Category Archives: Alt-Religion

Into The Mystical

Mystical – Word of the Day

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The Blackwood River, Augusta, looking north east, one of my mystical places.

Mysticism comes from thε Greek root of μυω, which means to conceal. Mysticism crosses every religious boundary and belief system. That which is mystical is hidden. In the great debates about God from a Christian point of view there is the mystic view that God is both knowable and unknowable at the same time, that as such, there are elements of God that are visible, definable, but that mostly, God is concealed and unknowable.

Many have pursued mystical experiences. Aliester Crowley (1875 – 1947) was one of the most famous occultists of the twentieth century, trying to make connection with a world beyond. Carlos Castaneda trained as a shaman and explored mescalin using peyote as a mystical experience, inspired by the Toltec. Timothy Leary went with the synthetic drug LSD. There are trance groups, fasting practices, musical experiences, ritual practices and more. True tantra, like Tibetan Tantra, was only ever a form of meditative practice whereby the delay of orgasm and the control of orgasm is said to increase ecstatic experience, but for the purpose of prayer and meditation (and should not be confused with “Californian tantra” as I call it, or with Hindu left hand practices). Kabbalah originated as a Jewish mysticism, but now has non-Jewish paths as well. A number of celebrities have dabbled in Kabbala from Elizabeth Taylor to Madonna.

In the third and fourth centuries Christian men and women from Israel, Jordan, Asia Minor, Egypt and North Africa went in droves into the deserts to develop a communal and contemplative life. And from John Cassian to Theresa of Avilla, to Thomas Merton, a few Christians became mystics, seeking the unknowable God.

I think the unknowable attracts, and we pursue it, partly to make it known, to unravel the mystery, to bring the hidden into full view, in the main, to experience what is concealed. Most of the writings of mystics that I have read reaffirm that God, Other, the divine, is unknowable, but that in the journey of mysticism, there is connection, ecstasy, love, wholeness, union and more.

For me any sense of the divine comes more through nature and the contemplative. The photograph shows a familiar walking space I take in, some days it is beautiful, some days it just is, but always it evokes a sense of mystery, of the divine in some way. There is something about certain places that does that for me. Uluru, Kata Tjuta, Elachbutting Rock, Boranup Forest, and more, are places that move me deeply, places where I sense an otherness beyond myself or other people. I have felt ecstasy in these places, I have been overcome with joy, they can be erotic (in the pure, emotive sense) experiences, I have experienced deep inner stillness, and sometimes a confusion of feelings rushing in all at once. Such things tell me I am more open in these spaces, yet I also know that my openness is also because I sense something more. This for me is the mystical.

As Van Morrison wrote in his song “Into the Mystic” – “Let your soul and spirit fly into the mystic.”

I stand in silence
mystical nature envelops
the heron smiles

©Paul Cannon

Van Morrison “Into The Mystic”

 

 

Paul,

pvcann.com

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Meditation: the static life

via Daily Prompt: Static

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I really like and need meditation, I like its many forms too. Static mediation, sitting and focussing on breathing and being faithful to my mantra is my main form, and brings me joy. But another way of mediation I love is, as I have written before, is the use of the labyrinth, which can take any form or way you like. But no matter the form, the walking clearly isn’t static, and yet, the movement of the body acts like a mantra, it enables focus through rhythm. And so stasis, or the slowing of the inner self is possible. For me it is one of the greatest forms of prayer. It is mentioned in all the great traditions, and not least non-religion, and including Christianity, which surprises some, and is a point of dialogue and connection across beliefs. For me it is a greater connection with being and spirit, a sense of wholeness. It is said that meditation is a form of maturity in prayer, it is the setting aside of agendas and attending to awareness.

In the christian tradition, the antecendents of modern meditation are found in the lives of the desert fathers and mothers, those who formed commnities in the deserts of North Africa, the Middle East, and Syria. Their emphasis was on silnece, and contemplative prayer forms. I love the following quote from one abba Arsenius: “Why, words, did I let you get out? I have often been sorry that I have spoken, never that I have been silent.” which reminds me of Monty Python and a scene from the Holy Grail where God rails against the noise of “all those miserable psalms.” The point being that endless repetition without mindfulness dulls us.

I’m not sure where you’re at, or what you think of meditation, but what I do know is that the world could do with a bit more silence each day, a little more thought for the other, a little more engagement with becoming rather than just doing. A little more stasis would be good all round.

Paul,

pvcann.com

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Who do you Judge?

