Story 7 Omimi in Saarland

1930’s Movie Theater

Story 7 Omimi in Saarland

Speaking of kidney chi depletion which Tetsu was unable to treat himself for despite being able to cure congenital deafness and lameness in others reminds me of something I witnessed years ago in Saarland, a special province in Germany on the border with France halfway between Paris and Frankfurt.

Kidney chi has to do with water and is the battery of the life force determining how long we live. It is balanced with the heart chi which has to do with fire and radiance and determines our general level of intelligence, connection with others and warmth. It is said that kidney chi governs short-term memory and heart chi holds long-term memory. You may notice very old people sometimes not knowing why they are walking across the room. This is a sign of kidney chi weakening. This is also why sometimes older people experience a certain amount of dementia: as the kidney chi loses hold keeping the energy going down as water does, the heart chi lifts up a little too much and since this is where long term memory is managed sometimes you see older people having more connection with things which happened decades ago than things which happened five minutes ago. In the Chinese medical lingo this is explained as a ‘deficiency of kidney chi causing an excess in heart chi’ making short term memory weak and longer term memory more vivid.

So now follow three little stories, one of which I witnessed myself in Saarland, illustrating how these rather strange notions actually play out in real life. First, the story from Saarland:

In German, a grandmother is Oma and a great-grandmother is Omimi, so the Omimi in this story was my ex-wife’s grandmother. She was born and lived in the small but vibrant province of Saarland all her life. They have Celtic blood and the Romans had to go around them to get into deeper Germany further north. They have a very strong sense of community and their accent is a combination of normal German and an old river language similar to those found in Belgium such as Flemish. An ancient people. Sometimes reminiscent of hobbits, truth be told.

At the time of this story, Omimi was about 93 and a year later she would die. My ex-wife and I walked into her small house on the same property as the main family house and she was standing in the living room looking a little absent-minded. She responded to our greetings in a vague way and then started moving her hands repetitively but to no apparent purpose. At first my ex-wife was alarmed but I suggested she look closely at what Omimi was doing with her hands to see if she could make sense of it, since clearly Omimi’s mind was not in the room with us. After watching carefully for a minute or two – which is a long time – suddenly it became clear: ‘Ah! I see! She is handing out movie tickets to the people coming into the movie theatre! She used to do that when she was a young woman before the war.’

So our living presence in the room with her held less weight in Omimi’s mind than memories of past activities six decades earlier. This is a good example of deficient kidney chi with correspondingly excessive heart chi. Years later I was studying daoist medicine and when I read about all that I immediately remembered that day with Omimi and was surprised at how straightforward and clear an example it was of the material I was reading in a text whose theories were first being systematized into medical protocols centuries before the Christian era. Neat.

The following two stories I picked up somehow over the years and are also fun examples of how kidney and heart chi work.

The first is extraordinary and I’ve no idea if it is true or not, but it was presented as true. During the Napoleonic wars the French army were about to execute some captured Italian soldiers for some reason, a group of one officer with his squadron of men lined up against a wall about to be shot by firing squad. The Italian officer responded to the traditional ‘any last words’ query by offering a deal: ‘please kill me by slicing off my head with a sword; then any one of my men I can touch after you have removed my head you will not execute.’ The deal was accepted and the officer’s head was quickly sliced off with a single blow. The headless officer then walked calmly along the line touching each of his men with his hand before finally falling to the ground after completing the task.

This story exemplifies the power of kidney chi, which is the source of strong will – including fearlessness in battle – and short term memory. Even bereft of eyes, the officer’s kidney chi and enteric brain served to help him fulfill his final commitment to saving his men’s lives so he was able to walk headless and touch various of his men before finally collapsing. Extraordinary and again: presented as a true story.

The second example is from one of the first heart transplant patients somewhere in the US. Before writing this story out I wanted to see if I could find it on the internet, but couldn’t. However there are many similar ones, apparently, and the following article features a few of them. Here is its introduction:

“There are many irrefutable accounts of heart transplant recipients acquiring the memories and traits of their donors. Reports suggest that heart transplant recipients have hesitated to share their cases as their stories do not fit the mainstream worldview of human potential and nature. The same applies to their friends and families and more so with surgeons and health providers. In all the cases below, recipients did not have prior information of their donors as such information is kept confidential.”

The story I remember from over thirty years ago goes as follows: after receiving a heart transplant a man had a repeating vision of a violent murder by stabbing. By law recipients are not allowed to know anything about their donors but some of the medical staff knew the background story which indeed involved the donor being murdered by stabbing and since the recipient was seeing the facial features of the murderer they brought in a police sketch artist who reconstructed a face based on the recipient’s description later used by detectives to apprehend the donor’s murderer.

