Sunday, 28 February 2010

“Pray Without Ceasing”


This was what St Paul urged the followers of Jesus to do for the whole of their lives. On first glance it sounds a difficult, nay even an impossible task. But is it? Let us examine together what it really means, see if we can follow it and yet still live a normal life. First we need to ask ourselves, “What is meant by prayer?” For many it is a kind of ‘shopping list’ we place before God in the hope that he will provide us with everything on the list. Mostly such prayers are a reflection of our acquisitive natures and go no further than the person who utters them. A wonderful British medium of the past, Ena Twigg, told in her autobiography of a parable she gave in a trance communication called Aperçu of Prayer:

“She was shown people praying. Her teacher said, ‘That one is a mother praying for her sick child but she is not praying that God will restore him to health if it is God’s will; she is telling God to make him well. As God is perfect Law, if it is not in the scheme, the child cannot recover. The prayer does not reach very far. Although it is intense and it is pure, it is conditional.’
Then I saw a man dressed in a sack and he was praying and he said, ‘God, I am an unworthy part of you. But if I can be used, use me.’
And the man in the sack had a great light come down, it caught his prayer – and my teacher said, ‘That prayer has been accepted.’
Next we saw a mass of people in uniform, and they were devising weapons of destruction and praying those weapons would be used successfully – and darkness came over. And my teacher said, ‘Those prayers are not accepted, only by the dark forces. They have no validity and don’t reach out.’
Now we saw an old lady praying for her husband who was dying and she said, ‘He belongs to You God, and although I love him dearly, I give him to you.’
That prayer reached out and again, a great blaze of light came down and my teacher said to me, ‘Have you learned anything?’
I said, ‘Oh how much I have learned by looking at this thing, much more than I ever learned from my own prayers."


That is one way, a very interesting way, to examine prayer and it teaches us that unless a prayer praises God, comes from the heart AND is humble and selfless it will achieve little. Let us look at prayer in a slightly different way now:

Prayer is an attempt, often when all else has failed, to appeal to the munificence of the Creator to help in some form or another and is usually uttered in the hope of helping a friend or a loved one. The act of praying is an acknowledgement that there exists a higher power and that we understand the laws of that power imperfectly. In praying we are seeking from our hearts, an intervention using one of the laws we do not fully understand, to bring about an improvement in a health, economic or social condition that has resisted all treatment by human agencies. It is worth reflecting upon who we really are. Each one of us is a spirit that is part of the Great Spirit or Creator; the very one to whom we address our prayers. If we are indeed a part of this great power, it must surely follow that there is a way to access everything that stems from the Creator.

The same Jesus I referred to above was able to carry out quite remarkable healings, even to restore to life one that was apparently dead. He was also able to foresee what was going to happen. If like me, you believe Jesus was not a God but a man and furthermore that he told his followers, “Greater things than these shall you do,” we too should have the ability to become healers as he was. The answer is that we can if we model our lives upon the template Jesus provided for us. By following the Golden Rule; by placing the interests of others above our own; eschewing confrontation and instead ‘turning the other cheek’; by loving everyone, even those we don’t like; by trying to be pure in heart and stifling negative thoughts; by recognising that we have the power to make our inner light “so shine before men, that they may see our good works, and glorify our Father which is in heaven.” (Matthew 5:16) Then will we be able to summon to our assistance those same powers that Jesus used.

Not only that but if we are true to the spirit within us and really try to do our best towards our Father God, our inner light will become our outer light and its brilliance will illuminate the way for those not yet able to understand the power they can wield if they are willing to apply themselves humbly and persistently. In other words we would become a walking prayer. Our life and the way we live it will become an act of praise to our Creator, a living, continuous prayer that would require no words to be spoken. This is the appeal that Paul was making to us all. “Live your life in the knowledge that you are an eternal spirit; try hard to live as a spirit in a physical world; let your light shine and you will be a walking, living prayer.”

The more of us that are able to live our lives in this way, the less influence will sickness have upon us all, for inner conflict, which is what produces most disease, will no longer exist.

Saturday, 27 February 2010

When All Else Fails

Life is so full of contradiction and paradox it is small wonder many find it very confusing. It sometimes appears that almost everything on earth has been designed with the underlying objective of creating conflict. Our philosophy and even our languages incorporate this idea by pointing to the contrasts which seem inescapable. To know white you must know black; to know happiness, it is necessary to know misery; to understand light, you have to experience darkness; and so on.

Is it true? Is this world full of opposites? Is it really necessary to experience the bad in order to know what is good? Is it not possible to arrange things so as to live in the light all the time and not have to suffer the shade? Perhaps ours is not a world of opposites at all but we just imagine it to be so? Some of our greatest writers have perceived this to be the case and have urged us to change our views and thus avoid being swept along in the maelstrom of conflict which drives us to yet more conflict. For instance, most people persist in accepting and promoting the idea of chance. They say, “Such and such happened to me because I am unlucky,” or “He always seems to land on his feet – he is just born lucky.” The idea that much of life is outside our control and we are therefore subject to the vagaries of chance is an idea as old as humanity itself. It is as though life is a kind of lottery in which there must be more losers than winners.

How we look upon ourselves; how willing we are to think for ourselves; how prepared we are to follow evidence even when it brings us to conclusions that makes us uncomfortable; these are among many things that determine our outlook on life and how we interpret its mysteries. They all tend to make us examine life superficially for it seems more comfortable that way; it is easier to go along with what is familiar, with what most others accept, than to step outside the mould and reach our own, very different conclusions about life, its purposes and its design. If we do so, there is likely to be conflict! Those whose comfort zone is challenged by our conclusions will resent it and us. Mostly, we opt for the quiet life and prefer not to raise the hackles of others by saying. “I cannot accept that and here is why.”

I believe we only perceive Earth to be a world of opposites because we have become mentally lazy. If we look at the world clearly, using our inner sight or our deeper feelings, we will see that all is a matter of relativity, not of conflict. I make no apology for the number of times I use Alexander Pope’s “Essay on Man” to illustrate such things for it is truly a work of genius in my opinion. He describes with great beauty and economy that conflict is merely our own limited perception. Everything to Pope is relative to everything else:

“All nature is but art unknown to thee;
All chance, direction which thou canst not see;
All discord, harmony not understood;
All partial evil, universal good;
And spite of pride, in erring reason’s spite,
One truth is clear, WHATEVER IS, IS RIGHT.”



Because we so often think of life and our lives in terms of conflict and of opposites, by refusing to recognise or use our inner senses, we sometimes plunge ourselves into despair. Everything and everyone it seems is opposed to us; no-one is prepared to stop and listen; much that we consider important in our lives has been lost; this is especially so when we lose a loved one and it is almost entirely due to wrong or misguided thinking. We have been “persuaded” that life consists merely of that relatively short period between being born on Earth to the time when we die. Death is the end, we are told. Even those who purport to know better, the leaders of the world’s great religions, offer no real comfort. Their words are empty promises, backed by a call to “have faith”. There is no evidence offered to support their claims. Small wonder therefore that the fear of death is the greatest of the many unnecessary fears that haunt humanity.


When we are brought up against the hopeless negativity that is at the root of what we imagine to be our world of opposites; when we despair of ever being able to ‘square the circle’ or make any sense of a life that has become a misery; when all else fails; that is when the spirit which is the real you, is able to assert itself. Through its vision you slowly begin to see the world through Pope’s eyes; you suddenly KNOW that death is not the end but the beginning of a new and exciting phase of your eternal life. You know you will meet again those you have loved and thought you had lost. You come to understand from within that whatever exists really is right. You begin to view everything as part of everything else and the pall of misery and despair is lifted. Because you are part of everything that exists and it is part of you, there can be no separation, no conflict, no opposites, for

“All are part of one stupendous whole, whose body nature is and God the soul”

Friday, 26 February 2010

Thoughts for Today

Here are some thoughts that a friend sent to me recently. It seeems to me we could all do much worse than follow in their train. Lionel

A bad attitude is like a flat tire... if you don’t change it, you’ll never go anywhere.

Enjoy the little things...one day you may look back and realize they were the big things.

In order to be a realist, you must believe in miracles.


You have never really learned to live until you’ve done something for somebody who can never repay you.

Watch the sunrise. Watch the sunset.

How does it make you feel?

Does it make you feel big or tiny? Because there’s something good about feeling both
.

We all have a choice in every difficult situation in life.----We can become bitter or better.

Remember that the most valuable antiques are dear old friends.

You never really lose until you quit trying.

Everyone needs to be loved, especially when they don’t deserve it!

I will always want to be a child in my heart, an adult in my mind and a grown-up in my wisdom.

Thursday, 25 February 2010

" . . . Whence He Shall Judge the Quick and the Dead”

I try not to sound anti-Christian but of the many questionable utterances by the Christian church, this, from the Creed is without doubt the most presumptuous and misleading. Not only is it a blatant ploy to persuade people to allow the church to arrange for them to be favourably judged, in return for a ‘donation’ of course, but it simply will not withstand scrutiny by anyone with a reasonably open mind . The ‘He’ in this quotation is Jesus of Nazareth who because of his deification by the church, is claimed to sit upon the right hand of God, from “whence . . . .” Now I have little quarrel with the church initially personalising God, because most people at that time were unlearned and superstitious. By personalising God it made the Great Creator easier for people to approach in prayer – an avuncular figure is much more re-assuring in that way, than an impersonal power. However, to continue with the deception long after people became more educated, is an abuse of their influence and typifies why so many people have deserted the churches.

