Posts

Showing posts from March, 2022

The Complete Works of Florence Scovel Shinn (book)

Image
In the early 20th century, a group of illuminated thinkers blended together the mysticism of various religious traditions with ancient philosophies, encouraged by findings from modern science. While each thinker is unique, they tend to be grouped together under the banner of 'New Thought'.  The New Thought masters include Neville Goddard, Florence Scovel Shinn, and Thomas Henry Hamblin. The key idea to emerge from this spiritual cocktail was that human growth includes a greater understanding and use of the unseen forces of the mind, such as the Law of Attraction, and that insight into these unseen laws is as important as an awareness of the physical laws of nature.  According to this tradition, one can develop one's spiritual faculties via meditation, the use of affirmations, and visualisation exercises, based on the core belief that ultimately reality is the manifestation of a divine, infinite intelligence.  As the Bible alongside other ancient texts say we are made in the

The Nag Hammadi Scriptures (book)

Image
History rhymes: it moves in cycles of growth, destruction and then further growth; we see intense conflict followed by loving peace, leading to complacency and the withering of what brought the beauty and success to begin with, only to give birth to something greater. Another common historical rhyme is that each age has a wealthy establishment which attempts to suppress information or people that threatens its control: Emperors, Tsars and tycoons. Any serious student of world history, mythology and ideas knows these things to be true.                                                                                                               The Nag Hammadi Scriptures have captured the imagination of seekers around the world because their story and content exemplify the points raised above. In brief, they represent a type of Christianity that flourished between approximately 70 AD to 400 AD but ceased to exist thereafter. They are called gnostic which generally means a direct knowledg

A Theory of Everything: An Integral Vision for Business, Politics, Science and Spirituality (book)

Image
The notion of an objective, hierarchical path of personal growth makes many today feel uneasy because the dominant ideology of our time is that everything is subjective and based on power dynamics. American philosopher Ken Wilber argues that humanity has become stuck in this post-modern knowledge system, which has captured much of the political, media and academic class, but inhibits humanity’s ascension into higher developmental levels.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Growth hierarchies, for Wilber, should be differentiated from dominance hierarchies which are indeed based on power and privilege; for example, those higher in a workplace hierarchy may in fact be lower in the growth hierarchy than someone at the bottom of the organization. Human advancement occurs in a spiral pattern within indi

Ascension: The Art of Soul Perfection and the Attainment of Grace (book)

Image
For a while now the conception of human life that makes the most sense to me is that we are here on planet earth to learn, and human life is in essence a metaphysical school. I used to dismiss the idea of reincarnation: sure, it was in the works of Plato and Buddha, two towering influences in the history of thought, but I couldn’t see how it was possible. The reason for this was that I had fallen for the trick of believing we are a body that creates a mind through physical processes, rather than a consciousness that manifests a body. It was Immanuel Kant’s classic “Critique of Pure Reason” that convinced me that all is mind, and that space and time are an illusion (confirmed further by my reading of quantum physics). Kant left me with the lingering thought that we never have an experience which is not subjective, first-person awareness. Another way to put it is that there is never a separation between subject and object: the knower and what is known are irrevocably connected. Kant’s ar

J. G. Bennett on Gurdjieff (book)

Image
There are two ways in which the ascension (spiritual liberation) argument typically occurs. The first is that humans were once grand or at least at a relatively decent level of peace and stability, but have fallen, and to ascend is to take our rightful place by being and acting in accordance with our designed nature (leaving aside the question of the designer). The other is that we act in alignment with the lowly state we are by nature, and ascension is rising above our lot. Gurdjieff sits in the second category, with the general purpose of human life being to act as an energetic resource for planetary forces in the same way as sheep and cows are resources for humanity; however, just as some animals may avoid capture for food and materials or death by another animal, an individual human may escape their bondage by separating psychologically from the herd.    Gurdjieff states that human beings are in a type of hypnosis, with the added suggestion that this is by design:    "It must

The Secret of Light (book)

