Saturday, 21 March 2009

The Fruit Tree

(Dedicated to my father, Peter Willmot. He told us part of this story when we were small, although he never saw how it turned out in the end. Despite knowing what is written here, he allowed us to endure that mandatory inoculation against Christianity known as Sunday School.)
Jesus said, "The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. I tell you the truth, unless an ear of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds."
John 12:23,24 (NIV)

Many of the trees in the orchard bore good fruit, but one was especially fine. The rest merely fed on the soil's nutrients, but this tree absorbed all the dross and waste and rubbish that lay on the earth; transforming it into the most fabulously scented, lucious fruit imaginable. As well as being good to eat, the fruit seemed to have healing, life-giving properties.

Word spread and the orchard people worried so many visitors might damage their tree. Wanting to share their blessing (but seeing "a little regulation was needed here") guardians were comissioned to ensure the tree continued bearing fruit. They agreed the best way to protect the tree and honour its specialness was to build a walled garden around it.

Time passed and the tree continued to bear fruit. Some noticed the fruit were smaller than they remembered. Others thought their fathers might have exaggerated when describing the scent. Its fruit had been rationed for a long time, so it was already a commonplace that no-one could actually live on it like the stories claimed. But one thing they did comment on: while other trees in the orchard grew old and died, this one merely grew tougher.

To help new generations of Guardians, the Lore of the Tree was Written. Each generation of pilgrims came and gazed upon The Tree. "Eating from the Tree" was now a sacred ritual. The Guardians did their best to ferilise the garden and feed the tree, but it was not enough. Each century the tree looked a little more bowed, knarled and lifeless. Each crop tending to be a little smaller, a little paler than before.

Meanwhile the land was prospering. Businesses were thriving and the people were healthier and wealthier than ever. Children who once might have looked in wonder at the lucious fruit, now passed it by, favouring brighter attractions. The Guardians blamed "progress" for leading the children astray. But the walled garden was, in fact, shabby and old; the tree was struggling and the fruit nothing to write home about.

Something had to be done. The tree was once a fresh, lively green. So the Guardians painted it a fresh, lively green colour. They researched stories of the Early Fruit and hung pictures of fruit in the branches. This attracted some interest and the Guardians recognised that the "party buzz" was good — the community echoed something of the Old Tree As It Once Was, so they encouraged lively meetings and mutual support. Things were looking up.

But inevitably, the children growing up in this new-born community wanted to taste the fruit for themselves. And of course they were not fooled. Their parents might have their vision clouded by dreamy memories, but they saw quite clearly that this decrepid, half-starved fruit tree was worse than the other trees, not better. They tasted the fruit and it was dry, not life-giving. The branches were so brittle they needed propping up. The bark required continual protection from insects that knew this tree had had its day. And trained eyes were needed to make out tiny fruit, only fit for "ceremonial eating" now.

The Guardians were perplexed. For centuries they had never failed to keep the soil around the Tree pure. They had been diligent in protecting it from all the dross, waste and rubbish that lay on the earth outside the walled garden. With their children turning their back on The Tree, the Guardians' job was clearly now only hospice care. It was just a matter of time. Eventually there were only two Guardians left and they agreed on a fitting end. With care, they uprooted the tree and buried it near the rubbish heap at the back of the orchard where few people ever went. They covered it with earth, said a few words, and laid it to rest.

That winter there was no Tree, but there was no-one to miss it either. As spring came, life went on as it always did. Children were born as the elderly passed away, and businesses thrived amidst the usual troubles. Some got sick, others were poor, but the indomitable spirit of the people meant they largely overcame their trials; as they had been doing for centuries. Near the rubbish heap, where the old tree's roots were buried, the ground was full of all the dross and waste and the rubbish that lay on the earth. Nobody recognised the shoots that first appeared, but they were the brightest, gentle green.

Wednesday, 11 March 2009


The Parable of the Cyclist is about enlightenment. I don't care for that term; like being "born again", abuse has obscured the meaning it was intended to have. One of the reasons for these difficulties is that the transcendence they are pointing to is beyond language of any kind; like trying to express the scent of a flower using pen and ink.

The most explicit description I've ever come across is Martin Heidegger's analysis of Being and Time. To achieve that precision he needed to more or less invent his own language. Very good for those of us who can grasp hermeneutic phenomenology, but (as Jesus knew) most of us get more out of stories.

