Tag Archives: philosophy

What do we know, anyway? Not a lot…

In my view, we all need to be humble in measuring what little we actually know against the vastness of what we contemplate. We need all the help we can get in our attempts to make sense of a vastness which a great and respected scientist has not long ago admitted may be beyond our comprehension. (He could be wrong, of course!) We need to co-operate with one another, as we all go about honing and sharpening the particular lenses through which we look out at mystery.

Reaching for the Moon...

Reaching for the Moon…

We need the perspectives of rationalist, reductionist science. But we also need the perspectives of those non-rational dimensions of the ceaseless human journey towards understanding where we came from, why we are here, and what, if anything, it all means. The great myths, the great religions, the arts – all these also give us a partial glimpse of  The Big Why.

So my Really Big Why is this:

WHY can we not learn to respect each other’s different lenses/disciplines, instead of – as so often happens – descending irrationally to the primitive level of the tribal carnivores from which we have slowly evolved over the last 100,000 years, and taking up fundamentalist, tribal positions – in which the futile attempt to declare only one lens right and all others wrong, is doomed forever to utter failure?

An example of a body of knowledge which seems to attract such fundamentalist irrationality is the great and ancient art and science of astrology.

It has combined those realms of logos (reason) and mythos (imagination, story-telling, creating of metaphors which help us to live with our deep flaws as humans, as well as celebrating our wonderful creativity) for at least six thousand years, since, in Arthur Koestler’s vivid words from The Sleepwalkers”:

“Six thousand years ago, when the human mind  was still half asleep, Chaldean priests were standing on their watchtowers, scanning the stars.”

So I found it most refreshing, as a life-long appreciator of the wonders of science, to have read Lord Rees’ admission that we may never be able to decode the universe. But let’s pool all our knowledge, shall we, on both sides of the current mythos/logos divide, to enable us to  concentrate on what unites us – rather than what divides us.

Reaching for the Moon....

Please note: comments on this post are welcome, but abuse and ranting have no place on this site and any such comments will be deleted.

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400 words copyright Anne Whitaker 2015
Licensed under Creative Commons – for conditions see Home Page

How to travel without going anywhere…if Kant could do it, why not you?

As Followers and readers of ‘Writing from the Twelfth House’ will know, I had to give up a busy career and most of ordinary life from the end of 2001 until launching this blog in 2008 – my first step in re-entering the public world. Severe burnout following a prolonged family crisis led to the loss of around 90% of my formerly exuberant energy;  it took a very long time indeed fully to recover and eventually return to part-time work in 2012.

Until at last declaring myself fit again – on top of a remote hill pass, way up in the beautiful wild land of Scotland’s far North-West in the summer of 2008 – I hardly travelled anywhere physically. Travel was, quite simply, beyond my capacity.

However, in physical limitation and confinement– usually spending several hours each day lying on a couch in our ‘Quiet Room”– I discovered a breadth and depth of mental, emotional, intellectual and spiritual freedom which had not been possible before in my busy and productive professional and personal life.

How I read! I was able to catch up with thirty years of reading , and in particular  freely to indulge a lifelong interest in my preoccupation with questions of “…mystery, meaning, pattern and purpose…” : cosmology, science (the open-minded kind, such as practised by eg Rupert Sheldrake), psychology, in-depth astrology, mythology, Nature, health and wellbeing, humour (that great survival device!) – in fact anything and everything which ultimately connects us up to the Big Picture.

And I wrote! Two books, both currently available – one free! –  as ebooks on this blog, and innumerable journals chronicling my inner and outer experiences of descent and return. S0 – I made this great discovery to an extent deeper than ever before:  one can travel the whole infinite multi-levelled world of  inner space without as much as setting foot on a train, boat or plane.

 Sophie Agrell is a published Scottish poet whose work I admire and have been happy to publish several times before on my blogs. When she showed me her latest poem, I loved it. Read it, and you will see exactly why… not that I would presume to compare myself to Emmanuel Kant, of course…

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Immanuel Kant 1724-1804

Immanuel Kant 1724-1804

From Konigsberg

Ships voyaged

For days, weeks

Across the Baltic

To Hansa,

Scandinavia,

Places beyond

The quiet philosopher’s knowing,

Cities forever unseen,

Where other men thought,

Considered his philosophy,

His closely woven theories,

Wrote letters with scratchy quills

To their immovable friend.

