My Journey: The Call

“This is the way the world ends
this is the way the world ends
this is the way the world ends
not with a bang, but a whimper”
– T.S. Eliot, The Hollow Men

“…that’s just the trouble with me. I give myself very good advice, but I very seldom follow it.”
– Alice, Disney’s Alice in Wonderland

I vs I

I stared at the ink drying on the pink, paper fish in my hand. So small it barely stretched across my palm, four simple words were scrawled on it’s tiny body. Help Beth find God.  Tears gathered behind my eyes, everything that had led to this moment pressing on me from behind like a long and heavy trailing shadow.  Quickly, I tied the ribbon to the net of prayers and walked away to compose myself.  In his book, Hero with a Thousand Faces, Joseph Campbell indicates that, “…one of the ways in which the journey can begin…. A blunder… reveals an unsuspected world, and the individual is drawn into a relationship with forces that are not rightly understood”[1]. And so it was with me.

It’s a common enough story, really.  Separated from my boyfriend by an ocean and time, in a new place surrounded by new people, I found myself unable to resist engaging in a flash-in-the-pan sort of one night stand with an acquaintance of the time.  I blundered, and as is the case so many times, it wasn’t worth it. “As Freud has shown, blunders are not the merest chance.  They are the result of suppressed desires and conflicts.  They are ripples on the surface of life, produced by unsuspected springs. And these may be very deep – deep as the soul itself”[2].  I didn’t tell my boyfriend, of course.  It had been a horrible mistake – besides it had been a few kisses, some uncomfortable (and unwanted) groping – it’s not like I slept with the guy!  At the time, I wasn’t yet aware that everything we do reverberates energetically into the universe.  It doesn’t matter who we tell or don’t tell; we know, and that knowledge both affects us and leaks out into the Ether like pus from a festering wound.

We have all sorts of narratives for the triumph of the victim, the underdog, the one who has been wronged.  More often than not it is only critical eyes we cast in the direction of the accused.  They were weak.  They should have known better.  How could they not have known this would happen?  But while the victim may not be in a position of “physical” or “emotional” strength during their trial[3], they are, at least usually, in a position of moral strength; not so, the perpetrator. So what is the narrative for the person who thought they were “good” but, in an unguarded moment, loses their moral high ground? The curtain closes on the tragic hero when his flaw is revealed, but the story doesn’t end there for most of us.  Campbell uses the story of the Frog Prince to illustrate that this is just the  beginning of the journey, noting that, “the frog..the rejected one is the representative of that unconscious deep… wherein are hoarded all the rejected, unadmitted, unrecognized, unknown, or undeveloped factors, laws, and elements of existence”[4]. Like the princess, we were skipping along happily with our golden ball (or moral compass) only to unfortunately and recklessly lose it and find ourselves face-to-face with a horribly ugly frog (or piece of ourselves).  To secure it’s retrieval, the frog forces us to recognize and reconcile ourselves with its existence, but we are so happy at the return of our golden ball and so desirous to escape the frog that we flee in earnest, leaving our amphibious herald behind in the dust.  Little do we know that the frog, once unearthed, cannot be forgotten and hops along after us.  Frogs are slower than people, so it may take a while to catch up, but the upcoming reckoning, however and whenever it manifests, is unavoidable.

Mirror, Mirror on the wall…

If we allow it to happen, it is in this space, coming face-to-face with a piece of ourselves we abhor at first sight, where the deepest transformation can begin; where the light is cast on how things have come to be the way they are for us. But, in reflecting on our life, we often want to hide from or explain away our part in contributing to our own circumstances – instead choosing to focus on the reasons others have done the things they have done that led to our mistake or fumble.  Unfortunately, without the recognition of our own role, complete understanding is lost and we may doom ourselves to repeating the same situations over and over at different times with different people until the missing piece falls into place.  When this finally does happen we are left with two choices; to either be as hard on ourselves as we have been on others, or – recognizing all the complicated motivations and desires that have led to our own blunders, we can extend the same sympathy we have for ourselves to everyone else; realizing that those who have wronged us may, also, have wanted to do the right thing but had it turn horribly wrong.  They, too, may have fallen into a trap their subconscious left waiting, hoping to trigger engagement with the deep self. Choosing the path of understanding and sympathy opens the way to an intense awareness of our shared human experience and – as Campbell indicates – can start our active walk on the spiritual path.[5]