This is a straightforward example of heart chi storing long-term memory. Elementary, Dear Watson!

Now all these things echo one of the recurring themes in this blog having something to do with invisible powers. The reason I find such matters of interest is not because am into la-la land fantasies necessarily, rather it’s push-back against the overly materialist emphasis we have collectively generated in the past century or so, partly due to the advent of the Machine Age and partly due to the decline of conventional faith-based spiritual traditions, no doubt the excess emphasis on physical materialism of the former contributing to a deficiency of emphasis on the spiritual side of things which are not so materialistic.

PS. After writing the above I read through the entire linked article (also above) and found the following gem. Admittedly this goes into territory beyond simple heart and kidney chi memory since it involves a poem foretelling a future event with astonishing accuracy, but it still fits in with this post quite nicely, so:

Donor had visions of her recipient before his death

The donor was an 18-year-old boy killed in a car accident. The recipient was an 18-year-old girl diagnosed with endocarditis and subsequent heart failure.

The donor liked to write poetry. A year after his death, the parents decide to clean-up the room and find a collection of poems. Among them there was a poem that spoke of him seeing his own sudden death. The parent went on to discover lyrics of a song the deceased son had written titled “Danny, My Heart Is Yours”. The song described  how he felt about being destined to die and give his heart to someone. Furthermore, he had decided to donate his organs at age 12.

After the transplant, the recipient felt more energy. It was verified that her name was “Danny”.  She was drawn towards playing music (picking the guitar; the instrument played by the donor boy) and singing. When she wrote her first song, she sang about her new heart as her lover’s heart. She believed that the donor was her lover from a previous life that had come to save her life.”

Dylan: Knowing the Unknown

Bob Dylan: Archetypical Troubadour Hillbilly Rabbi Minstrel Mischief Maker National Treasure

Article 42 Dylan: Knowing the Unknown

This article is inspired by listening to Bob Dylan singing with friends including Donovan in London. What immediately follows is a lightly edited email to an old friend who runs a news aggregator website: on which was a link to the song ‘It’s all over now Baby Blue:’

The email to my friend:

Interesting how different Bob D was to Donovan. Made him look so clean-cut and lower level.

I just watched a Netflix video (or part of it!) about how Dylan turned Brian Jones onto LSD. He also turned the Beatles onto marijuana apparently, so Bob is actually one of the patriarch’s of of that era’s psychedelic culture. At the time for some reason I thought him as not part of that whole thing, a sort of American folk singer type or something. Totally wrong!

In any case, what I find interesting about him over the years and still today – among many facets – is that he has both lasted and continued to change and develop and yet always remains unmistakably Dylan. His album Modern Times from about ten years ago is truly fantastic, albeit it is no longer psychedelic style rather some sort of blend of art, blues-rock, old man’s hard won wisdom and poetic mastery. If you ever heard his radio show “Theme Time Radio Hour” he provided a survey of American music – folk, blues, jazz etc. – going back to the turn of the twentieth century that is truly masterful in scope and commentary. He is without doubt a national treasure of 20th century America and thus far more than merely a brilliant Jewish boy masquerading as a rural hillbilly type flying high on 1960’s drugs and CIA_sponsored over-promotion.

Indeed, Joni Mitchell says that Dylan is a total phony. With all due respect to her, I think she mistakes the fact that his songs and performances are not a sincere expression of the inner Dylan, in other words not of whomever he thinks of as ‘me’ when he is thinking of me – and sometimes one wonders if he indeed he ever thinks that way, so disassociated with any ‘me’ is that poetic voice. Put another way: neither his public persona when performing nor the voices articulated through the songs are a ‘me’ expression, rather the songs have their own voices and he is merely their composer and singer.

Which is perhaps why more than any other performer he is the voice of that generation and its culture, even for the English who had the Beatles, the Rolling Stones and many other gifted contemporary pop and rock stars.

This is because the place where those Dylan voices come from – as well illustrated in that clip you sent – is inscrutably unknowable. You can’t even say what the song means – at least I can’t. But every line is visually and emotionally arresting.

From: “It’s all over now, Baby Blue” by Bob Dylan:

Leave your stepping stones behind, something calls for you

Forget the dead you’ve left, they will not follow you

The vagabond who’s rapping at your door

Is standing in the clothes that you once wore

Strike another match, go start anew

And it’s all over now, Baby Blue

Anyway, a real artist.

(End of email)

Every generation has some but not much more than a handful. There may be many highly entertaining celebrities like the great stars of the forties and fifties when the English-speaking world was still so culturally homogeneous but few of them lead people into new ways of thinking and feeling. Dylan is one such.