I read “The Shack” years ago, and more recently re-read it as part of a book/study group. I recently watched the movie, which I thought encapsulated the book really well, in fact better than the book in some ways. It is a story, an allegory of sorts, of human meets the trinity in the midst of tragedy and grief. But whether or not you hold to the christian faith (and if you do, it is refreshing because it breaks down racial and cultural stereotypes that have been distorted and politicised) it doesn’t matter because (for me) teh penultiamte scene is the scene where Mack meets Wisdom (Sophia) and she calls him on blame, projection, and judging. Mack is consumed by grief, anger, and blames God for the death of his daughter. His consuming feelings are destroying his relationships. this excerpt from the movie is powerful in that we are confronted with our desire yet incapability of true judgement. From a Buddhist perspective, it would lean to non-harming and non-attachment.

The point is, we all tend to judge, we all blame, but can we step aside from this? Forgiveness doesn’t bring back the dead or undo the negatives in our lives, but Wisdom asserts that we can transform, simply through forgiveness, which doesn’t change events in the past, but sure gives positive opportunity to move on into the future. This is a must for every justice system, every community group, every family, every individual. Restorative Justice, at its core,  is founded on this principle. When we let go of the bile and hate, when we realise we cannot get better by punishing others or getting revenge, then there is an inner tranformation, which is also lived and shared outwardly. Forgiveness isn’t giving a free kick to someone who has wronged us, it is letting ourselves off the hook of anger and hate, it unblocks us and sets us free to live. I’ll let you know when I’ve perfected the art of not judging, but for now I’m in training.

(Video: Youtube, The Shack, Judgement)

Paul,

pvcann.com

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Almost Auld Lang Syne

via Daily Prompt: Almost

Well it’s almost 2018. Days and years roll into one another too quickly for my liking. But every so often a year comes along that is not like other years, and 2017 has been a difficult year in many ways. There are the dearly departed who I miss, the friends who have parted company, the institution I am engaged with which has overly corporatised itself, the strain of the economy, and so on. But the strain for loved ones who have battled in body, mind and spirit in 2017 has been great and has left an indelible mark on me, on family and on friends. The old Persian adage: “This too shall pass”, is pertinent.

Of course, there has been an equally positive side to the year, with much achieved, loved, enjoyed, celebrated and realised, but it has been difficult, and more so than recent years. I don’t hate 2017, I won’t be glad to see it go because time itself has not made the difficulties, indeed, time is a mere construct.

I prefer to think in seasons, as many ancient cultures have done.

But there is something about marking out a new year as a new personal beginning, a new opportunity, a chance to alter the mindset, set new paths and goals, and release the negatives of recent time. So in that sense, it is almost time for me to set my inner compass and see what holds need to be loosed.

Walt Whitman puts it so well in ‘Song of the Open Road’

From this hour, freedom!From this hour I ordain myself loos’d of the limits and imaginary lines,
going where I list, my own master, total and absolute,
Listening to others, and considering well what they say,
Pausing, searching, receiving, contemplating,
Gently, but with undeniable will, divesting myself of the holds that would hold me.

It’s almost 2018, I hope yours will be blessed and your holds released as you need them to be.

Paul,

pvcann.com

 

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My Way to Silence

via Daily Prompt: Silent

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Since the late 1980s I have been a meditator. I have enjoyed several forms, but mainly across Christian and Buddhist ways of meditating. In the end I have stayed within my own tradition and using a Christian form – the method explored by John Main. Labyrinth is another form, and walking meditation I find helpful, and not least bush walking or hiking. But whatever the method, the goal is silence, not an external silence, of course, but a deep inner silence, a peacefulness, a sense of internal unity. It is the closest to a tangible sense of integration. For me there are real experiences of calm that last long after a session, and encounters with emotion, necessary unburdening as the unconscious is loosened and long buried things can be faced. Strangely, I have a strong sense of unity with others within the corporate silence, so that even in a room full of meditators there is connection.

I find I can meditate almost anywhere, but the bush is my special place for meditation, I find that it is already offering a form of silence unencumbered. The photo shows one of my former haunts, Billyacatting Rock near Nungarin. I was based not far from there for a few years, and on my long drives through that district I would take a break and walk and climb the rocks, arriving at a quiet spot, perhaps to sit by a rock pool or gnamma hole and meditating for a time. The wind and the birds were a welcome backdrop. Best thing I ever did, the silence was healing and energising, and was a lasting inner silence.

