A ROBIN REDBREAST IN A CAGE

‘A robin redbreast in a cage,
  puts all Heaven in a rage’
                            –William Blake

“THE LIVES OF ANIMALS” robin in a cageby acclaimed novelist and Nobel Prize winner J.M. Coetzee is a fine piece of writing aimed at awakening the sympathetic imagination, particularly of academics, students of literature, poets and writers, over the plight of animal beings.  Coetzee speaks through the articulate, intelligent, aging Australian novelist, Elizabeth Costello, who on the basis of her reputation is invited to give a university lecture on any subject of her choice.  She has elected to speak, not about herself and her fiction, as her sponsors would no doubt like, but about the lives of animals.

In addressing her audience Elizabeth Costello communicates at the start that she will pay them the honour of skipping a recital of the horrors of the lives and deaths of animals.  Though there was no reason to believe that they had at the forefront of their minds what was being done to animals at that moment in production facilities (she hesitated to call them farms any longer), in abattoirs, in trawlers, in laboratories, all over the world. She reminded them only that these horrors are at the centre of her lecture.

Costello causes discomfort from the beginning by making a parallel between the way her fellow human beings treat animals and the way the Third Reich treated Jews.   (The author, Coetzee, is not alone with this view.)

It is in the battery shed that we find a parallel with Auschwitz…  to shut your mind, heart and imagination from the sufferings of others is to begin slowly, but inexorably, to die.  Those Christians who close their mind and hearts to the cause of animal welfare, and the evils it seeks to combat, are ignoring the fundamental teachings of Christ himself.”
 —Rev. Dr John Austen Baker, Bishop of Salisbury

“Six million Jews died in concentration camps, but six billion broiler chickens will die this year in slaughter houses.”
—Ingrid Newkirk, Co-founder of PETA

“Is there any difference between Hitler’s camps and our slaughter-houses?”
  —Akbarali Jetha, Indian Author of ‘Reflections’

“In their behaviour towards creatures, all men were Nazis.  Human beings see oppression vividly when they are the victims.  Otherwise they victimize blindly and without a thought.  The smugness with which man could do with other species as he pleased exemplified the most extreme racist theories, the principle that might is right.”
 — Isaac Bashevis Singer, Polish-born Jewish American author, Nobel Prize winner

She recounts how between 1942 and 1945 several million people were put to death in the concentration camps of the Third Reich: at Treblinka alone perhaps as many as three million. These are numbers that numb the mind.  The people who lived in the countryside around Treblinka  said they didn’t know what was going on in the camp; said that, in a general way, they might have guessed what was going on, they did not know for sure; said that, while in a sense they might have known, in another sense they did not know, could not afford to know, for their own sake.

The people around Treblinka were not exceptional, Costello declares.  There were camps all over the Reich, nearly six thousand in Poland alone, untold thousands in Germany.  Few Germans lived more than a few kilometres from a camp of some kind.  Not every camp was a death camp, a camp dedicated to the production of death, but horrors went on in all of them.  It was and is inconceivable, she says, that people who did not know (in that special sense) about the camps can be fully human…

The horror, she continued, is that the killers refused to think themselves into the place of their victims, as did everyone else.  Polish and German people who lived near the concentration camps said: “It is they in these cattle trucks rattling past! “ They did not say, “How would it be if it were I in that cattle truck?” They did not say, “It is I who am in that cattle truck.” They said, “It must be the dead who are being burnt today, making the air stink and falling in ash on my cabbages.”  They did not say, “I am burning, I am falling in ash.”

In other words they closed their hearts.

Elizabeth

Costello describes being taken for a drive round the university town before the lecture and how it seemed a pleasant enough place.  She saw no horrors, no animal research laboratories, no factory farms, no abattoirs.  Yet she was sure they were there.  They must be.  They simply don’t advertise themselves.  They are all around us, only we do not, in a certain sense, know about them…   Many others have made similar observations:

“You have just dined, and however scrupulously the slaughterhouse is concealed in the graceful distance of miles, there is complicity.”
—Ralph Waldo Emerson

“The truck was filled with cows, their eyes desperate while mine were sad.”
   —Holly Palmer Turner

“Animals arrive at the slaughterhouse, many in a 4D state; dead, diseased, dying, debilitated.  (These animals sometimes go into the pet food tankers.)”
   —Michael W. Fox, Veterinarian, Author, Head of Humane Society

“On a wagon bound for market lay a cow with 2 mournful eyes…  lay a cow with 2 mournful eyes.  (If one passes slaughterhouse trucks on Rt 80 bound for Manhatten or the slaughterhouses of S. Phily, in winter, with the freezing wind from the mountain passes ripping through the slats, one sees their noses pressed to the bars, and their sad frightened eyes.)”
 —Joan Baez, American folk singer, songwriter and activist.

How is it, Costello asks, that humankind throws up, generation after generation, a cadre of thinkers, slightly further from God…  but capable nevertheless, after the designated twelve years of schooling and six of tertiary education, of making a contribution to the decoding of the great book of nature via the physical and mathematical disciplines?  If the being of man is really at one with the being of God, should it not cause suspicion that human beings take eighteen years, a neat manageable portion of a human lifetime, to qualify to become decoders of God’s master script, rather than five minutes, say, or five hundred years?  Might it not be that the phenomenon we are examining here is, rather than a flowering of a faculty that allows access to the secrets of the universe, the specialism of a rather narrow self-regenerating intellectual tradition whose forte is reasoning… which for its own motives it tries to install at the centre of the universe?  A carefully plotted psychological regime that conducts man away from ethics and toward the humbler reaches of practical reason.

