DEALING WITH THE DEVIL

It’s worth remembering that when we deal with the Devil he honours his side of the bargain and we do actually get what we wanted, or so the stories tell. We want to be rich and powerful; done. We want to be a great blues guitarist; done. The problem isn’t that he doesn’t deliver, it’s that later on we inevitably realise that in our blinding desire to get what we wanted, what we’ve traded away was infinitely more valuable than what we received.

The rule when dealing with the Devil is caveat emptor – let the buyer beware. But it’s not to beware that the goods are shoddy, or that the Devil’s a cheat. He’s not, he’s legit. No, the thing to beware of, and of course the moral of these stories, is that however sweet the deal may seem, when we sell our soul, we WILL live to regret it.

So it’s our choice all along. The devil doesn’t force anyone to do anything, he only tempts and seduces.

The better choices can always be made but they rely on a change of heart and mind, a metanoia, where we move beyond the small egoic mind into the higher – meta – space of perception, awareness itself. From there we recognise our essential freedom, and our identity as loving awareness, and quite naturally the choices we make are more loving, more holistic.

This foundational change of consciousness can only happen in the heart of an individual, and it’s a mistake to think that the loving behaviour that we wish to see in the world could be achieved by some collective moral imposition on people. If it is imposed it ultimately fails because of the internal tensions and conflicts that coercion creates. And so the individual must be free to discover and choose, because whether we like it or not, suppression and coercion only work so far, our nature is such that we’ll burst out all our repressed and shadowed parts in involuntary ways.

We’ll either have a world where peace reigns because we all choose it thus on the basis of our individual awakened hearts, or the fight for power will continue.

The philosopher Rene Girard spoke about the Apocalypse which comes from the Greek word meaning to ‘uncover, reveal’. For him it wasn’t some grand event, but rather a historical process whereby all things will be shown, revealed. All ways will become apparent. It’s a long drawn out affair this historical apocalypse, it’s happening now, and it can an ugly business, but at least we get to contend with it all, we get to choose our way based on reality, not delusion or illusion.

That’s what Gandhi was all about; revealing the hidden violence and oppression of the British Raj through acts of non-violent non-cooperation. And in the revealing of that violent reality the society got to see it and contend with it, but also the perpetrators themselves had to face their own violence. And so each individual, through exposure to naked truth received the opportunity for a change of heart, a metanoia, and when it occurred, an enemy became a friend.

I feel that life in service to universal love — agape — is our highest good, the reality of our ultimate well-being, and perhaps our only means of survival as a species. And so despite the necessary sacrifice of prestige and power, it turns out to be the very opposite of that deal with the Devil. When making a deal with the Divine, it seems we have to give up so much that we value and cherish, so much that it seems unbearable and nonsensical make such a great sacrifice, particularly as the promised reward is entirely taken on faith. But when we’ve given up everything that we are, all that we have, our very will, we are returned life, and life more abundantly.

– Martyn

SOME THOUGHTS ON POLITICS THIS XMAS

While faith has a political dimension
Partisan politics is deeply divisive
The faithful of whatever stripe
Should cleanse their hearts of such division
Individually we must include the ‘other’
Warts and all

If our hearts are filled with self-righteousness
And moral certainty
Of the kind that condemns the other
That abandons the other
As fallen
And unworthy
Of love
Forgiveness
Charity
As beyond the dignity of consideration
Then we are the fallen ones
We have failed in our task
Of spiritual inclusion

When we close our hearts
To the ‘other side’
Then it is us
Who must soften
And put down our stones
And work to remove the beams from our eyes
And give of OUR shirt and coat
And by example show love

Not by condemnation
Not by the ‘public prayer’
Of signalling our superior virtue
But by the demonstration
Of our living faithfulness
To kindness
Love
Generosity
Forgiveness
To our neighbour
And our enemy!

And then
And only then
Can we win hearts
And minds

So I ask
While we condemn
Our political enemies
Do we forgive and pray for them?
With love not contempt
With humility not moral arrogance

For it is we who must search our hearts
So that we may stand as living witness
And testament
To love

Happy Holidays

LIVING WITH CHANGE

We have be willing to stand behind our truth as we see it, to defend, to justify, to explain. But also just as importantly we need to learn to change our minds, to let go of our blind loyalties to people, ideas, views, and positions as we go along, and keep doing it.

We need to be nimble to respond and flourish in a rapidly changing world, and we can’t be if we’re attached to the heavy husks of the spent and the untenable.

Keep what’s good and true and beautiful, drop the rest. We need to be flexible, endlessly updating, and exploring new frames of understanding. All the while remaining ungrasping, open.

This open-handed approach to living and being ultimately provides the much needed contrast between the essential and the transient. By allowing the flow of knowledge and information to change and evolve freely in and through us, we have the opportunity to recognise the unchanging substrate, the ever-present sentience that we are.

