A most essential question
What convergence is there between the journey of the ascetic Tibetan yogi Milarepa and that of the little-known great French mystic of the Seventeenth Century, Madame Guyon ? between Ramana Maharshi and the famous sufi Al-Hallaj ? What is the common denominator between these extraordinary beings who, in such apparently dissimilar ways, climbed the rungs leading to the ultimate realization ? Is it not a question of the greatest importance, to conjecture about what is essential and what is of incidental value, about what is truly the core of a practice and what relates to a cultural context and epoch ?
Vigilance is the path to Life Eternal. Thoughtlessness is the path to death. The reflecting vigilant die not. The heedless are already dead.
Ninth letter to a nun.
“Let us think often that our only business in this life is to please God, that perhaps all besides is but folly and vanity. You and I have lived above forty years in religion (i.e. a monastic life). Have we employed them in loving and serving God, who by His mercy has called us to this state and that very end ? I am filled with shame and confusion when I reflect on one hand upon the great favours which God has done, and incessantly continues to do me ; and on the other, upon the ill use I have made of them, and my small advancement in the way of perfection.
Since by His mercy He gives us still a little time, let us begin in earnest, let us repair the lost time, let us return with a full assurance to that Father of mercies, who is always ready to receive us affectionately. Let us renounce, let us generously renounce, for the love of Him, all that is not He ; He deserves infinitely more. Let us think of Him perpetually. Let us put all our trust in Him : I doubt not but we shall soon find the effects of it, receiving the abundance of His grace, with which we can do all things, and without which we can do nothing but sin.
We cannot escape the dangers, which abound in life, without the actual and continual help of God ; let us then pray to Him for it continually. How can we be with Him but in thinking of Him often ? and how can we often think of Him, but by a holy habit which we should form of it ? You will tell me that I am always saying the same thing : it is true, for this is the best and easiest method I know ; and as I use no other, I advise all the world to it. We must know before we can love. In order to know God, we must often think of Him ; and when we come to love Him, we shall then also think of Him often, for our heart will be with our treasure. This is an argument which well deserves your consideration.”
Hope for Him whilst you live,
Know whilst you live,
Understand whilst you live;
For in life deliverance abides.
If your bonds be not broken whilst living,
What hope of deliverance in death?
It is but an empty dream
That the soul shall have union with Him
Because it has passed from the body;
If He is found now, He is found then;
If not, we do but go to dwell in the City of Death.
“If we ask:
who can say that they have now within themselves, at this moment, a strong unifying presence?
A strong sense of their own separate individual reality, and also a related state to everything surrounding them here.
This is exactly what we are trying for.
This is exactly what we are aiming at.
That is, an unconditional, present, conscious state.
The experience of I AM. This is our aim …”
« It seems to me that we have ultimately to go beyond all forms of thought – even beyond the Trinity, the Incarnation, the Church, etc. All these belong to the world of « signs » — manifestations of God in human thought — but God himself, Truth itself, is beyond all forms of thoughts. All meditation should lead into silence, into the world of « non-duality », when all the differences — and conflicts — in this world are transcended — not that they are simply annuled, but that they are taken up into a deeper unity of being in which all conflicts are resolved — rather like colours being absorbed into pure white light, which contains all the colours but resolves their differences. »
« “I have often said to the orchestra, especially to the younger players, ‘Do your best, and love what you are doing, because you are allowed to do this thing.’ By this I mean, they can do what millions of people cannot do. Many people cannot think of playing music or listening to it until six o’clock in the evening. To be involved professionally in a thing as creative as this is a great privilege and we have a duty to make it in such a way that we can help bring pleasure and a sense of fulfillment to those who are not so fortunate.”
Herbert von Karajan
Many of my critics write, and will go on writing, that I conduct too lavishly. That may be so. During my day people have been somewhat extravagant in terms of art and music. I believed this was the right attitude to adopt, and so I’ve supported it. It has something to do with respect towards art, and if this respect is old-fashioned, so be it, I’ve no intention of dissociating myself from it. When I was young, we approached music with a sense of awe and celebrated each such approach as a special event. I can see, of course, that times have changed, that people don’t want to know about respect any longer, and that it is not in keeping with the times to celebrate a concert. People are going to great lengths to make themselves ugly, to wear ugly clothes, and to feel precious little enthusiasm for beauty. I’ve been observing this for years…I know there is nothing that can be done at present to change all this. But no one can expect me to seek a polite or understanding explanation for this, still less that I should agree with it and conform. I belong to a different age. And what I want to preserve for myself and posterity also belongs to a different age.”