ETHICS
Ethics is the highest science,
concerned with survival,
not merely knowall.

A man without Ethics,
ever thinking
without seeing,
is already drowning;
ever sinking
ever lower
in his diminishing
sea of being.
—Brian Taylor, English Poet and Writer

The ‘Cogito ergo sum’ of Descartes is a formula Costello says she has been uncomfortable with as it implies that a living being that does not do what we call thinking is somehow second class.  To thinking she opposed fullness, the sensation of being not a consciousness of yourself as a kind of ghostly reasoning machine, thinking thoughts, but on the contrary the sensation – a heavily effective sensation- of being a body with limbs that have extension in space, of being alive in the world.

Fullness of being is a state hard to sustain in confinement.  Confinement is cruel and unnatural… Costello suggests that the freedom of the body to move in space is targeted as the point at which reason can most painfully and effectively harm the being of another.  And indeed, it is on creatures least able to bear confinement that we see the most devastating effects, in zoos, laboratories, circuses, institutions where the flow of joy that comes from living not in or as a body but simply from being an embodied being has no place. To be a living human or living animal is to be full of being…  One name for the experience of full being, Costello declares, is joy.

We have closed our hearts to animals, she says, and our minds follow our sympathies.   She emphasizes that there is no excuse for the lack of sympathy that human beings display towards other animals, because “there is no limit to the extent to which we can think ourselves into the being of another.  There are no bounds to the sympathetic imagination.”

The story ends with a disconsolate Costello describing to her son the alienated world she lives in where she seems to move about perfectly easily among people, to have perfectly normal relations with them.  Is it possible she asks herself, that all of them are participating in a crime of stupefying proportions?  Is she fantasizing it all?  Yet every day she sees evidences.  The very people she suspects produce the evidence, exhibit it, offer it to her.  Corpses.   Fragments of corpses bought for money.

Yet when she looks into their eyes she sees kindness, human kindness…    Coetzee’s challenge in the pathos of this is to understand that it is blind kindness:

FOR MOTHER AND CHILD
…It’s not the tomb
that leads to hell,
it’s the antiseptic smell
that opens on the womb.
There are the white-coated
and the flower-carriers
smiling in their blindness
goaded on by kindness.

Always behind the chalk,
the cruel admonitory talk,
the printed notice and the pen,
the forcing on to make them men,
—the kindness;
the blindness kindness…
 —Brian Taylor, English Poet and Writer

‘Being’ is bound to suffering in a way appropriate to that particular form of being.  The life of most animals is a constant struggle to survive and all the while many animals live under fear and stress of being eaten by other animals. By labelling ‘fullness of being’ joy without the other side of the coin suffering, Costello veers away from seeing and knowing suffering with decisive understanding.

In 1935, a Scotsman, Alick McInnes, recorded spending a couple of weeks as the guest of Romana Mohan Maharshi at his ashram in India, and how every evening when the Maharshi went for a walk, within seconds of his crossing the threshold of his residence, cattle tied up in stalls in the nearby village, about half a mile away, would struggle to get out of their bonds.  Released by the villagers they careered along the road to accompany the old man on his walk, followed by all the dogs and children of the village.

Before the procession had gone very far wild animals, says McInnes, joined it from the jungle, including several varieties of snakes.  Thousands of birds appeared, almost blotting out the sky, including tiny tits, huge kites and other birds of prey, heavy-winged vultures, all flying in harmony around Maharshi on his walk.  When he returned to his room, all the birds, animals, and children would quietly disappear.
 —“The Secret Lives of Plants”, Peter Tompkins and Christopher Bird

An extraordinary example of creatures in harmony because, for that moment in time, ‘being a something’ was temporarily transcended in the genuine joy of Oneness.  The One and the many.

The character Costello was a pioneer of her time in the Australia of 1999, perceiving the animal world with heightened awareness; but in identifying with the feelings of being alienated, mad, old…  she hadn’t herself transcended ‘The Tree of Knowledge’ (thinking) which she correctly saw as the cause of suffering. Thus the son’s awkward parting words of comfort to her, “Never mind, it will soon be over...” was the low key ending to this influential, well written and compelling story.

 

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SUE

ARRIVING at the top of the cliff to catch the bus into town I was glad to see another person waiting which suggested that the bus hadn’t gone.  “Are you waiting for the bus?” I had asked the middle-aged lady who had short blond hair and was wearing sunglasses.

“Yes,” she had replied, “it seems to be late I’ve been waiting ten minutes.”

So we waited together and chatted about the weather and living on the cliff.  “We would stay here more often,” she said, “but we have a young one to look after now.” 

The young one turned out to be a five and half year old girl, her granddaughter.  “We take care of her because her dad is dead and her mum is in rehab. Because she’s at school we need to live in town”.  She described how very challenging it was to bring up a young child again and that she and her husband had joined a support group call ‘Parents Second Time’.  When they heard the problems other second time parents were having theirs seemed very slight.  “At least Elaine is bright and learns quickly, some have taken on parenting mentally handicapped children.”

“What did you mean by rehab?” I asked.