What I also find impossible to condone, because the church leaders undoubtedly knew better, is the transformation of the man Jesus into the god Christ. This undermines the whole of the teaching of that wonderful and gifted man when he was upon Earth. He went to great pains to stress that he was the ‘son of man’. The cornerstone of his ministry was that, because of this and the things he had trained himself to do; the spiritual power he had learned to exercise; the way in which he could link to the highest minds in the spiritual world; he was demonstrating “what I can do, you also can do.” Were he the god that Christianity made him, what he was able to do would clearly be beyond the capabilities of ordinary, common people and his ministry becomes meaningless. What would be the point of following his advice in the Sermon on the Mount, for instance, if a god alone was capable of reaping the benefits? No, the church had and still has its own agenda in creating that creed, interpreting the writings in the bible in their own narrow way and claiming the church and only the church, can arrange the forgiveness of our sins.

My friends, as anyone who, like you, has studied other beliefs and philosophies will know, sins (and not everything claimed as a sin by the church is so) cannot be forgiven just like that, they must be atoned for. In other words the people you have hurt by your sins of omission or commission you must serve in a way that makes up for how you misused them. This applies after death just as much as during our lifetime. That is, any serious hurt, mental, physical or spiritual that you have inflicted on another must be paid for if you did not do so whilst on earth. It is not Jesus who does the judging however. Believe it or not, we are our own judges. We are shown various actions we took in our earthly life but see them through the eyes of the one we affected. This is true of all our earthly actions, not just the bad ones. We are then told that until we have atoned by helping those people we hurt, we will be able to progress no further in the spiritual world. Some of us choose to do nothing and languish until we are moved to act but eventually we all make atonement.

However, the Creed says “to judge the quick and the dead”. That is the living as well as the dead. This refers to the pernicious Christian doctrine that when we die, each of us must wait until a trumpet sounds to announce the Day of Judgement. On that day those no longer living, no matter for how long they have been gone, and those still on Earth will be judged by Christ and assigned to Heaven or Hell! One presumes it also means the end of the Earth. In the meantime where have all the people who died been waiting? The answer appears to be in “Limbo,” a place that is neither here nor there.

Despite what I have said about the need to atone before we can progress in spirit, there is a sense in which we are immediately judged. We are in reality beings of light; our physical bodies being temporary suits we need to be able to experience life on a physical world. When we arrive in spirit therefore, it is immediately apparent to others, from the light we emanate, what kind of people we have been whilst on earth. The brightness of our light is determined by how selfless and considerate of others we have been; how hard we have tried to conquer the urgings of our Ego and eschew more of this world’s possessions than we really need; how tolerant we have been; how much we have been willing to place the interests of others ahead of our own. Our light is the measure of the real us. There can be no fudging, no pretence; what we have become up to the present is clearly visible in the brilliance or otherwise of the light we emanate. The sphere in the spirit world we occupy, once we have settled into our new life in the Spiritual World, is the sphere whose light most closely resembles our own. As we progress, our light grows brighter and we automatically rise to the next brightest sphere and so on. Part of the work to make our light brighter in Spirit is the part I mentioned earlier about making up to those we damaged in the past by our actions, words and thoughts.

Wednesday, 24 February 2010

LAUGHTER


“Laugh and the world laughs with you,
Cry and you cry alone”


There is no better tonic than laughter, which is why the comics and clowns have always held pride of place in our hearts. Think of those childhood days at the circus and how you laughed and laughed at the antics of the clowns. The great clowns, Joey Grimaldi, Coco, Charlie Chaplin, The Marx Brothers, Stan Stennet, The Crazy Gang, The Four Stooges were household names and Chaplin is as popular now as when he was alive. And how the laughter they brought cheered us didn’t it? Even in the darkest days of the bombing in London in the 1940’s, the comics at The Windmill Theatre managed to keep people’s spirits afloat. A good laugh will make you feel better, no matter what you are going through.

I remember well the seventies and the eighties in Britain when on television we were treated to the humour of some of the most talented comedians Britain ever produced. Tony Hancock was a bit earlier than that and Tommy Handley earlier still but in the period I referred to we had, The Two Ronnies, Morecambe and Wise, Tommy Cooper, Ken Dodd and Frankie Howerd to say nothing of Rowan Atkinson. In the USA it is a similar story with people like Walter Matthau, Danny Kaye, Bob Hope, Laurel and Hardy and Abbot and Costello. All enabled us to forget what was troubling us in the gales of laughter they created.

The very act of laughing makes us breathe more deeply, forces our faces into smiles and creates an enzyme that makes us feel on top of the world. It generates happy thoughts in our minds and leaves no room for sad ones. The great comics and clowns have the gift of being able to make us laugh at ourselves. Once we are able to do that, we stop taking ourselves too seriously, for a time at least! A surprising number of ‘worries’ that beset us are connected with self-image. Because of this tendency to take ourselves too seriously at times, we are easily upset when that image is slighted in some way. In the comic situations described by comedians and demonstrated by clowns we easily identify those we know, especially Politicians, those who we dislike for some reason, or those who are our superiors at work. Sometimes, though perhaps a little begrudgingly, we also recognise ourselves.

The laughter makers are a boon to us all. They force us to relax, for one cannot be tense and laugh at the same time; they force us to recognise the ridiculous in everyone and every situation; they gently ridicule the Establishment and the Church, two things that we tend to hold in too much awe and towards which we show exaggerated respect. Look around at your friends and family. In whose company do you prefer to be on most occasions? Those who have a lighter outlook on life; have a ready quip or funny anecdote to relate; or those who are serious and self-important; those who seem afraid to let their hair down and have a good belly laugh?

One cannot laugh all the time of course and there are occasions when levity is inappropriate and we feel the need to be serious and respectful. However, we should never become so serious or believe ourselves to be so important that we feel we must constantly wear a straight face and be unable to smile readily. Even in sad circumstances, a tragedy or where a friend or relative has lost a person dear and close to them, there is still room for smiles. A smile, like the comic or the clown, has a tonic effect, not just on the one smiling but on all those on whom it is bestowed. I defy anyone to continue to scowl and be unhappy when faced with a warm and generous smile.

From sitting in many different Circles over the years to be in touch with those dwelling in the Spiritual World, I know there is no shortage of humour amongst those who communicate. Most of the leading trance or physical mediums have one guide in particular whose sense of humour is infectious; those who sitters most look forward to hearing from once they have had communication from a really close loved one. Gordon Higginson had Paddy, Leslie Flint Mickey and even I have Bill, a Cockney who voices some very profound thoughts while at the same time making sitters laugh with his turns of phrase and warm personality.

Keep a smile in your heart and everything will seem better.

Tuesday, 23 February 2010

LOST!

There are many ways we feel lost; we can lose our way whilst walking in a strange place and unless there is someone we can ask directions from, it may be sometime before we are able to find our way back again; we may be driving and unknowingly take a wrong turning and after a while realise we are not where we thought we should be; we may find ourselves in strange company where the conversation is beyond our ability to join in; we may be in a foreign country and wander off the beaten track, suddenly finding there are no signs in any language we understand; we may become so stressed from something that is happening to us, that we become totally disorientated; we may, either as the result of an accident or even for no apparent reason, suddenly lose our memory and not be able even to recall our own name.

Whatever the reason, feeling lost is a most disconcerting feeling and is the subject of many a nightmare. Of the cases I have cited, I guess losing our memory and I mean losing it totally, not just being unable to recall certain facts, is the one we know least about because the person undergoing it cannot tell us how they feel. Even if they recover, I am not sure they can really tell us exactly how they felt. Despite this, many are the stories and films that have been written and made where the central character has lost his or her memory but of necessity, the feelings put over are subjective ones imagined by the writer or film maker. Because we imagine it is such a nightmare experience, we cannot resist trying to guess what it would feel like to experience it. Presumably, something takes place within the afflicted person that interferes with the connection between the mind and the brain on a conscious level. To assume it is a bad experience per se is not necessarily so I believe.

As Spiritualists we know that we are beings of spirit and only have a physical body, including a physical brain, for the period we spend on Earth. If we lose, even temporarily, part of the link between our real spiritual self and the brain through which that part of us gives instructions to the physical body, does our spiritual self still register what is going on physically around us? I believe it must, and because the mind, which is not part of our physical selves, is able to recall consciously everything that ever happened to us, if properly prompted, it must be possible somehow to reconstruct the period during which our spirit was unable to access the brain. I believe if psychiatrists fully understood the true relationship between brain and spirit, they would find it easier to treat memory loss but above all, to help patents recall all that happened both during their memory loss and previously.