There is a price for such artistry and influence: not only must it be hard to craft one’s own truly personal journey in the midst of such fame – though Dylan seems to have bitten that bullet in his forties and figured it out somehow – but also those of a previous generation who did not get exposed will find themselves a tad separated from those who did get the transmission. Especially since even those who did get such transmission have little or no idea what it is or was!

Here is another example of his lyrics, from his song Visions of Johanna:

Inside the museums, Infinity goes up on trial

Voices echo this is what salvation must be like after a while.”

It all fits together perfectly. It seems to make sense. But what is it saying, what does it mean?

Personally, I have no idea but it does express some sort of perspective which both contains and transcends classical western cultural reference points. Consider the words such as museum, infinity, trial, salvation; these are all sober, civic, academic, religious and ordinary words. There is nothing especially hallucinogenic or revolutionary about them, no hint of anarchy or social change.

Yes, there are logical connections you can piece together if you are taking time like now to read through the lyrics rather than simply hearing them being sung. Museums store objects from the past which put timelessness on trial somehow; and voices in this situation echo, presumably from the past, what something must be like after a while, i.e. over time. And that something is salvation. So actually it all fits together quite well; it’s not gibberish at all. Although what it means exactly will forever remain inscrutable.

That said, they somehow express that there is a different view of things, something beyond, something which the listener shares, a message the listener is receiving, a transmission – and maybe also something reminiscent of Secretary Rumsfeld’s ‘known unknowns!’

It seems this blog is exploring these ‘known unknowns.’ Sometimes it is highlighting various invisible forces or influences we all encounter in life and yet often don’t stop to examine. But this principle manifests in many ways so hopefully it will be enjoyable to explore them, sometimes in the form of intellectual analysis, sometimes as stories or little cultural speculations such as this piece.

There will be two more parts to the Saint of Chapala story, but for some reason I want to punctuate that story with some other offerings, perhaps to enhance the rippling mosaic effect am seemingly creating in this blog.

Grandfather’s Perpetual Learning Dream

Story 5: Grandfather’s Learning Dream

Grandfather was born around the end of the last century. One of seven boys, their family was the first in the area to have a car. By the time he died, cars with their roads were everywhere. On our last day together he drove us out of the front gate in his yellow, retro 1930s-looking Cadillac Seville, turned right and then slowly brought the Caddy to a halt at the side of the road.

Cadillac Seville

Turning to me with a wry grin, he said: “I’ve no idea where we are going! And even if I get where I am supposed to go, I often can’t remember the way home!” I reminded him where we were going and he proceeded forward again, presumably trusting that he would be able to find the way home at some point which indeed he did. He was about 91 at the time and his wife of over fifty years had passed a year earlier; two years later he would follow her into the great mystery awaiting us all.

Harvard’s Widener Library steps

Years earlier he told me that throughout his life he had had a recurring dream:

“I enter a large, stone institutional building fronted with broad staircase and huge columns which takes quite a while to climb up and then I walk down a long, wide corridor until I find myself in a large examination room with hundreds of students seated at their wooden desks already with heads down and writing their responses. I sit down at my assigned desk, look down at the page and then realize with dismay that I have absolutely no idea what the exam is about!”

Annenburg Hall

I am not into dream interpretation Per Se but some dreams leave impressions. My takeaway from this one is that even though we don’t really know where we come from or where we are going the journey we call ‘life’ has something to do with learning and involves some sort of test in which one can do well or poorly. Also, there are many things about life and the nature of this collective dream world we create and seemingly dwell in for a while which are beyond our ken.

For fun, this linked page shows the examination for Harvard from 1869, a couple of generations before Grandfather’s time:


Here is another grandfather story, the Cherokee parable of the wolf:

A grandfather is talking with his grandson and he says there are two wolves inside of us which are always at war with each other.

One of them is a good wolf which represents things like kindness, bravery and love. The other is a bad wolf, which represents things like greed, hatred and fear.

The grandson stops and thinks about it for a second then he looks up at his grandfather and says, “Grandfather, which one wins?”

The grandfather quietly replies, “the one you feed.”

Story 3: Tree of Life Dream

Full moon in troubled times…

3 Tree of Life Dream

Some dreams are remembered only as ending fragments (most in my case), but some are fairly involved stories which can be recalled years later. This one took place around 2015; I was then living in Nova Scotia, Canada which is where this one took place. The dream:

Times were changing. There was some sort of war in the background which the Dreamer could feel coming in, like an army of storm clouds on a distant horizon, brooding, looming. The Dreamer decided to go on a meditation retreat in a small house surrounded by pine trees and spent a few weeks there but then one night knew it was time to leave so began walking to the nearest town in the dead of night because times were now dangerous.

