Within and Without


The Holy Man sat within the protection of the cave looking out. The first of the spring rains drumming on the stones beyond the entrance had drawn his consciousness up out of deep meditation and into physical reality. As he slowly came back into his body the resolve he had formulated in the last days of autumn still burned within him. This spring he would leave the cave and return to the world.

Since time immemorial the cave had been regarded as a place of spiritual retreat for in that culture the last third of life was seen as time of renunciation, retreat and meditation for those seeking spiritual salvation.

At first life in the cave was difficult for the man. The winters were harsh and his meagre supply of food meant he was often cold and hungry. A travelling sage passed by one summer and taught him how to regulate his breathing and enter more fully into meditation. Things became easier after that but the man was still troubled by desires – desires for comfort, for a woman, for a good hot meal, for companionship – the list went on and on. “I must negate all desire,” he told himself. “Only then will I find lasting peace and salvation.”

For years he wrestled with this. Despite his inner turmoil the local villagers decided he was a holy man and thus worthy of their veneration. During the warmer months they took to visiting him. They bought with them offerings of food they had grown and blankets they had woven. In return they expected him to heal the ills that beset them, answer the problems that troubled them and, sometimes even absolve them of their wrong doings. “Why do we suffer so?” they wept and wailed. “Why is life so hard?” Gratefully the man took the food and blankets. Humbly he offered them what he had – a smile, a place to stop the world awhile and recharge. People said just being in his presence bought them peace.

When the winter snows fell on the higher slopes above the cave the Holy Man retreated deep inside himself. Within his mind he would gather up the troubles the people had bought to him and carry them higher and higher until they dissolved into the pure light of spirit.

Over the years the Holy Man’s fame grew. In the summer months people from distant lands began to visit him seeking wisdom. At first these travellers were young and mostly male. Their matted hair and ragged clothing reminded him of his own younger self. The girls with them were as unworldly as temple handmaidens. “Our society is utterly bereft of the spiritual,” they all said. “People are so motivated by desire they are exploiting both the planet and those less fortunate than themselves.”

When the winter snows fell and the tracks to the cave became impassable the Holy Man picked up his drum and let its rhythms carry him deep into trance. Now his meditation took him within the Earth. Deeper and deeper he went feeling the pain of humanity, the pain of the exploited Earth. A deep, dark howl of despair bought him back to the surface of his mind. “We must all negate desire,” he thought. “Only then will all find salvation. Only then will the Earth heal.”

Years passed. More and more people made the pilgrimage to see the Holy Man. The travellers from distant lands were richer and more worldly now. Many came with entourages – film crews, study groups of holistic practitioners, groups of followers and spiritual seekers. Speaking with them the Holy Man came to understand that their affluence was a product of fulfilled desires. Unlike the villagers who desired health and prosperity many of these new seekers already had these things. The questions they asked were different. “How can we save the Earth,” they asked. “How can we help the sick and the poor?”

Meditating alone the Holy Man came to see that it was not desire that caused humanity’s problems. Without desire nothing would happen – no babies would be born, no crops grown, no buildings constructed, no businesses started. Indeed, he realised, desire was the engine that created all activity.

His winter meditations changed. Now he no longer wrestled with desire. Instead he sought to understand it. Up to the light he went then on out to the stars. Spinning across galaxies and dancing on light beams he lost sight of himself and of the Earth below until suddenly the currents swept him through crystalline caves and along the vast underground rivers that flow beneath the Earth’s surface. Journeying deeper still he left the physical realms behind and plunged into the ancestral and collective timelines of humanity. The universe became holographic and he lost of awareness of himself as a man. Indeed it seemed to him that he had lived many lifetimes – sometimes as a man, sometimes as a woman, sometimes rich, sometimes poor.

The following summer the Holy Man sat in the lotus position as folk from across the globe toiled up the mountain slope to be with him. Many were deeply troubled by the political situation in their home countries and by the growing spectre of climate change. “I need to return to the world,” thought the Holy Man. “I will spend one more winter here then I will leave.”