During any period when we feel ‘lost’ I guess the worst part is that we begin to feel all alone. There appears to be nobody to whom we can turn for help or advice and this can lead to a feeling of panic sometimes. This is when we can discover important truths about ourselves. I believe because nothing ever happens without a purpose, these periods of feeling ‘lost’ or ‘abandoned’ occur because, for some reason, we need to undergo that experience at that particular time. After the initial shock or even panic has passed, we find that we are much more resourceful than we ever imagined possible. Circumstances have forced us into an unaccustomed pattern of thinking; we are being forced to think laterally even though that may not be something we have done before. Once the panic passes, we become calm and it seems that our minds are clearer. We begin to remember things we have learned, often in vastly different surroundings, and adapt them to our present predicament. We even have thoughts come into our minds that have never occurred to us previously.

Why should this be? Because we are never truly alone! We may have no physical companion but those close to us in spirit, because of our different thinking pattern, can draw close to us in a way that is impossible in our normal state. They can impress our minds with thoughts that will enable us to find ourselves or our way again. It is not just impressions from those in spirit who never desert us however our own inner self is freed by the change in circumstances. Our conscious mind holds our inner self in check normally but when the conscious mind is ‘out of its depth’ (or when we sleep incidentally) it is forced to let go. Then the inner or spiritual self can come into its own and prompt us to take action that would never occur to the former because it is outside its experience.

Therefore my friends, when we are put in conditions where, for whatever reason, we feel lost or abandoned, there will be a reason for it and we will definitely learn something important as a consequence. Try never to allow yourself to feel desperate when deserted or lost, try to remain calm and look within. This will assist the process that supersedes your conscious mind at such times of apparent crisis. When it is all over, try to discover what you have learned from the experience, for something important will have been revealed to you.

Saturday, 20 February 2010

TWO WOLVES



One evening an old Cherokee told his grandson about a battle that goes on inside people.

He said, "My son, the battle is between two wolves inside us all.

"One is Evil - It is anger, envy, jealousy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment,inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.

"The other is Good - It is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion and faith."

The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather:

"Which wolf wins?"

The old Cherokee simply replied, "The one you feed."

Friday, 19 February 2010

The Trigger

Isn’t it amazing how little it takes to transform our mood, even to transform our lives? A certain piece of music, for instance, can transport us back to an event or a person in our lives that we have not thought about for years. A particular scent or aroma can do the same. There is no doubt that at critical points in our lives all our senses become sharpened and even though we may not realise it at the time, they register everything that is going on around us. It is as if that part of us that does things automatically, like breathing and moving the blood around our bodies, realises the importance of the occasion and determines that everything connected with it will be recorded on our inner CD.

All it takes is something that activates the trigger and there we are! We are lost in the memory of the event or the person that made such a deep impression at the time. It does not always happen. Sometimes the aroma is smelled or the music is heard but the memory remains buried. I wonder why? Presumably our state of mind is important. Certainly if we are passing through a troubling period of our life and are beginning to wonder which way to turn, we can be transported in this way. The reason in that case is obvious; the inner self realises the need to lift the gloom or depression into which our troubles are forcing us. It guides us where the trigger will appear and sharpens our senses so that we immediately recognise it and are transported to that happy time. The result? A transformation! The happy memory brings pleasant, happy thoughts and the depression and worry are lifted.

So! It would appear that there is a part of us that not only knows what we need and when but actually can retrieve information from our minds that will change the way we are thinking and feeling at the moment: A part of us that links our deeper, inner feelings with what is happening in the outer world. It really is wonderful if you think about it but of course most of us go through life without giving it a thought. We think that such moments of vivid recall are mere accidents, pleasant but pure chance. My friends, nothing but nothing happens by chance. There is purpose and design in every little thing that happens to us, in every experience we undergo. Sometimes that design is the working out of a consequence that our actions or thoughts brought into being in the past. It is the operation of the Law of Cause and Effect. At other times and far more frequently I believe than we realise, we are being guided back to the life plan we drew up before we came to the Earth, a plan from which we have diverged. You see, our inner self drew up the plan with the help of dear Guides in spirit, and it carefully monitors our progress as we move through our earthly life.

The plan we chose before we were born, we chose for important and very personal reasons. Physical life presents us with opportunities to strengthen our character and thus our spirit through having to contend with the conflict that is inherent on Earth. Conflict involving human greed, avarice and megalomania; conflict in family relationships; conflict in the growth of love and its loss, although one can never really lose the love we have experienced. We lose the opportunity to move it forward in the future but the love that was shared in the past is always with us and can never be lost, as the trigger proves to us if we would but listen. Why do we need to strengthen our character and spirit? In order that we may better serve the Great Spirit in the expanding Spiritual Universe: It is important to understand in this regard that strengthening the character is not a matter of making ourselves more assertive, indeed it is rather the reverse. Self-assertion is a sure sign that the physical ego has too much influence over us. Many people believe that strong, assertive people are happy because they appear to know exactly what they want and where they are going. On the contrary, it is frequently the case that such characters are camouflaging a deep uncertainty and fear under their assertiveness.

As many great teachers have shown, from Buddha, through Jesus of Nazareth to Ghandhi and Mother Theresa, the greatest strength is what many consider to be weakness. It takes much greater strength of character and much greater fearlessness to ‘turn the other cheek’ than to fight fire with fire; to respond to hate and fear with love; to, “Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which spitefully use you, and persecute you”. How much safer and better a place our world would be were more of us willing to try harder to follow this dictum. Difficult though it is and though many times we will fall short, it is the only way to order a Spiritual Universe, of which our Earth is an integral part. To ‘live and let live’ takes more courage and love than to insist upon conformity in all things. An ounce of tolerance is worth a ton of prejudice and bigotry.

Thursday, 18 February 2010

Where the Rainbow Ends


The beautiful way in which light is refracted through rain produces one of nature’s outstanding displays. We have all stood entranced as a rainbow forms and when we have been lucky enough to see it extend across a valley or across a broad river then the effect is breathtaking. It has been described as God’s promise to humanity following the “flood” that the sun will continue to shine. Many legends have grown up around it, not least that if you can find the end of the rainbow, you will find a pot of gold. I remember well as a child running across fields in an attempt to find the rainbow’s end but it always eluded me.

The rainbow is probably the outstanding example of how nature combines utility with beauty. If we examine nature in any aspect, it is difficult to find ugliness; all seems to be carefully designed to be fair as well as practical. The great architects that humanity produces form time to time have tried their best to imitate this aspect of nature. They have designed buildings to fulfil their practical purpose but at the same time have shaped and decorated them so that they are things of beauty at the same time. It saddens me that modern society, with all its wealth, has produced so few buildings of beauty. There are exceptions of course but one only has to look at modern buildings that have been erected alongside those from more leisurely ages, to see what I mean.

I remember how shocked I was on my first visit to Hungary. As I drove into the Budapest City centre from the airport I couldn’t believe the ugliness of the grey, faceless buildings lining the route. They exuded an air, almost of menace to me, and I could only imagine the effect such buildings must have upon those unfortunate enough to live in them. Then when I arrived in the City centre and saw the magnificent parliament building on one bank of the Danube and the beautiful, former royal palaces on the other, the contrast was so stark I could hardly believe what I was seeing. Later I discovered that all countries under the yoke of communist dictatorships produced the same ugly, faceless architecture. Small wonder therefore that under such regimes people had to be virtually imprisoned in their countries to prevent them leaving in droves. Our surroundings definitely influence our thoughts and our actions; surround people with beauty and give them attractive homes in which to live and the better side of their characters will be stimulated. Put them in miserable, ugly blocks of apartments, build similarly ugly public buildings and the result will be to repress the creative urge, to suppress individuality and to produce a society that is colourless and totally lacking in initiative.

So much for human unwillingness to follow the example of nature and create architecture that fulfils a practical need whilst at the same time being pleasing to the eye. What about that “pot of gold at the end of the rainbow”? Because nobody has ever found it, does that mean it does not exist? I regret it does. It is another of those wild dreams and legends human beings have built up when impressed by the beauty and majesty of natural phenomena. However, it is a dream that has inspired many and without dreams, where would we be? It is the dreamers that make our existence here on Earth intriguing and exciting. Where would race relations in the USA be now had Martin Luther King not had his “dream”? Where would our knowledge of physics be had Einstein not dared to dream the impossible and think along lines ridiculed by those wedded to the status quo of Newtonian physics? Where our knowledge of the universe had Galileo not dared to dream that perhaps the Earth moved around the sun after all?

Our legends about the rainbow are much like those we build around life itself. Our physical senses so dominate our thinking and limit our understanding that many believe life begins and ends here on Earth; they believe life arose from the primordial mud, became the simplest of single celled organisms and then over many millennia evolved into the complex organism that is the human being. That of course is true but it is only part of the story, just as the rainbow we see is only part, admittedly a beautiful part, of the story of how light is refracted by moisture in the air. Unlike the rainbow however, there is a pot of gold at the end of our physical lives. It is the confirmation that life, our real spiritual life, continues in our natural environment which is the Spiritual World. Death is not the end but a beginning and a glorious beginning at that. As our life moves upwards and onwards so we learn gradually the reasons we chose to live an earthly life, for choose we did and each one of us for our own, very personal reasons. We will see there that despite the disappointments and the heartaches, our life on Earth was indeed beautiful like the rainbow and we achieved far more during it than we realise whilst still living here. So dream on, keep looking for the pot of gold and who knows? One day you may find it and even if you don’t, think how much more interesting your life has been because you dared to dream.