As he approached the town he gazed up at a bright full moon visually counterpointed by occasional wisps of silvery cloud scudding rapidly across the dark night sky. On the other side of fields just in front was a small medieval style town encircled by a thick stone wall about twelve feet high with a main entry door of ancient wood planks and cast iron.

The Dreamer glanced to the field to his left. Serpentine long grasses languidly waved in the dappled moonlight and a hundred yards away he saw a large circle of twelve men in 1930’s style working class garb listening with rapt attention to a speaker also in the circle. He was exhorting them to do something – perhaps storm the town? At some point he started gazing and gesturing in the direction of the Dreamer who stood very still, glad that he had not yet stepped into the field where he would be starkly visible but was still at the edge, blending in with dark tree shadows. The group might regard him as an enemy and hunt him down and now he wondered if they were on patrol to prevent outsiders from getting in. Things felt dangerous but he continued to watch, waiting until it was safe to brave crossing the moonlit field to enter the town where he had an important message to deliver.

The speaker started gesticulating wildly building to a crescendo and then with ghastly inevitability he pulled out a gun and all the other men around him did the same. Then he slowly pointed the gun to his temple and all the other men around him did the same. Then his voice rose to a climax and all twelve men pulled the triggers and dropped down dead whilst he remained standing, still gazing towards the Dreamer as if this horrible drama had been a message especially directed at him.

The Dreamer started walking across the field knowing that if he no longer looked at the fanatic leader that nothing would happen to him. He was at the wall looking to find the main gate when he noticed a small window in a curved turret-like wall with warm, buttery light creaming forth. Peering inside, he saw a cozy living room with a middle-aged lady sitting in her armchair in front of a cheerfully crackling fire – a classic Christmas scene feeling. Although the lady did not resemble anyone he knew in real life, in the dream they were dear old friends. She looked up smiling and was about to invite him in and tell him how to handle the Gate protocols when he noticed a small two foot high Christmas tree on the side table next to her. His gaze was drawn into a living network of pulsing white, red and blue lights coming up from the roots of the tree and then spiralling to the top and back down again. A bead of light would pulse into life and then move along its spiralling pathway and a few seconds later another one would pulse into being and follow the first so there were dozens of these beads of living colourful light pulsing up and down the tree. It felt extremely good to gaze into this magical, beautiful little tree in this magical, beautiful little living room.

From the Land of the Dead to the Land of the Living

Lost Learning


Someone told me this story about an old friend who made a Youtube recently about his experience with a near death experience (NDE) and its after-effects. We were driving at the time and then had a sudden flat tire adventure so my memory of the story is a little hazy. It seemed to fit in nicely with the previous Articles coming up at the time on the blog about ‘the gods’ and immortality and suchlike.

What I am after here (seemingly) is pointing out various aspects of everyday experience that are universal, potent and yet often overlooked. There is an emphasis on material perspective these days which is not unusual with human beings throughout all our history but of late it seems to be increasingly hostile to entertaining any alternative types of view – unless it is to make large fantasy films whose prime purpose is to garner material profits. Anyway, here goes:

Story 2 From the Land of the Dead to the Land of the Living

F is a well-known telenovela actor in Latin America. Years ago my friend knew him when he was involved in a small group of bruhos and students in the well-known city of Z in Central Mexico. They worked with dreams, power animals, transforming the sense of body, time, perception and so forth. Many of the group were mediums who can hear and talk to various different types of spirits, from the recently deceased to other types of beings living in non-physical planes. (I personally have no experience of such things nor any opinion about whether or not they are ‘true’ or ‘false’ – not an issue that effects me one way or another.)

For whatever reason, F drifted away from the bruho group, something which was not easy to do since they had many rules and warnings against it – curses, hells, that sort of thing. He had a seriously gorgeous wife – also a celebrity – who had introduced him to the group and who left him when he left them. He is still best friends with his ex-wife’s mother, herself a stunningly beautiful woman.

At some point a few years ago F became extremely ill with some sort of blood disease and one day in the ICU drifted out of consciousness with the machines indicating that he had ‘flatlined’ i.e. no more pulse – one level of physical death. Whilst in this state he had several visions or dreams, the main one of which involved meeting all sorts of people including real and imagined friends and enemies from his entire life. He gathered during these encounters, many of which involved conversations back and forth, that the entire purpose of life is to learn, that life is a journey between one place and the next. Our current life is not the entire story; there are things going on before we are born and there will be things going on after we die. The main value in the condition of life we find ourselves in now, in other words as living human beings, is to learn. And of course the best sort of learning is not data or information but how to be a good, kind, brave, noble person. That’s it. Every day, all of us encounter challenges, often in the form of obstacles but not necessarily so, presenting us with an opportunity to either grow or shrink in virtue.