“Addiction,” she had answered. “Anna, our daughter is a drug addict and she is on rehab at a community farm.   Why is it that some become addicts and others don’t ?” Not expecting a reply she continued, “They all act the same in the beginning.   I use to work in the College Library and every Monday morning it was always the same, so predictable and boring, the students would come in and their only topic of conversation was about how ‘wrecked’ they had been over the weekend!  Anna had had such a promising career, she had even won a medal for excellence in Speech and Drama.  Before that there was Grammar School and a good school for Girls but she got into a bad relationship.  The child’s a miracle.  When Anna was pregnant she used to inject the father’s insulin into her stomach to try and get rid of the child.  We even had to stop her coming to stay as she stole from us.   

The bus was seen winding its way along the cliff road and stopped when it reached us. I followed the lady on and she motioned with her hand an invitation to sit next to her. “I’m Sue”, she smiled, eyes hidden behind dark sunglasses and she reached across to shake hands.

She talked about how much they treasured their time living on the cliff even though she had been away recently for ten days at the Edinburgh Festival.  “I go every year,” she said enthusiastically.

“Friends say I should run organised holidays for it because I know how to do it so well!  But I’m content with meeting up with a friend though this year I went alone, which was fine because Edinburgh is safe.  I stay in the same excellent Bed & Breakfast and am treated as one of the family.  It’s a wonderful experience!  The city is buzzing with life, full of people from all over the world, celebrities, musicians, theatrical people and over three hundred shows a day.  It’s my cultural experience for the year. Because of the bad weather this year I took in three shows a day, often the tickets are half price or free.  This year the outstanding performance was a French acrobatic group.  I also heard what must be the world’s best guitar player, a marvelous blues jazz band and went to ‘Tap and Talk’ by Lionel Blair, he must be in his seventies now but still has a full head of hair, a lean body and bursting with vitality! He showed a video taken in the 60’s of him tap dancing with Sammy Davis Jnr. which was pure magic!  On the one sunny day I managed a trip to Edinburgh’s wonderful Botanic Gardens and had three hours there…”

I commented that Sue described things well, had she ever thought of writing?  She had, but had never got round to it but she had recently been asked to write articles for the church newsletter, so maybe that was a beginning!

“I only managed to get away because Elaine went to stay at the Farm with her mother.  She had a great time and enjoyed the country life.”   She suddenly paused and turned to look at me saying, “I can tell you are spiritual by the way you listen and the questions you ask, what is your practice?  What are you?”

After answering that I was a Buddhist, Sue said that she was a Christian.  She spoke of the Community Farm where her daughter stayed, as being a Christian Rehabilitation Therapeutic Community which offered support for people with addictions.  “It’s a special place, everyone feels it who visits but it struggles to survive financially.  Because it’s Christian it is not eligible for Lottery money even though they take in anyone whatever their background.” 

The reason Anna had apparently agreed to go there was because of a spiritual experience. 

“Some friends had invited me to go along one night to meet a couple who had just come back from America,” said Sue. “They had gone to see this healer who was saying that it was not him, but Jesus healing through him, and he appeared to be having miraculous results! His name is Todd Bentley and he is almost black from being covered with tattoes!   His story is that when he reached rock bottom after a life of drug abuse, jail sentences and criminal offences, in utter despair he appealed to God for help.  

In that moment the Holy Spirit entered him, he died to his past and from then on he had the gift of healing.  He began to gives prayer services for healing in halls but that has now grown to meetings of thousands and being televised.  People just have to touch their television sets and they are healed. Those who are healed, Todd Bentley says, now have the gift of healing too.

Sue had asked Anna, her daughter, if she would like to accompany her and she had agreed.  At the meeting place the couple began a prayer of healing and then invited people up for healing.  Sue said she was just observing, having learned a certain amount of skepticism from her dad. 

“He is a complete agnostic, from an experience in Italy during the war.  He saw starving children searching in the gutters for food while the churches were full of gold and treasure.  He was good at languages and had picked up Italian in a few days so he understood when he heard an abbess of a convent speak to another nun with contempt about beggars.  He lost faith in the Catholic Church. So here I was trying to keep an open mind.  Half way through, Anna said she felt very sick and nauseous in the tummy area.” 

“I decided to go up,” said Sue, “which surprised Anna.  I always ask for others to be healed particularly Anna, so when I went up, this was on my mind but what a shock when the lady of the couple seemed to shout at me, “Stop that!  You need to ask for yourself to be healed!” 

So, for the first time, I prayed for myself to be healed and suddenly I swooned and fell to the floor feeling nauseous and faint.  I just cried and cried, keeping my eyes closed, hoping that no one would see the tears and I heard a friend praying for me.  Then there was silence and a feeling of peace spread through the body.  I became filled with light and joy. I had never felt so happy.

Seeing this affected Anna and after that she decided to go into Rehab.

“We weren’t allowed to see her for the first six weeks but speaking to the pastor on the phone he said Anna has changed and that we would know it for ourselves when we saw her.  When we saw her we knew straight away from her eyes that he was right, Anna was healing.”

By this time the bus was in town and approaching the main stop.  Sue suddenly came into the present and reflectively said. “I must have needed to let all that out…   Please, come for tea or coffee at the chalet one day?”   And we smiled, departed from the bus, and parted.

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(from Universal Satnav stories by Linden Brough)

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PIA (PIGTAIL or PLAIT)

From Chiangmai but not born there,
she said her dark skin and big eyes
made her recognized by Thais
as from Malaysia.

Her family had fled into Thailand
when she was a child
to avoid the violence of war
in the border hills.