Wednesday, 17 February 2010

Spread Your Wings


Spread your wings take a deep breath, trust and jump! That is what the fledgling bird has to do and encouraged by its mother, after much hesitation perhaps, it does just that. Lo and behold, suddenly that little bird with its new feathers is airborne. It might flutter frantically for a while but as confidence grows and it realises what was meant by “trust” it begins to enjoy a freedom that we humans can only experience in dreams. The joy is evident if you watch the early experiments of fledglings.

Metaphorically, we sometimes must imitate the fledgling. There are occasions when, after lengthy periods of being surrounded by protective influences, we find everything has changed, and I do not refer only to childhood. Even as adults we have periods of great stability in our lives when it seems as though one’s life will continue in exactly the same way indefinitely. One day, often unaccountably, it all changes. Nothing that we accepted as ‘normal’ seems to be there anymore. People we relied upon are not available for one reason or another, or they are themselves so surprised by what is happening to us that they are disorientated. Like it or not, we find ourselves ‘on our own’.

Actually, we are never ‘on our own’ but in these circumstances, it feels as though we are. We have to begin thinking for ourselves; we have to take decisions alone, when previously we had been able to discuss the implications first. It is difficult and we shy away from taking decisions at first- just like the fledgling often does. We may try to blame others for the position in which we find ourselves; we may rage at the Almighty for deserting us; we may say, “Life is so unfair, why me?” Sooner or later though, we see that recriminations and placing blame here and there is not helping and then, only then, are we ready to move forward. At that point we stand on the lip of the nest, so to speak, trying to convince ourselves that if we leap into the unknown, our wings will unfold and we will be able to fly. We argue with ourselves as to whether we are right to trust, as our inner self (and good friends too) is trying to persuade us.

After the inner debate is exhausted and we think we might remain in this apparent limbo forever, we feel them. We feel our wings and begin to spread them. They may be mental or spiritual wings but they are no less real for that. We feel their tug on our shoulders; at the same time a conviction grows within us that we can trust them, they will bear our weight; they will take us safely where we need to go. As that conviction increases, so we begin to really spread and even to flap our wings. As we do so our confidence grows; our trust seems reborn and then we do it! We launch ourselves into the unknown boldly; ignoring that small voice of doubt that continues to try and influence us to be more careful, that tells us what we are planning is crazy!

At first our heart is in our mouth as it seems we are dropping like a stone. We fight to restore the trust that convinced us to leap and then quite suddenly, we begin to rise. We feel the wind beneath our wings as it lifts us up. We can soar and dive and a wonderful sense of freedom invades our senses. After all the time we spent worrying about being alone and whether we could cope, we begin to understand; to understand that protection is fine as far as it goes but as well as security it brings us dependence that weakens our muscles. We know that important though that phase of dependence and security was, using our wings will strengthen us, enable us to help others and bring us closer to the light. Our wings lay dormant for too long and as we use them more they grow in strength, as does our sense of joy. We are free at last; free to enjoy being us; free to decide our destination and how to reach it; free to care as well as to be cared for; free to laugh or cry, to inspire or be inspired.

Let’s do it! Let’s decide to use our wings again and be free! Let’s decide to shake off the shackles of cant and humbug, of social acceptability, of blind support or opposition and be true. True to our inner self; true to the spirit that is “as full, as perfect in vile man that mourns, as in the wrapt seraph that adores and burns*.” Only when we give ourselves this freedom, when we trust the spirit that energises us, can we truly love, give and receive in this life. Spread your wings and soar high above; seek the clear air of unconditional love and all that is troubling you will fall away.

•Alexander Pope

Tuesday, 16 February 2010

Spirit Photography (Continued)



In order to produce ectoplasm, a medium who possesses a very special metabolism must be present. There will also be others there to help provide additional energy. Mentioned in my book "Please God Why?" is the explanation by a guide that he created ectoplasm by drawing to him by an effort of will, the energy circulating in the séance room. We have therefore, two necessary ingredients, 1)The medium and sitters. 2)The mind of the spirit operator (s). In spirit photography of course there must also be a camera and film. Sometimes, as we shall learn later, you can dispense with the camera.

The ectoplasm used in spirit photography is of a very refined type and is thus invisible to the naked eye. However, photographic emulsion is many times more sensitive to light, and to a wider spectrum of it, than the human eye. I repeat emulsion is sensitive to light. Indeed the etymology of the word ‘photograph’ means writing with light. Therefore light must be used by the spirit operators to illuminate the spirit figures they have made solid enough to reflect light by clothing them in ectoplasm. Because the light is detected by photographic emulsion but not the human eye, it follows the light must be outside the visible spectrum but within the spectrum to which photographic emulsion is sensitive. That spirit operators have the ability to generate light is beyond question, as anyone who has seen beautiful spirit lights in physical phenomena séances will testify. Thus a fourth element is brought into play.

The process appears to be this. The medium and the group he or she is sitting with, attune themselves to the spirit operators. The medium does not fall into trance like a materialisation medium but all mediums have said they feel much more alive and vibrant once they have successfully attuned themselves to spirit. After a while, the spirit operators are able to draw the particles of energy circulating in the room to themselves and create ectoplasm. Knowing in advance which people are coming to be photographed, arrangements have been made in spirit for some of their relations or friends, who have ‘died’, to be present. In due course the spirit forms of these good people are draped in ectoplasm and illuminated by spirit light. The photographer, knowing nothing of this, takes his photograph. The medium-photographer takes a photograph of the sitters. Although he is a medium, he cannot see the spirit forms himself. Usually a spirit photograph shows the physical sitters plus one or more ‘spirit extra’. Occasionally, a sitter is obscured by either a bright light or a thick mist, presumably of ectoplasm. The extras may appear anywhere on the photograph and may even be upside down compared to the sitters. It is also the case sometimes, that the medium is not the photographer. Hope for instance, claimed his pictures were always clearer when a trance medium friend of his was present.

It is important to understand that good photographic mediums produce, not merely blurred images that may or may not be recognised, but those that are sharply defined and clear. When placed alongside photographs taken of the ‘extras’ (the name given to the spirit people who appear on such photographs) when they were still on earth, there is no doubt these are the very same people. (The picture with yesterday's Blog demonstrates this) This is the true test of genuine spirit photography. I receive many supposed spirit photographs from people and they often consist of blurred images that might be anything, such as faults on the film, direct sunlight entering the lens, etc. Sometimes the photographs show patches of light or clouds of mist. In these instances, the photographs may possibly be of lights, similar to those seen in physical mediumship séances, or of ectoplasm. If that is so, the people involved should persevere and take more photographs whilst sitting in a development circle with others. Just like all forms of mediumship, practice and development make perfect.

Spirit Photography, like table tilting, is not always the result of discarnate influences. Tables can be tilted and objects moved through the process known as telekinesis and images have been produced on photographic film by concentrated human thought. Indeed, the Japanese, who have long studied and practised spirit photography, refer to it as ‘thoughtography’. They feel it is the mind of the photographer that produces the image. I and all with knowledge of western Spirit Photography, say it is the mind of the spirit operator, clothing the spirit forms with ectoplasm created by his mind and illuminating them with spirit light. Mind is involved, that is indisputable; whose mind is what the Japanese question. The best documented case of a thought image being transferred onto film involves a Frenchman, Commandant D’Arget, who experimented widely with photography. One day he decided to see if he could transfer onto film, the image of a vase, purely by concentrating his mind on it. He sat in his darkroom with a piece of unexposed film near him and the vase sitting on the table before him. He concentrated on the vase until it was firmly fixed in his mind. Once satisfied, he tried to will the image to appear on the piece of film. When he developed the film, the faint, but unmistakeable impression of the vase appeared. I submit however, there is all the difference in the world between the shape of a simple vase and that of a complex human form, instantly recognisable as an individual known to the viewer. That difference is the measure of the contrast between the concentrated focus of the spirit operator’s mind and the rest of us.

I will relate one fascinating experience in connection with two spirit photographs in my possession. The photographs were taken at sittings with William Hope, two years apart. In the first, the sole sitter was Miss Alice Williams, who was delighted to receive an excellent picture in February 1920 of her late fiancé Arthur Hurst, who was killed in action in France on August 19th 1918, aged 24. Two years later she returned to Hope with Arthur’s father and received another picture of Arthur, even clearer than the first. (Both were shown in yesterday's Blog) Imagine my surprise, when conducting a service at Macclesfield Spiritualist Church in Cheshire, England, to see on one wall of the church a memorial tablet to the self-same Arthur Hurst. The date of death on the tablet was exactly the same as appeared on the back of the photographs and what is more – there was a photograph of Arthur below the tablet! It was taken before the war and one has no difficulty at all in seeing that the man on the spirit photographs is identical to this photograph. In days when people rarely had photographs taken of themselves, this was excellent confirmation of the genuineness of the picture.

A different type of spirit photography came into being following a chance comment from the spirit world. A photographic medium and his circle that had overlooked releasing the shutter on the camera were told there was no need to worry because the image had already been placed on the film by spirit. So it proved. Following that, many experiments were held with the spirit people, where only unopened packets of plates were used – no camera. The plates, wrapped in light-proof paper by the manufacturers, were left in the centre of the circle and towards the end of proceedings, the members were told from spirit which plates to develop. In every case, either a person’s image, or writing appeared on the developed plate. The writing was often more evidential than the images. A new name “Scotography” was coined for this type of photography, meaning “writing in darkness.” There are many examples of scotographs reproduced in various publications including one or two in "Please God Why?".