After these visionary encounters, F returned into the body, the machines started beeping again, his entourage rejoiced and he continued with his life. Except now, along with still having nothing to do with the bruho group, he has made it his mission to counsel the terminally ill and dying and works with a small group of volunteers he helped create in so doing. In this way he feels he is making the best of the precious time he has, like all of us, between birth and death.

I suppose one could regard what happens before we are born and after we die as great mysteries. But maybe what we do in the great in-between bardo of the living is a far greater mystery. Most of us turn our lives into some sort of narrow prison whose bars are made of habitual conditioning, fears and sheer bloody-mindedness in pursuit of comfort, wealth or simply avoidance of conflict, heartbreak or any other challenge. Of course in fact every day has the potential to lead to no end of different outcomes; indeed every day is entirely open, unknown and unknowable in which no end of learning and development of virtue can unfold.

So that is the story of Celebrity F in Mexico.

Horse in Hidden Paradise

“The hidden oasis of the Qatari desert” by Glenn Jacobs

Story 1 Horse in Hidden Paradise

Comedian has friend whose grandmother lives in a hidden community in Mexico. He went there and had a great time, many parties, and to his surprise found that many Europeans lived there. (They are known for choosing beautiful places in Mexico, unlike North American ‘gringos.’)

Anyway, one day whilst walking he noticed a man riding a splendid white horse. He thought that if he bought the horse then later he would buy land there in this hidden paradise so he asked the man if he could buy the horse and the man replied ‘Si Senor!’ and so the deal was done and he handed over the cash and that was that. But then on holding the reins he thought to himself ‘Wait! What do I do with this horse now it’s mine?!’ So he asked the man if he would look after his horse in return for which he would be paid monthly to which the man immediately agreed, saying ‘Si, Senor!’

Some years went by. He never purchased any land there and indeed he stopped making the payments for the horse’s upkeep. His friend’s grandmother mentioned this to his friend who then started making the payments. But after a while he got tired of that and complained to the comedian and they closed the circle finally by returning the horse to the original owner who had been riding and looking after him all along.

And he never did buy property in that place where many Europeans live and who have all sworn to keep secret the name and location of that hidden paradise somewhere in Mexico.

Yi Jing Query: How to be a creative, productive, successful writer

HEXAGRAMS (View pdf for the visual images of the hexagrams)

Derived 31 Primary 49 Nuclears 44

(49,1 – 31 – 44)


*Below, Inner: : Fire Clarity, warmth, connection, passion

Below Derived : Mountain Meditation, stillness, dignity, fruition

Above, Outer: : Lake Joy, soft, reflections, beauty, imagination

Below Nuclear: : Wind Patience, steps, penetration, humble base

Above Nuclear: : Heaven Creativity, power, Heaven, leadership

* Unbalanced, changing

YI TEXT (Jing Nuan Wu):

#49: Changing Skin: Ge repeats the charge given the reader by the entire Yijing. Change! In one’s shaman personae, the individual changes his being by assuming the attributes of another, ie by donning the skin of an animal. The ideogram ge is a picture of a raw animal skin stretched out. Ge is the costume of change, for it is necessary to wear a different guise to penetrate other levels of reality. The skin of a tiger will help you act like a tiger. This hexagram emphasizes that costumes are tools of oracular intervention. Appearance can open the door to change.

The gua ci, “Ge: One’s own day, thus confidence. The origin, a sacrificial offering, profit the divination. Regrets vanish.” *

#31: Influence or Move: Voluntary or involuntary movements of the body may be viewed as portents, and may explain the commentary on the yao ci. In Chinese medical theory, the body has a network of energy channels in addition to the vascular and neural systems. An interruption or change in the qi energy flow would manifest itself in body movements, and form a body language understood by shaman, doctor, and individual.

The heart radical is the key to this hexagram. It points to emotion and passion and their influence on the body. The instruction is to know thyself — through portents in mind, heart, and body — before taking action.

The gua ci, “Xian: A sacrificial offering, profit in the divination. To take a wife, good fortune.”

Changing Lines:

9-1 The first line: “Bound, using the yellow bull’s skin.” The shaman draped in the skin of a totem animal—in this instance a yellow bull — signals and induces change. The yellow bull portrays great animal power. The ideogram gong, “bound,” intimates the idea of strengthening. The recipient is strengthened by a new, formidable dress.