Yet in all his life

Kant never left Konigsberg,

Never travelled

More than ten miles

From port, university,

That now-vanished German city.

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You could set your clock

By Kant,

They said,

As he walked,

His route unchanging,

Through his city.

Freed from excitement,

Novelty,

The apprehension of change,

His mind roamed,

Far beyond

His body’s phenomenal world,

Exploring ethics,

Astronomy,

Metaphysics,

Reason and human experience,

To enlighten,

Challenge,

Change ideas,

Create theories

Larger than a man,

A city,

A world.

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Sophie Agrell

 

 

 

 

photo by Anne Whitaker

(sophie_agrell@hotmail.com)

Sophie grew up in Kent, UK,  in a family whose connections spread from Sri Lanka, Sweden and Scotland throughout the world. She read Ancient andModern History at Oxford, eventually settling in Scotland where she works as a proof reader. She lives with her two dogs in a North Lanarkshire village. Sophie describes herself as “…. an escaped medievalist who watches the world, delights in its beauty, and grows roses…..”

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600 words copyright Anne Whitaker/Sophie Agrell 2014
Licensed under Creative Commons – for conditions see Home Page

Where is this place called ‘elsewhere’?

‘The human comedy doesn’t attract me enough. I am not entirely of this world….I am from elsewhere. And it is worth finding this elsewhere beyond the walls. But where is it?’

The pull of elsewhere has dominated my life. As a child, lying tucked up cosy and warm in bed, listening to the wind beyond our walls tearing the world apart, I used to luxuriate in the contrast between in here and out there – and wonder where the Power came from to cause the winds to rage, and the sea to beat endlessly against the coastline of my native island.

The Big 'Why?'

The Big ‘Why?

It would take me a long time beyond childhood to understand and accept that my obsession with the big “Why?”, from the moment I opened my eyes to the world,  is not the norm for most of humanity. Sensibly, they just want a quiet uncomplicated life.

Apart from my maternal grandfather, a loving and very broad-minded Christian  ‘remember, child: whatever our race, colour or creed we are all God’s children’ – nobody knew what went on in my head and heart throughout my entire childhood.

There is no such thing as one biography of a life.

 Your perspective changes with the passage of time and the way life’s inevitable challenges are dealt with. You rewrite your own history in your head all the time, mostly without realising it. For example, I never understood the full extent of elsewhere’s pull until my mid-life descent into and return from the Underworld, a period which lasted seven years – undoubtedly the most difficult and the richest time of my whole life. I feel in better relation now to that mysterious elsewhere than ever before.

To me, elsewhere is the vast wave of which everything – universe, cosmos, galaxies, planets, Earth, all life forms – is a droplet. We arise from elsewhereand that is where we return. Call it the quantum vacuum, the Zero Point Field, God, Buddha, Krishna, the Ground of our being, the Source, the One: the name we give it does not matter.

 I have also learned that elsewhere is not somewhere else. It is here, present, now, everywhere – always.

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(headline quote is from Eugene Ionesco:quoted in Philip Yancey’s “Reaching for the Invisible God” p25)

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400 words copyright Anne Whitaker 2013
Licensed under Creative Commons – for conditions see Home Page

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Book review: ancient discipline, post-modern context

The essence of this important new book is summed up in its subtitle: ‘understanding the ancient discipline in the contemporary world’.

'Integral Astrology' by Armand Diaz, PhD

‘Integral Astrology’ by Armand Diaz, PhD

I found it a highly stimulating read which has come my way at an ideal time. Having just returned to the practice of astrology this year after a very long sabbatical, I have found “Integral Astrology” very helpful in ordering my own thinking about what my relationship now is with our ancient art in this turbulent, challenging time.

We stand not only at the start of a new Millennium, but at a liminal point. The dominant paradigm of rational materialism which has determined our world view since the Age of Reason in the 17th/18th Centuries with such success,  is creaking and groaning.