With the advent of digital cameras, orbs have begun to appear increasingly on photographs and sometimes those orbs have faces in them. It is possible that Spirit are experimenting with a new form of Spirit Photography but research needs to be carried out to discover if that really is the case.

The photograph above was taken by William Hope and is of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle who was satisfied that the "extra" was his son Kingsley who died in 1918.

Monday, 15 February 2010

Spirit Photography


Today and tomorrow I will be explaining about Spirit Photography, a subject that has fascinated me for many years now and I have a large number of genuine spirit photographs in my possession:


There have been several excellent Photographic Mediums, among them being W.H. Mumler, David Duguid, Ada Deane and probably the most prolific of all, William Hope. There are many examples in circulation of the photographs of Ada Deane and William Hope in particular, and many encyclopaedias include the famous photograph taken by W. H. Mumler of the late Abraham Lincoln, while photographing Mrs Lincoln. Mumler was the first photographic medium, beginning his work soon after photography was invented. This shows spirit is not slow to adapt new inventions to aid them in their mission to convince the world of eternal life. I myself have a large collection of William Hope’s photographs, chiefly because my Uncle Robert, (the same one whose boyhood trance convinced my grandfather to become a Spiritualist) was a member of Hope’s famous Crewe Circle where he produced most of his photographs.

Photographs are notoriously easy to ‘doctor’ and this is the argument sceptics use to dismiss spirit photographs as fraudulent. They conveniently overlook the fact that such ‘doctoring’ can equally easily be detected by professionals who know what to look for. Many spirit photographs in my possession were once examined by The National Museum of Photography in England, prior to them being included in an exhibition at their premises in Bradford, Yorkshire. They confirmed none of the prints show any sign of interference, double exposure or any other ‘doctoring’. What appears on them is what was detected by the camera lens and recorded on the film’s emulsion.

William Hope was meticulous in the steps he took to avoid any possibility of fraud being connected with his mediumship. He used a plate camera and if you wanted a sitting with him, you had to purchase your own packet of plates and bring them with you. Immediately before the sitting, you were asked to remove one plate from your packet, sign it across one corner and then insert it in the camera’s plate carrier yourself. The reason for the signature is that it would appear on the eventual print as verification that the print was taken from the plate you had inserted in the camera and no substitution had taken place. You will see signatures reproduced on most Hope pictures. The exceptions being those taken at public demonstrations and those for members of his circle, where there was total trust between them and the medium. As soon as the photograph was taken, you were asked to remove it from the carrier yourself, take it into the darkroom and stand next to him as Hope developed the plate and prepared the print. Furthermore, it was not until quite late in his career as a photographic medium that he began charging to cover his costs. There was no incentive therefore for him to defraud people.

He was often investigated by psychic researchers and it is significant that on the only occasion he was accused of fraud, it was proved that one of the researchers had himself interfered with the plates before putting them in the camera! Although Sir Arthur Conan Doyle made many attempts to receive an apology from the researcher, he was unsuccessful; all he got were vague excuses. This is often the case with the so-called exposure of mediums. There is nothing as intransigent as the dyed-in-the-wool sceptic, so determined to prove that any evidence of life after death is false, that not only does he refuse to believe the evidence of his own senses but he so arranges things that he will receive the answer he wants. It is unfortunately the case that some scientific investigators suffer from the same myopia and not just where mediums are concerned either. Many are the learned scientific reports, purporting to be independent and objective, whose conclusions are subsequently shown to be based on ‘evidence’ tailored to support the investigator’s own preconceived opinions. Readers of any reported scientific investigation are well advised to follow the old Latin maxim to purchasers, ‘caveat emptor’ – “let the buyer beware”.

I shall not spend time describing the lives and mediumship of photographic mediums as that has been done more than adequately by many people. Instead I shall put forward my theories of how such photographs are produced, having studied the subject for many years. I explained earlier that ectoplasm must, in my opinion, be present in all physical mediumship. The fact one not only sees, but can hold and keep the finished product of the spirit photographer, certainly classifies it as physical mediumship. Indeed it makes it unique amongst all the spiritual gifts. The phenomena produced by any other mediumship (except apports, which are hardly a proof of survival) have to be remembered by the recipient. Only a photograph can be taken away, examined at leisure and be a constant source of proof that your loved one has survived death.

Sunday, 14 February 2010

If at First . . .

The most wonderful thing about life is that we are always given another chance; in terms of our growth and our understanding we can never reach the end of the road. This may sound a bit scary on first reading it; as though life is a matter of constantly retracing our steps along the same, boring old road. But it isn’t like that at all. The road along which we travel is as broad, as varied and as interesting as our imagination is prepared to make it. Living is all about learning – the old adage says, “Live and learn and learn to live.” Nothing can be truer, for the only vehicle we have for growth is life. Just as with any journey through uncharted territory, we will get lost and that can be confusing and even frightening sometimes. We get sidetracked and suddenly find that the broad, pleasant highway we were following has become a narrow, twisty lane winding through dangerous countryside.

We meet many travellers along the road; some are friendly, others who cannot be trusted or believed when they tell us something; others are sick and need nursing; others are even more lost than we might feel and beg us to show them the way; others are ultra-confident and so sure of their direction that they do not even pause to acknowledge the presence of other travellers. At different points along the road we ourselves need help; sometimes we don’t realise it and struggle on helplessly until we realise what we need and have the courage to ask. Some of us find the journey tedious because we are constantly anticipating the next obstacle in our path. In so doing, not only so we ensure that we find such an obstacle soon but we have spent so much energy worrying about what it might be, we don’t have sufficient strength to deal with it. We try and try but because we have exhausted ourselves with worry, we find ourselves overwhelmed and rapidly reaching the end of our tether. When we reach the point where we can do no more, when the dark clouds have excluded all the sunlight from our life, that is when help comes; it comes from unexpected sources but it always comes. We are never deserted by those who accompany us from Spirit, throughout our earthy lives. They are not permitted to interfere with our own free will; they will whisper suggestions in our ear if we will but listen but if we ignore their suggestions, at the point when we feel we can take no more, they will see that help is forthcoming.

It should not be like this. Our journey through this earthly life should be a challenging but exciting adventure, one that brings new interest as well as new challenges each day. Sure there will be dangerous areas to pass through and we will need to exercise great caution at certain times, but that makes up the variety that keeps life ever fascinating. Our attitude is all important; what we think will become what we experience. Expect the worst and all manner of ills will beset us and it will seem we no sooner overcome one bad thing when another occurs. On the other hand, be positive, accept that everything happens to us for good purposes and we will always have the strength and ability to deal with them, and life becomes sunnier and infinitely more enjoyable. Remember that we do not journey alone and that all we meet along the road we are intended to meet so that we can help one another. Those friendships, and the lessons we are taught by what we share with others, fill our lives with love and excitement if only we will permit them to. It is true to say that the most enjoyable and well-lived life is measured by the friends we have made and the love we have given, not by the things or the money we have accumulated. Things and money can become such a great weight to carry around that the effort tires us out and we have no energy to enjoy the real pleasures life has to offer. Of course we need money and we need possessions but within limits. Moderation in all things except love, is a good motto on which to base our lives. Love, unconditional love, should be the cornerstone of our existence and the more we practice it the easier it becomes.

Often we will fail but that is not a cause for misery because we will always receive other chances. There is no such thing as a ‘last chance’ where the Creator is concerned. Our life is eternal; the period we spend on earth is important but it is but a tiny part of our existence. Consequently, we have all the time there is in which to do better, to compensate for the mistakes we made, to make up to those people we know we have wronged. And one way or another, the opportunity to do just that will regularly present itself until we have done well enough to move forward. Sometimes the opportunity will arise here and sometimes in the hereafter but make no mistake, it will come. It is therefore foolish for us to waste time in recriminations for things we have done or said that we know we should not have done. True repentance is to recognise what we have done and then make a special effort to look for the opportunity to atone for those transgressions. Then we can try harder not to repeat the mistake. Mistakes are the Creator’s way of teaching us important lessons and we will learn little without them, especially so if we go about wringing our hands and weeping because we have done so. Look at mistakes from this perspective and we will be freed from remorse, find we make fewer of them and discover a new enjoyment enters our life.

HAPPY VALENTINES DAY TO YOU ALL!

Saturday, 13 February 2010

When the Cuckoo Calls


The cuckoo is a strange bird. Its call is unmistakeable and an indication in England that Spring has arrived with all the softness and gentleness that makes that season so special there. The season when pale colours predominate; yellow and white narcissus; bright yellow daffodils; yellow, white and pale purple crocuses; the palest of pale yellow Irises; pale, delicate snowdrops; Lilac blossom and yellow Forsythia; the pale, fresh green of newly opened leaves on bush and tree. No wonder Robert browning wrote:


Oh, to be in England
Now that April's there,
And whoever wakes in England
Sees, some morning, unaware,
That the lowest boughs and the brushwood sheaf
Round the elm-tree bole are in tiny leaf,
While the chaffinch sings on the orchard bough
In England - now!


