I was looking for something in my Journal last night and came across something I was looking at out in the UAE.
TV wasnt worth watching out there, so I had bought quite a few DVD's: mostly box sets of favourite comedy/drama shows from the '80's (which gives an idea of how far the UAE was behind us!) but I also bought a documentary series, "The Ascent of Man" which I had heard about, but had never seen. It was filmed in the late 60/early 70s and hailed as groundbreaking when first shown.
The series attempted to show how man came to have dominion over the earth and when that era of dominion began. Now we have advanced a lot since the film was shown, so from a technical perspective maybe our ideas of that have changed, but the breakthrough according to the series was when man stopped moulding what was already there and moved to breaking things down to form something new. Reductionism and Synthesis as it was called in the show. The examples given being when we moved from moulding mud huts (ie the basic constituant, the mud, remained in its natural form), to building stone buildings. It was explained that moulding created natural (feminine) shapes, but that when we started to split stone man learnt, for the first time, how to understand it's nature and use that understanding to not only impose our will on the stone but to create shapes not usually seen in nature (changing something's natural composition to impose our will being considered a more masculine activity): think Stonehenge as an early example. Then, at a time when many were still living in wooden and mud huts, to see men turn stone into metals must have been seen as something "otherworldly"...
Move forward two or three milennia and we come to the Renaissance (starting about late 1200s/early 1300s in Italy). Technologies had been built upon and improvements made to existing knowledge, but there hadnt really been many shifts of the type that brought us metals from the Iron-Age to the Renaissance. That desire to investigate nature had languished, particularly in what we now call the Dark Ages (from about 400ad to the Renaissance). The Renaissance brought forward men who looked back not only at the artisitic forms of the ancient world, but at the spirit of investigation of that era which, during the Renaissance, brought forward the Age of Alchemy that eventually brought us Science. That desire to find what was hidden in nature began anew, but this time the principal desire was to understand and reveal hidden Nature. The distant ancients simply wished to repeat certain occurances (ie smelting ores to create metals) the near ancients sought to understand philosopically (Plato, Euclid) and medicine, but the Renaissance brought these strands together.
In the Renaissance it the belief that innate patterns existed in nature and that an understanding of those innate patterns could be used to improve nature and Man's nature particularly was reborn. Sculptors of the period sought not to create works of art but to release the pre-existing sculpture as a finshed work from the base material (usually stone) in very similar terms to the way the Alchemist sought to release lead from its lowly state to the pure state of gold. If you dont understand the Renaissance mindset and stand in front of Michellangelo's David (a very famous statue that once stood in the Piazza De Le Republica in Florence, Italy, but is now in a museum there with a reproduction in the Piazza) today, it looks like any other statue and you wonder why it was considered the worlds most perfect sculpture of the masculine (active, synthesising) form and the epitome of male perfection when completed. My guess is that David complies with the Golden Mean, which was THE measure of perfection in the Renaissance. But the greatness of Michellangelo's art was not that he created this statue, but that he had the ability to release it's pre-existing perfect nature from within the lump of unhewn marble. His genius was not his skill in crafting the statue (though obviously that comes into it) but that, of all the lumps of unhewn stone in the quarry, he was able to find the one that contained the perfect vision of masculinity that became the David and then craft the marble to reveal that perfection.
What has all this to do with my spiritaul Journey you may ask? That's simple. We are the unhewn lump of marble. Our innate perfect nature is hidden in the lump of unhewn matter of our physical experiencing and conditioning prior to starting walking our spiritual path. Our imagination and ability to perceive the perfection Within ourslves is the artist who crafts the stone of our physical experience. Our experiences as we walk the Path are the Alchemists experiments: each one discounting one hypothesis, leading us to the next and taking us one step closer to revealing a little more of our perfect Nature.
When we start our Spiritual Journey, we take up the sculptor's chisel and bolster, we light the Alchemist's burner to distill our selves till our innate nature begins to appear. But no artist or artisan ever created perfection at the first attempt: it takes a lifetime of practise to even get close and most never achieve that realisation . But if they had not tried, our world would be a gloomier place as the inpiration for the generations to come would not have been there. Similarly, no Alchemist ever created gold out of lead, but from their experiments we gained wisdoms that led us to where we are today, were we now understand life at a sub-atom level.
So, whilst we must strive to be the best we can be, we must also accept that perfection is probably unobtainable in the physcial. If we can accept this we embrace the Journey with passion, as, at those times when we stumble on the Path, we accept that this is only a minor setback, pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off and start walking again.
