Amicus Mortis Posts

May 31, 2024 /

I have a book in my library, Measuring the Immeasurable: The scientific case for spirituality (Sounds True, 2008) which contains chapters from contributing authors discussing a diverse range of topics relating to research and spiritual methodologies and ways of being.  However, one chapter from the anthology by contributing author Charles Tart entitled “Consciousness”, caught my eye.  It’s a beautifully written chapter which not only inspires pure enjoyment, but one which explores the intersection of psychology, transpersonal psychology and parapsychology in a context of understanding consciousness, a particular passion of mine.

My own book, Consciousness and the search for reality, will shortly be available and in it I also discuss the relationship and intersection between spiritual psychology, the individual, higher life, and consciousness.  The word roots for consciousness provide a clue for my approach in that consciousness means ‘knowing together’, which in the context of spiritual psychology is seeing and knowing everything in ourselves.  But what does this mean?  How do we do this?  And if we do, what then?

Most people think they are conscious however the truth is that we often go through our day in at times what seems to amount to a dreamy state of abstract awareness.  Writing about consciousness in a Western post-modern epoch is challenging, especially because there are so many opinions from so many people.  Which of these can we trust?  Which of these resonate with us such that we know we have found a truth?  It is difficult because people in good faith are searching for something with which to connect, for something which will answer what may be a burning question they have.  Fuelled by a force they may not quite understand, they are driven to search relentlessly, to know, to experience something above and beyond themselves.

It is hard to be a human being.  Life is difficult for all of us in different ways and death, disaster and trauma never seem to be far away.  But there is something good in the Universe, there is something which is striving to bring us to our greatest happiness, we just need to connect with what that is.  Tart in his chapter recounts Maurice Bucke’s spiritual-mystical experience.  Described in full, it is an astonishing event which Bucke himself describes as ‘an aftertaste of heaven’.  We can all have these experiences, we don’t have to be ‘special’, we just have to be open to them.

April 2, 2024 /

It seems to me, that it is also a story depicting the revelation of God, in all the Divine’s wonder, majesty and mystery.  When we have experiences where we feel we are in the presence of the ineffable, where we feel our heart pierced by a love unmortal, where we fall away from the world into an abyss of profound love for the eternal vastness that is God, then the Divine can be known, not seen, but known.  Then it is that the Divine made manifest burns brightly.

How is the story of the burning bush relevant today?  What is the truth, the power of a story that has travelled through time burning brightly yet which has cast no shadow?  Is it a story of hope, of redemption, of the possibility of a future and a greater reality we could once barely conceive?  If we are spiritual beings in a physical body, what then is the psychospiritual meaning encoded in the story of the burning bush and how might that be applicable to our spiritual growth and development?  What is the story reflecting back to us?

Perhaps the story is a parable, a correspondence of our own relationship with God and the lifting of the veil of sleep which obscures our vision and prevents our digestion of finer influences.  If as Maruice Nicoll writes, “all sacred writings contain an outer and an inner meaning” (1984, p.1, The New Man) and if the idea behind all sacred writings is the intention to “convey a higher meaning than the literal words contain” (1984, p. 2, The New Man), how are we to understand what Moses, the burning bush, and the exodus mean?

Perhaps the story of the burning bush means different things for different people.  For me, it is a reminder of the omnipresence of God, of the sacred relationship embarked upon when we take the hand offered to us, and of the mercy of redemption, ours.

January 31, 2024 /

           (Detail from painting exhibited at Japan Supernatural, Art Gallery of NSW, November 2019)

For the  past four weeks I’ve been living in a hotel in Seoul in South Korea.  I say living because although technically I’ve been on holiday, my time in the country hasn’t felt like a holiday, it’s felt like life, like how I live my life on a day to day basis wherever I am.  What is different of course, is that I’m alone in the country and embedded in a non-English speaking culture and society experiencing a bombardment of new and diverse impressions.   And as I wrote somewhere a while ago, for me it’s not so much about time or locale, its more about state.  State of being that is.

Three out of the 34 television channels available on the TV in my hotel room feature English-speaking programs, and two of those are CNN and the BBC.  When coverage of the Hamas war and the American presidential race starts to wear thin, I find myself channel-surfing through a kaleidoscope of colour and entertainment, which at times is mesmerising, especially for someone who doesn’t haven’t a television in their home.

