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An extraordinary gathering of angels

In recent weeks, I have experienced two unusual — extra ordinary — close encounters with birds. In recent days, I have discovered that these may signify close encounters with angels.

The first and most profound of these occurred at my favourite place of solitude in the mountains. Borne witness here, with the title ‘Strange days indeed’.

The second occurred a couple of weeks ago. On this occasion, at my favourite lakeside haven. Shortly after my arriving and nestling down on the grass with Kindle and camera, a Butcherbird — they of the glorious mellow carrolling voice — suddenly swooped down and landed right at my still-booted feet. For a moment it looked directly at me, cocking its head quizzically. Then, even more extraordinary — and unprecedented — with a small leap and brief flit of wings, it alighted fearlessly right on top of my knee.

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My left knee. The one ever prone to injury, in more youthful times.

The Butcherbird sat there happily for a few moments, looking at me. Only when I began to turn away, slowly to reach for my camera, did it swiftly fly away. I could not help but feel that this little bird had come to welcome me.

Or perhaps, to offer me a greater reason to stay. Because soon after, two vehicles rolled up the lonely dirt road, pulled over on the grass behind my motorcycle, and spilled their many occupants out. Whereupon these noisily began setting up chairs and tables for a BBQ. Such would usually signal me to politely beat a silent retreat, to some other, less trafficked locale. The hope of a return of the Butcherbird — after their departure — sufficed me to stay. And indeed, it — or rather, another of the same Family — did. Although as the photos here show, this other did not come at all so near, contenting itself to alight on my throttle hand grip instead.

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These visitations of the birds were vividly recalled to my mind two days ago, in a hospital emergency department, by my twin brother’s bedside, on reading a chapter in Symbols of Sacred Science entitled ‘The Language of the Birds’. It also recalled to mind my first poem; the subject of yesterday’s blog ‘Learning to fly’.

The following excerpt from ‘The Language of the Birds’ is worthy of deep contemplation for its own sake. However, I wish to cite it here for an additional reason. It prepares the way for another post to follow — perhaps tomorrow — on a closely related topic that is near to my heart, and to many themes in connection with the Psalmistice blog, including the symbolisms embedded in its “winged” logo, and my intuitions regarding the extraordinary, other-worldly effects induced by the spell of the silence discerned beneath the beat of a single crankpin 45° V-twin Harley-Davidson engine.

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That topic, is rhythm.

But first, on the ‘Language of the Birds’ —

Wa-ṣ-ṣāffāti ṣāffan,
Faz-zājirāti zajran,
Fat-tāliyāti dhikran …

By those ranged in ranks,
And who drive away, repulsing,
And who recite the invocation …

Qurʾān, XXXVII, 1-3

There is often mention, in diverse traditions, of a mysterious language called ‘the language of the birds’ — a designation that is clearly symbolic, for the very importance that is attributed to the knowledge of this language, as the prerogative of a high initiation, does not allow us to take it literally.  We read, for example, in the Qurʾān: ‘And Solomon was David’s heir.  And he said, O mankind!  Lo!  we have been taught the language of the birds (ullimnā manṭiq aṭ-ṭayr) and have been given abundance of all things …’. (XXVII, 16).  Elsewhere we read of heroes who, having vanquished the dragon, like Siegfried in the Nordic legend, instantly understand the language of the birds; and this makes it easy to interpret the symbolism in question.  Victory over the dragon has, as its immediate consequence, the conquest of immortality, which is represented by some object the approach to which is guarded by the dragon; and this conquest essentially implies the reintegration into the centre of the human state, that is, into the point where communication is established with the higher states of being.  It is this communication which is represented by the understanding of the language of the birds; and in fact birds are frequently taken as symbols of the angels, that is, precisely, of the higher states.  We have had occasion elsewhere1 to cite the Gospel parable that refers, in this very sense, to ‘the birds of the heavens’ which come and rest in the branches of the tree, the same tree that represents the axis which passes through the centre of each state of the being, and links all the states with each other.2