9-1: Thunder: “Warns against taking steps too early. Dare to wait, but do not lose sight of the objective. Thunder wants rapid progress regardless of the consequences. Sometimes quick and firm action is good, but it would be foolhardy at this stage.” [Harmen]

* I like the Wilhelm-Baynes translation here: “REVOLUTION. On your own day you are believed. Supreme success, furthering through perseverance. Remorse disappears.”



Pleasing, colourful images within a beautiful lake


Change identity by accessing ancestral stillness; rouse inner fire blazing forth as images moving readers with delight. Patient penetration into essential detail summons primordial creative power with far-reaching influence.


The yellow bull buffalo

The Native Shaman

Primordial Power

not my own and not not my own

but all and everyone’s

revealed to all

without guilt, shame, fear or self centredness.

Let lovely lake reflections

Mirror the luminous compassionate fire within.


Note: In more ordinary language: it’s time for a change. This series of Articles is now over. Now will follow a series of short stories, vignettes, imaginings, subject matter no longer tethered to so-called ‘reality’ – something which in any case is no more than a group fiction.

Why ‘the gods’ are immortal

Shinto garden where ‘the gods’ have long been summoned and now love to dwell

Article 39 Why the gods are immortal

In another article, I might explain how ‘the gods’ might relate or not to the one God in the three main ‘religions of the book’ but to keep things simple for now let’s assume we are talking about something entirely different. In this series, ‘the gods’ refer to an experience of sacredness which always involves some combination of awareness and situation or more simply mind and body.

Before delving into immortality first let us consider what is mortal, what dies. Obviously, all creatures die. As the Buddha said himself just before passing away: ‘everything that comes together falls apart.’ This implies not only living organisms but also everything in what we think of as the ‘real’ world of concrete forms such as people, chairs, trees and mountains all of which dwell for a while and then at some point are no more. Mountains may have different lifespans from ourselves but the impermanence principle applies to them as well for even our planet is at some point supposed to burn itself up into the nothingness from whence it came along with our small local star the Sun and so on.

Simply put: all physical forms including our bodies die, meaning at some point they simply cease to be.

Can we say then that the body dies but the mind somehow lives on? Perhaps. But first let us consider how it is not just physical forms that ‘die’ but also situations. This is getting closer to the truth of ongoing and thus perpetual change. Seemingly it is a law of existence that everything from the microscopic to the macrocosmic is in constant flux. On our human scale this means that every experience we have as such is fleeting. Every moment we experience is unique and never to be repeated including whatever location we are in, the objects involved, the people involved, the feelings involved and of course what happens moment by moment until there is a new situation. You can argue that each moment is a new situation but again, let’s keep things simple and human scale:

You walk into a party, say, and chat with a few people for a while; some of them you enjoy being with, some of them you can’t stand, some feelings are pleasant whilst others are excruciating as you put our foot in your mouth for the umpteenth time and then at some point you leave and that situation is over. Actually, this is another good context in which to use the term ‘mandala:’ first we are in the party mandala for a while then we go into the taxi mandala on the way home (because we are responsible drivers!) then we enter the neighbourhood mandala then the home mandala and finally finish off horizontally happy in the bedroom mandala. And so it goes. (Quentin Tarantino loves presenting various sequential mandalas like this, savoring each one’s atmospheres and particulars for a while – often featuring hilariously ordinary-but-also-surreal conversations between the lead characters – before segueing onto the next.)

So not only is the physical body mortal but also all the situational mandalas we experience in life and thus also in the realm of mind. This is no doubt why after Tibetan Buddhist monks have spent several days creating their elaborate two-dimensional sand mandalas for ritual empowerments during which various sacred perception deities are introduced to the assembly then they wipe them away in a matter of moments once the ceremony is completed, for so it is in real life.

So if everything that arises or ‘comes together’ at some point ‘falls apart’ and if the notion of ‘me’ is a fictive mental construct what if anything can be said to endure after death? If all forms are transient can we say that anything endures at all? What might possibly be immortal?

Most of us think of immortality as involving some sort of eternal Me-ness, a transcendental type of ego living in perpetuity. But ego is yet another thing that comes together for a while and then falls apart; plus it’s not actually all it’s cracked up to be in our imagination since there isn’t actually any ‘me’ or ‘there’ there when we dig into its deconstructed bowels. It seems like there is someone continually there even though actually there isn’t. That being so, how could any sort of ego-like construct be immortal? Indeed, imagining such continuity is essentially the ‘false god’ of the previous Article.

Is it possible, though, that unlike a fictive self ‘the gods’ are immortal, and if so how? To answer, let us turn it around: the only things that might possibly be immortal must be those that are never born into the world of form in the first place. Simply put: only that which is never born can never die. The experience of sacred presence depends upon all sorts of causes and conditions including having a body and a place to have such experiences making any such ‘the gods’ experience clearly not immortal – they are just more situations we experience for a little while and thus something which comes and goes like everything else. However, along with such experience is something which is never born and thus never dies, something which is the essence of the experience and that something we can call its ‘qualities.’

