Amicus Mortis Posts

April 27, 2023 /

The risen Aten.  Michele T. Knight©

When I was a child, I began to randomly experience unusual other-worldly phenomena.  I can’t remember when they first commenced because it seems as though they have always been a part of my life, and I simply can’t remember a time when they weren’t.  Whether or not I knew it then, these experiences were teaching and showing me that another reality co-existed with the one I lived in as an embodied being.

Throughout my life and across the years, they have continued to occur unexpectedly with little or no warning, challenging my understanding of linear time and slicing through the permeable barrier which separates the visible material world from the non-material spiritual universe.   They have taught me about a reality which I would never have known existed otherwise.

They have always been completely unexpected and still are, and writing about them now some fifty-five years or so since I first began to experience them, can say that there is always something consistent which accompanies them, something which throbs in the background like an unmistakable energy or vibration.  When I was little that was unnamed, but now as an adult I know it to be the presence of the Divine.

I know people can experience other-worldly phenomena and states of being using for example mind-altering/enhancing drugs or through other activities, however I’ve never done so.  And when I reflect on these approaches there seems something harsh about them, something intrusive or artificial perhaps, as though one is trying to force one’s way in (I could very well be wrong of course).  I have always been aware of a profound gentleness accompanying these experiences, and though they can be sudden and occur unexpectedly in the midst of daily activity, I have never tried to stimulate or bring them on and in truth have always had a life of their own.

And though this phenomena and its manifesting experiences last only seconds in measured time, they are enough, they are enough.

March 31, 2023 /

I’ve recently returned from a holiday in South Korea, a country and society steeped in ancient history and customs which are juxtapositioned against postmodern 21st Century tech.  Roaming ‘off the grid’, and amongst other experiences, I unexpectedly encountered the presence of the deceased.  The first experience occurred in the surrounds of Deoksugung Palace (previously known as Gyeongbokgung Palace), where a lady of noble linage approached me with immeasurable grace, gentleness, noble bearing and a serene smile. She was dressed in embroidered robes of silken cloth and looked like she had stepped out of the pages of a history book; I knew she was from another time long before my own.

I knew instantly that in life she had been a woman of great inner beauty who loved those around her with a genuine, sincere and warm affection and that she was a person who held true to her values, even fighting for them.  There was also something transparent about her, something which was without guile or deceit, and I could see she was unique amongst the contemporaries of her time.

I don’t know who this woman was, nor why she chose to reveal herself to me, but I knew I was in the presence of someone gentle and kind who had a clear seeing mind and a razor-sharp tenacity.  Who was she, and how was she linked to the palace?

The second occasion on which I experienced the presence of the deceased was at the Seolleung and Jeongneung Royal Tombs complex of King Seongiong and Queen Jeonghyeon of the Joeson Dynasty. Queen Jeonghyeon, was the wife and Queen Consort of King Seongjong of Joseon, the 9th monarch of the Joseon Dynasty.

 As I approached the tomb of Queen Jeonghyeon I was instantly aware of an intense feminine energy wrapping itself around me and then as I stood looking into the queen’s burial complex a woman, again of noble lineage approached me.  I was held fast, utterly transfixed by the encounter as I was by the exquisitely feminine, grace and profound beauty of the soul who stood before me.  Who was she?  Why had this happened and why in this location?  What did she want?

These questions were similar to the ones which had gone through my mind in my previous encounter in Deoksugung Palace.  Again, I didn’t want to leave, I never wanted to leave, I wanted to remain in her presence.  I could feel her essence pass into and through me, and I was mesmerised by her great inner beauty.  She was gentle and quiet, serene and strong, loving and both warm and nurturing.  She smiled at me, and I was reminded of the other woman who had come to me, she too had smiled gently, and in recognition.

Writing this blog I’m reminded of something I heard spoken in a Netflix docuseries about people’s accounts of spirits which occurred after a devastating tsunami swept through coastal areas of Japan.

