautiful face, clad in a robe of saffron and with iridescent wings … never had the Vicar seen such gorgeous floods of colour …

‘A man,’ said the Angel, clasping his forehead … ‘then I was not deceived, I am indeed in the Land of Dreams.’ The vicar tells him that men are real and angels are myth … ‘It almost makes one think that in some odd way there must be two worlds as it were …’

‘At least two,’ said the Vicar, and goes on ponderinghe loved geometrical speculations, ‘there may be any number of three dimensional universes packed side by side, and all dimly aware of each other.’

They met half way, where reality is loosely defined, and truth has no hold. And they shared the nature of their worlds. Eat, pain, and die were among the new terms the strange visitor had to come to grips with.

‘Pain is the warp and the waft of this life,’ said the Vicar. Riddled with remorse over having maimed the Angel’s wing he decides to looks after him. But to adjust to the Vicar’s world, the Angel must eat and accept pain, and learn all manner of things very fast indeed … Starting to read, during a phase of now legendary sunshine, I settled in my garden with a glass of red, and consequently spilled the wine on my wild strawberry blossoms due to sudden bursts of laughter.

‘What a strange life!’ said the Angel.

‘Yes,’ said the Vicar. ‘What a strange life! But the thing that makes it strange to me is new. I had taken it as a matter of course until you came into my life.’

Mr Angel is nothing like the pure and white angel of popular belief, more like the angel of Italian art, polychromatic, a musical genius with the violin. Listening … the Vicar lost all sense of duration, all sense of necessity … The reactions of the villagers oscillate across a hair-thin-divide between comedy and tragedy, while the bone of the story is psychological, and spiritual. Indirectly, the Vicar encounters his anima (his inner female) through the Angel’s love for Delia, the maid servant of the house. There is no escape. Things get intense. The Angel, over the span of a short week, is tainted by the wickedness of the world, and it crushes him. And the Vicar’s awakening from his narrow prison brings him into tragic conflict with his community.

*    *    *

Not much has changed. The world is crowded with wounded angels seeking compassion, and since our daily vocabulary offers little more than clichés for other realities, awakening rarely convinces, unless it is embodied and conveyed through atmosphere. Look out for the artist… the musician, painter, writer, animator, filmmaker … and the children.

‘If the doors of perception were cleansed every thing would appear to man as it is, Infinite. For man has closed himself up, till he sees all things thro’ narrow chinks of his cavern.’
― William BlakeThe Marriage of Heaven and Hell

The painting heading this post is by the Finnish symbolist painter Hugo Simberg.

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