Although the situation in which they arise is decidedly transitory, or mortal, the particular qualities of any given experience are never born and never die. ‘The gods’ is a term describing the qualities of sacred perception which again always comes along with particulars; viewing a particular mask, hearing a particular speech, standing on a particular spot, witnessing a particular birth, wedding ceremony – or execution for that matter. *

Such highlighted particulars merge with general awareness-presence together creating particular qualities, like different colours such as blue, red, green or yellow, all of which are equally colours and yet each of which has unique, particular qualities. Blue has a different quality from red green or yellow and each blue in every particular situation has particular qualities different from all other blues in all other situations. So we have objects, bodies, situations and all sorts of stuff happening on the mortal plane, let us say, but along with them ‘the gods’ are always present, the various transcendent, formless qualities engendered in such situational mandalas.

These qualities can be said to dwell in the realm of speech, that magical plane which is neither form-bound or formless whose qualities ‘echo in eternity’ as General Maximus proclaimed in The Gladiator for those qualities, being without form or being, are never born and thus never die.

All of which is an esoteric, meditator’s way of explaining in ordinary terms why ‘the gods’ are immortal.

Next, we’ll look at different types of qualities especially their more energetic characteristics as in those which are more impactful.

  • * What distinguishes a sacred versus a profane experience is the degree to which the experiencer is connected to the heart via clear and open awareness versus being speedy, preoccupied, self-centered and thus confused – but that dichotomy we can leave for another time. The birth, wedding ceremony or execution examples were offered because they all involve a sense of heightened awareness and thus presence.

False Gods

Three-faced One

Article 38 False Gods

As mentioned in the previous Article, along with the sacred speech of ‘the gods’ there is also profane speech of false gods. I suspect most reading this will know already what that might be…. overly long and boring pause…….

Yes, ego. Ego in the Buddhist sense which is how we funnel all experience into and through the lens of the self, so that experience is a constant process of me, myself and I going through life moment by moment, with everything that arises being tested and gauged via that filter. This is such a pervasively prevalent tendency that most of us are entirely incapable of imagining any type of experience other than that which happens to ‘me’ or to other people each of whom are ‘me’s’ to themselves. This is why so many people believe that animals have no soul because they don’t have the same sense of self-awareness or ‘me.’ (Though this may become uncomfortably questionable when dealing with dogs, if we take them out of consideration then most would agree that all other creatures, lacking a ‘me,’ also lack any sort of soul or individual character.)

What’s problematic about the ego in this context is that it mistakes thought forms for reality. Just as our ‘person’ is a social construct, a face put on like the mask an actor puts on through he sounds out his character’s speech – be it god, demon or human – so also our ego is a construct, something we have imagined into being as a way to explain our many and varied experiences through mind and senses, making some sort of narrative sense out of it all even though that narrative is, in many ways, a fiction.

Time is a fiction. Hours could be one hour or one day long. Moments have no duration. As it says in my text:

“A present moment sandwiched between infinitely sub-divisible past and future moments

We cannot find one or measure one: there is no such thing.

Any object or place exists only in relation to other objects and places

All spinning and swirling in space: there is no ‘where’ there.”

The idea there is that if time is how we measure one moment to the next, you can also divide that duration in half and so on ad infinitum. The same can be done with distance in space, not to mention that any location can only be defined in relation to other locations, all of which are in constant motion so there is no actual place anywhere. (Think about it!)

Similarly, our sense of solid, continuous self is a fiction. You cannot locate the self except that it might be somewhere in the body; but the body has no fixed location or shape. Everything is in continous flux and therefore there is no solid permanent anything, including ‘me’ even though there is some sort of continuity. A river is there even though the waters in it vary from moment to moment; so it is with all and so it is with ourselves. For a while. So if we regard the ego as a construct which helps us have something to refer to, fine, but most of us go further and actually believe that this construct truly exists as such, overlooking that it is just a figment of our imagination.

So that is the false god principle. We ascribe magical powers to something which does not exist (which is how many modern people think of the old pagan gods like Thor for example, or various Marvel comic book heroes). We imagine permanence, solidity, independence and various powers which we don’t really have. Collectively many of us now believe that if we pay more taxes to a world government we will be able to change the planetary climate. What extraordinary confabulation! And we are so convinced of these our powers that if someone suggests such an idea is poppycock we might get upset. We are so attached to various fictions we believe in that we might even be persuaded to go to war and kill others in order to defend them or make them happen.