Paul,

pvcann.com

 

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Believe

via Daily Prompt: Believe

Socrates comes to mind, naturally, when he says: “I am wiser than anyone else because I know I don’t know.” Belief is a strong, determined word. In the hilarious movie ‘Dogma’ (1999) the character Rufus, the thirteenth apostle (played by Chris Rock), asks “Do you believe, or do you have an idea?” The film was a criticism of the institution of the Church, which tends to foster sound doctrine, black and white beliefs, and in some corners of the Church, fanaticism (albeit, fundamentalism).

The issue of religious belief is always objectivity trying to defeat and ridicule subjectivity.

It might be that faith is a better word, but even that is a loaded word. But as author Ann Lamott says: “Faith begins with experience, and our faith is our reaction to that experience. Science begins with intuition and not logic.” And she also adds: “You have to experience something before you can know something.” And, “The opposite of faith is certainty.” and so, back to Socrates.

I prefer to speak carefully of the experience of soul work, the contemplative life, and my experiences of Other. Do I believe? Well, I don’t disbelieve, but I prefer to say, I have an experience, which is something more than an idea.

 

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Visceral

via Daily Prompt: Visceral

 

What moves you? The gut is where we feel it, hence the connection of viscera or gut tissue with feelings. Injustice, grief, injury, insult, passion, joy, love. Music, art, poetry. Nature. All visceral because we have a gut response. The Greeks had a wonderfully expressive word for it splanchna (σπλαγχνα), which to my ear sounds like a word for guts. Say it a few times and you’ll get the same feeling I’m sure.

Many things move me. I have music that transports me to other dimensions, art that evokes many responses, poetry that I dearly love, photos that help me re-member (to member back together the body of knowledge), relationships that speak love without actually speaking.

I am also deeply saddened by pain and hurt in  my life and in the world. The plight of refugees, the ever abiding issue of debilitating and alienating poverty, racism, sexism, classism, and ismism. The many stories of brutalised people bring tears.

One of the more visceral joys for me is to spend time with Lyn and friends taking in the Australian bush. I wonder how many of you find the bush somehow, perhaps difficult to put into words, spiritual or life-giving?

The bush for me is smells, colours, textures, even visceral in its own gutsyness, yet also its fragility. It is place to recover, refresh, rediscover and reframe. I feel healthier, more aware, more myself, after days in the bush.

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The Photo shows part of Jindalee (Giles Breakaway), it was a wonderful time there, and one to revisit. I hope you have a favourite place to go to.

pvcann.com

 

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Halal Mythology

I’m writing this because I’m sick to death of the misinformation about Halal (also spelt Halaal) certification in Australia. There are people who are militating against Halal certification using incorrect information and some are intentionally using misinformation. Some of those sources are the ugly fascist and neo-nazi groups (see: Neo-nazis, white-supremacists, islamophobic groups active in Australia via the Internet.) who have no scruples in creating fear about race or culture.

Halal simply means what is permisible by Islamic law.

Slaughter of animals for meat is one use of Halal certification. The slaughter itself is done the same as Jewish Kosher slaughter, if you want a brief description of how it is done go here  https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2014/may/08/what-does-halal-method-animal-slaughter-involve. The cost is in certifying that the slaughter is done properly, including that it must not cause undue harm to the animal.

Other forms of Halal certification are checking to make sure that forbidden food substances, like pork or alcohol, are not present in packaged foods or beverages.

The claims are that Islam uses Halal certification to make vast sums of money, which in turn is syphoned off to foreign interests, and at worst to terrorism. Or that within Australia, there are vast sums of money syphoned off into mosques and schools.

The main complaint is that Halal is a tax on none Muslims and therefore unfair.

Halal, like other religious certifications, and including health certifications, would cost money to certify as someone would need to be employed to do that. But the certification process doesn’t rake in vast sums of money. In 2015 the ABC Fact Check interviewed The Byron Bay Cookie Company who said that their Halal certification fee was around $1,500 per annum (www.abc.net.au/news/factcheck/2015-04-14/fact-check-does-halal-certification-fund-terrorism/6383238) or 0.003%. The Fleurie Milk Company (who sufferd from a social media campaign against their intention to provide yoghurt to Emirates airlines) had a fee of $1,000 or 2% of the contract.

Nestle responded by saying that their fee was negligible. and further commented that they did not pass this minor cost on to the customer.

In 2015 the certifications done by the Global Halal Centre Pty Ltd said that abattoirs were audited four times a year and cost between $2 – 3,000 per audit, and Halal certification per carton of meat was 25 cents. While Graincorp said that their costs were “pretty minor.”