Pia entered the Meditation Hall silently
waited as the hinged door slowly shut
to stop the noise of the final closing thud.
She lifted the hem of her colourful passin skirt
to avoid any rustling fabric
and tiptoed to her meditation seat –
crouched slightly, head lowered
in respect to the old Teacher present.

After meditation as everyone departed
leaving an untidy array of ‘nests’ and ‘thrones’
of blankets, shawls and cushions;
Pia would turn and face her meditation seat
mindfully fold the shawl, tidy the cushions,
stroke creases out of the covers –
before leaving as silently as she had entered.

On hearing that her Awareness and Respect
had had a wholesome effect
and seen in contrast
to less cultivated Western habits;
Pia had smiled, agreeing;
“Yes, these are commendable Asian virtues
taught within families.”

She balanced her remark
by praising Western qualities
of Organisation and Discipline.

“If all these virtues were present
in a human being
it would be a good balance!”

(from Universal Satnav stories by Linden Brough)

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THE JEWELLER’S APPRENTICE

The bus had just pulled away from the main stop in town when it suddenly stopped, the door slid open and in jumped Jim.  I was sitting near the door and he grinned saying a loud hello with a strong Glasgow accent.  He dropped his lean body on to the seat next to mine while pulling off a full rucksack from his shoulders.

He had been shopping in the Health Food shops and pulled out a packet of biscuits.  “These are the best”, he said enthusiastically, “can only get them in town, gluten-free cranberry biscuits!”  He then tucked them back into the rucksack.

I asked him if he had a problem digesting wheat.  No, he had answered, it was just that they were particularly good biscuits.  He then went on to describe other things he had bought that day.  “Look”, he held up a clean hand that had no signs of manual work and pointed to the middle finger.  “See that swelling there?  It’s the beginning of rheumatoid arthritis, runs in the family.  Both my parents had it really bad but I know how to cure it.   Devil’s Claw.  I bought some today at the herbalists.  Within a couple of weeks all this swelling will have disappeared.  It’s a really strong anti-inflammatory and it’s called Devil’s Claw because it comes from a seed pod that is covered with tiny hooks and it gets dispersed by sticking to the hairs of rats.  Costs twelve pounds but its good stuff.”

The subject of money led him on to ask if I had noticed how the prices at the village grocery shop had gone mad in the past few months.  For years he had spent no more than sixty pounds a week on food and now, still buying the same things, it was costing nearly eighty pounds!   John, at the shop, had shown him sheets of the prices to prove that it wasn’t his increasing of prices but just a reflection of the present sharp rise in the cost of everything.

Jim talked constantly, one subject leading to another.  The thought of money lead him to enthusiastically declare the wonder of having a pension at sixty and that he had never been better off in his whole life!  A hundred and thirty pounds a week, and to think, he said, that he had only ever in his life had two jobs!

“What kind of work did you do?” I asked.

“I was a jeweller’s apprentice”, he answered. “It’s what my parents wanted me to do”.  He then went on to describe that he had been one of a large family in Glasgow, brought up very strictly in the Catholic faith but that he had always been the ‘black sheep’ of the family.  “From the very beginning I was different” he exclaimed, taking his hand up to point to his now greying orange hair, “I was a red-head, no one else in the family had ever been known to have this bright red hair!” He described how he had always been in trouble whereas the rest of the family had been well behaved.

The apprenticeship had only lasted two weeks because he had stolen a diamond bracelet!  After that there was a history of Borstal, being in prison and always, always being in trouble until he met his GURU.

“If I hadn’t met this Zen Buddhist, who’s still alive in the south of England somewhere, I would have spent the rest of my life being in and out of prison”, said Jim.  He then went on to describe this experience that changed his life.  The Zen teacher had told him that the purpose of life was the transcendental goal of Enlightenment, complete Peace and Happiness.   Teachers could only point to ‘the moon shining on water’, it was to be found by oneself within oneself.

“Just on hearing the man say this had an electrifying effect on me”, Jim exclaimed, “my behaviour changed from that moment on…”    At that time, Jim said, he and many others had jumped on the idea that this ‘enlightenment’ could be experienced on drugs even though the Zen teacher had shaken his head at this approach.

It was around then that I met my real GURU, Maharaji.  Prem Rawat is his name.  Can you imagine it he was only thirteen years old and I was in my twenties!  As soon as I saw him I knew.  He just had this aura about him.  He is the reincarnation of a famous Indian Guru, his father had been a teacher as well.

“I remember when it was his 19th birthday.  He lived in California and had the normal teenage passion for cars.  His devotees decided to gift him a brand new sports car just like the one in his favourite James Bond movie at that time.  So, world wide, we started a collection.  My partner at the time and I donated a pound each, which was a lot of money in those days.  We earned it doing some gardening and cleaning out stables.  It was a fabulous event.  We all got together here to watch a video of it.  The car was put into a huge box tied with ribbon and left on his driveway.  Imagine coming out to find this at your front door on your 19th birthday!  When he opened it, there was a brand new, dark green Aston Martin sports car just like the one in the film!  He was completely overwhelmed and delighted!”

Jim said that Mahariji still lived in the same house in an exclusive part of California with many celebrities as neighbours.  He was highly thought of by them all as he had grown up to be a quiet wise man.  He used to see many people and give lots of talks.  Afterwards, he would walk through a crowd of devotees and just point to one or two and say “you”…  they had been selected as being advanced enough for an individual interview.   But now he doesn’t give the big talks.