In the Qurʾānic text given above, the term aṣ-ṣāffāt is taken as meaning literally the birds, but as denoting symbolically the angels (al-malā’ikah); and thus the first verse signifies the constitution of the celestial or spiritual hierarchies.3  The second verse expresses the fight of the angels against the demons, the celestial powers against the infernal powers, that is, the opposition between higher and lower states.4  In the Hindu tradition this is the struggle of the Devas against the Asuras and also, according to a symbolism which comes very close to the symbolism of our theme, the combat of Garuda against the Nāga which is, moreover, none other than the above mentioned serpent or dragon.  The Garuda is the eagle, and elsewhere it is replaced by other birds such as the ibis, the stork, the heron, all enemies and destroyers of reptiles.5

Finally, in the third verse, the angels are said to be reciting the dhikr which is generally interpreted as meaning here the Qur’ān; not the Qur’ān that is expressed in human language, needless to say, but its eternal prototype inscribed on the ‘Guarded Tablet’ (al-lawḥ al-maḥfūẓ), which like Jacob’s ladder extends from the heavens to the earth, and therefore throughout all the degrees of universal existence.

 

1 Man and His Becoming according to the Vedānta, ch. 3.

2 In the Medieval symbol of the Peridexion (a corruption of the word Paradision), one sees the birds on the branches of the tree and the dragon at its foot (cf., The Symbolism of the Cross, ch. 9). In a study on the symbolism of the ‘bird of Paradise’ (Le Rayonnement intellectuel, May-June 1930)  Charbonneau-Lassay has reproduced a sculpture in which this bird is represented by only a head and wings, a form frequently used to depict the angels (cf., Le Bestiaire du Christ, ch. 46, p. 425)

3 The word ṣaff or ‘rank’, is one of those many words which have been suggested as the origin of the word ṣūfī and taṣawwuf; and although this derivation does not seem acceptable from a purely linguistic point of view, it is none the less true, as with many other derivations of the same kind, that it represents one of those ideas really contained in these terms; for the ‘spiritual hierarchies’ are essentially identical with the degrees of initiation.

4 This opposition is expressed in each being by the two tendencies, ascending and descending, called respectively sattwa and tamas by the Hindu doctrine. It is also that which Mazdeism symbolises by the antagonism between light and darkness, personified respectively by Ormuzd and Ahriman.

5 See on this subject the remarkable works of Louis Charbonneau-Lassay on the animal symbols of Christ (cf., Le Bestiaire du Christ). It is important to note that the symbolic opposition of bird and serpent does not apply except when the serpent is considered under its malefic aspect; on the contrary, under its benefic aspect it sometimes is united with the bird as in the case of Quetzalcohuatl of the ancient Meso-American traditions. Moreover, one also finds in Mexico the combat of the eagle with the serpent. As regards the association of bird and serpent, we can recall the Gospel text: ‘Be ye wise as serpents and guileless as doves’ (Mt. 10:16).

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Learning to fly

Presently, I am reading two tomes. Both new to me. The which, on any particular day, depends on what I feel is most in need.

If balm for the heart, Theologia Germanica.

If manna for the mind, Symbols of Sacred Science.

I have been vividly reminded of a poem that I wrote some four years ago. Its inspiration arose out of care for a friend, who had declared that their choices in life were determined by a single criterion.

To follow the passions.

Thanks to the authors of my present reading, I am humbly coming to see that this, my first attempt at poetry, bespeaks an infinitely greater — profundity — than I had realised originally.

 

Returning

On edge of home I looked beyond,
And felt the winds of Passion strong,
Spread my wings to heed the call,
I did not know how to fly at all.

Watched mother and father timorously,
Examples to show me how it should be,
I never knew while in their thrall,
They did not know how to fly at all.

When blew no winds of Passion fair,
I spread my wings and beat the air,
Created feelings, passions small,
Still I knew not how to fly at all.

My wings grew strong, desires too,
For things beyond the things I knew,
Pleasures waiting on yonder shore,
But I knew not how to fly at all.

Growing restless to leave home,
Family near, yet on my own,
And though the nest began to pall,
I did not know how to fly at all.

On frantic wings one day, ascent!
A little rise brought confidence,
Self-made feelings of power, control,
Still I knew not how to fly at all.

When Passion said to say goodbye,
To spread my fledgling wings and fly,
I left the nest with rending squall,
Still knowing not how to fly at all.