But this understanding was yet to come for me.  I was still the thoughtless, fleeing princess when I stumbled upon that old English church on a crisp, Spring afternoon.  There wasn’t anything particularly significant or unique about it; doubtless one of hundreds, maybe more just like it dotted the countryside. I hardly remember enough to form a sufficient description.  Vague impressions come to mind of it being rather dark inside; dark wood, dark brick.  In contrast, draped over a statue towards the altar was a net peppered with colorful paper fish covered in writing.  On a nearby table lay a pencil and a basket full of similar fish, empty of wishes and prayers.  It’s hard to pinpoint the exact moment when I began to actively walk my spiritual path, this certainly isn’t the earliest chronological event that happened along my journey, but I choose this one to represent the start because it’s the point where I was brave enough to admit to myself just how lost I was.  It also represents the point where I recognized the need to ask for directions.  There is no point more vulnerable than when we must ask for help from a position of moral weakness. So I put my heart on paper and my faith in the unknown that day as I took my next step into the future.

Welcome to Wonderland

I think it was no accident, then, that a few days later, while meandering the streets of Canterbury, I ended up in a bookstore.  Even though I love to read, I hadn’t gone to bookstores at all since my term started.  Due to the pound / dollar exchange things in general, and books especially, were more expensive in England and I had earmarked almost all the money that wasn’t designated for eating (rather sparsely I admit) to travel.  However, this particular day, I happened upon a small corner store with a door wide open and friendly lighting spilling out into the street. I was just noticing that it was a bookstore and thinking about turning around, when a turquoise spine caught my eye, “The Religions of Man”.  I confess, the title made me think more of a work of anthropology than religion, and that appealed.  In flipping through the pages, it seemed to be a survey on the major religions of the world. Certainly, religion was a subject I struggled with, but was interested in. It seemed too good to be true that I could learn about a religion from someone not trying to convince me to join up. A quick glance at the price made me wince.  I was almost at the end of my current finances[6], but I knew I had to have this book; I could feel it.  So, of course, I bought it.

It started with the chapter on Hinduism, “if we were to take Hinduism as a whole,” Huston Smith writes, “and compress it into a single affirmation, we would find it saying ’you can have what you want’. This sounds promising, but it throws the problem back in our laps, for what DO we want?”[7] Riveted from the first page, the book raised questions for me that I had never seriously asked myself. What DID I want? I’d always considered myself a fairly reflective person, but for the first time it occurred to me that most of my reflection had been directed outwards – towards understanding the external world and others.  I had spent almost no time trying to understand myself, who I was, why I did the things I did.  I spent the rest of my days in Canterbury listening to Ben Harper croon “I’ll Rise” while walking contemplatively around campus and town.  Although to the outside observer it probably didn’t look like I was doing much of anything, my body had become a cocoon – setting the stage for a deep inner transformation that was to come.  If I were to step back, now, and ask myself, what did I really do during that time?  I visited a random church, wrote down a prayer, and a short time later (days? weeks?) I bought a book.  Part of the beauty and mystery of walking the Spiritual Path is the sudden ability to view the incredibly mundane through a transformed lens of deep, personal meaning.  The church, the fish, these we’re just what I needed at the time and the words of Huston Smith felt as if they were meant just for me.  While undoubtedly the words were not written for me, if we are willing to pay attention – our soul, heart, higher self will point us to the things we need to see.  We will be guided by this same, also, to the right place and the right time for what we need to experience.