”I think, if I had understood then, as I do now, how this great King really dwells within this little palace of my soul, I should not have left Him alone so often, but should have stayed with Him and never have allowed His dwelling-place to get so dirty.”
Against his will, he dieth that hath not learned to die. Learn to die and thou shalt learn to live, for there shall none learn to live that hath not learned to die (The Book of the Craft of Dying, Comper’s Edition). Ars Moriendi
Ars Moriendi (“The Art of Dying”) is the name of two related Latin texts dating from about 1415 and 1450 which offer advice on the protocols and procedures of a good death, explaining how to “die well” according to Christian precepts of the late Middle Ages.
♦Each time an aspirant sinks back into his habitual lower state, it is always his attention, these states cannot become active, nor have any existence. He is placed in a curious situation, faced with a dilemma which he cannot comprehend at first. Through weakness, he is continuously being seduced and deluded into agreeing to enter into this strange sleep, losing the awareness of his being and “dying” every minute of his life without ever realizing what is happening to him. He will gradually come to see what vital role the attention plays in this strange battle for the overcoming of his inner death and on what secret plane the latter is being subtly fought all the while. Read more
Jeanne de Salzmann (1889-1990) in her hundredth year in New York
Jeanne de Salzmann was one of the main disciples of G.I. Gurdjieff. She was responsible for transmitting his teaching through the Gurdjieff Institute of Paris, the Gurdjieff Foundation of New York City, the Gurdjieff Society in London and the Fundación Gurdjieff of Caracas, which she founded or helped founding, as well as other formal and informal groups throughout the world.
- Ian Stevenson, 1918- 2007 was a Canadian biochemist and professor of psychiatry. He was head of the Division of Perceptual Studies at the University of Virginia, which investigates the paranormal.
Stevenson considered that the concept of reincarnation might supplement those of heredity and environment in helping modern medicine to understand some aspects of human behavior and development. He traveled extensively over a period of 40 years to investigate 3,000 childhood cases that suggested to him the possibility of past lives. Stevenson saw reincarnation as the survival of the personality after death, although he never suggested a physical process by which a personality might survive death.
Stevenson conducted field research into reincarnation and investigated cases in Africa, Alaska, Europe, India and both North and South America, logging around 55,000 miles a year between 1966 and 1971.He reported that the children he studied usually started to speak of their supposed past lives between the ages of two and four, then ceased to do so by seven or eight, with frequent mentions of having died a violent death, and what seemed to be clear memories of the manner of death. After interviewing the children, their families, and others, Stevenson would attempt to identify if there had been a living person who satisfied the various claims and descriptions collected, and who had died prior to the child’s birth.
Stevenson’s research is associated with a ‘minimalist’ model of reincarnation that makes no religious claims. Stevenson believed the strongest cases he had collected in support of this model involved both testimony and physical evidence. In over 40 of these cases Stevenson gathered physical evidence relating to the often rare and unusual birthmarks and birth defects of children which he claimed matched wounds recorded in the medical or post-mortem records for the individual Stevenson identified as the past-life personality.
The children in Stevenson’s studies often behaved in ways he felt suggestive of a link to the previous life. These children would display emotions toward members of the previous family consistent with their claimed past life, e.g., deferring to a husband or bossing around a former younger brother or sister who by that time was actually much older than the child in question. Many of these children also displayed phillias and phobias associated to the manner of their death, with over half who described a violent death being fearful of associated devices. Many of the children also incorporated elements of their claimed previous occupation into their play, while others would act out their claimed death repeatedly.
Stevenson’s fieldwork technique has been said as being that of a detective or investigative reporter, searching for alternative explanations of the material he was offered. One boy in Beirut described being a 25-year-old mechanic who died after being hit by a speeding car on a beach road. Witnesses said the boy gave the name of the driver, as well as the names of his sisters, parents, and cousins, and the location of the crash. The details matched the life of a man who had died years before the child was born, and who was apparently unconnected to the child’s family. In such cases, Stevenson sought alternative explanations—that the child had discovered the information in a normal way, that the witnesses were lying to him or to themselves, or that the case boiled down to coincidence. Shroder writes that, in scores of cases, no alternative explanation seemed to suffice.
Stevenson argued that the 3,000 or so cases he studied supported the possibility of reincarnation, though he was always careful to refer to them as “cases suggestive of reincarnation,” or “cases of the reincarnation type.”