Such powers are false gods and any speech promoting them is false god speech, which in LOTR terms is Saruman speech, for that was his main wizard power, the power to cast a spell with his voice, truly one of the greatest powers that exists and definitely that of a false god in the Tolkein universe. Our world is filled with and indeed much of modern society is built upon foundations of such trickster spells and spellsters. Most of the time we are so bewitched that don’t even notice having long ago bought into various realities without realizing they are constructs. And this ability we have to be fooled by false god speech begins with the false god we have talked ourselves into believing from the get-go: the false god called ‘me!’

In this way our individual and collective worlds very much resemble the fictive Matrix which was a very powerful movie metaphor for this entire process – the first film being by far the best in this regard.

Is it possible to lead an individual life or fashion societies that do not fall into the trap of heeding the seductive spells cast by such false gods?

Good question!

Personare: The Truthful Mask

Truthful Artifice

Article 37 Personare: the Truthful Mask

In the previous Article, a novel meaning for the word ‘gods’ was suggested, namely the sense of presence both generally and in relation to particular moments or phenomena. A mask like the example given in the previous Article may have no presence until it becomes the object of attention combined with awareness which heightens the presence fields both of the details of the physical mask itself – form, colour, position, beauty etc. – and the space in which it is manifesting – the room, the time, the situation etc. These monolithic or presence qualities are what I suggested are the essence of what were called ‘gods.’ Of course, this is just one of many possible interpretations; the intention here is to add a layer of meaning to the word hopefully turning it into something more immediate and relevant and in so doing hopefully bringing those ‘gods’ back to life.

One additional element to consider viz the gods is the inherent intelligence quotient. This is assumed in the notion of awareness even with mundane sensory perception which perceives our mask with all its manifold qualities of form, colour, texture, style and so forth all of which comprise the mask’s unique mandalic universe of particularities, that which speaks in the Speech Realm which of course itself is pure intelligence – space, or the universe, talking as it were. In this context, the gods always have something to say and are always talking to us; we only have to be willing and able to listen. All phenomena are speaking gods in some sense.

Interestingly, in Latin the word for mask is ‘per-sonare’ which means to ‘through-sound’ or ‘sound through.’ Many of the old Greek and Roman masks had short bugle-like funnels protruding from the mouth area in order to amplify the voice but it is from this word personare that of course we get the word ‘person.’ A person is that which projects into the outer world through the medium of speech and as such is a bit of a front, a performance, a display, a mask and thus also a social construct (but that’s another story!).

In sacred Greek drama, when you listened to an actor sounding out the words through a mask representing some god or archetypical character, you didn’t think the actor or the mask was a god per se but the sacred message, the presence-enriched intelligence of the speech in question, THAT was the god.

Interestingly, the speech of that sacred god-presence in turn imbues both stage, mask and actor with the same sacredness, the whole ensemble being what can be called a ‘sacred mandala’ for remember that the root definition of mandala is ‘centre and fringe’ the idea being that there is one essential core around which are many subsidiary or ‘retinue’ adjuncts, be this in the context of a person, place or thing. This is why the word mandala is both interesting and useful for we really don’t have an equivalent in English which combines a situation with an atmosphere. Again, think of the difference between the kitchen, bedroom and town hall mandalas: everything in the kitchen, bedroom or town hall is informed by the overall atmosphere of that particular mandala, an atmosphere which is both instant based on what is going on, but also inherited and deepened over time.

There can be sacred mandalas and also profane mandalas, so there is nothing inherently sacred about the term, it’s just that historically it has been used to describe various aspects of sacredness because in such states people are naturally aware of the interconnections between situations, awareness, the overall atmosphere and ‘the gods’ speech in those contexts.

That said, there is such a thing as false speech and thus also false gods. But that will be the subject of the next Article.


From the Oxford Etymological Dictionary:

“person: character, part played; human being; living body of a human being; individual personality; (theol:) distinction of being in the Godhead;

And from :

person (n.) c. 1200, persoun, “an individual, a human being,” from Old French persone “human being, anyone, person” (12c., Modern French personne) and directly from Latin persona “human being, person, personage; a part in a drama, assumed character,” originally “a mask, a false face,” such as those of wood or clay, covering the whole head, worn by the actors in later Roman theater. OED offers the general 19c. explanation of persona as “related to” Latin personare” to sound through” (i.e. the mask as something spoken through and perhaps amplifying the voice), “but the long ‘o’ makes a difficulty ….” Klein and Barnhart say it is possibly borrowed from Etruscan ‘phersu’ = “mask.”

So: Here you see in the very word ‘person’ which we think of as referring to ‘me’ (among many other such characters) the link between the mask, the individual and the sacred as laid out above.