Reducing or eliminating identification is an essential skill we have to master because we can’t move forward while dragging the past with us. We must be endlessly shedding or skins, participating in the increasingly fluid nature of manifest existence. In a world made of change, the static and the calcified must face inevitable convulsion and destruction.

There are no fixed points, no permanent structures in nature or human life. Longevity yes, sometimes. But immortality, no. Not in terms of structures and things, including knowledge and information. So don’t identify with that which doesn’t last. Don’t conceptually or emotionally orient your existence around the impossible idea of some kind of manifest immutability.

Seeking permanent identity with changing forms is futile and unnecessary for optimal functioning. In other words – let go, peeps! Stop with all the desperate clinging. Don’t be so narrow and lacking in imagination. Use the world, use ideas and information and intelligence and ways of being, then let them go when their time is done. Free yourself.

We are all explorers in this vast cosmic dream. There are an infinity of uncharted, unimagined possibilities unfolding themselves before our a very eyes. Don’t get fixed too soon, don’t make up your mind, remain humble in the face of the perpetually emerging kaleidoscopic light-show. Grok the need for radical agility, intellectually, conceptually, emotionally, and yes, spiritually. Don’t be a boat on the river, be the river itself. Or better still, be water.

The good news is the very ground of all experiencing, who we actually are, is perpetually present as simple awareness. Discover that, be that, and the world and all its myriad forms becomes an endless playground to enjoy.

SO WHAT’S ON MY MIND?

I’ve been concerned with identity politics and PC culture lately. I don’t quite know why, maybe it’s that I’m seeing in the outside world, in groups, the same kind of dynamics of fear, control, and suppression that the ego uses on a personal level.

I’ve been noticing that my attention has been liberated from the narrow introspective view that dominated my life for so long as a spiritual seeker, and I’m now more aware of the ‘outside world’, social dynamics, ideology, politics, etc. I’m noticing that those with ideological agendas of all stripes are working hard to impose them on others, infiltrating schools, colleges, government, media. In fact anywhere they can. It’s funny that I never really noticed it before, I was like some kind of spiritual ostrich with my head buried deeply in my own contemplative sand. Waking up, I find my head unplugged and unburied, my eyes are open! And what I see is the destructive power and effects of identification and strong views, grasped tightly.

At the heart of all this dysfunction is fear. Fear of the groundlessness at the heart of our being. But the fear itself is groundless, it’s simply a result of the mind projecting into an imagined void. Beyond the fear, beyond the imagined and threatening possibility of our own personal extinction, beyond the vulnerability of our contingent and impermanent identifications lies our essential ever-present nature. But if we continue to turn away from fear in regard to our own self-exploration then we miss the great opportunity, the discovery the greater part of ourselves, Being itself.

The present culture of offence, outrage, safe spaces, speech and thought control, is the very antithesis of intellectual and moral courage and integrity. It boxes us in, it narrows our possibilities, it gives fear dominion over our existence and expression. The misplaced moral certitude and the resulting righteous anger and indignation are a seductive and heady trade-off for the ongoing and sometimes challenging journey of self-discovery. An easily indulged hit of outrage and self-righteousness is a temporary salve and a distraction from the intuitive recognition of our fundamental powerlessness. Ideological grasping comes at a high cost – how many must be wrong for one to be right? How much of the world must be pacified and controlled to protect one’s fearful sensibilities? How many voices must be stifled in the name of one’s emotional comfort? The indulgence of such fear tyrannises the world.

I contend that the solution to these problems lies not in holding tightly to untenable certainties, or to seeking identities in ever narrowing conceptions, or by defining ourselves simply by that which we oppose, or by blind loyalty to comforting ideologies that fail to withstand the scrutiny of sincere and honest critical analysis, as all do ultimately.

I implore all to seek truth not expediency, to suspend judgment indefinitely, to welcome uncertainty, to breathe through the fear of unknowing, to resist premature intellectual and moral resolution and judgment, to seek ever-widening and ever-deepening context, and to exercise compassion and kindness to the extent of one’s capacity to do so.

We are a work in progress, we need room for change and growth. We must reject the hubris and the expectation of certainties. Trust in our essential goodness and wisdom. And if that’s too much to ask, then consider it as a hypothesis to be explored. Above all we need to admit to and contend with our own fear. Resisting or acting-out both sustain it. By allowing it to be, by accepting its presence as it comes and by seeing that it inevitably passes, we lessen its power over us and ultimately free ourselves from the affliction of strong emotions. Between suppression and indulgence lies the middle way – let it be, let it pass, let it go. And yes, this takes courage, but we have more capacity for experiencing that we imagine.

The fruits of this freedom are peace, clarity, a gentle power, and a spontaneous, intuitive, living ethic; responsive and unfettered from the limitations of any calcified dogma or ideology. On this basis we become free to participate meaningfully, wisely, and compassionately in the human adventure.