O what adventure! Look out below!
Here I come on Passion’s flow,
Gliding on high, though ever in fall,
For I knew not how to fly at all.

Soon I discovered what power is mine,
Wings filled with Passion can surely rise,
Yet this power was without control,
I did not know how to fly at all.

Passion and Reason, Conscience and Will,
Balance of forces I needed still,
Impassioned wings can rise and fall,
I did not know how to fly at all.

On force of Will I first took flight,
Beating the air with all my might,
Thought in my wings true Passion hold,
But I knew not how to fly at all.

With youthful vigour, strength of heart,
Flailing wings the beginner’s art,
Flights of fancy, Self-effort called,
I did not know how to fly at all.

Rising boldly, fading fast,
Self-Willed passions do not last,
And so my wings would finally stall,
I did not know how to fly at all.

Exhausted, grounded, my limits shown,
Yearning for place of rest called ‘Home’,
Strength of Will now broken, for
I did not know how to fly at all.

Selfish Will a mysterious thing,
Though humbled briefly, up it springs,
Trapped in this cycle of rise then fall,
I did not know how to fly at all.

Eventually I, too tired to fight,
Eyes freed from Self, received insight,
Of Passion to replace my toil,
When I had no strength to fly at all.

I saw again the wind that blows,
From source not me, but heaven knows,
My childhood days that wind recalled,
When I knew not how to fly at all.

And so I learned an easier way,
To wait and watch for trees to sway,
Then glide away on Passion’s call,
Still I knew not how to fly at all.

Force of Passion, not of mine,
No need of beating wings to fly,
Force of Will not needed more,
Still I knew not how to fly at all.

For winds to their direction be,
So how could I be truly free?
Power of Passion, without control,
I did not know how to fly at all.

Swept along by Passion one day,
I Willed to go a different way,
Turned by force of Reason sure,
Still I knew not how to fly at all.

Reason comes after Passion you see,
As eagle’s tail rests in the lee,
As rudder steers from aft the fore,
But I did not know how to fly at all.

O what joy! How I adored,
This power to go with Passion, or
To go where Reason should implore,
Still I knew not how to fly at all.

Force of Reason, for good or ill,
Wings filled with Passion, turned at Will,
Feelings of power and control,
I did not know that I have none at all.

Though at last some balance found,
Passion held to Reason’s sound,
Choice of direction at Will’s call,
Still I knew not how to fly at all.

For winds blow flush, not up and down,
So how to rise up from the ground?
How to transcend these Passions’ thrall?
I did not know how to fly at all.

So I studied the way of flight,
By force of Reason’s pilot light,
These unseen forces I explored,
When I knew not how to fly at all.

Wind over wing, it faster flows,
And there it forms a pressure Low,
While under wing a pressure High,
That lifts my wing into the sky.

So when I turned with wings inclined,
To face the winds of Passion, I
Brought Passion under, Self controlled,
Still I knew not how to fly at all.

The more my wings to heaven inclined,
The more I rose into the sky,
Until a point at which I stalled,
I did not know how to fly at all.

For Passion only goes so high,
Like wall of wind in bluest sky,
At unseen height there is no more,
So I could no longer rise at all.

And now what’s more I knew again,
With rising height, my oldest friend,
Selfish Will so natural,
I did not know how to fly at all.

With rising up a higher view,
A looking down on others who,
Shrank from my sight as Pride grew tall,
I did not know how to fly at all.

Passion sees no consequence,
Is prone to overconfidence,
Caught up in Pride of Passion’s thrall,
I did not know how to fly at all.

In time I learned sunrise to noon,
Tells of Passions warm, but soon,
Cooler winds as evening falls,
Still I knew not how to fly at all.

In summer Passion’s winds run hot,
And winter’s chill is soon forgot,
Then seasons change, warm feelings cold,
And I knew not how to fly at all.

For Passion’s heat will always fade,
Chill to the bone, and feelings jade,
Cold, exhausted, insecure,
I did not know how to fly at all.

Longed for warmth, looked for a mate,
Thinking to share a happy Fate,
Bonds of Passion I explored,
And found they do not fly at all.