“Japanese people don’t separate the dead from the living.  To Japanese people, death is like shoji, the paper sliding door.  Once you open the sliding door you go through to the other side, and the living  can still see you through it.”

After experiencing what I did, I couldn’t agree more.

 

 

February 14, 2023 /

(Mi Serenata, Robert Bryce, 2020)

Salons have played a vital social role throughout history in the communicating, fostering and sharing of information and new ideas.  Initially established by women, the salon served not only as a means of self-education and access to information, but as a form of resistance by women against social constraints which restricted their full participation in society.  These included access to formal education, to enlightened conversation and to intellectual discourse.

Facilitating and hosting the salon was a central binding figure, a noblewoman who was termed the salonniere.  It was the salonniere who hosted the salon in her home, determined topics of conversation such as philosophy, politics, religion, and/or the arts and sciences, and who ensured that all present could gather freely to openly discuss and debate liberal ideas and current affairs.

Salons not only provided a unique forum in which women’s voices could be heard and ideas shared, but they fostered cross-class and cross-cultural communication between both male and female social groups.  There are records of salons dating back to the early 1600s, one of which was a literary circle hosted by the Marquess de Rambouillet, who at the time brought together Paris’ intelligentsia and literary set.

In similar fashion to the historical salon and literary circle, a contemporary salon has come into being, and while it’s presence will be digital, it will serve a similar purpose as its forebears’ have done.  In this instance, the salon is metaphorically represented by the new business entity, “Salon De Morte: A literary collective”.  The salon will have a uniquely Australian presence and will bring together like-minded writers to disseminate and share ideas relating to the Work, and to spiritual growth and development in contemporary Western society.  The business was conceived by me in 2022 and its corresponding web presence will be launched, also by myself, in 2023.

This is an exciting moment, and I look forward to sharing Salon De Morte: A literary collective, and all that it offers, with you in the near future.

January 29, 2023 /

Photo by Marco Zuppone on Unsplash

 

The virtuous man who has breadth of character carries the outer world.  When you come, you never want to leave.
China, Wuzhen, water town in Southern China

The quote above came from Wuzhen, a water town in Southern China.  I have a photograph of the man penning it, who sits in a small room surrounded by assorted paraphernalia in what looks like a curio store from a Harry Potter scene.  I’ve often looked at the elegant characters gracing the page, never knowing without the English translation, what wisdom they contain.

What does this mean, and how does it apply to our life?  What can it teach us, what is it inviting us to know?

It seems to me that life teaches us many things, to the end that we come to understand that our life has a purpose, that it is necessary for something important, for something that our life quite literally depends upon.  Not our embodied, corporeal life, but our spiritual life.  Accompanying that, and with  time, comes the gradual separation of ourselves from material things, and a growing love for those things spiritual.

Although it happens gently, in truth it’s a psychospiritual shift which occurs in the mind in conjunction with a reorientation of our spiritual belief-system and world-view.  We find that our way of being in the world is different because our values have changed.  We may seek solitude or nature, our circle of friends may become smaller, our tastes in music, art or literature may change.  Or, we may start to see the material world through the lens of correspondences where we understand the spiritual pattern of the material object.

I understand ‘the virtuous man’ to be an individual who does indeed have breadth of character because of a deep internal spiritual core, which can be palpably felt when in their presence.  This for me is the virtuous man, and if ever you meet such a one, you do indeed never want to leave.

December 31, 2022 /

Photo by Lucas Dial on Unsplash

The biblical story of Noah’s Ark and the great global Flood recounted in Genesis 6-8, seems to find a reflection in the current clime of the flood of pestilence which has swept over us all.  COVID and its mutated variants have swirled around the globe for a second year with deadly impact, causing great suffering and taking countless lives in wave after engulfing wave.   Never have I been so personally confronted with my own mortality, nor so continually challenged to navigate unscathed through troubled and uncertain times.