The cuckoo is one of those rare birds that do not build their own nests. Instead, the female lays its eggs in a nest already made by a bird of another species, ejecting any eggs that might already be there before laying her own. Sometimes she chooses to lay her eggs in the nest of a bird much tinier than herself and yet when the chicks hatch and soon become larger than the parent bird, that parent forages tirelessly to feed the ever open maw of this huge impostor who she thinks is her own offspring. It is nothing short of amazing that nature permits this deception so that the cuckoo may survive and with its singular call, brighten English hearts on a bright May morning.

How well I remember those long, sunny, Spring days we had in Wales during the wartime years that seemed to stretch on forever, as the lengthening days succeeded the short dark ones of winter. Those years seemed to produce fairer weather than has been the case since. I wonder why? My imagination; the wonder of youth that fills every passing minute with joy that makes it seem eternal; or God’s compensation for all to alleviate the suffering inherent in war? I can’t pretend to know but I do know they were days, the memory of which is indelibly fixed in my mind. Days of care-free wandering in the hills and fields, sometimes alone and sometimes with friends: Days when my imagination took flight and even when no friends were with me, I was accompanied by Romans, Celtic Priests and Princes and even sometimes, people from earlier times. It was a magical period of my life.

Sometimes we boys would climb trees to reach the nests of crows and magpies, searching for their eggs. They were such a pest when lambs were tiny that the farmers encouraged us to steal as many of their eggs as possible. At other times we would walk stealthily through the rushes and reeds on the wetlands and watch in amusement as Curlews pretended to have broken legs or wings to draw us away from their shallow nests on the ground. There were so many birds then that the few eggs we boys would steal to add to our collections had no adverse impact on their numbers. How we used to whoop with delight when we had an egg that nobody else had been able to find! Carefully we would blow the eggs and then lay them on a cushion of cotton wool in a cardboard box which would be hidden somewhere where it could not be discovered by some of the less scrupulous boys.

However, the prize par excellence amongst eggs was that of the cuckoo! We would patiently search the nests of Hedge Sparrows, Yellowhammers, Blackbirds, Thrushes and others seeing if we could spot that tell-tale huge egg and because Cuckoos were not that numerous, it was rare if we found one. The interesting thing was that the Cuckoo did not begin calling until after laying its eggs, so listening for that distinctive call and watching where its undulating flight would take it, did not help us, for by then it was too late.

Nevertheless that haunting “cuckoo, cuckoo, cuckoo,” echoing across the fields is an abiding memory of the carefree days of my childhood. I have only to hear it on a record or listen to the wonderful orchestral reproduction of it in Beethoven’s Pastoral Symphony, to be transported back to the gentle, rolling, hillside fields of Wales. I become a boy again and know that life stretches out endlessly and joyously ahead of me. All thoughts of ageing and uncertainties about the future, here and hereafter, disappear. Ah! The healing properties of nostalgia!

Friday, 12 February 2010

Thought for Today


I turn once more to Silver Birch that great teacher who visited us from the world of Spirit through the trance mediumship of Maurice Barbanel:


“Have faith, not blind faith, but faith founded on knowledge. Have confidence. It is the old, old cry. It is nothing new I have to tell you, but I do reiterate it with all the eloquence at my command so that it shall become part of the very fabric of your being. Have confidence. You do your part, we will do ours. We shall not fail you. There is a vast range of inspiration that you can have access to if you so desire, but fear, doubt, uncertainty, these are discords that interfere and should have no place in your consciousness. There is a lot of work to be done. I want you to help me by your faithful constancy of purpose. There are many obstacles that even I, with all my long experience, find difficult to conquer. You must help me by being faithful and confident and above all, fearless, by not allowing any thoughts of fear, no worry or anxiety to take root in your being.

Problems will cross your path, but you will cross them; they will not stay. There will be no difficulty so great that you cannot solve it, no load so heavy that you cannot bear it upon your shoulders. Have no fear. Face whatever the morrow brings you with a resolute heart and a determined spirit and all will be well. There are many thousands who will seek your aid and you must be ready to help them and thus fulfil the purpose of your own existence, for when all is said and done unless you serve, unless you give to others that which you have received, you are not living in your lives the implications of the knowledge that has been vouchsafed to you. There is much to be done. Let us with joyful anticipation take up our task knowing that here and there will be souls who will rejoice because of what we have done.”

Thursday, 11 February 2010

Surprise! Surprise!


Do you like surprises? Well here is a very special surprise prepared for me some years ago.


It’s my birthday tomorrow. Mind you, now that fifty has passed, I don’t take much account of them anymore. It’s Friday and Laura, as a celebration has planned a mystery weekend. She won’t tell me where we’re going.
“You just drive, I’ll tell you where to go.”

With that she handed me a piece of paper that simply read Leominster for lunch. Leominster is an old country town about two hours drive from home. This gives me an idea about where we may end up. So doing as I’m told, like a good husband, I drive to Leominster. We have lunch at a favourite café and then I receive the next piece of paper.

Hay-on-Wye for dinner, it read.

I am a lover of books and of one book in particular, “Kilvert’s Diary”. Hay-on-Wye links them both. It is only a small town on the borders of England and Wales but it is full of bookshops, including what is claimed to be the largest second-hand bookshop in the world. It adjoins the village of Clyro, where Francis Kilvert was the curate in the early nineteenth century. The diary is his fascinating and moving account of life as a country curate at that time. It is a remarkable social commentary, written with wit, humanity and an uncanny insight into human nature. He died young, only a few months after marrying and although his wife removed from the diary whole passages, which she considered “indelicate”, it was an immediate and huge success when it was published in 1938, long after his death. An ‘industry’ grew up around him, a Kilvert Society was formed and houses mentioned in the diary are favourite places of pilgrimage for Kilvert aficionados.

It is in just one such house, owned by two sisters who adored Kilvert and whom he visited regularly and now a Bed & Breakfast establishment that we are to spend the night. I am of course thrilled to bits. After browsing the bookshops, we return to the B&B for dinner. We change and are shown into the lounge, given gin and tonics and asked to wait. We wait and we wait and we …! I ask Laura “What’s taking so long?”

“I expect they’re cooking something special.”

Another thirty minutes pass and the front doorbell rings. We hear new guests being welcomed. Suddenly the lounge door opens and in walks my elder son David and his wife Edi. They were the newly arrived guests! I might have known. I spent most of his childhood waiting for David, so why should it be any different now he’s grown up!

“Hello Dad. What a co-incidence. We were just passing and decided to stay here for the night.”

After kissing and hugging them I say,

“Co-incidence? A likely story!” and turning to Laura, “You arranged this ‘co-incidence’ didn’t you?”

Smiling, she nodded and we all had a good laugh and went in for dinner, which had of course been awaiting their arrival. Dinner was wonderful, including some excellent Welsh lamb, which showed great consideration, for Laura hates to eat lamb. We spent a wonderful evening with the children, whom we had not seen for some weeks and next morning we breakfasted together. It was a really memorable time for me and I thanked Laura for her thoughtfulness in arranging such a special birthday treat.

She wasn’t finished yet! At breakfast she handed me another piece of paper that said, Gaufron school for coffee.

Gaufron is a tiny hamlet in Radnorshire (now Powys), Wales where for five years during WW Two, I was evacuated. Like all children in the area, I attended the two-classroom, two-teacher school, which taught those from five to fourteen years of age. The school was now a café and Laura and I had become friendly with Liz, the current owner.

“How romantic to think of having my birthday morning coffee (for today was my actual birthday) in the classroom where I sat as a child”, I thought squeezing Laura’s hand in silent thanks. This was typical of Laura, who is both romantic and very good at thinking of unusual ways to celebrate special events.

When we arrived at the school I noticed several cars parked but thought no more about it because our friend Liz appeared.

“Happy birthday Lionel, come and have some coffee. I’ve made a special cake for you.”

We walked into the main classroom with Liz and immediately I was nine years old again. I could taste the chalk as I cleaned the blackboard; hear it screeching as Mrs Bacon wrote on it. I could smell the ink; feel the nib juddering against the paper in my exercise book. I … but my reverie was interrupted when Liz brought the coffee and cake. We were the only people in the place and I still didn’t think about the cars parked outside and where their drivers might be. I soon found out!

No sooner had I put the fork into the delicious birthday cake when the door between the café and the adjoining shop opened. I could hardly believe my eyes!! People, some I hadn’t seen since I was eleven years old, walked in and came over to wish me a happy birthday. They just kept on coming. I was overwhelmed. Liz had contacted all the local people who had been at the school with me between 1940 and 1945 inviting them to come along to celebrate my birthday. Some of course were unable to make it but most had, including Vera the daughter of Alice Thomas with whom I’d been evacuated. She gave me a lovely reproduction of John Constable’s The Haywain, which I treasure. The next hour or so became an orgy of nostalgia and I loved every minute of it.

What a birthday!!!

Wednesday, 10 February 2010

Take it Easy!

As cooling water quenches a raging thirst best if taken slowly, so if we would get the most out of our lives, it were best to move at a leisured pace. There is an old adage, “More haste, less speed,” and it is very true. As we become more practiced at certain tasks, we can complete them more quickly but there is every difference between the speed and efficiency of a skilled practitioner and the haste of the amateur under pressure. Unless we move slowly and take the time to “smell the flowers” we miss so much.