For how can two together fly,
When in the spell of lovers’ guise,
Unbalanced forces are ignored,
And neither half can fly at all.

Two Selfish Passions bound will rise,
Until the weaker falls behind,
Or stronger leaves for different score,
And broken wings don’t fly at all.

That’s why they say we fall in love,
It’s not Love True they’re speaking of,
But Passions bound in Selfish thrall,
They do not know how to fly at all.

This is how for years I roamed,
Adrift on Passions, far from home,
False comfort said, “I’m in control”,
But I did not know how to fly at all.

Then I began to wonder why,
Mighty eagles soar so high,
While others near to earth endure,
I did not know how to fly at all.

And so I watched the eagles’ flight,
Turning ever inward, out of sight,
Serene departing earthly ball,
I did not know how they fly at all.

If winds do not blow up and down,
Then what lifts eagles from the ground?
What force or power rising tall?
I did not know how they fly at all.

Thermals rising I could not see,
Unlike the wind seen in the trees,
Force of Conscience my chief sensor,
God’s altimeter set inside us all.

Warm currents rise, cold currents fall,
Love to God in warmth enfolds,
Love to Self is comfort cold,
And can not really fly at all.

When Passion bound I Willed to be,
Love towards Heaven I could not see,
Only Conscience free from Selfish pall,
Can sense each moment’s rise or fall.

I began to practice turning in,
But there I found the weight of sin,
Heavy Conscience I’d ignored,
The reason I could not fly at all.

For every Selfish act it lays,
On Conscience a little debt to pay,
Passion blind to how it grows,
And weighs us down to earth below.

This, the heaviest weight to bear,
More of Self doomed to despair,
To be set free this chain and ball,
Less of Self comes first of all.

But where the power to set free,
When love of Self comes naturally?
Till death of Self, and God adored,
I did not know how to fly at all.

A humbled Self was necessary,
Before I could be truly free,
We’re flying on power of Self so-called,
If ever we should feel tired at all.

Humility needed, Patience too,
To rise up with wings as eagles do,
Strength renewed by power of Love,
In waiting on the Lord above.

The words of God, Isaiah’s creed,
“In returning and rest you shall be freed”,
Turn toward heaven, resting on Love,
Source of Strength to rise above.

Movement with rest”, the Master intoned,
To doubting Thomas and he alone,
“The Sign of the Father in your soul”,
Showing The Way to fly to all.

Pillar of cloud, day guide will be,
Pillar of fire, by night to see,
Spiralling up to the heavens tall,
Showing the Path of flight to all.

Turning left or turning right,
Matters not for upward flight,
Carried to heaven, looking to the All,
Only turning from Self will fly at all.

Serpent coiled around a tree,
Ancient symbol of healing be,
Of Resurrection, this foretold,
The only Way to fly at all.

DNA, twin helix of life,
Jacob’s Ladder, from earth to Light.
Turning, returning, spiralling tall,
A stairway to heaven inside us all.

Spiralling up to Heaven’s Gate,
This my Passion, Will, and Fate,
Death of Self, only God adored,
Now I Know how to fly with All.

© The Blissful Ignoramus – 2010

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Remember to surrender

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Earlier this week, within the space of 24 hours, I had occasion to experience shaking with anger, and, shaking with grief.

Shortly after the shaking had subsided — a great sadness released — something dawned on me, just as I was packing my motorcycle to return home, and, just as the sun appeared, from behind a coldly cloudy afternoon.

Both experiences were all about energy. And resistance.

Or, viewed another way, both experiences were a consequence of error.

The error of holding on to energy. Resisting. Rather than letting all things flow.

Both the anger, and the grief, were a release of pent-up energy.

Energy that would not have pent up, if I had not impeded the flow.

How so?

Control.

Trying to insert “me” into this world.

Trying to influence. To correct. To shape. To steer.

To control.

This holding on, this grasping, this resistance, this seeking to control things, situations, outcomes, it was this action of “me” — natural, though it be — that held up, restricted, impeded, the flow.

Like the natural “me” resistance in a wire, impeding the flow of electrical energy.

Lesson learned.

To let it all go.

From the get-go.

To remember.

To surrender.

To chill.

Like a superconductor.

And just … watch … the flow.

 

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