Joseph Campbell writes of a Native American tale about a girl who chases a porcupine up a tree to get it’s beautiful quills, “…looking down she saw her friends craning up at her and beckoning her to descend, but under the influence of the porcupine and fearful for the great distance between herself and the ground, she continued to mount the tree, until she became the merest speck to those looking from below, and with the porcupine she finally reached the sky”[8].  Like the girl of the story, the first part of the transformation had already happened to me.  The blunder had led to a place where I could clearly see the distance from the safe world I had left.  The unknown world stretched ahead. Although the old existence was over, a new one was opening. Flying terrifies me for reasons I won’t enumerate here, but on the flight home a tremendous sense of peace filled me.  I felt myself suspended between the recent past, in England, which had been so internally tumultuous and returning home to Chicago with a very uncertain future.  Unbeknownst to me, my little frog was hanging out on the wing – waiting for the right moment to hop back into the story.  Soon I would learn that we cannot get around the consequences and pain of our own actions, the only way out is through.

[1] Campbell, Joseph The Hero With A Thousand Faces, Princeton University Press; 2nd edition (March 1, 1972)
[2] Campbell, Joseph The Hero with a Thousand Faces, Princeton University Press; 2nd edition (March 1, 1972)
[3] Here I am not referring to an actual courtroom trial, but the more colloquial definition of ‘trouble or grief’
[4] Campbell, Joseph The Hero with a Thousand Faces, Princeton University Press; 2nd edition (March 1, 1972)
[5] This is not the only way to the Spiritual Path of course, it is a way that some people, including myself, happen to stumble upon it.
[6] I actually ran out of money, quite literally, while on Scotland – and had to live my last two weeks on the equivalent of $130.00… which, lucky for me I had some essential things pre-paid for (like a roof over my head) so it wasn’t a horrible crisis, but needless to say it definitely curbed the last-minute souvenir shopping
[7] Smith, Huston The World’s Religions (formerly known as The Religions of Man) HarperOne; Rev Rep edition (August 16, 1991).  The reason I quote this newer version, instead of the original one I bought in England is because, like so many of us do, I lent the book out to a friend and it was never returned.
[8] Campbell, Joseph The Hero with a Thousand Faces, Princeton University Press; 2nd edition (March 1, 1972)

Taroetry: Strength

Note: This is part of a new poetry series I am working on, inspired by the Tarot trump cards.   I have started by pulling a card and meditating on it, recording the ideas and images that come to mind.  This one is inspired by the Strength card.  You can find out more about the meaning of this card here

Strength

You slay with subtlety

because there is more power in your heart

than in the strongest sword.

If we can tame our egos

you will share your secrets;

that the fiercest dragons are found within

and

all wars with the self are won and lost in the trenches

Everything is Now

Everything is Now

Recently, I’ve been on an LBL kick.  For those of you not ’in the know’ 😉 LBL stands for life-between-lives and describes where the soul goes (and what it’s doing) between incarnations on Earth.  My recent foray into Michael Newton’s books on this subject has stirred up a lot of interesting meditative explorations for me and thus I’ve decided to start a new series on the blog that’s dedicated to examining some of the ideas in Journey of Souls and Destiny of Souls.

One concept that comes up repeatedly in these books is that, between lives, souls reside in a space “outside” of time.  Newton refers to this as “the coexistence of past, present, and future time in a spiritual setting.”[1]  However, I would argue that the spiritual world is not happening “outside” of time.  Rather I think at the energetic level of existence there is understanding of the fundamental truth that there is no such thing as “time” apart from motion.  Time is our mechanism for differentiating between motion that has already happened, motion happening now, and motion that will happen. It’s purely an aid to understanding – although in this case it actually might be inhibiting understanding. Before I can further discuss what I think is happening in the spiritual world or layer, though, I should probably offer a little explanation around the way I understand the concept of “time.”

Somewhere slightly more or less than a decade ago, my husband and I had been having a spate of discussions about what it meant to be a “wizard” in The Lord of the Rings universe vs. the Harry Potter universe, basically focusing on the differences in what various characters were able to do and / or not do with magic.  This led me to reflect on how, although some ethereal concepts (like magic) are portrayed very differently across artistic work, some are portrayed exactly the same everywhere.  For example, whenever a show displays “time stopping” all on-screen activity freezes.  So I further questioned – if all motion in the universe, everything known and unknown, every particle however great or small, were to stop moving – would anything meaningful, such as time, pass?  The answer I concluded was “no”. Thus I came to my belief that time does not exist apart from motion, they are intricately tied together