He had recently visited England and Jim said his followers from around here had hired a minibus at short notice to go and see him.  There had been this huge crowd of his devotees to greet him yet his message had lasted all of five minutes: “Peace and happiness to you all, do not look outside for it, look within.  I wish you all well.” 

By this time the bus had reached the Cliff.  We both got off.  I wondered how many had tuned in to Jim’s story as the volume of his voice had remained at an audible constant.  We walked down the path to the meadow with quick steps and then Jim turned off to follow another path, calling back a cheerful “Ciao!”     

(Story 3 from ‘Universal Satnav’ by Linden Brough)

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ELIZABETH

I was standing in a queue at the Post Office, minding my own business, when the person in front turned from looking at the rack of greeting cards and spoke to me. She was pointing to a card with a picture of a badger on it and was saying how awful it was that permission had been given in a part of Wales for all the badgers to be killed.  Apparently, this was because they seemed to carry a virus that infected the cows and gave them mad-cow’s disease.  As she spoke, it seemed that everything around us disappeared and that we had all the time in the world for this conversation.

“The simple answer would be to stop eating meat”, I replied, “then no animal need be killed.”

This had an immediate impact on her mind and she paused to reflect on a spontaneous adjustment to the truth.  Her face brightened and she agreed that this was indeed the answer! The world came into view again as it was her turn to be served at the counter.

I had never seen this woman before yet, within the next week, I was to meet her again in the Herbalist Health Food Shop in town.  She recognised me immediately and there, again, looking at her – everything seemed to slow down.

“What is your name?” I asked.

“E-L-I-Z-A-B-E-T-H,” she answered, filling eternity.

I finished my shopping after having to ask for help for a particular herbal preparation called ‘Stone Root’ that was not on the shelf and someone had to go upstairs to get a made-up bottle.

On the way back, there, at the bus stop was Elizabeth.  She must have been aware of my slight difficulty in obtaining the particular herbal preparation because she just had time to ask if I had managed to get what I was looking for before the bus appeared. As I sat down by a vacant seat, she approached, and I suddenly thought that she might want to sit next to me.  But it was as if she had read my mind and she smiled, motioning with her hand that she was passing on, saying, “ …for peace…”  She was exactly right.

What did she look like?  She was a tall, slim young woman who had the look of having been stretched so that she didn’t seem completely comfortable in her body.  Her face had an old-fashioned look, not plain, not pretty, not distinctive really in any  way.  Her eyes were blue and from the head that was mounted on this long body, wavy soft brown hair, though neatly cut to chin level, wisped out in all directions. She dressed in good quality outdoor-type clothes and carried a small Berghaus rucksack.

Something about her reminded one of a dandelion flower, tall, thin, yet shining its particular brightness. And that quality of timelessness, as in the child who plays with the dandelion clock asking what time is it?  And on three puffs it’s three o’clock, when it’s just before noon. 

I was to meet Elizabeth again, this time in the nearby village grocery shop.  “Hello ELIZABETH!” I smiled and she smiled back saying, “You remember my name”.

Do you live near here? I had asked her, and she explained that she lived in the outskirts of the village by the wood.  There had been a husband but he had had to be left behind years ago and she had paused, letting the unsaid understanding arise that she was meaning mental bands rather than time and place.  She lived with her five year old son who was doing fine now after a difficult start.  “What do you mean?” I had asked.  He had had health problems and difficulty in managing being with other children, difficulty in fitting in to the world, she had said, but we’ve made a lot of progress. “Will you come and visit me?” she asked, “I’ll write the address down and give it to you next time I see you”.

I never saw E-L-I-Z-A-B-E-T-H again.

(Story 2 from ‘Universal Satnav’ by Linden Brough)

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BOMBER AND BRIAN

Free Photo | Little terrier dog playing in the sea

The tide was far out and I had just returned from a long barefoot walk along its edge.  I stopped to sit on the wall by the cliff steps and dry the feet when an elderly man with a little black and white terrier walked past.  The dog was panting quietly and the man stopped to rest on the wall beside me.

“Is it an old dog?” I asked, noticing its air of quiet dignity and tufts of grey hair around peaceful brown eyes.

“Seven years old” he replied.

“That’s not old for a dog”, I replied and suggested that if the dog needed some water there was a container of it outside the beach cafe’s door.   The man thought that a rest was all that was needed.

“He came from a Rescue Home,” he said, “I’ve always had a dog and the last one for eighteen years.  After he died I decided that being over seventy, I wouldn’t take on another one but after a few months my wife said, “Go and get a dog…”

“Did your dog die naturally?” I asked.

Immediately the man understood.  “No,” he replied, “I had the vet come to the house.  He was suffering so much I couldn’t bear it, just lying there moaning day after day…”

“How did you feel about doing this?”

He was an honest man with a kind face and answered, “I didn’t like doing it and had an uncomfortable feeling deep inside but what else could I have done?”

“Animals find it much easier to leave and don’t hang on like humans.  Your dog would have decided himself when the suffering was too much and that it was time to go.  Perhaps we do such things to relieve our own suffering and are encouraged to do so by the vets.  This conceals the truth that we ask another to kill a fellow being and describe it as ‘putting them out of their suffering’…  A dying creature can be supported with love and compassion without any desire to hurry their death.  Do we put human beings out of their suffering by killing them when they are ill and dying?