Post-modern perspectives on the age-old understanding of As above, so below are slowly making their way towards the forefront of contemporary consciousness and culture – bringing new insights from physics, humanistic and transpersonal psychologies, chaos theory etc. They all challenge the materialist view that physical reality ie matter, is the real reality….The strength of Armand Diaz’ book lies in the clear way he weaves together the insights which astrology can and does offer to both individual and collective life, with just those post-modern insights.

In this way, he argues, an Integral Astrology can emerge and take its place within integral theory, which he defines as “….a way of harmonising or synthesising apparently disparate streams of thought and experience: this runs counter to our tendency towards increased specialisation that has dominated the past few hundred years….”

Armand Diaz, with good reason, is worried that astrology, despite its own flowering and moving closer to mainstream culture since its revival from the 1960s onwards,  is going to be left out of this shift: running a parallel course with the New Paradigm disciplines, but at a considerable distance from them. His fear is that if we do not re-examine and re-frame our own discipline in the light of contemporary perspectives, not only will astrology be left on the outside of the larger New Paradigm world view, but astrologers will too.

Diaz’ core point, which he emphasises in different ways throughout, is that the level of consciousness at which an individual is operating critically determines the way in which astrological symbolism plays out.

Emerging from this core are two key themes: one relating to astrology, the other to consciousness models. He points out that the development of human consciousness over millennia has produced different perspectives on the interrelationship between earthly and planetary energies and how these are interpreted:

“….no astrology can exist without being embedded in our constructed meanings, and the best way to understand those meanings is to look at the developmental level, culture, and inner/outer perspective they represent….(p135)….just as humans evolve and just as consciousness in the Universe evolves so astrology also evolves….(p 137)

Had I been an astrologer in Chaldean times, for example, I would not have been able to ponder today’s transiting Mars square my natal Mercury (7.9.12). Astrology then was about the king and the kingdom; no individual horoscopes existed. A century ago, sibling conflict might have been predicted. In today’s post-modern consciousness, I am choosing to channel intellectual energy into hand-writing this book review….in between brisk “thinking” walks!

Diaz also briefly and clearly surveys the different astrologies there are which co-exist in our contemporary world – where it is perfectly possible to practice mediaeval astrology, post-modern psychological astrology, AND archetypal cosmology which sets our ancient art clearly in a New Paradigm context, and call them all “astrology.” As Diaz makes it clear, there is no one astrology.

But before this, he offers “….a sampling of ways to think about the evolution of consciousness….” (p 141) 

Put very briefly, the models he lays out, centering on Spiral Dynamics, provide a way of thinking about the evolution of human consciousness which links individual, group and collective processes.

His key point is that these models provide a ‘vertical framework’ for describing the upward movement of consciousness from Matter > Life > Mind > Soul > Spirit: the core process behind the Perennial Philosophy which underlies all the differing consciousness models eg Koshas, Chakras, Yoga, Kabbalah right through to post-modern Spiral Dynamics.

However, astrological symbols operate along the ‘horizontal’ plane, ie that of

“ universal conditions that can and do occur at any and all evolutionary levels….” (p14)

 He points out that astrology can indicate the timings and types  of stresses and challenges encountered by individuals. But it cannot say whether those challenges will lead to evolution of consciousness up the ‘vertical’ scale.

To assess this needs the dynamic of astrologer, horoscope and client, usually over several encounters rather than one. In his final chapter “ Consulting”, Diaz presents a model of astrological practice which, with examples from actual client work, lets one see how the weave of  contemporary perspectives from both the sciences and the humanities which he has laid out in this book, all come together in the consulting room. It is challenging, impressive –  and helpful in a down-to-earth way.

I would recommend this book to astrologers at all levels of learning their craft. It introduces newcomers to a model which places astrology in the context of New Paradigm perspectives, which they can take forward with confidence as part of the world-changing shift re-claiming that ancient insight ‘As above, so below’ for a level of collective consciousness appropriate for the vastly more complex Universe we now know we inhabit. And it gives a good shake-down to the practice of more seasoned astrologers such as myself – who may be in danger of becoming set in our ways…..

 “Integral Astrology” by Armand Diaz, Ph.D, published 2012 by Integral Transformation, LLC. pp 192.

