Friday, 29 January 2010

“There are more things in Heaven and Earth. . .”

Shakespeare was wise as well as being a mammoth amongst writers. He was only too well aware of the frailties of human nature and most of his plays exploit those very things. In this well-known quotation from Hamlet he is explaining to Horatio that it does not do to place artificial limitations upon our knowledge and understanding. Despite the fact that each generation since the beginning of time has produced its share of new discoveries about the natural world for us to marvel at, we nevertheless continue to propound absolutes and limits in so many areas of study and human activity.

Whether it be the absolutes of Euclid, supplanted by Newton and later by Einstein; the absolutes of human athletic performance like the ten second 100 metres or the four minute mile; the assumption that the sound barrier would be insuperable for aircraft or that nothing can move faster than the speed of light; the claim of the ‘flat-earther’s’ that the horizon denoted the edge of the world and if one ventured over it one would be lost; the notion that the sun revolved around the earth, that the earth was the centre of the universe; the claim that the universe began at a precise moment in time and it is possible to re-create that moment in the laboratory; the commonly accepted belief that science has defined exactly the time when human beings first appeared on earth. The list goes on and despite this we are unwilling mostly, to follow Shakespeare’s advice to Horatio.

Human beings have become increasingly adept at examining the natural world of both inner and outer space. We have uncovered untold wonders by those investigations, we have been able to cure previously incurable diseases and have explained much that was previously a complete mystery and in doing so we have grown in intellectual arrogance. Perhaps this is why we are still prone to jump to the wrong conclusions when we use those discoveries to help us explain things that continue to baffle our understanding? I presume that this tendency springs from the fact that we have finite bodies and are living upon a world that is also finite, forgetting that being finite is a relative term. Worlds and bodies come and go but the material of which they consist does not disappear when they do, it changes its form. Because of this wrong-headed thinking, we assume everything to be finite and comprehending the infinite is beyond us.

Just as the ancients needed to see their Gods in the natural world around them; in the sun, the moon, the stars, the wind or the storm, so as to bring the infinite within the compass of their minds, so with modern humanity. We need our materialism, our science, our idols of stone, books, altars and creeds for the same reason. We have travelled a shorter distance along the road of freeing humanity from the shackles of superstition and fear than we think. We have changed the objects of our reverence that’s all. The shibboleths and idols have become more sophisticated, they have not disappeared. Indeed in one particular we have travelled backwards from the understanding possessed by the ancients.

They accepted beyond question for instance, that human life did not end with the death of the physical body and had ample evidence for this and revered their ancestors as a consequence. They knew those same ancestors helped them with difficulties in their own earthly lives and that through the Shaman it was possible to communicate with them. Consequently, the fear of death, as opposed to the fear of how one met it, was none existent. One of the greatest scourges of modern humanity, the fear that produces all manner of psychological and physical illnesses, just was not there. Were it not for the lust for power and the avarice of organised religion, this would still be the case today. Religion has supplanted this inbuilt knowledge from ancient times with fear and ridicule. They talk of the ancients as being ignorant savages and their beliefs as being sacrilege. They themselves seem to fear more than anything, the rediscovery of this truth. Hence, instead of open-mindedly investigating it for themselves, they have persecuted and ridiculed Spiritualism from the very beginning. Perhaps the church leaders, suspecting their teachings are bogus, fear the retribution that could result?

In today’s much more enlightened times I am hopeful that more and more people will cast off the shackles of superstition and ill-thought-out dogma and begin thinking more for themselves. Eternity is within us! Using the untapped resources of the spirit within to learn what was taken as read by the ancients, we can go on to discover the glories and mysteries of the spiritual universe. In doing so we will discover just how right Shakespeare was and learn that “the more we know, the more we learn there is to know.”

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