Frozen in Time

Unlike Time with a capital “T” which we often see as linear (past à present à future), motion is relative.  Thus, time “passes” differently for particles moving at different speeds. If that sounds strange to you, consider that we have a number of everyday examples which illustrate this.  For example, if we put meat in the freezer the motion of particles in the meat that cause decay slow down.  Thus, time is “passing” at a different rate for your steak than it is for you. Or, let’s say you buy a piece of machinery, but leave it to sit idle for a number of years.  Although you won’t be able to stop ALL motion for that equipment (depending on the environmental circumstances), if you store it in relatively pristine conditions without use, once you start using it, however many years later, it will be as if virtually no time has passed for the machine. Meanwhile, the world around it has kept on moving and changing.

If you take the above premises as true and agree that any individual object’s (or being’s) experience of time can be different from that of it’s surroundings, we can begin to use that idea to examine the experience in the spiritual world.  The Spiritual world appears (according to Newton’s research) to be energetically based.  It makes sense to me that fluid or “released” energy moves faster than “fixed” matter.[2] In fact, we know this to be true from basic science.  When studying the states of matter, we learn that the particles caught up in a solid are immobile or moving very slowly.  Liquid particles are more mobile and bounce around more quickly, and gas particles are the most mobile and move very quickly.  Further, we have calculated the speed of light energy to be 186,000 miles per second – that’s pretty darn fast! In my college Astronomy class we learned that looking at distant stars is actually like looking back into their past, because their light takes so long to get to Earth. For example, in the case of Alpha Centauri, the closest star (at one light-year away) what we see ‘now’ when we look at it through a telescope is what happened on the star a year ago. Adding these ideas to the ones we’ve already laid out about time, we can see that in the energetic state motion would be much more fluid and could be extremely fast compared to the motion of activity on Earth; thus allowing souls to do perceived “years” of work in seemingly minutes of Earth time.  Or potentially, such fluid energy could be slowed down or stopped; allowing a soul’s re-entry to Earth to be timed to a very specific drop-point, or birth.[3]

 The Future is Now

Another reason this is worth mentioning is because, although we have difficulty understanding how one can predict the future when we’re thinking of time as some sort of entity in it’s own right, we can all understand that there’s a predictability to motion.  If you can accurately understand the motion of an object, you can predict it’s future. In reality, we are all predicting aspects of the future all the time (sun rising, setting, people getting older, etc.).  Our understanding of the “motion going on around us is often limited, though, so our ability to predict future events is also very limited. In Journey of Souls, Michael Newton notes, “I was puzzled why my subjects did not fully see the future… as part of an all-knowing spiritual setting.  In trying to sort this out, I finally came to the conclusion that the spirit world is designed to protect the interests of each soul”[4]  While I certainly can’t claim to know how the spirit world is designed relative to the interests of a particular soul, I can offer a possible answer to why Mr. Newton’s subjects didn’t fully see the future – even in an “all-knowing” spiritual setting. As I noted earlier, our ability to predict the future is limited by our understanding of the motion of things around us.  Presumably, in a spiritual setting like the kind of place Michael Newton is referring to, the understanding of the motion of all things in the universe is much greater.  But, if we agree that time doesn’t exist apart from motion[5], then there is no future that “exists” yet so pieces of a future can be predicted by what’s already been set in motion, but there will always be a chance that things could change[6]