Cost: $19.95 USA/ £12.87 UK

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1000 words copyright Anne Whitaker 2012

Licensed under Creative Commons – for conditions see Home Page

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Quantum physics, astrology and paranormal experience: why not?

The drive to understand why we are here and what our lives are for, allied to a profound curiosity about just about everything, has certainly powered my journey through life. I am basically a rational pragmatist in my approach. But I got to my fifties, a time when anyone with any reflective capacity begins to look back at their life experiences and patterns, in an attempt to make some sense of it all.

I had to face the fact that a series of experiences had accumulated over the course of thirty years which I had largely kept to myself. Why? Because they did not fit the parameters of what our culture defines as normal. But memories of these experiences did not go away because I had tried to ignore their existence. They simply lurked, permanently provoked by my refusal to attend to them.

Furthermore, a career I had never aspired to in my wildest dreams, ie that of being a professional astrologer, had been correctly predicted for me in my twenties following a chance encounter with a complete stranger when I was not at all receptive to, or welcoming of, that type of information.

My First Horoscope

Through my studies of astrology I discovered a universe replete with correspondences, and saturated with meaning. 

I embarked on those studies for one major reason: the notion that you could read the significant patterns of a person’s life from marks on a piece of paper set my innate curiosity, and my rational pragmatism, a challenge I simply could not resist.

By deciding properly to investigate a subject which I couldn’t believe could have any value, but which in practical terms had demonstrated great accuracy about me and my life, I opened up a great adventure for myself and for many students and clients who joined me on the road. Dismissing the whole thing, with the kind of closed minded fundamentalist prejudice which gives true science a bad name, would have closed the adventure down before it ever began.

The conclusion I came to, after eighteen years as a practising astrologer and teacher – before my 2001 health collapse stopped my career in its tracks for a very long time – was that astrology is another form of physics, revealing as quantum physics does the dance of universal energies of which we are all part. But astrology causes grave offence to conventional minds, by moving from mapping the movement of patterns of energy through space/time within our solar system – via mathematical calculations no astronomer could fault – to ascribing meaning to those patterns….

The intuitive experience of mystics through the ages and the experimental data of contemporary scientists converges in the understanding that all things are connected, each tiny particle part of and interacting with the One – or the Quantum Vacuum / Zero Point Field if you prefer the terms of quantum physics.

On surveying all my paranormal experiences, there are three which stand out as the most powerful.

These are the first, in July 1970 when I was  visiting my paternal grandparents’ grave for the first time. From this arose an experience of universal grief at the pain of the human condition, channelling through the personal. ( Grief – personal and collective) 1

Then there was the mystical experience I had in autumn 1971, newly in love and responding to the timeless sound of the pipes in a beautiful natural setting at dusk, making me feel a blissful, fearless part of all Creation. (Mystical Experience2

And most recently, in September 1999 the seeming attempt by my mother-in-law’s spirit to communicate something of great urgency for her to my husband, startled me even more by giving rise to the collective ‘babble’ of apparent spirit voices attempting to use me as their channel. (From the Beyond: Mediumship ) 3

At the time one is too caught up in the power, drama and sheer unexpectedness of such events to have any perspective at all. It is only on reflection – and I have reflected on those episodes intermittently for a very long time – that the full impact of  their very strange, alien and disturbing nature registers, and the ‘why me?’ question arises. The only answer I can come up with after thirty years is ‘why not me?’.

(Although my horoscope provides a very clear answer, symbolically)

I am left with the somewhat unsettling sensation that my small person, for reasons entirely beyond my ken, functioned briefly in those episodes as some kind of collective instrument. Despite the unnerving nature of two out of the three, and their disturbing effect, they also left me over time, especially through the mystical experience which was a great comfort and inspiration, feeling clearly that I was a tiny but unique part of something vast.

This feeling, despite all my struggles with a naturally sceptical bent, has never left me. I have thus been able to draw on it for comfort in some very bleak and painful times in my life. It has also helped me to come to terms with one of the central paradoxes of all our lives : “I  am special, and I am not.” At every level in nature, the minute can provide us with glimpses of the vast – in which everything, no matter how small, has its unique part to play.