Us and Them

At a forum of there has recently been an interesting discussion about New Age shops. As often happens, the discussion polarised according to those who were sympathetic to new agers and those who were not. That is, those who had approached to topic by feeling from the inside (the "us" view) versus those who were treating the topic with rational objectivity (it was about "them").

The tendency for this distinction to become a division is understandable. Knowing who are like us and those who are not (them) avoids misunderstandings. It is the good work of our protector mind (ego) keeping us from disillusionment and pain. After all, expecting people who are not like us to behave as if they are, can only lead to disappointment, right? It is the first step down the slippery slope toward being a cynical old fart.

Well that's true, if the ego is all we have. The "everyone is us" view is only possible when we are in contact, at least partly, with the universal mind (spirit); the source of power to forgive without limit, to tolerate abuse without retaliation, and the endless outpouring of healing that can restore damaged or hopeless situations.

So do we have to reject rational thinkers that divide the world into us and them? NO! Eckhart Tolle points out that the only way to maintain contact with spirit is for there to be no blocks. These express themselves emotionally as resentment, intellectually as judgement. So rejecting those who divide the world (unlike us?) is the surest way to lose any maturity we have. Does that mean we have to tolerate the imprecision of fuzzy thinking or people who cause trouble through poor judgement? NO! "Toleration" is merely the polite disguise of resentment. We have to embrace them with enthusiasm and accept them with love, just as we love and accept ourselves!

Disgusted? The Parable of the Cyclist was for you. Read it again. The stabilizers are the constructs/understandings our ego mind makes as we "make sense" things.

Making Sense

There are two places where the boy is without stabilisers: before he is able to ride, and after he has learned to ride skilfully. The thoughts we have about things are scaffolding our ego mind uses to support us -- to help us live. But these are no more than crutches, helping us through the transition time between birth and maturity. They are part of our growing up, but we are supposed to grow out of the habit of trying to "make sense" of things. (If you know the Tarot, look at where the Swords end up.)

Those of us who are good at "making sense" of the world don't like that very much, hence Avoiding Bethel. Even though the gateway is open and stepping into it is simple, we prefer the "riches" we have, even though in real terms that choice keeps us poor. Our ego mind shies away from the simplicity of the present moment. For we can only simply be by laying down our precious understanding.

Does this mean we have to abandon rationality? Only if that is where you live; if it is important to you, your "riches". Like the stabilisers, if you are depending on them, they are getting in the way, preventing you from learning how to live. For the only way we can live is in the present moment, and thoughts are at best no more than constructions about it.

It is like looking at a window; the ego (protector mind) looks at the pane of glass where our spirit (universal mind) looks through it. Looking beyond doesn't mean we no longer distinguish things or lose our powers of reasoning. We can still understand what is and think concerning what we see there. But the discernment loses the edge given it by our protector mind; there is no longer the need to judge what is good (us) and what is not (them).

The same acceptance that enables us to abide in the present moment dissolves ego centred distinctions. We no longer need the "sense" we made that propped us up. We realise that life is actually more fluid (and more fun) without over thinking things. And we are happy to let our stabilisers go.

Monday, 9 March 2009

The Parable of the Cyclist

I've looked at clouds from both sides now, from up and down, and still somehow it's cloud illusions I recall. I really don't know clouds at all.
Joni Mitchell