If there is anything that the Year of 2022 has taught me, it is that life, or our existence, is fundamentally impermanent and that we need to create for ourselves our own metaphorical ‘ark’.  By this I suggest a body of spiritual truths and/or a spiritual doctrine to help us ride the waves of misrepresentation, false information, negativity and fantastical theories.  Reality has a spiritual foundation and COVID, in holding a mirror to our mortality, has highlighted how important it is to build something spiritually permanent for ourselves which will transcend this flood.

What is real?  What is true?  What body of doctrine can help us understand why we were born and what happens to us on the other side of death?

Discovering the answers to those questions is the journey the seeker after truth takes.  It requires courage, perseverance, unwavering effort, and a sense of discontentment.  Sometimes one finds others along the way, but my experience has been that the journey is for the most part a solitary one.  I’ve always found that it is in solitude that I can hear what I’m meant to hear, that I can see what I’m meant to see, and that gently, ever so gently, I find my way.

November 24, 2022 /

“To be a spectator of Reality is not enough. The awakened
subject is not merely to perceive transcendent life, but
to participate therein;  and for this, a drastic and
costly life-changing is required.”
Evelyn Underhill, Mysticism, 1995, p. 195

Evelyn Underhill (1875-1941) was an English mystical poet, author and Christian theologian.  In the 1995 edition of her book, Mysticism she wrote that when the self begins to stir or to question its’ existence, “… a change occurs in the individual, a change whereby that self turns from the unreal world of sense in which it is normally immersed, first to apprehend, then to unite itself with Absolute Reality” (p. 174).

Because of the spiritual or other-worldly experiences which have populated my life since childhood (as they have the lives of others), I find a strong sense of resonance with Underhill’s words. In reflecting on those experiences which are as deeply etched in my mind as an adult as when I experienced them then, it seems to me that the self is the instrument through which the individual acquires a new understanding not only of the reality of its’ existence, but of the reality of life.

And if Underhill is correct, when the self stirs, when we know within ourselves (and in a way which cannot be denied or argued against) that our way of seeing and experiencing life is illusory, then it is one’s very existence which is challenged.  Suddenly everything is different, and those things which were once meaningful and fulfilling are now no longer so.  And this happens because they have been replaced with new meaning and a new way of being in the world.

Underhill  put it quite simply, stating “We see a sham world because we live a sham life.  We do not know ourselves …  hence attribute wrong values to [their] suggestions and declarations concerning our relation to the external world” (1995, p. 199).  Importantly, Underhill also highlights something else, which is that the mystical adventure, regardless of form, must begin with change of attitude.  This mental shift is crucial, especially because true self-change can only be initiated by the individual themselves.

How does this change in attitude come about?  What is it that compels one person to question and contemplate the nature of their existence while for another, the thought or impulse never arises?  Why is one person born with the flames of future burning questions already pressing upon them, while for others  such things manifest not?  Perhaps change in attitude has its birth in a sense of inner dissatisfaction, or perhaps it springs from the feeling that there is simply more to life, that ‘life’ has hidden depths which gently beckon to be known.  Then again, maybe the answer to the question of ‘why?’ isn’t important, maybe just the fact that we awake to the realisation is enough.

October 24, 2022 /

I attended a funeral recently, and as I listened to each of the eulogies and reflected on my own relationship with the lady who had died, I found my thoughts wandering to the accomplishments of my own life, not those of my embodied life but to those of my spiritual life.  I am well aware of the accomplishments of this life as I am of its disappointments and unfettered desires, but what about the accomplishments with regard to my next life and those entwined with my spiritual existence?  What can I lay claim to with regard to that?

When I entered the Work over forty years ago, I was taught that unceasing effort was required to understand the spiritual foundation of reality, and that this effort was directly linked to determining one’s spiritual destiny.  Grand words indeed, and while it has taken me a long time to understand the principles and techniques required, especially the kind of effort required, what I know now is that the fulcrum on which everything rests is one’s relationship with God.  One can possess a smart and clever mind, and dazzle in front of others with their knowledge, writing and speech of the Work and of cosmic laws, yet in the absence of a warm and loving relationship with the Divine as well, such individuals are at risk of being held captive by the coldness of their intellect.