Those experiences, which I have come to regard as precious, have shown me that, as journalist Lynne McTaggart, author of ‘The Field’ (2003), puts it:

“We are not isolated beings living desperate lives on a lonely planet in an indifferent universe. What we do and say is critical in creating our world. You are and always were part of a larger whole.” 

Footnotes

1,2,3,  These three are the only ones so far which I have submitted for publication: all have been published in the UK and the USA.

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1000 words copyright Anne Whitaker 2012
Licensed under Creative Commons – for conditions see Home Page

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Where is ‘elsewhere’?

‘The human comedy doesn’t attract me enough. I am not entirely of this world….I am from elsewhere. And it is worth finding this elsewhere beyond the walls. But where is it?’

The pull of elsewhere has dominated my life. As a child, lying tucked up cosy and warm in bed, listening to the wind beyond our walls tearing the world apart, I used to luxuriate in the contrast between in here and out there – and wonder where the Power came from to cause the winds to rage, and the sea to beat endlessly against the coastline of my native island.

The Big 'Why?'

The Big ‘Why?

It would take me a long time beyond childhood to understand and accept that my obsession with the big “Why?”, from the moment I opened my eyes to the world,  is not the norm for most of humanity. Sensibly, they just want a quiet uncomplicated life.

Apart from my maternal grandfather, a loving and very broad-minded Christian  ‘remember, child: whatever our race, colour or creed we are all God’s children’ – nobody knew what went on in my head and heart throughout my entire childhood.

There is no such thing as one biography of a life.

 Your perspective changes with the passage of time and the way life’s inevitable challenges are dealt with. You rewrite your own history in your head all the time, mostly without realising it. For example, I never understood the full extent of elsewhere’s pull until my mid-life descent into and return from the Underworld, a period which lasted seven years – undoubtedly the most difficult and the richest time of my whole life. I feel in better relation now to that mysterious elsewhere than I have ever been !

To me, elsewhere is the vast wave of which everything – universe, cosmos, galaxies, planets, Earth, all life forms – is a droplet. We arise from elsewhereand that is where we return. Call it the quantum vacuum, the Zero Point Field, God, Buddha, Krishna, the Ground of our being, the Source, the One: the name we give it does not matter.

 I have also learned that elsewhere is not somewhere else. It is here, present, now, everywhere – always.

*******

(headline quote is from Eugene Ionesco:quoted in Philip Yancey’s “Reaching for the Invisible God” p25)

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400 words copyright Anne Whitaker 2012
Licensed under Creative Commons – for conditions see Home Page

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Invincible summer – in the chill of winter….

All my life I have loved and been inspired by quotes.

Here are two which I pinned up in our kitchen,  absorbing their energy and wisdom during that long period of recovery 2001-8, at a very dark time when my own energy was perilously low.

At this bleak time of year approaching the solstice, when we in Scotland are waiting, and wondering if another severe winter awaits us, I thought some of you might find them inspiring!

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Winter creativity - spot the Tai Chi person!!Winter creativity – spot the Tai Chi person!!
photo: Anne Whitaker
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“It is far more creative to work with the idea of mindfulness rather than with the idea of will.Too often people try to change their lives by using the will as a kind of hammer to beat their lives into shape. If you work with a different rhythm, you will come easily and naturally home to yourself. Your soul knows the geography of your destiny. Your soul alone has the map of your future, therefore you can trust this indirect, oblique side of yourself. If you do, it will take you where you need to go.”

John O’Donohue, pp 83-4 “Anam Cara” Bantam Books 1999

(John O’Donohue 1956-2008 was an Irish poet turned priest, whose writing merged Celtic spirit and love of the natural world )

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“In the midst of winter
I finally learned
That there was in me
An invincible summer”       – how inspiring is this! I love it……

This is a popular quote whose original source I have as yet not traced, but have come across a slight variation ie ‘within me there lay an invincible summer’ – different sites have different versions. Come on, detectives out there! Where in Camus’ writings does this quote appear? Let me know!

Albert Camus

( Albert Camus 1913-1960 was a French philosopher best known for his book L’Etranger (The Outsider) whose existentialist philosophy influenced a whole post-war generation)

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300 words copyright Anne Whitaker/John O’Donohue/Albert Camus/ 2011
Licensed under Creative Commons – for conditions see Home Page