I’ve watched several movies, all in Korean and without English subtitles, about death and the afterlife, and ghosts.  And what always strikes me is how comfortable people here are with this genre and in particular with the afterlife and the understanding and belief that after physical death our lives and existence continues in a different way.  This leads me to the topic of Shamanism, which though sometimes frowned upon and considered something of a relic of the past, is nonetheless highly respected, with most Shamans being women (the term is ‘mudang’).  Among other duties, Shamans interact with spirits in the spirit world usually providing assistance to help with their transition into the afterlife.

I’m writing about this because at the time I was conducting research for my thesis, and was completing preparatory field work, I spoke about some of the interactions I experienced with my deceased husband with an Anglican nun, who told me in no uncertain terms that such things were considered evil by Sydney churches, and that a person who talked about such things would be considered possessed.  When I spoke about these things with the guide from the Museum of Shamanism I visited, the reaction was completely different; he smiled knowingly, and nodded.  Why do you have to travel a thousand miles to be understood?

At core of course is a shared belief in the afterlife, and in our ongoing existence of life beyond this earthly life. In reflecting on my association with South Korea, this being my second trip, I finally came to understand why the country resonates with me, why it calls to me so persistently; it’s the visibility of the dead in everyday society.  This isn’t just evidenced by the presence of Shamans and Shamanism in Korean society, the dead are everywhere, in myths and songs, in popular K-dramas and in historical plays and dramas enacted before audiences on stages in theatre house.

Their sociological and psychospiritual visibility is precisely because of the attitudes of the living and no wonder I feel so at home in this foreign culture.  It is precisely because of this visibility, this shared understanding and acceptance of our mortality and immortality, and the hope that it brings.  What about this is so difficult to understand, and why are the dead by their presence in our lives so often feared, misunderstood or reviled?  When we face the dead, ghosts, or spirits, we are really only looking at reflections of ourselves.

December 27, 2023 /

Writing as a Judeo-Christian, Christmas in Western modernity is not only a time of year celebrated cross-culturally and in different ways, but for me also a time of reflection and illumination.

Stories and literature relating to Christmas speak of different things, yet to me there seems to be some common underlying themes.  For example, Advent, the period of preparation for the celebration of the birth of Jesus at Christmas, lasts for 40 days and commences on the Sunday closest to November 30.  Each Sunday before Christmas a candle is lit to symbolize one of four weekly themes; Hope, Peace, Joy, and Love. In some churches and homes a fifth candle bigger than the others, is lit to represent Christ as the light of the world.

Hanukkah, the Jewish Festival of Lights which commemorates the recovery of Jerusalem and the rededication of the Second Temple at the Maccabean Revolt against the Seleucid Empire in the 2nd Century BCE, also incorporates the use of candles.  Again, I can’t but help draw a parallel between these two profound expressions of hope after adversity, and of light as an illuminator and correspondence for truth.  The eight-day festival is characterised by, amongst other devotional acts, the nightly lighting of the menorah.  The menorah candlestick holds nine flames one of which, the Shamash is used to light all the others.

And when looking at Nordic traditions, the custom of burning the Yule log was practiced long before medieval times.  Placed on the fire in the family hearth, the log was kept burning throughout the 12 days of Christmas.

Fire and light, warmth and illumination, and symbolic acts representing the combatting of evil and the overcoming of darkness symbolised by the birth of the Christ-child.  Human beings around the world appear united by these themes at Christmas, as much as they are by faith, love and hope.  There will always be the darkness of mankind’s deeds casting their ill-intent toward others, but so too there will always be the light and those who embody it who will rise up to meet and overcome that darkness.  Darkness will last for a little while, but in the end, it will always fade away.