The glory of our lives is the journey, not the destination, no matter how wonderful that destination may be when we reach it. Sometimes, in our haste to reach the destination we rush along, single-mindedly looking neither to the left or the right, brushing others out of our way or ignoring their greetings. We are so determined to reach that destination all else becomes unimportant. You know what I mean. And when we get there? Is it as good as we expected? Yet had we taken our time, avoided brushing people aside, not ignored their greetings and taken time to pause and admire the scenery. Taken time to help someone in need, to listen to the birdsong, to stroke a kitten or pat a dog, we would have so many happy memories, that the failure of the destination to live up to expectations, would not matter.

It is a sad fact about modern life, that speed has become almost essential. We even have ‘fast food’! When I was younger, all families ate together at home and mother would lovingly cook their favourite dishes, no matter if they took a long time to prepare. People travelled to and from work by public transport and actually talked to one another. We were interested in our neighbours from a wholesome point of view and listened when they used us to unburden themselves when worried or rejoiced with them in their happiness. There always seemed to be time to “have a cup of tea and a chat”. In business it was similar. The heads of businesses took time to go out from their offices during business hours and meet their peers and clients or customers in the local Coffee House. They recognised that success in business gave them a responsibility towards their local communities and they formed and worked hard for organisations dedicated to that end. They would take lengthy lunch hours for these same purposes and yet, was business less successful, or profitable? Has spending every minute behind their desk at a computer screen or on the telephone made business life more amenable? What is certain is that the headlong dash for speed and ‘efficiency’ has reduced enormously the number of jobs available, has destroyed the concept of remaining in the employ of a single Company all our working life, made pension provision a lottery and raised the level of stress in business to record levels.

Is it any wonder therefore that our world is in chaos, that stress is the greatest killer of human beings in so called, advanced societies? It seems to me that in misunderstanding the meaning of efficiency and bending our wills to becoming ever more efficient in all walks of life, we have ‘thrown the baby out with the bath water.’ Life need not be like this and in reality haste is the arch-enemy of our true progress as eternal beings. We are spending just a brief time in an earthly environment but paradoxically, to obtain the most from it we need to take our time and savour the experience in full. The spirit, our true self, requires periods of silence, of quiet contemplation. It needs to reach out to human, animal, vegetable and mineral to feel our kinship with the whole of creation. The fact that time on Earth is short is only important to those convinced there is nothing else. Wherever we spend time, whether on Earth or in various Spirit realms, the experience we are undergoing at the moment is vital for our growth and it is essential therefore to try to get the most from every stage. Never can we do that if we are in a constant rush. To appreciate every nuance of life in any environment, we must be alert, conscious of all that goes on around us and determined to extract one thousand metres of understanding from every kilometre we travel along the road. Nothing happens around us or to us without there is a purpose. As Alexander Pope puts it, “All chance is direction we cannot see.”

So enjoy your journey; take your time; smell the flowers and learn their names; allow yourself to feel; permit yourself to slow down, stop and dream; move slowly enough to tell when someone needs your help and above smile and think happy!

Tuesday, 9 February 2010

A Thought!

Do we become upset and depressed too easily? Do we often forget that the real wonder and beauty of life on Earth are its contrasts? I think we may also forget the power of our own minds. The mind is what determines our emotional response to any given situation and the mind is capable of controlling how we react. What is required is a measure of personal discipline, a quality that is often derided in these days when so many wear their heart upon their sleeve. I am not talking here of the iron will that hardens the heart against almost every emotional involvement. I am talking about the discipline that makes it second nature for us to look on the positive side of all and any negative occurrence. This discipline does not freeze our emotions but instead subjects them to the mind’s positive energy. Becoming emotionally involved in things makes life worth the living and if occasionally that means a certain amount of suffering then it is more than adequately compensated by those times of joy and even ecstasy. It is a natural reaction to become upset and depressed when receiving bad news concerning ourselves or others but it is another thing to become so affected by it that it colours all our thoughts and actions.

Change is a constant feature of our lives, even though at times it seems certain things will remain the same forever. It is ironic therefore that most of us have a fear of change. We forget that many previous changes brought positive results. We cling to the status quo as though to lose it will bring such dire consequences. All our past experience should convince us otherwise but . . . ! If only we can teach ourselves to examine changes positively, to look at the benefits they offer, instead of the drawbacks. This is especially so where bad news affecting others is concerned. Instead of feeling as upset and depressed as they may be, should we not be working out how we can help? How we can help them to not only face and overcome the challenge with which they are faced, but to look for the benefits that could flow from it if the right attitude is adopted.

What about bad news in general; the negatively angled news bulletins that seek to manipulate our emotional responses? Here above all should we be on our guard. Just as the mind has the power to convert negative events into positive in our own lives, or vice versa, so it also has the power to spread alarm and despondency across the world very quickly. It has the power to influence others subconsciously, for good or ill. If we fail to control our thoughts and our emotional responses, which add energy to those thoughts, a dark cloud of depression can quickly spread outwards. The more people react in this way, the quicker will the dark clouds spread. Thoughts are real, tangible things; they are not inconsequential, private things that we can keep to ourselves. Scientists who persist in denying the separate existence of the mind from the brain have caused immense damage. It is because of this that most people do not understand the power of thought, which is the product of the mind – not of the brain. Consequently, few make any attempt to control their thoughts in the same way they try to control their actions.

We have tended to view the evolution of human beings from a physical point of view only. Here again we are bedevilled by this scientific assumption that the mind is synonymous with the brain. Therefore, the evolution of the brain has been studied as extensively as that of the body. However, let us assume for a moment, that this is not the case. Let us assume the mind is independent. This would mean we need to study how the mind has evolved too, and It certainly has. The brain is used by the mind to control and to use the body in many different ways. The fact that the brain has evolved so much since early man is because the mind has evolved and it needs more brain to accomplish what it wants in the physical world.

All human progress began with a thought! That is it began with the mind. Nothing we have ever invented or law of nature we have ever discovered happened without the first step taken being to think. Renee Descartes was so right when he wrote, “I think, therefore I am.” Yet of all human attributes, the mind and its product, thought receive the least attention. Until we become more focussed on our thoughts and trying to control them, I believe the Earth will continue to be far too unhappy a place. The Earth is a beautiful place and everything that happens to us while we are here is part of growing and evolving into a better physical representation of our inner, spiritual selves. Let us try to welcome the challenges rather than dreading them.

Monday, 8 February 2010

The Mirror

Today I offer a little poem that I hope you will enjoy. Lionel

I gazed into the mirror by a candle´s gentle glow,
My eyes seemed out of focus for there all shining bright
I saw a pretty lady, smiling, dressed in white,
Eyes full of joy and happiness like lanterns in the snow.

I searched and searched my memory to find an echo there,
For the face seemed so familiar, but I couldn´t find a name,
On the tip of my tongue it seemed to be but just never came.
Apparently I was not to know who was that lady fair.

She was so young and radiant, her hair a gleaming gold,
Skin like alabaster, she gave love through every pore.
I knew if she would only speak, I´d known her voice before,
Her eyes they were so eloquent, their love did me enfold.

I tried to voice my thoughts aloud and ask who she could be,
How seemed she so familiar but no name could I recall?
We met perhaps in dreamland, maybe at some gracious ball?
I knew it was important to find her identity.

She drew me like a magnet, the mirror disappeared,
Suddenly right by her side, touching her tender frame,
Anxiety, cold touch of fear I´d felt before she came,
Vanished like ephemera; never more I´d be afeared.

I have never seen an angel but this one must be near,
Her light, her shining eyes, her love and sweet concern
For me and my problems, showed me I was here to learn,
Live and learn and learn to live, to love and conquer fear.

Then I knew it was my mother; my heart near burst with joy.
She left when I was very young and came during the war,
To comfort me and care for me when bombs fell near and far,
Though now I am a senior, to her, I´m still ``My Boy.``

Sunday, 7 February 2010

MIDAS


You will doubtless remember that everything King Midas touched turned to gold because of an agreement he reached with the Devil to feed his greed for that metal. This meant that he was unable to touch anything that needed to remain in its original state in order for it to be useful; neither could he touch food or drink and elaborate means had to be devised so that he could keep body and soul together

Of course it is a fable or a parable, written to bring home to people the strange consequences if greed for gold is carried to its logical conclusion. The fact that it was written so very long ago illustrates that the greed to possess as much of one of this world´s scarcer resources has been evident almost since time immemorial. Is it not ironic that with the vast majority of gold in the world, we go to enormous trouble to dig it out from the bowels of the earth, spend a lot of time separating it from the dross and then refining it until it becomes the beautiful golden metal we know and admire. We do all this and what do we do then? We proceed to bury it in the bowels of the earth again in some vast bank vault! Amazing isn´t it? We take so much time and trouble to make the gold pure and beautiful and then hide it away!