I think Nestle nailed it when they said that what needed to be taken into account was the context. The companies are making it clear that the cost is not an impediment nor does it hinder them in any way. The companies are saying that the fee is so minor it is not a risk to profit (which is a major indicator of how trivial it is). What the companies are also saying is that the Halal certification cost is outweighed by the income from being able to guarantee Halal to a growing and lucrative market. In 2012 the global Halal certified food industry was worth between $US600 billion and $US2.1 trillion. As a value that is a market worth sharing in, and clearly outweighs the minor cost of certification. in that sense, Halal is a positive way forward for companies wanting to enter that particular market.

Context will also give an account of other forms of religious certification. This is primarily Kosher certification for the Jewish community. In 2014 there were negotiations to include Hindu certification in the US market, and there is in Australia a Christian Certification Authority trying to make headway in the market. The Sikh community have some restrictions, they are required to forego halal food, so for the Sikh community halal labels are helpful by default.

In regard to the fee received by Muslim certification agencies, according to the ABC Factcheck (referenced above), none of the money could be traced to terrorism or to unscrupulous agencies. Besides which, all money transfer is closely monitored by Federal Govt. agencies through the regulatory processes in place. All Banks have to have a series of checks in place to validate your identity and the channels you are using. Of course, this doesn’t prevent money laundering for those intent on achieving it. It would be difficult to monitor all foreign channels that provide a publicly legitimate front for laundering. That is the role of Internationally cooperative agency to achieve through investigation.

It is also important to note that within Australia, peak bodies like the Islamic Council of Victoria, Halal Australia, Muslims Australia (AFIC) are openly opposed to terrorism and any form of association with prohibited agencies and groups.

As for money going to Mosques and schools, ABC Factcheck reported that some does, but this is legitimate (as it is for Christians, Jews, Buddhists and Sikhs). In 2014 the AFIC contributed $150, 000 to schools, youth programs, lectures and more. The ICCV funds schools and youth programs. The Supreme Islamic Council for Halal Meat Australia (SICHMA) supoprts Islamic centres, mosques, youth education and mentoring programs. Those monies are, like all monies gained by public and charitible entities, regulated and audited.

It should be noted that Islamic schools and colleges are governed by the same regulations as are Christian and other faith schools, which means they are regulated and audited, and they are required to comply with Australian standards. Otherwise, no operating licence would be granted, or continued.

The evidence doesn’t support conspiracy, money laundering, terrorist funding, or any ilegal activity. From a commercial perspective, Halal is profitable and far outweighs any certification costs. From a religious point of view it is similar to Kosher slaughter, it helps other religious groups identify Halal, and it is a positive for those practice Islam. From a community point of view there is so much legislation around finance, money transfer, banking, the licencing of schools, and employment, that our confidence is well founded that there is nothing untoward.

My own conclusion is that opposition comes from two sources. One is a large percentage of the Australian population who just don’t know what Halal is all about. The other is an unconnected variety of vocal opposition politically, religiously, and culturally anti-Islamic. These include neo-nazis, white supremicists, extreme right-wing political groups, anti-imigration lobbyists, and anti-refugee groups, and extremist or fundamentalist Christian groups among many voices (an unholy alliance!). This latter group are adept at manipulating the first group. Fear is a trade in stock for anti-Islamic groups. And this in a country that birthed the protectionist “White Australia Policy” which I believe is, unfortunately,  still active in our hearts and minds. We need to deal with this latent policy, and its antecedents by letting go the past and living into a different future.

The panic being created about Halal is really a wake up call to us all that now is the time to build bridges towards a connected yet diverse and creative community, rather than aiming for mediocrity and division.

I want to live in a place where difference is celebrated not punished, and where we can live into an Australia that rises to acknowledgement and acceptance, embracing and compassionate, and not just for Muslims either, for all.

Next time someone you know criticises Halal, let them know the truth.

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Anzac Shiboleth, Anzac Religion

My family are English with a solid contribution to both World Wars. Others fought in Korea, and in Kenya during the Mau Mau uprising. None of them were one whit bothered about public acclamation, remembrance or wreath laying. They eschewed any hero worship or attempt to glorify their role.

The World War 1 diggers I was privileged to know berated me as a child and a teen when I enquired about their exploits, “son you don’t know what it was like, it was a mugs game and l’d rather not talk about it.” As to the question, “Did you march in the parades today?” I usually got the response, “Not into that bullshit son, went to the pub with me mates.” Again there was no glory, no desire for a parade, a day, a wreath. Part of the anger was that it dragged up awful memories, the trauma. Partly it was anger that people who had no idea inserted themselves emotionally into their experience. And politicians who used the day to manipulate and emote in the media to their own ends. Bastards the lot!