November 25, 2023 /

Photo by Austrian National Library on Unsplash

 

In an attempt to make sense of the ongoing and horrific conflict in the Middle East, I turned to Swedenborg and to the small booklet, Peace and War (The Swedenborg Society, 1977), which is a selected series of quotations drawn from some of his works.  While I understand that war and the devastation and loss of life it creates is motivated and driven by human beings for many reasons, I wanted to understand what was occurring from a spiritual perspective.   Perhaps I was trying to find a sense of meaning behind the horror and brutality of it, a pathway of sorts through the terror and confusion in my own mind as well as a means of coming to terms with the gross and constant misappropriation and distortion of the truth playing out in the global media and social domain.

Swedenborg tells us that wars occur because a man’s life’s love has “become such as to desire to rule over others, and at length over all, and to possess the wealth of the world, and at length all wealth”.  He then tells us something else, that unless these evils broke out, “man would not see them and therefore would not acknowledge them, and thus could not be induced to resist them.”  The fortunes of war, when victories occur, are brought about by the working of divine providence flowing into the minds of men and women from heaven who seek to oppose and overcome the threat.  And the ugly sickening brutality, the cruelty and inhumanity of war and the actions thereof, flow from hell into the minds of the men and women who perpetrate such deeds.

We are a violent and despite our technical prowess, uncivilised race.  We have always sought to dominate one another, to take from one another, to kill one another, to harm one another.  And women and children have borne the brunt of much brutality and marginalisation because of it.  But, and there is a big ‘but’, there have always been those who have fought against injustice with shared values, and there will always be those who will rise up after those who stood before them have died.  There is something in us, I’ve always felt it, that can transcend the darkness, that is capable of change, and which is worthy of life in all its sacredness.

I think back to my Judeo-Christian roots and to the presence of Christ in the world.  Why here?  Why us?  What did the Divine-made-manifest see in us that was worthy of such sacrifice, that was worthy of living among us?  And that is what gives me hope, that is what helps me find a sense of meaning in the horror of our humanity.

 

 

October 29, 2023 /

 

Courage doesn’t always roar.  Sometimes courage is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying, ‘I’ll try again tomorrow’.  Mary Anne Radmacher

The writing of my October blog was interrupted by the bloody conflict which erupted violently in the Middle East on October 7th, and by the ongoing and profound trauma and suffering which has since ensued.  Splayed across social and mainstream media, the toll is utterly devastating with terms such as ‘terrorism’, ‘inhumanity’ and ‘moral clarity’ (or lack thereof) oft being repeated.  As I was intending to write about quiet courage, a term I have learnt about only recently, I saw an intersection of that intention with the profoundly tragic socio-historical human drama unfolding before my eyes.

In the face of abject terror, of horror, of inhumanity from one to another, of overwhelming fear, of danger, of unrelenting grief and anger, how do we cope?  How do we find a sense of meaning in what is unfolding to ourselves, to those we love, to our country-men and women?   How do we carry on living our lives and what is it within ourselves that enables us to do so?

Mankind has throughout its short history on the planet exhibited and carried out terrible acts of violence, cruelty and barbarism toward itself, and it is obvious that the societies in which we live are frequently characterised by acts of great injustice which takes many forms.   However, amid the hatred and the fear and the oppression, there have always been those whose voices and actions have embodied and striven toward ethical and humanistic goals of equality and understanding, of inclusiveness, fairness and justice.  Be they on the world or media stage or be they our neighbour next door living quietly and without fanfare, they exhibit a steadfast emotional and mental strength in the face of challenging and at times overwhelming adversity.

Howard Thurman, African American theologian and civil rights activist writes in his book Meditations of the Heart the following words, “There is a quiet courage that comes from an inward spring of confidence in the meaning and significance of life. Such courage is an underground river, flowing far beneath the shifting events of one’s experience, keeping alive a thousand little springs of action”.  Thurman talks about ‘life’, about the significance of life and about something deep within the individual, something unshakeable, something that gives one the strength to face life and to carry on, no matter how difficult that may be.

It seems to me that this part of us is something which isn’t bound by time, perhaps because it exists outside of it, or because it transcends it. It is coupled with a conviction, a knowing that despite what is happening in the world, despite what is happening to us or to the people we love, there is something within us that can never die, that can never be sullied by the actions of another toward it, that can never be mortally extinguished.  That is the eternal man or woman, that is the real essence of their being, and that is the part that isn’t bound by time, because it is timeless.