That winter the Holy Man did not journey to the stars and he did not plunge into the deepest recesses of human consciousness. Instead he sat in silence.

When the spring rains fell on the rocks outside the cave the man emerged into full awareness of his surroundings. A deep sense of inner calm flowed through his being. “I am no more holy than those rocks,” he thought. “All life is sacred. I will leave this cave now and return to the world. I have not negated all desire. Instead I have simply shifted my desires. Now I do not seek my own salvation or even the salvation of others. What I seek is to live in harmony with nature and with humanity.”

Where do we come from?

On http://withrealtoads.blogspot.com/2019/03/physics-with-bjorn-cosmology-and.html the physicist Bjorn Brudberg asks us to consider the Big Bang theory and the concept of the expanding universe:-  

Once I asked Google –  “What was before the Big Bang?”

I received a number of answers.   The one that intrigued me the most was the idea that the Big Bang emerged from a singularity.   This singularity was the last remaining trace of a previous universe.   This previous universe had gone through a period of expansion after its creation from its own Big Bang.  After eons of time the energy released during that Big Bang dissipated and the universe that preceded ours began to implode back in upon itself.   Eventually all that remained was the singularity that eventually exploded in the Big Bang which released the energy which birthed our universe.   In time this energy will expend itself and our universe will implode.  It too will become a singularity that will, at some point, explode in another Big Bang.   A new universe will then come being.

While I may not have grasped the finer points of this concept I was struck by the similarity between it and a Hindu creation story that is recounted in the Upanishads, an ancient text compiled around 800-200 b.c.   Once again I may not have grasped the finer points of the story but as I understand it goes like this:-

When the god Brahma breathes out, all life comes into being.   When Brahma breathes in all life ceases to be.   When Brahma breathes out again life comes into being once more.  All existence is Brahma breathing in and out, in and out, in vast cycles of time and no time.

Are Brahma and the singularity one and the same?   Perhaps it is that our universe is part of a an endless cycle of birth, death and rebirth.





Living alone I’ve become used to the patterns of nights where the wind in the trees shushes and the ocean roars in the distance.   The possums are a nuisance when they crash land on the roof after jumping out of the trees.   I don’t like their growling but then  I’d dislike it no less if there was someone to complain to about it.



prompt:  https://dversepoets.com/2019/02/04/haibun-monday-solitude/

Time for a quest

new horizonEarlier this week I explained how so  much of the creative work I’ve been putting on this blog is really only reworkings of ideas I’ve expressed before.  I’m starting to bore myself – and quite possibly, my readers.

Combined with the facts that my internet connection drops in and out and that the battery in my laptop died yesterday blogging is becoming harder  for me.  Typing words letter by letter with a stylus on my tablet is tedious.   Most of my photos are locked up on my laptop as well so I have limited photographic material to play with.

Getting the laptop working again will have to wait till the new year.

So all in all, a blogging break is in order for me.   Again and again. I am coming across the idea that the way forward into our collective future is to find new stories.  I am at  the stage of life where I need to find new stories in my own life too.        Growing older and moving into the third stage of life I find this culture is not providing me with models of aging that sustain me.  The medical model of age as a disease is sickening- literally –  the cultural idea of denying and/or defying age doesn’t work for me either.   Of course bodies age and interests change – that is the way of life.  The idea of retiring to play golf and bingo bores me witless.   There has to be more fulfilling ways to age.  Jung’s process of individuation interests me – what is it and how do you do it?   I want to find out.

To find new personal stories that sustain me and to find new creative stories to tell I need to retreat  to the places where stories are born – the  imaginative, meditative realms  of dreams where  archetypal figures roam.     For me,  such quests are best taken alone.

Thank you for reading and following my blog.    I have enjoyed our conversations.   I will probably return to blogging at some future time but for now wish you a happy holiday season.