Image
One of the most beautifully written and accessible mystical texts of our time is The Secret of Light by Walter Russell. It captures the truths of esoteric Christianity (such as that found in the sermons of Meister Eckhart), and the Hindu Upanishads, without getting bogged down in unapproachable terminology or culturally-specific mythology.                                                                                                                                                                                                    The essence of Russell’s text is that each human is an eternal consciousness that both experiences and is the manifestation of a single, eternal God-Mind. A human being is a conscious mind that experiences separate physical forms via waves and pulses of light which create the electrical charges governing her body and thoughts. As Russell puts it, “Electricity expresses the desire in the God-Mind for creative expression by seemingly dividing the One still ligh

Aristotle's Ethics (book)

Image
A curious fact about the history of ethical theory is that the ancient Greeks did not have a word for happiness; it made no sense for them to speak about the final goal of human action as individual or general human happiness. The Greeks used the word eudaimonia , which is generally translated as flourishing. To flourish, in the eyes of Aristotle, is to fulfil one’s potential as a human being, or to be excellent at being what one truly is.                                                                                                                                                                                                            For Aristotle, in order to know what it means to flourish, it is essential to have a view of human nature. This means, that to know if an individual has flourished as a human, we must have a notion of what it means to be a human so we can determine what kind of things an exemplar human being would do. Aristotle believed that this answer had to be foun

Erving Goffman on Stigma (book)

Image
Erving Goffman established the groundwork for the analysis of the relationship between mental illness and social control in his classic texts Stigma and Asylums. For Goffman, humans live in, and emerge from, interconnected social networks; moreover, individuals within these social networks hold shared expectations about how people will act. Goffman notes that we do not merely expect individuals to live in accordance with these assumptions, but we demand that they do: "We lean on these anticipations that we have, transforming them into normative expectations, into righteously presented demands."  In this way humans transfer conventions or conveniences into implicit behavioural demands, and thereby regulate each other’s conduct.                                                                                                                                For Goffman, when we meet someone we assume that they are going to be a certain way. The group of attributes that we expect pe

Self-Reliance (book)

Image
Ralph Waldo Emerson always struck me as cutting to the heart of human weakness: the tendency to ignore the advice coming from our hearts due to the desire to obtain the approval of other people. We are here for a reason, and it is our intuitive voice that will guide us towards our rightful destiny, not the judgements or demands of other people: “What I must do is all that concerns me, not what the people think.”                                                                                                                                                                          Many of my favourite writers talk about the importance of trusting our intuition, and the messages and feelings that support it and which we can pick up on when our eyes are open and our minds are alive. Each of these writers emphasises a different aspect of this. For example, Florence Scovel Shinn wrote extensively on following the leads that one's higher self provides in practical affairs: “The Divine Plan

Meetings with Remarkable Men (film)

Image
“There is a way between voice and presence  where information flows. In disciplined silence it opens.  With wandering talk it closes.” - Rumi -  In putting together this piece on the splendid film based on the autobiography of G. I. Gurdjieff, I made the mistake of turning to some academic texts on Sufism. Quickly, I put these texts back in the shelf after seeing endless mentions of “cultural appropriation” and the “colonial eye”. Such talk demonstrates the main point of Meetings with Remarkable Men, that information can tie an individual in knots, and true understanding involves direct knowing not the endless accumulation of facts and slogans.                                                                                                                                                        The movie is filmed in Afghanistan, where one gets a glimpse into the natural beauty of a land hidden by war. This was also the birthplace of the poet Rumi, who like Gurdjieff was blessed to grow

In Search of the Miraculous (book)

Image
“If a person in prison wants to have any chance at escape, the first thing he must do is realize that he is in prison. So long as we fail to recognize this, we have no chance whatever.” G. I. Gurdjieff There is an old debate in philosophy and science about human freewill. The main argument being that if everything is material and governed by the laws of nature (motion, energy, thermodynamics etc.), then free will is impossible. Quantum uncertainty does not really shift the argument as such tiny variability does not have a tangible impact on the macro-level of a large, biological organism such as a human. Chaos at the sub-atomic level also cannot provide the type of environment that is required for us to say a person is engaged in an action on their own accord: it is chaos after all, and action by definition entails physical movement conducted for a reason (no matter how bizarre). In his lectures on Gurdjieff, J. G. Bennett points out that many scientific materialists dismiss freewill t