October 2, 2023 /

My feeling is that if it were never to happen again, the power of the experience could permanently affect the attitude toward life.  A single glimpse of heaven is enough to confirm its existence even if it is never experienced again.

Abram Maslow, Religions, Values, and Peak-Experiences 1964, p.75.

 

How are we to understand the ‘transpersonal’ and how are we to normalise that which is considered transpersonal?  What does this mean, what does it require from us, and why might we consider ‘normalising’ it?

The transpersonal realm refers to those experiences which are defined as transcendental, spiritual  or non-ordinary states of consciousness or awareness.  When they occur, the individual experiences a different kind of reality, an alternate non-material reality which exists beyond space and linear time as we know it.  Such experiences can be very powerful because they can introduce into the mind  different ways of thinking about the self, about life, and about the afterlife.  They can make us question what is real and what is not, what is important, or what is not important.  Sometimes, they can even make us question our sanity because they are so unfamiliar.

Then again, sometimes such experiences are actively sought by an individual, while for others they can occur randomly or spontaneously at particular moments when they might for example be feeling intense emotional states, engaged in contemplation or in prayer or meditation or in moments of solitude.  Irrespective of the nature of the manifestations or when or how often they may occur, they invariably have a profound impact on the mind, body and spirit of the individual … it’s almost as though a veil is removed from the eyes and ‘reality’ is experienced for the first time.

This can be very challenging, especially for first time experiencers who may feel the need to explore and further understand what has happened, and finding someone to speak with about such phenomena can be difficult.  There are organisations and practitioners who can help, and who do provide relevant information online via their websites and social media platforms, such as IANDS, the International Association for Near-Death Studies, and ACISTE, the American Centre for the Integration of Spiritually Transformative Experiences.

However, none of this would be possible if it weren’t for the contributing work toward this field of enquiry by Rhea White, a prominent American parapsychologist who was instrumental in founding the Exceptional Human Experience (EHE) Network.  The EHE, like IANDS and ACISTE, provides a wealth of information about transpersonal or exceptional experiences, including links to relevant books, websites and for those who wish to record their own account, a guide to writing your own EHE autobiography.

Even though the transpersonal has become a rather large money-making industry, what we can never lose sight of is the opportunity such profound experiences provide to everyone.  They are vital teaching moments which open our eyes and shock us out of the complacency of our day-to-day lives.  They offer us the invitation to ask questions about ourselves, about God, about the way we’ve lived our life, and about what we are and where we are going, both in this life and in the next.

August 20, 2023 /

The light of dawn, Michele T. Knight, ©

What is it about ghosts?  I know I’ve written about this topic previously in my blog, however this question came to my mind again when meandering in a city bookstore I came across some children’s books dedicated to the topic. I hadn’t really noticed this genre in children’s literature before, which doesn’t mean it hasn’t always been there of course.  It’s probably more the case that for so long my focus and interest in the afterlife has generally been directed toward an adult audience.   In pondering this, I remembered then how I used to buy R. L. Stine’s Goosebumps books for my son when he was little and then how he too became fascinated by the afterlife.

What is it about ghosts, and by default the afterlife, that fascinates us?  Why are we drawn to accounts of the returning deceased and to the locales they inhabit?  Why do we watch movies and documentaries about hauntings, and mediums, why do we go on ‘ghost hunts’, why do we love telling stories about ghosts and listening to ghostly tales?  What is it that is driving this interest, what is it that is compelling us, that is pulling us toward it?

Is it a sense of connectedness, or reassurance perhaps, that when we die we don’t cease to exist?  Or that those we love don’t cease to exist?  That we, and they, don’t disappear?  And in thinking about death, what then is life, what is our life, for?  What are we ‘to do’?  What are we ‘to be’?  And what are ghosts, the returning deceased, inviting us to consider?  Maybe it’s all those things, maybe it’s none of them, maybe I will never know all the answers, but I do know that this is ‘some-thing’, and surely it’s occurrence testifies to that.

What is it about ghosts?  Well, truth be told, I probably won’t know until I am one.

 

July 31, 2023 /

 

Coming soonConsciousness and the search for reality: Beyond the veil, a Salon de Morte publication.