Someone once asked me, “How do you love God?”  It’s a fair question, but how to answer it?  I know how I love the Divine, but in truth the answer to the question lies within the person asking it.  My response at the time was, “If you don’t know how to love God, ask God to show you how.”  I was met with a somewhat sardonic smile, and who knows whether or not they did ask or would even be bothered too.  It often seems to me that people in general want a ‘quick fix to enlightenment’ so to speak, and in the West in the 21st Century living in a modernist era of instant gratification and a throw-away society, additional challenges can assault the individual as we’re pulled in different directions by the demands of contemporary living.

But despite this it can be done, we can love the Divine with all our heart and soul, and with all that we are capable of, it just depends on the decision/s we make.   The Sufi’s say many things, but one of those is that right remembrance is the way to God, and herein lays a metaphorical pathway to the Divine.  To re-member something is to reclaim something, to bring something back which had hitherto been dismembered or taken apart, to make something whole again.  What is it that we are re-membering?  What are we reclaiming?  What are we bringing back to ourselves?  I would say in the first instance, that what we re-member is our relationship with the Divine, with God, and that then, spiritually, all things are possible.

September 28, 2022 /

I was in conversation with a friend recently when she used the term ‘death work’, which stayed in my mind for some time afterward and made me ponder something.   Most practitioners who choose to work in some capacity in the end of life would no doubt think about this from a professional stance, but what about our own individual and personal death work?  While we work with others, do we also work with ourselves?

How can we contextualise death work?  Is it possible to arrive at a broad and agreed understanding, or is it unique to the individual and determined by a myriad of factors, such as life experiences, world view, cultural and social experiences, and spiritual and religious experiences or lack thereof?   What does it mean to undertake our own death work? And, if we do, why?

I was told many, many years ago that when we die all we take with us is what we’ve made of ourselves, not wealth, not status, nothing, but that.  This implied that effort was required to make something of ourselves. How do we do this, and to what end?  What is it that we ‘make’?  And what kind of effort is required?

It seems to me that if we are going to change ourselves then we need to change how we think about ourselves and how we think about truth, meaning and value.  Furthermore, it also seems to me that what we are and what we believe ourselves to be are quite literally worlds apart.  Change of mind often begins with a new idea and can replace old and worn-out attitudes, this is important because an unchanged mind cannot have a vision of its’ higher possibilities.

For the most part Science takes a reductionist view of human destiny, rendering it lifeless and meaningless and sees no possibility of human survival after death, but this is where our responsibility for our death work comes to life.  This inner work is characterised by an ongoing struggle towards consciousness and integration, and to awakening consciously to the spiritual foundation of reality and to our greater cosmic purpose.

August 28, 2022 /

Nami, A. (2022). Forlorn, The Guardian

In September, the International Association for Near Death Studies (IANDS) are holding their annual conference.  I’m one of the presenters and I’m talking about the intersection of my own lived experience of ‘oneness’ which occurred when I was completing my research study for my PhD, which was a transpersonal study exploring adult bereavement and after-death contact experiences.  There were two reasons why I decided to present on this topic.

The first was to highlight the important role that transpersonal research can play in exploring human experiences which are deemed spiritual or ineffable, or which are concerned with what Rosmarie Anderson (who is a transpersonal psychologist and researcher) defines as being, “of ultimate value”.  The second was to highlight that what I deem to be spiritual experiences, in this case experiences of ‘oneness’, can occur randomly and without provocation, in everyday situations and often when you least expect, which is exactly what happened to me.

The etymology of the word transpersonal has its roots in two separate words of Latin origin; trans, meaning beyond, across or over, and personare, meaning a mask or façade which obscures or veils something behind it.  So when we’re talking about something which is transpersonal, we’re talking about an experience/event which takes us beyond appearances.  It does this because it acts as a portal which moves us beyond the physicality of ourselves and of the known and familiar material world in which we live.