“I suppose we think we would like a quick and painless death but the reality is that we want to live,” he said thoughtfully, paused for a moment and then continued to speak: “I decided not to take on a puppy again and that’s why I went to the Rescue Centre.  As soon as I saw him I knew he was the one and unlike most terriers, he wasn’t yappy or excitable.”

“Was he traumatised when you got him?” I asked.

“Not at all,” he answered, “he hadn’t been ill treated, the man who owned him changed his job and this resulted in him not being able to take proper care of the dog.  He hoped he would find a better home through the Rescue Centre.  His name is Bomber which suits him well because he really has been through the wars.  Look,” he said, and pointed to Bomber’s tail; “a badger bit half his tail off,” then he touched the dog’s neck, “a ridgeback bit into his neck and damaged the larynx so that he can’t bark properly, lets out a squeaky sound and look at his teeth,” and he gently opened Bomber’s mouth, “a horse kicked him in the face, smashing his lower jaw and all his lower teeth fell out.  A vet operated on him and reset all the teeth on what was left of the jaw.  The operation costs reached four figures and were paid for by the farmer who owned the horse.”

I marvelled at the row of perfect dog teeth (and Bomber’s karma…).

“I hadn’t asked at the Rescue Centre how he was with children but soon found out.  I’m a stand-in grandfather at the local nursery school, as well as giving talks at the primary school on the war and such like (had to do something to get out of the house as my wife’s housebound).  The children loved him and hearing the story about the badger, the ridgeback and the horse…  Bomber’s great with the children and is now one of their favourite visitors.”

“What is the matter with your wife?” I asked.

“She has advanced osteoporosis and is in constant pain, can no longer walk, has a benign tumour in the brain and has heart problems.   She’s in the camper van parked at the top of the cliff watching T.V.  We can still enjoy an outing, she hasn’t lost her mind and appreciates the change”, he replied.

I restrained from drawing his attention to the parallel of his old dog’s suffering and the old woman’s suffering.

By this time he had introduced himself as Brian. 

“With all this suffering Brian, would you want to come back again?”

“Oh yes,” he smiled and his eyes lit up, “I love my grandchildren and my two children…  Yes, I would come back…”

I rose to leave, touched Bomber’s head gently and shook hands with Brian, “It’s been a nice to meet you.  It sounds as though you try to make the world a brighter place. ”

“I do try,” he answered, his face beaming.

(Story 1 from ‘Universal Satnav’ by Linden Brough)

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DO DOGS GO TO HEAVEN?

“Has a dog Buddha-nature?angel
This is the most serious question of all.
If you say yes or no,
You lose your own Buddha-nature.”
-Zen Verse

A poet had written a love poem about his dog and reading it reminded me of this story which I sent to him from the Myths of the Hindus: Five royal heroes recognising that there time had come, resigned the throne to their successors and set forth on their last solemn journey — the pilgrimage of Death — followed by a dog who would not leave them. The last to die refused to enter Indra’s heavenly chariot —without the dog. He cannot imagine happiness, even in Heaven, if it were to be haunted by the thought of one so true who had been cast off. The god pleads and argues against the dog coming with him. The noble hero replies “To cast off one who has loved us is infinitely sinful.” The test is finished. Refusing to enter Heaven for the sake of a dog —and the dog stands transformed into a shining god, the God of Righteousness. The mortal is acclaimed by radiant multitudes and seated in the chariot of glory, he enters Heaven.

The coincidence amazed the poet as it paralleled a recent experience of his own: “I have a painting of my little dog in the arms of Jesus as seen one early morning at sunrise. A friend of a friend came to visit this heathen and preached that in the rapture only the righteous would enter the kingdom. I asked the lady about my dog, taking her to see my painting, and she said, “No, only humans, there be no animals in heaven (paradise).” I said, “Well madam, in that case, I’d rather not enter, for it would not be paradise for me without my dog, a much better being than I ever was or ever could be.”

Intrigued as to what the true answer might be to this “most serious question of all…” I asked Brian Taylor, author of the remarkable book CENTRE The Truth about Everything.

“Do dogs go to Heaven?”

He didn’t answer “yes” or “no” but replied, “Only if the astral leaves its dog behind.”

“What would the astral of a dog look like?” I asked.

“A dog,” Brian replied. “However, astral forms are mind-made, so they can be changed at will. Usually astrals are not aware of this.”

It became obvious that the same question and answer might apply to humans: ‘Do humans go to Heaven?’ the equivalent answer being, ‘Only if the astral leaves its human behind.’ I asked Brian if this was the case and he replied, “Yes.”

He had gone on to say that “Livingness” – life is a constantly changing continuum. “What I am now I was not then…” “What I will be I am not now…” This is described in his book – the truth being (discovered by using the Centre) that what seems to be an individual is a continuum and not an entity that continues indefinitely. “At any moment it is not the same as at any point in the past, but it is not different either.”He quotes the poet Tennyson who described the continuum as “rising on stepping stones of our dead selves to higher things”.

These ‘higher things’ according to CENTRE are to be discovered within us. The physical body (whether human, animal, fish, bird, insect…) is described as functioning only when it is inhabited by, and impregnated with, an astral body which can provide a non-physical link between it and the origin of life which is the Centre.

The astral body, as described in the book, provides “livingness” by means of subsidiary centres which themselves derive from another body inside the astral body. This is the “deva” body, which derives from yet another body inside it, the “brahma” body. Inside the brahma body is a fifth body – the “Buddha” body…

This makes five bodies that have forms: one material and four mental. The author suggests that it is helpful if one thinks of these five bodies fitting inside each other like a set of Russian dolls. Each being the result of karmic actions, in some cases a very long time ago.