At every step we come face to face with our self: our lower, earth-bound self with all its insecurities, fears and foibles. Some of these visions we take in our stride and accept and transmute easily, but others we struggle to accept as part of our nature: especially as, now that we are walking a spiritual path, we must be all Love and Light. We aren't. The Journey is about transmuting (transforming) the darker aspects of our self to Light by the intercession of our Higher Self (the David hidden in the stone of our physical self). We can never become Whole by rejecting aspects of our self as this leaves a part of our energy force depleted. If you take a whole battalion of an army away from the battlefield because their rifle skills are not as good as the rest, you risk losing the battle: far better to expend the necessary resources to train that battelion to be better marksmen. In our spiritual life we do no service to ourselves or others to accept only the Love and Light aspects of oureslves: we must at some point face those darker aspects of ourselves. Sometimes we have put those darker apsects of oureslves so firmly in a box that we do not see them, but others will see them and experience them as part of your nature. The more we try and sit on the box to stop them coming forward for either oursevles or others to see, the more we bring situations to ourselves to experience them. A totem that is black in the mundane, such as Crow, Raven and some Big Cats and Bears teach us how to transmute these darker aspects, though all totems play their part in this Journey as when any totem fist comes we are usually walking in their Contrary Nature.
That perfection is seldom achieved, does not mean that we should not seek to improve our self. As more seasoned pathwalkers can attest, the benenfits in our own lives of staying on the path, even at times when it appears we are not "getting it" and there doesnt appear to be any progress, are worthwhil and along the way we inspire others to start their walk or persevere on their path. Like the Alchemists who never transmuted lead to gold, but whose work became the acceptable world of science, no Great Work is ever wasted.
Others inspire us and help us see the things we cannot always see along the way and the Wisdom of past sages can assist us, but it is by our own efforts that change is brought into our own lives: no-one else can do it for us: others may share their experiences or pass on their knowledge but it is only when we have experienced what they have shared ourselves that we understand and actually move forward on our paths.
Many start on the path and are able to learn some of the knowledge and kindle their abilitires but stop there. Some never use the knowledge or abilities to transmute the conditioning to bring out that which Creator brought forth into the World. The danger is to get caught up in the worldly trappings the knowledge brings, forgetting the purpose of the Journey and instead become locked into proppogating the lower self instead of revealing the Higher Self. In this we not only do ourselves a dis-service, but we instill our own fears of moving out of our comfort zone into others. I used to attend a Spiritualist church on a weekly basis. There are only so many mediums in a given area so the same mediums would lead the service on a regular basis. I began to see that the same people talked about the same situations at each service. A friend was one of the founders of the church so knew most of the mediums well and could tell me their stories. What became clear was that many (not all) of the mediums were projecting their issues out in the messages they gave to the congregation rather than healing themselves. I became disconcerted by this revelation as I have psychic abilities myself, so knew there was something to it. I had been introduced to Shamanism maybe ten years before, but when a friend from the church introduced me to a site similar to SL that is now defunct, it was at that point that I took on the Shamanic Path and began to heal myself (with a lot of help from the folks here!): began to seek to bring forward that which Creator brought into the world in the garment of my physical beingness: ie bring forward my True Nature.
The lessons life conjurs and the opportunities to learn and heal experiences bring are the means by which we find balance between our mundane life and spiritual path and bring forward that True Nature. The mundane is where we live our Path and where our challenges play out and our experience is gained. Learning to see the spiritual cues and apply our learning is how we progress. Those cues come in many guises. Often a creature teacher may bring a message, but equally, as with the TV show I mentioned at the start of this post, cues can come in unusual guises. Repetition of experiences is one of the biggest cues: seeing the same time on a clock, the same numbers appearing often, obviously the same creature-teachers coming either in dreams, visions or the mundane: anything that makes you stop and think for a moment. Look for coincidences as these are one of the greatest cues: as in spiritual circles there is no such thing as coincidence: you are thinking of something and the person next to you in the supermarket line/queue speaks of it or you hear about a similar subject on the radio or tv. Your are being given notice to gain understanding.
In other words, it is not enough to see our Spiritual Path as an abstract activity, we must bring our whole Being to bear. As Michellangello said describing how the art is brought from the unhewen stone:
"When that which is Divine in us does try to shape a face, both brain and hand unite to give, from a mere model, frail and slight, life to the stone by art's free energy"
Which explains that not only is our abstract spiritual thought alone not enough to walk the Path, but that our physical Being needs to be brought to bear, but also how we become Co-Creators: if we consider that the brain Michellangelo speaks of is Creator and the hand is our physical body.