The Kingdom of God (or enlightenment or authentic being or whatever) is like this...
A boy was born, and he had so much to learn: digesting food for one thing. Eventually his limbs were under his control (more or less) and the world was his. However, crawling wasn't enough. He enjoyed the rhythmic movement and getting places, but walking seemed to be the thing.
Trouble was, walking was dangerous. All his life he had been trying to stay balanced. But walking seemed to mean being deliberatly out of balance half the time. Then he got his first bike. Shiny and big and posh, he loved sitting on it. The peddles got in the way, though. Until he found a use for them.
Then there was no stopping him. He went everywhere on that bike. Always one stabilizer wheel bobbling furiously along the ground. He got used to the leaning -- generally favouring the right, which made turning left quite hard. As spring turned to summer he had got the knack of lurching from one stabilizer wheel to the other. Those light evenings he was always out; on the yard or pavement — and out in the park or the woods whenever anyone would take him. Happy times.
But part of him knew he was supposed to grow out of stabilizers. There were occasions when he noticed, between one stabilizer and the other, a different sort of glide. It was fun and he tried to do it more often. But mostly there were always places to go, things to investigate; and he was much faster on three wheels than two. However, the world was changing around him. Some of the other boys were riding bigger bikes, without stabilizers, and he had a hard time keeping up. His Mum and Dad kept asking him, and one day he agreed to try without his extra wheels.
Disappointed and bruised, he cried with frustration that first day. So Dad put the stabilizers back on, but it wasn't the same. He knew what he had to do. It wasn't easy -- he was so used to riding with extra wheels. He felt he'd wasted so much time and thought, "I really don't know bikes at all".
Eventually, he felt it. That smooth glide, catching the balance before imbalance, in rhythm with the pedals. If he went fast enough, and kept in a straight line... And it dawned on him: he didn't need his stabilizers any more. In fact they were a hindrance, stopping him leaning into clean, fast curves. His Dad was thrilled when (this time) his son asked for the stabilizers to be taken off. His cycling days had begun.
Err... "Whoever has ears, let them hear" ?

Thursday, 5 March 2009

Avoiding Bethel

If you understand the reference to Bethel you're probably in the right place. However, this blog is for anyone who has had a glimpse of God or Spirit or Reality or The Way Things Are, only to lose it again as soon as we try to grasp or understand or think about what we've just experienced. So if you are sure of your beliefs, know what life is all about, or never ask questions like "Why are we here?", I can save you time and trouble: there is nothing here for you. However if, like me, you still need those who sell water by the river, read on.

Why the curious name?

When the Internet was still very much the Wild West, I signed up for my first domain at That was 1994, and Jacob's dream of a ladder reaching toward heaven with angels going up and down was my dream too. A year later I had my own wresting with the Angel of God and, like Jacob, the only way He was going to win was by breaking me. He didn't touch my hip, but I lost just about everything else apart from my wife and family.

They were challenging years. Figuratively speaking, I was lost like the children of Jacob (now Israel); taking another turn around the mountain because of their refusal to follow God's lead into the promised land. I could write a guidebook about that mountain.

In fact, that's partly the inspiration for this blog. I have been writing posts for a while on onlineClarity, where the blog is only accessible by other Change Circle members. That's fine for Yijing (I Ching) stuff. This blog is less confined. It has the blessing of anonimity (I'm not under any illusions about anyone reading it), so I am free to write about the conundrum that is the focus of my life these days: authentic being. Doubtless, these pages will eventually include snippets of Martin Heidegger's philosophy (from "Being and Time", 1927). Authentic being is his term, contrasted with the normal, everyday life of the "they-self" as he calls it, inauthentic being.

Hide and Seek

One of the characteristics of inauthentic being (ego, lower self, small mind) is that it assiduously turns away from authentic being (our higher self, spirit, Big Mind). Reminiscent of Jeremiah 17:9, (roughly) "The human heart is deceitful beyond imagining; who can plumb its depths?". Whichever way we turn, however we try to escape, our ego is ever vigilant -- ensuring we are always "safe". And so it should; it is the job of our natural intelligence, honed over many thousands of years, to ensure not only our survival but our prosperity. Unfortunately, the ego's idea of life and abundance is rather limited. It can only conceive of contact with that-which-is-beyond-understanding in terms of things within its ken, like images of a ladder ascending into heaven. Even this image is designed to limit and contain the contact; making it "safe", understandable, known. For our minds recoil at anything "beyond" and refuse to face it unless absolutely forced. Anyone who has tried to sit simply conscious of their being, but without the buzzing thoughts, knows how hard we find it to just be in the present moment. We are so easily distracted, it is tempting to think we are complicit in this turing away.

Our natural mind will always try to avoid Bethel -- that place where we meet God, the Source, Being, the Universe, or whatever term you wish to use (I think YHWH is particularly good). If there is any way to avoid actually being, the ever watchful ego-mind will find it. One of the most common ways is to indulge in talk about spirituality. So this blog joins the ranks of thousands of other spiritual blogs, as we avoid living by talking about it. Hopefully we can learn to enjoy this fascinating game of hide and seek as we take on that master of the art -- ourselves. Until we are ready to enter the promised land, we can at least discuss the journey as we make yet another tour through the wilderness.