It was not always so of course. Because gold is the most beautiful of all metals and the easiest to work, many of the ancients used it lavishly to decorate their holy places and to make the most incredibly beautiful jewellery. Both were of breathtaking beauty! Of course we still make beautiful jewellery with it today and it is the metal used, because of the significance of its scarcity and beauty, for wedding rings. It was a sorry day in many ways when the first human being persuaded his leader that money as a means of exchange was a much more sensible way of carrying out business than barter. Once leaders were persuaded of that it was not long before it was realized, that for it to be considered of any value, money had to be backed by one or other of the Earth´s scarce resources. Gold was chosen, not because it was the scarcest but because it was relatively scarce yet in plentiful enough supply to be used by every advanced country. So the lure of gold became even greater. Once sort for its beauty and malleability, it was now a means of obtaining great personal wealth.

Despite bringing many benefits in its train, the monetary system is the anchor of materialism if you think about it. Money enables all manner of goods and services to be traded simply and effectively and it has fuelled our consumer society in no uncertain way. Unfortunately, it has also made it easier for a relatively few people to become immensely wealthy and to use their wealth, not only to give themselves an opulent life-style but also to exercise enormous power and control over their fellow humans. Money has been of immense benefit to humanity and if we still used barter as a means of exchange, we should all have much lower standards of living. However, there is an old song that runs, ``Money is the root of all evil.`` It is not money but the love of money that causes the problems, because the love of money and the love of gold has fanned the most base of our negative characteristics: Greed and Megalomania! They have donemuch to delay the spiritual and mental growth of humanity I believe.

The way gold has come to be used in the materialist system, is the perfect example of all that is wrong with the system from the point of view of our eternal souls. In order to prop up a system that does everything possible to deny humanity its true heritage as eternal spirit beings, it has hidden away a source of great beauty, when it is used as a decorative material. Not only that but removing a source of such beauty means we have less opportunity to admire the glory of this beautiful metal when it is worked upon by skilled craftsmen. Every time we are drawn to marvel at the beauty of some aspect of the Earth, be it nature, art, music, sculpture, literature or architecture, we draw closer to our inner, spiritual self and thus to the Creator. Where gold is concerned, we can only do this now in museums and a handful of ancient buildings. Our life has been impoverished as a consequence.

It seems contradictory that gold should be the colour of wisdom and of high spirituality but it is; hence the use of gold in the old paintings to depict the halos around the heads of saints. Perhaps it is God´s little joke, in the hope that eventually we will see how ridiculous we are behaving and come to our collective senses?


Maybe, when we have learned to accept that our differences are what make us interesting and give life its special flavour, we will agree to differ in our opinions too, live in peace everywhere and adopt a more enlightened attitude towards the use of gold.

Friday, 5 February 2010

Thoughts on Losing my Computer

I lost the use of my computer today and it felt as if my right arm had been cut off! It made me stop and think. I realised I was allowing myself to become so dependent upon a machine, sophisticated though it is, that I was ignoring other things I should be doing and other means of communication. Now fortunately I was able to borrow another computer, which is how I am able write this. That does not alter the fact that I felt so devastated when discovering my computer had crashed and it led me to ponder.

It is fascinating I think that we become so accustomed to certain things in our lives that when we lose the use of them for a while, we feel lost. Most of my life I had no means of electronic communication, even the telephone did not make an appearance there until I was in my thirties! Yet, now after only sixteen years of using computers, I am almost a slave to them! It makes me wonder just how much the electronic revolution, from radio, through telephone and television to computer, has altered the way we look upon ourselves.

My grandparents had no radio or telephone for they had not been invented so what did they do in their spare time? Apart from the fact that they had far less spare time than me; working hours were longer and there were few, if any, labour-saving devices in the home, they were certainly not bored. It could be said we are bored more frequently these days than were they. They read a great deal, using the public library, for they could not afford to buy books and they read chiefly for self-improvement, for basic education in their day was very basic indeed. They interested themselves in people by belonging to a church. Initially it was the Methodist church but later, my grandfather learned about Spiritualism and due to an incredible experience he shared with his eldest son, the whole family switched to Spiritualism.

Almost every evening, except in the summer, after supper was finished, the family formed a circle in front of the fire. They wanted to spend time with relatives and friends in the spiritual world. They did not want to become mediums they just wanted to feel the joy that came from contact with the spiritual world. They were rewarded with the most amazing experiences and some did in fact develop mediumship, although none used their gifts in public. These days there are relatively few home circles operating and when they do, they meet only on a weekly basis. This is understandable for people live further from the workplace today and there are many more calls on their time than was the case with my grandparents.

I cannot help feeling though, that much as we gain from the wonders of electronic communication across the globe we also miss wonderful opportunities to learn more about the spirit side of life, and in the process ourselves and our role on earth. Even though computers have the potential to help us understand spiritual mysteries more clearly and to access great works of art in many different fields, most of us use them for mundane purposes. Also, because of the time taken up in ´´entertaining´ ourselves with them, at the cinema or in front of the television, there is little time left to form home circles and seek the inspiration and joy that comes in such gatherings.

Perhaps we should think more deeply about the uses to which we put the many boons of modern civilization provided by human ingenuity. Instead of using them to enmesh us deeper in the coils of materialism, we should find how they could help us understand ourselves better. Can they further humanity´s eternal search for the solution of the mystery of life? (We must not assume that only scientists should undertake such work). Can they be used by our friends in the spiritual world to draw closer to us and help us? Can they be adapted to help the healing energies from the spiritual world become more effective in treating earthly ills? Wherever such thoughts may lead us, the important thing is to think. Allow our imagination to become free and we will be amazed at the ideas that will flow and the solutions which will occur to us. In this way we may well discover the means to combat boredom and stress, whilst generating untold benefits for future generations.

It´s a thought!

Thursday, 4 February 2010

Lift up Your Hearts

It seems to me that many people are heavy of heart these days; whether it is because there are so many news bulletins, each competing to give the most negative and morbid picture of what is happening in the world, I don’t know. I am sure there is a connection. Most people seem to accept that, because of human ingenuity and clever technology, the world has become a much smaller place. Consequently, many of us ordinary folk are able to travel to different parts of our world with relative ease and to obtain a clearer picture of life in other countries, from this and via television. These things have the potential for making our lives much more interesting and fulfilling. However, this does not appear to have happened. Why I wonder?

Perhaps it is because we are using the fruits of our ingenuity and technology incorrectly. It is wonderful to be able occasionally to visit some exotic part of the world that one has only dreamt about in the past and to discover for ourselves if everything we have read about the place is as described. It is fine to be able to leave the shores of our own country during the cold months of winter and journey to somewhere warm and sunny; just as it is fine to be able to fly to a country that has much snow and enjoy all manner of winter sports not available in our own country. All this should lead to a better understanding between the citizens of the various countries but does it? I think the level of understanding grows no more than a little. The reason is perhaps, that such journeys are taken for almost exclusively, self-centred reasons and often little or no contact takes place between the visitor and the ordinary people of the country being visited.

Governments, rightly or wrongly, have used increased technology to produce more destructive weapons of war so as to be better able to impose their own view of what is right and what is wrong upon the citizens of other countries, whether they want it or not! The governments themselves do not describe it in this way of course! Far too many people have cynically used increasingly sophisticated technology to control people’s thoughts and reactions, in order to further their own vested interests. It is small wonder, therefore, that the levels of stress and unhappiness amongst ordinary people have increased so much.

None of this need happen, I submit. The ingenuity of human beings in exploiting the Earth’s resources and our own inventiveness could so easily be used much more constructively. If more of us were prepared to think for ourselves instead of being lazy and allowing others to take on that role for us; if we stopped to think that our minds are being manipulated in a thousand different ways and tried to do something positive about it; if we took time to be still instead of being whirled along in the maelstrom of modern life; if we looked around us more and began to appreciate the beauty and majesty of the natural world. If enough of us did this, we might at last begin to see swords beaten into ploughshares and true help, with no strings attached, being offered to countries and people in need.

Fear is the emotion that has driven humanity to its present excesses, excesses that are widening daily, the gap between rich and poor. Fear is what has persuaded countries to focus so much upon ‘defence’ and so little upon understanding others. Fear is what is despoiling our beautiful planet to feed the ever open mouths of materialism.

Only one thing can counter fear – LOVE! There is love a-plenty in the world but it appears to get swamped at every turn by the negative emotions generated by unrestrained self-interest. The wonderful property about love, unconditional love, is that it does not oppose fear; it does not oppose hatred; indeed it opposes nothing. Just as it is not necessary to heave out the darkness before flooding a room with light, so in the same way, love dissolves fear and hatred. Equally, just as one small hand on the light switch enables that transformation to take place, so a small number of truly loving people, dedicated to spreading the light of love around our world, can have a disproportionate effect upon the darkness that fear and hatred have created.

The good news is that the number of such people appears to be growing. More and more people are beginning to question the headlong dash to exploit the Earth’s resources, regardless of the consequences to ourselves and to future generations; more and more people are spending time learning to be still and in that stillness discovering who they really are and finding in the process, they are no longer stressed; more and more people are rejecting creeds and dogmas and using their inner awareness to order their lives.

Oh yes, there is much reason for hope and less cause to be frightened for the future of humanity than we think. Though things may look dark at times and it seems the forces of negativity are winning, this is not the case. Lift up your hearts; reach out with love to the world around you; refuse to be intimidated and manipulated; look within; find the beautiful light of love that is there and let it so shine before all that it will illuminate their road as well as your own.