When these events occur we experience a duality; we’re anchored to the material universe yet we experience something beyond it, something totally different because though non-material it is no less real to us at the time.  And when we experience ‘oneness’ this is what happens, we experience the reality of what has always been known to us while simultaneously experiencing another reality which like the material universe, is constantly present though largely unknown and not experienced by most people.  These events challenge the notion of reductionist and strictly empirical views of the universe and of the individual, and they do so because they reveal a spiritual dimension of existence as they do the spiritual foundation of reality.

One of the effects of using transpersonal research methodologies, is the potential transformation of the researcher.  This occurs because while the researcher learns about the topic of enquiry they also learn about themselves using such techniques as intuition, direct knowing, dreamwork, meditation, inner-reflection, self-examination and perhaps solitude, which are all themselves components of the transpersonal research process.  I used Heuristic inquiry which consists of 6 phases or stages each with their characteristics and approaches.  The process commences with what is termed Initial engagement before moving on to Immersion, then to Incubation, Illumination, Explication to the final stage, the Creative Synthesis, and it was at this final stage that I had my experience of oneness.

When we experience such an event, what is happening?  Are we suddenly roused from sleep such that  we feel a sense of profound connection with something beyond ourselves, with something which feels vaster than the material universe?  Do we feel and know with utter conviction that we are connected to everything in a way we’ve never known or experienced before, and that there is a divine and universal love binding everything together?

I believe that experiences of oneness are powerful spiritual events which can transform our understanding of reality, and which can reveal a powerful truth which nothing can distort.   And it seems to me also, that it  doesn’t matter in what circumstances we experience ‘oneness’, what matters is that we do and there’s the miracle, and there’s the gift of grace that comes with it.

 

July 17, 2022 /

 

As readers of this blog know, its origins lay in a PhD research study exploring after-death contact (ADC).  The study had its origin in my own lived experience of bereavement which unexpectedly provided the psychosocial and psychospiritual context for the returning deceased; initially my husband and then following his death, both my parents.  Although a number of international studies have reported ADC phenomena  in their findings, few recent studies at the time privileged ADC.  I wanted something different.  I wanted to conduct a study which was not only positioned within a uniquely Australian context but one which did privilege this aspect of adult bereavement.  These accounts are widely reported; what do they  suggest?  What are they inviting us to know?  How do they impact on how we understand not ‘who’ we are, but ‘what’ we are?  And what do they tell us about the transpersonal nature of reality and how we define ourselves not only as human beings but as spiritually organic self-evolving organisms, capable of dynamic psychospiritual transformations?

I didn’t envision that my doctoral work would privilege the transpersonal. The fact that it does is something entirely out of my control and absolutely contrary to the direction I had planned for myself.  It was my intention to further develop my current interest and work in health education policy and reform for Indigenous Australians.  Many years ago a friend told me that God laughs when we make plans.  I resented the statement then especially as I had my life all mapped out however, after now completing my doctoral research I have to agree with those words. Are our lives pre-destined?  I’ve often wondered about that.  Are seeds sewn into our internals at birth which grow into proclivities and drives which naturally propel us in a certain direction and to a certain life purpose irrespective of what it is that we think we should be doing?  I’ve often wondered about that too and I still don’t have the answer to those questions.

What I do know though is what life has taught me to know; that there is a loving wisdom that gently touches all of us like a whisper almost, and so unobtrusive is it that it is almost imperceptible amongst the din of internal noise created by our self-oriented external self-centred lives.   I don’t even know if ‘wisdom’ is the right word.  I think that’s how it manifests, but what it is is beyond the capacity of my mind to conceptualise or understand; I can only feel it moving softly through me.  It’s always been there, like a shaft of sunlight cutting momentarily through a shadowed forest glade.  I would feel it every so often in moments of solitude or communion, as I would the bliss and sense of connectedness that accompanied those internal states, but it is only now after much vastation that I have truly learnt to surrender to it, to let go, to trust in something that I know only wishes to bring me to my greatest spiritual happiness.  And this is precisely how, I believe, I found myself completing a PhD on bereavement and the returning deceased rather than one examining Indigenous health policy and reform.