Some Things are Timeless

Another quote from Michael Newton that refers to time in the spiritual world is, “In the subconscious state, my subjects experience a chronology of time with their past and present lives which resembles what they perceive when conscious.  There is a change when I take them into superconsciousness and into the spirit world.  Here they see the Now of time as one homogenous unit of past, present, future”[7]  I believe what is happening here is that, in the superconscious state, Newton’s subjects have lost their ’sense’ of time and thus they are perceiving everything as motion.  In their awareness of the direction and flow of the energy (which they, themselves, are a part of) they understand how things came to be the way they are and what they will become, but there is a wholeness to this understanding that doesn’t require the concept of time to make sense.  I know this is probably confusing, the closest I can offer as a way of understanding this concept is to imagine buying and planting a package of flower seeds.  On the cover of the package is a picture of beautiful blooming daisies.  When you look at the picture, it is unlikely that you will think that time “made” the flowers look like this, rather you will recognize that their “future” is a function of what they are, not a function of time.  In fact, if you were to plant half the seeds in the packet and leave the other half on your counter, in the time it takes to grow the planted seeds, nothing is going to happen to the seeds on the counter because time alone is meaningless to them.  For the planted seeds, though – various things are required for them to become beautiful flowers like those pictured on their packet; soil, water, air, nutrients, etc[8]. When you see the lovely blooms in your garden, you are likely to understand on some meta level (although maybe not on a precise scientific level), how all of these things came together to “make” the daisies before you.  Time is the way we understand the difference between our experience of the daisies when they were just seeds and our experience of them now as flowers, but there is no real force, such as time, that contributed to them being what they are. [9]  If you can see in this example how the “becoming” of something can be “apart” from time – perhaps you can see how, when connected at a very deep level, a person can understand their own life – and even further their own soul’s trajectory – in such a way.

To wrap up, I believe that in the energetic “soul state”, the soul no longer has a need for the concept of time and thus it becomes unimportant.  Rather, the soul understands that it is energetic flow and direction (or motion) that explain where the present has come from and what the future will be.  So what does that mean for those of us still here on Earth?  Not much, I’m afraid. I enjoy thinking puzzling through the mysteries of the Universe, but, like many of us, I work in the sort of field where all people care about my understanding of time is that I show up for meetings appropriately and don’t miss work deadlines.

Post script: If you’ve been studying my footnotes you will realize that I talk about Michael Newton’s books in plural (both Journey of Souls and Destiny of Souls) but all my quotes come from Journey of Souls. This happened to be the only book I had with me when I was gathering quotes. However, I did do an index check and re-read portions of Destiny of Souls as part of writing this post. I did not find anything during that effort that I felt either added value to or made me reconsider what has already been presented here.

 

[1] Newton, Michael Journey of Souls <insert publisher>p160

[2] Although I have asserted in other places on the blog, and do in fact believe that everything is, at heart, energy – it does seem that some energy is more ‘fixed’ than other energy. Some energy does seem to be ‘locked up’ in a physical state while other energy is free moving. The Alchemists were hinting at a like understanding of the world, I believe, when they spoke of having to ‘release the soul’ of a physical object like a plant or stone.

[3] I will discuss this more in an upcoming post about Newton’s concept of “The Ring of Destiny” a place in the spiritual world where we study and choose our future lives.

[4] Newton, Michael Journey of Souls <insert publisher> p212-213

[5] And in fact, it seems that Michael Newton himself understands this when he says ,“It makes sense to me that time, rather than being an absolute of three phases is only an expression of change.” but the way he talks about time elsewhere in the books and the sorts of things he doesn’t understand suggest to me, at time of writing, he didn’t fully grasp the implications of this statement.

[6] I will elaborate more on my thoughts on how this works in upcoming post about free will vs. fate

[7] Newton, Michael Journey of Souls (insert publisher) p195

[8] if you have a Christian background, as I do, I am sure you have not failed to recall the New Testament story about where seeds fall and how they grow in relation to the “Word” taking root in people’s hearts – if that adds an additional layer of meaning to this analogy for you – you are welcome to it.

[9] And if you saw Violets instead of Daisies, you are likely to think that the seeds were mis-packaged and were, in reality, Violet seeds.  You are not likely to think that the Daisy seeds grew into Violets – because at a deep level you recognize that the seeds are the germ of the plant’s existence.

Taroetry: The Empress

Note: This is part of a new poetry series I am working on, inspired by the Tarot trump cards.   I have started by pulling a card and meditating on it, recording the ideas and images that come to mind.  This first one is inspired by the Empress card.  You can find out more about the meaning of this card here

Empress

Windblown hair of golden wheat, rippling on hillsides

You ARE an Earth Mother

Bringing forth from yourself

Life

Taking us back to our Roots

Grounding us with your love

Let your rain be long upon us

May our hearts be fertile soil for your wisdom to grow and blossom within