They went for adventure, for fun, out of boredom, loyalty, mate-ship. But they never went for the Anzac Religion. Indeed Anzac or Australian and New Zealand Army Corps was only ever the original Mediterranean Expeditionary Force that came to be forged as Anzac in Egypt in 1914. But Anzac Day was, after South Australia started a day in honour of veterans, promulgated as a national day in 1916 in honour of the Anzac force which fought at Gallipoli. When you realise that the Anzac force was part of an Allied force set up to attack the Ottoman Empire, an ally of Germany, it might make you wonder what on earth we are on about. The Ottoman Empire??

Besides, why not celebrate the second Boer war, Khartoum, Trafalgar, the Viking wars … the possibilities are endless if integrity matters.

The American war of Independence, the French Revolution, the Russian Revolution, VE Day in Europe, Independence Day in several African nations, that I can understand. Kokoda as an Australian remembrance would hold more value (a point that former PM Paul Keating made in the 90s). What do all these have in common? That they were part of a national need, part of the national defence. But not Anzac, we were not defending our nation, nor were we actually defending England (geographically speaking).

Yes it was horrific, but which war has not been horrific? Yes it was bloody and lives were tragically lost. Napoleon probably lamented too in his day. But Anzac was pointless, not just because it was a mighty cockup, but because it had no point in the first place, not for Australia.

Ironically, the term that is rattled out every Anzac Day, “lest we forget”, is actually a line from a Rudyard Kipling poem ‘Recessional’ which was a quasi liturgical offering against the vain glory of colonial empire, go figure!

Yassmin Abdel-Magied caused a stir last week when she Tweeted and Face Booked a statement referencing Lest We Forget.

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Photo: Yassmin Abdel-Magied (not credited).

Abdel-Magied said “LEST WE FORGET (Manus, Nauru, Syria, Palestine)” Difficult to establish any anti Australian content, or any Anzac heresy (for Anzac has indeed become a religion). Abdel-Magied has raised a valid point echoed in several journalism pieces over the week, that we have forgotten the value of what we supposedly value, the freedoms, the rights, the safety, our international obligations. We are shallow when we orgasm over wreath laying but ignore the Anzac prayers for peace, when we fail to protest the concentration camps used to house refugees (and I note that only this week that Pope Francis called the detention camps concentration camps – http://www.dw.com/en/pope-Francis-compares-migrant-detention-centres-to-nazi-concentration-camps/a-385488556), and when we fail to value human life which the diggers were apparently defending in the first place.

The irony of the Alt-Reich response is that they bemoan criticism of our treatment of refugees (our continuing racist White Australia Policy) and defend the barbaric actions of the so-called alliance in the Middle East and beyond. Abdel-Magied is right, they have indeed forgotten the meaning of Anzac Day.

I was heartened to see a response to the Alt-Reich in articles like – ‘Remembering fallen war heroes is insincere if it excludes those suffering today’ (Mariam Tokhi in the Guardian, April 27, 2017) or, ‘Over the top reaction to seven words from Yassmin Abdel-Magied’ in the SMH, April 28′ 2017).

The response from her critics has certainly been over the top and when you see the names you smile because it includes, Abbott, Abetz, Dutton, Hanson, News Corp. But when you see the comments from some of the public it curdles the blood. This is not what my old diggers would do or say. This is exactly what they feared – a false emotive, shallow religion of jingoistic nationalism.

If you’re unfamiliar with the term Shibboleth (an Old Testament term) it simply means now ‘test phrase.’ It is used to determine who is in and who is out. It is often a trick question to trip up an opponent. Anzac is our unfortunate shibboleth to entrap migrants, refugees, and those among us who do not hold to the religion of Anzac. And this shibboleth is now being used to attack Abdel-Magied, and those who stand for truly remembering why we fight wars in the first place.

But Anzac as shibboleth, as religion, has also poisoned our national psyche. It is sadly becoming our identity as a nation, that to be Aussie is to be Anzac, is to be militaristically patriotic. I’m not going in that direction, it’s not my religion, and I believe it spells the end of possibility for a positive Australian identity tied to pioneering, harmony, struggling attempts at multiculturism, science, sport, literature, art, in no particular order.

I’m ashamed of the leaders and public who have been so vitriolic in their response to Abdel-Magied, and I’m embarrassed by the pathetic attempts to relive Anzac as if somehow we were there, we understand and know. Bastards the lot.

lets fail the test, let’s not Anzac, let’s find a new identity instead.

Well said Yassmin.

Lest we remember!

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