Thursday, 8 October 2015

Invoking Deep Nature

Long ago, when I wrote The Art of Conversation with the Genius Loci, I set out to write what I would like to have read. I don't find many books about Paganism or Druidry, magic or the spiritual path very interesting. I'm not interested in beginners' exercises, ritual recipes or guided meditations. I'm not inspired by the kind of scholarship which cherry picks ancient tradition, modern myth or any kind of literature to support some kind of coherent, big picture philosophy which we are meant to accept as lost or extant wisdom. I'm tired of those books which repeat popular ideas about our heritage as if they were common knowledge, when the most cursory research would show them to have been known to have no basis for decades.

I am not a scholar by any means & most of what I write does not require the support of literature. I intend no disrespect to the efforts made by those who would try to glean ancient lore from the fragmentary material which is available to us, I'm just taking a different tack. I'm not setting up my stall or making some kind of argument, more like an encouragement. I'm not an authority on anything, nor do I represent any traditional body or other organisation. I would like to refer to myself as “a practitioner,” which is what the Buddhist side to me would say - it is a neutral enough word in itself & straightforward in its intent. The world is full of heroic experts. They make a career out of that. I say that this is a mistake. “Monetising the blog” as it were. Our spiritual practice itself is our real career, the rest is secondary.

Some people have told me or have commented that TAOCWTGL lacks a chapterly practica of graded exercises with numbered lists of things to do. Well I'm sorry, but if you read it as it is intended it is a very practical book, absolutely packed with things to do & some of them are even presented in numbered sequences! Reading a book is not the same kind of process as following a correspondence course. There are some wonderful examples of that out there. The courses of OBOD & the BDO are both well thought out & beautifully presented. I'm not going to hold your hand & tell you what to do next.

TAOCWTGL is a non-linear text which revolves around the idea of investigation, exploration & the pursuit of deep questioning. Such activities, in themselves are quite capable of invoking our what I call our deepest nature. Oh yes, & they are not safe. When the New Age Shaman tells you that everything that they are teaching is tried & tested & perfectly safe they are just plain wrong. It is not safe! None of this is safe! Nothing worthwhile is safe!

Each chapter has a fundamental question or nest of questions at its heart. The premise is that these questions are in themselves the tools of a potent magic & a path to wisdom beyond any concepts of cleverness. The idea is not to imagine the relief or release in finding the answer, nor the security of certainty. Like the famous koans of Rinzai Zen , we hold them close & incubate them. We visualise & pursue them, dance with them, play them like music instruments, fuck or are fucked by them.

It is impossible to use normal language without occasionally making definitive statements, so the reader is urged to treat such statements as the author's own idiosyncratic opinions & then to think of them as questions instead. “It is deep,” he says. Is it deep? How deep is it? What kind of deep? Why deep & not... vast, wide, long, tall or mighty?

Four things are required to pursue this kind of process, they need not be perfect, but they are essential. They are: curiosity, openness, courage & commitment.

From animism to mysticism in a single verse of the song

The Art of Conversation with the Genius Loci raises many questions & I use it unashamedly as a portal into what might be described as a kind of modern Pagan mysticism. In attempting to articulate Pagan mysticism without religion, a system of ritual magic, a package of familiar, popularly redacted mythic narratives, or an eccentric sermon from a soap box, I must walk a fine line & there is another line too; the bottom line. What are we? What is this? What is the deepest nature of reality & the self? Contrary to popular belief mysticism doesn't attempt to answer this kind of question rather it takes it to heart & gives it life. I know that there are many people in the Pagan world who will say that discussing the nature of reality is pointless, or that it has nothing to do with being a Pagan, but there are many of us for whom this is not the case. It is for you that I write.

The idea of mysticism is based upon a simple set of premises. Verbal language is a limited means of expressing them. I have done my best. Please think of more mystical content as riddles rather than definitive statements. Invoking deep nature depends upon the idea that everything, everything, absolutely everything is unique in the apparent world of phenomena, but that we all have a shared nature & that is deep. Unfortunately no-one can really describe it, explain it or present it to you in a packaged initiation of some kind. The reality behind the poetic twilight language is beyond words or concepts.

We, the family of phenomenal beings may be understood to have subjective & objective dimensions; the first known only to ourselves, as we experience our lives unfolding ; the second, as personalities within the apparent world; that world which may be understood as the sum of all our relations. That these two dimensions exist as a dynamic polarity & your subjective experience is inferred by our interactions is something that I take on faith, otherwise I am a solipsist or a psychopath.

But there is a mystery in self; self & other; which all the common sense in the world cannot dismiss. That is the mystery of existence, beyond duality. It is a depth to everything. It is our very own shared nature. This is what my book is about, as much as anything to do with the spirit of place or an animistic way of relating to our places of power.

It is deep & it is inaccessible to the senses, outer as well as inner; also to thought, concept or reason. It is not a monolithic singularity, nor a collective, nor a mere absence. It can be understood as both immanent & transcendent depending upon our own condition & perspective at the time. Sometimes it may seem to be a significant Other with whom we can dance, play duets or have a conversation.

Even though we cannot know it in a conventional sense, we know ourselves & each other through it, & it knows us. Somehow we can awaken to its presence. When we start to try to sense this, then we begin to invoke deep nature, which is both Nature in the conventional sense as well our own true nature, the nature of Nature.

Sometimes I say: “From animism to mysticism in a single verse of the song,” to me, this means that invoking deep presence is not dependent upon any particular kind of belief or practice & can happen instantly, independent of any guidance or authority. It is our heritage. True mystery traditions & their exemplars are those who empower, protect & guide others on the path to such awakening, which, as it depends upon radical exercises of body, energy & mind, is not safe. False authority will always seek to suborn this path to its own advancement, so we must take great care. That said, when our intention has been stated & we have committed ourselves to deep nature, its presence may arise as part of any activity, whether or not it is thought of as spiritual, magical, mystical or religious.

To invoke it means to symbolically, metaphorically or literally invite the power & mystery of our own deepest nature into our conscious life. We cannot seek what we really are. We cannot summon that which is merely our own presence, but we can align ourselves with its radiance & in doing so manifest harmony, creativity, love & natural power for the benefit of all that lives.

This invocation of deep nature is the heart of the matter. It does not depend upon or preclude being a Pagan, Christian, Buddhist or a member of any other religious culture. Neither does it depend upon any particular mythic narrative or exclusive set of symbols. It is my considered opinion that a measure of any supposed spiritual path or way of being is the degree to which this primordial art is encouraged, discouraged or ignored; implicit, explicit or banned.

We are creatures of the Earth & of our Land, not of elsewhere. How we understand this is vital to the health & well being of the global community of living persons, both human & other than human. Personal enlightenment is indispensable as a step towards social & global evolution, maybe even beyond.

Let us invoke our Deepest Nature. Each in our own way.