A powerful journey about living a spiritual life in Western modernity - how a 
destined encounter with a teacher of the Work led to an awakening of consciousness and an understanding of the spiritual foundation of reality.

I’ve always felt that there was more to life and that there was an intention or purpose to my being born.  I’ve always felt too, that the visible world and universe in which I lived as an embodied human being separated me somehow from something immeasurably vast that I couldn’t see yet felt and knew existed.

As a child I was constantly aware of this vastness incessantly pressing itself against me.  Its gentle urging to be known resulted in the creation of a persistent and unusual inner tension.  Why did I feel like this?  Why did I think like this?  What was life about?

This discontent was the impetus for a life-long spiritual journey of discovery, self-examination and growth which not only stripped away my illusion of reality, it took me to the depths of my being and beyond, the story of which is recorded in this book.

All of us have something in us which can grow.  And in this semi-autobiographical book I share intimate accounts of how deeply profound spiritual experiences intersect with esoteric knowledge to provide a rich and meaningful spiritual education, all the while amidst living a busy Western life.

 

 

June 26, 2023 /

An education which leaves untouched the entire region of transcendental thought is an education which has nothing important to say about the meaning of human life.

Abraham Maslow, The Long Way Home, MANAS, XVI:29, July 17, 1963

Death is generally regarded as the final act in the drama of our embodied lives and existence, however in a spiritual sense, death simply means resurrection into eternal life. In my upcoming book, Consciousness and the Search for Reality: Beyond the Veil, frequent references are made to the fact that our spiritual destiny, our afterlife, is shaped and determined by the efforts we make while living our planetary or embodied life.  Higher Life waits for us, but that doesn’t mean when we die we march on into a sublime celestial existence.  It’s up to us to create the spiritual future we want for ourselves here and now, and we do that by working on ourselves.  Do we understand what we are?  Do we understand why we are born?  And most importantly, do we understand how precarious our cosmic situation really is?  This principle was known in ancient times and can be summed up in the following parable:

And if the tree falls to the south or if to the north, where falls the tree there in the place shall it be.

Ecclesiastes 11:3

The language of correspondences assists us in understanding the parable’s esoteric meaning in the following way.  The term ‘tree’ corresponds to our being, specifically what we have made of our being, what we have spiritually become or not become.  This is the totality of the lifetime of intentional effort we made when working on ourselves.  The term ‘falls’ corresponds to physical death.  The words ‘there in the place shall it be’ refer to the fact that what we have made of ourselves up until physical death remains so for eternity. The term ‘there in the place’ corresponds to our spiritual development and growth, which is representative of a particular level and spiritual society in the spiritual universe to which we will belong. ‘Shall it be’ is a warning that what we have or have not become, will remain as such.

The words from Ecclesiastes are a decisive and powerful communication which illustrate the importance of work-on-oneself from a cosmic perspective; we are what we make ourselves to be, and we determine where and how we live in the afterlife; it really is that simple.  The Gnostic texts also highlight the importance of working on ourselves now, as they do the sense of immediacy which accompany that task.  In The Gospel of Thomas from the Nag Hammadi Library we read the following words purportedly spoken by Jesus to his disciples, “(59) Jesus said, take heed of the living one while you are alive, lest you die and seek to see him and be unable to do so” (Koester & Lambdin, 1978, p. 132).  Again, the exhortation is clear; know now, learn now, prepare now.

When we die, we enter the vastness of the spiritual universe, a world largely unexplored by most people.  Sometimes our lives intersect with death, as in for example shared-death experiences or near-death experiences.  These events teach us that we are more than our material selves and that our existence continues after death, albeit in different form. The Work makes it very clear that a large part of our life should be devoted to active work-on-oneself in preparation for the afterlife.  In fact, our early years should be spent in gathering esoteric knowledge which in our later years is digested and absorbed to bring about the required transformations necessary for the evolution of our soul.

Planetary existence provides us with the opportunity to work on ourselves.  The intentional efforts made while in our embodied state are crucial to determining what sort of eternal spiritual future we create for ourselves.  The rule is this: What we make of ourselves here remains so there, and once we get there, how we live there is reflective of how we lived here.  It really is that simple.