Each of them is described as containing the same Centre. Their forms, as it were, being strung on strings which go right back to the origin of everything. One sees, says the author Brian Taylor, that the road home leads ever further and further inward into oneself rather than outward into the increasingly material forms of outward bodies. In withdrawing inward to more refined forms one is in fact retracing one’s steps. This is the way all beings have come on their journey – outwards from the Centre via subtle mental forms into the labyrinth of material evolution. “The spider, the amoeba, (the dog), the archangel and you are all fellow travellers on this journey from a single departure point. Who could have predicted it?”

Copy of draft ariya avatar

Now the truth of the Zen verse is clear! And the royal hero and poet are right in their love and loyalty for a “fellow traveller”. Not only do we lose ‘Buddha nature’ if we view any of the many outward manifestations of the One (the Centre) as separate and inferior but more seriously so, by harming any of the myriad transformations from the Centre which appear now as humans, now as animals, now as birds, now as insects.

“We are not human beings having a spiritual experience; we are spiritual beings having a human experience.”
                −Pierre Teilhard de Chardin

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  1. Universal Octopus Publications
  2. Centre The Truth about Everything by Brian Taylor

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CENTRE TRANSCENDING THE TITANIC

Brian Taylor, quite possibly today’s foremost researcher into yoga and the psychic and spiritual sciences, records his research in CENTRE The Truth about Everything. Michael Tymn, quite possibly today’s foremost writer on 19th century and early 20th century Spiritualism, records his investigations in TRANSCENDING THE TITANIC.

Image for Article TITANIC
What both books focus on is the spiritual and transcendent elements of existence and its apparent continuation after physical death. Michael Tymn uses archival anecdotal evidence communicated through mediums by a few of the deceased victims of the Titanic who survived in another dimension. Brian Taylor uses the Centre, the potentiality of which he describes as like the lamp waiting for Aladdin to wipe off the dust and express a wish or desire.

The most famous passenger on the Titanic had been William Thomas Stead (1849 -1912); a British journalist, editor, author, spiritualist and pacifist —as a peace crusader he had been nominated for the Nobel Prize for Peace in 1903 and thought to have been the likely recipient in 1912.

Stead boarded the ill-fated Titanic for a visit to America to take part in a peace congress at Carnegie Hall. After the ship struck the iceberg, Stead helped several women and children into lifeboats and during the last hours of the doomed voyage, he was reported as appearing utterly calm, unfazed by the prospect of death, which he regarded merely as a transition to a better world.

Very soon after his death, William Stead began communicating through mediums. Of his passing from earth to spirit life, he deliberately kept brief describing the first part as naturally extremely discordant. His first surprise —and he reminds us that to our way of thinking he was dead— he found that from being in dire straights himself, he was able to lend a hand to others. Just a moment of agitation, momentary only, and then the full and glorious realization that all he had learned as a spiritualist was true. He was still so near the earth that he could see everything that was going on there. He could see the wrecked ship, the people, the whole scene; and that pulled him into action— he could help.

A matter of a few minutes only in time, and there were hundreds of bodies floating in the water —dead—hundreds of souls carried through the air, alive; very much alive—newly thrust out of their bodies, all unwillingly. This is described in CENTRE as the ‘astral body’ leaving the physical body, because it is dead. “The human body functions as a living being only as long as it is inhabited by, and impregnated with, an astral body which can provide a non-physical link between it and the origin of life which is the Centre.”

Stead described how they waited until the disaster was complete. The saved—saved; the dead—alive. Then in one whole they moved their scene to a different land. He could not say how long the journey lasted, nor how far from the earth they were, but described it as a gloriously beautiful arrival, “…like walking from your own English winter gloom into the radiance of an Indian Sky.” He would not say that none were unhappy, many were; but that was because they did not understand the nearness of the two worlds; they did not know what was possible, but to those who understood the possibilities there was little grief for them. 

Brian Taylor’s pioneering discoveries provide a spiritual map, a vocabulary and a method to understand all the experiences described by William Stead who had believed in the afterlife but didn’t have doubt removed until after his physical death. CENTRE carries one across the threshold of the spiritual dimension in an impersonal, scientific way and enables the seeker after truth to fit spiritual experiences, like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle, into the complete picture. 

Having arrived at the new land Stead reported that they, who had come over from that ill-fated ship, parted company and went their separate ways —in accordance with their karma. Some remained as astrals (ghosts), some found happiness in the Heaven worlds (which Stead describes in ‘THE BLUE ISLAND’), experiencing the truth of “In my father’s house there are many mansions.” Stead described it as a land of freedom and happiness brought about through the real love of man for man. A land to work for—a land in which your place is made according to the knowledge you have had whilst on earth and the way you used that knowledge.

He communicated that Life here is a grander thing —a bolder thing, and a happier thing for all those who have led reasonable lives on earth, but for the unreasonable there are many troubles and difficulties and sorrows to be encountered. He emphasized the great truth of “as ye sow, so shall ye reap.” CENTRE’s core understanding reflects this truth as the natural result of the underlying Oneness of everything illustrated by the simple yet profound Universal Octopus diagram. 

Stead’s urgent message for those on earth is to understand the seriousness of our predicament ‘as you are now, so you will be after death’ and that same law still applies in the afterlife. He gives a brief outline of progressing from sphere to sphere —through making his own conditions. In each further sphere, he said, you become more and more self-contained, more detached. Some can progress to an impersonal state and become pure spirit people; others, he said, return to a new birth on earth. 

Stead enabled another victim from the wreck, the multimillionaire John J Astor (who had conducted himself with dignity and courage during the crisis) to communicate that he had found himself to be suffering from blindness in the new land until he had come to regret his earthly materialistic ambitions after being immersed in a higher spiritual reality. “Why are these things not taught in the world?” he is said to have cried through a medium. “Why did no one ever tell me these things?”

Spirits from the ‘other side’, Stead reported, have nothing more to say that has not been anticipated by one or other of those great Messengers who taught men the Way, their role is more to “widen the chinks through which the same light may shine through a little more clearly…”

CENTRE illuminates the truth about “these things” experienced in the present. It serves as a guide book and blueprint to happiness and teaches how to move from sphere to sphere, form to form, moving steadily deeper and deeper into higher, finer and finer realms —until one reaches the original sphere itself…

William Stead missed CENTRE by a hundred years but anyone reading this has the rare opportunity to read the book, understand the Centre, locate it and use it to reach the destination of their choice and the highest happiness — here and now.

 

TRANSCENDING THE TITANIC by Michael Tymn (2012) Amazon
CENTRE – THE TRUTH ABUT EVERYTHING by Brian Taylor (2012) Amazon
THE BLUE ISLAND as communicated by William T. Stead (1922) Kindle
TITANIC by Filson Young (1912) Free Kindle

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BLONDIN ABOVE NIAGARA

front.cover.blondin.fBOOK REVIEW
Blondin: Collected Poems

by Brian Taylor

New Edition 2019
Published by Universal Octopus
Paperback  224 pages

Blondin opens with an image of a man crossing Niagara on a tightrope – symbolising Everyman’s precarious journey through Life from birth to death.

“Blondin above Niagara,
 the rope begins to sway.
 The rocks below are grinning.
 Every step is Judgement Day.”

And the opening poem is short and enigmatic:

“The Sun shines
  in a bucket of water
  and doesn’t
  get
  wet.”

The book is made up of three collections of poems which all shine an impersonal seeing on the mundane to the extraordinary, the humour and tragedy, the light and the dark of Everyman’s life. The subject matter ranges from Oxford with its colleges, rivers and ghosts to the Far East with its monks and Buddhism.

Each poem in its own way is a pleasure to read, brightens the mind and has a wise point. No words are wasted. Each poem is different, yet all home in on the transiency of things and seeing the world from the same centre (1)  as the Poet at the time the poems were written. Humour and catastrophe side by side, good and evil, rich and poor, the beautiful and the ugly, the livingness of the present moment and the deadness of clinging to the past or a future.

“Poetry begins with pain
 (like any other kind of birth)
 but though it breeds and feeds on earth,
 it aims at not becoming back again
 and reaches to the root of things
 in search of the eternal springs.”

Though Blondin ends with the same short enigmatic poem as at the beginning there is now emphasis on the something unchangeable that has been underlying all the poems. Above the poem, a grim cartoon of the moment before death – combined – they can elicit a flash of the Deathless!

“The Sun (still) shines
  in a bucket of water
  and doesn’t
  get
  wet.”

The insight in the Blondin poems of Everyman’s one step after another (one breath after the other) across the tightrope of Life – is into the Unconditioned State. Everywhere is the contrast between the teeming multiplicity of life and the utter freedom of the Unconditioned State that runs like a crack through the Universe.

Brian Taylor’s collection of poems in Blondin: Collected Poems is a rare work of Art and Insight and serves as a good friend and wise companion on the journey of life to Everyman and the serious truth seeker. Each poem is as fresh to read again and there is joy in awakening to the truth that the poems point to.

Linden Brough, July 2019

 

 

(1) To find out about the different centres in your body see Centre: The Truth about Everything 

 

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NOAH (KNOWING)

Noah'sArk_1In the story God told Noah to build an Ark to keep him safe from the great flood that was coming.

Today, the world is flooded with the great danger of insane behaviour being accepted as the norm in all levels of society. Life in its many forms on Earth is being threatened with extinction unless humans change the way they act. We don’t need a God to tell us what is obvious in the mad world today (yet only seen by a few) and know that the action that needs to be taken is to stop causing suffering to Life before it is too late.

The Ark kept Noah safe.  The Ark could be considered to be what kind of Life one builds for oneself and needs the safety of a moral compass. Basic Ethics – not doing to other living beings what I would not want done to me.

This enables a direct route back to the Centre[1]. The Centre does not harm its tentacles[2]. With this understanding one is in a position to see that the cause of madness in the world is separatism (Ego). Desire fades to explore going further out into the labyrinthine world and one looks inwards to free the mind from identification with its human form and feelings (non-self, impermanent and unsatisfactory) and the cause of rebirth in unsatisfactory realms.

One is now free to choose to mould thoughts, speech and actions from seeing the Truth and by awareness and investigation develop understanding that changes one! One could enter the Centre forever.

The safety of an Ark with a moral compass is what is needed in the world and is the foundation to escape from the world.

“Who would purify their world first purifies their mind,
  As the mind becomes pure, their world becomes pure.”

     -Buddha

 

[1] See Centre: The Truth about Everything by Brian Taylor

[2] Tentacles: See Universal Octopus

 

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