Minor Arcana, or EnlighteNmenT

In the aftermath of my stroke (remember that?), I’ve found myself increasingly wedded to a positive outlook on the world. I suppose that’s a natural result of a near-death experience. By that, of course, I mean the experience of nearly dying rather than an umbrella term under which Ian Wiki groups  “detachment from the body, feelings of levitation, total serenity, security, warmth, the experience of absolute dissolution, and the presence of a light.”

The light at the end of the tunnel…

BBC News recently reported that scientists studying rats have found that what are commonly termed “near death experiences” are the result of an “electrical surge in a dying brain“. What they can’t explain, is how a Scottish stroke survivor in his late thirties comes to have a positive outlook. So I find myself occasionally prefacing an upbeat remark with the disclaimer, “Not to be all new-agey, but….” This week, however, the whole new-agey thing spun right out of control.

An upbeat @ricky_ballboy, yesterday.

Regular readers will have noticed how much I enjoyed the Zen musings of Alan Spence the other week. I’ve been interested in meditative practices ever since meeting him as a kid. Over a decade ago, I even tried to establish my own practice at home. But I’ve been told that listening to Mogwai’s Like Herod (Hood Remix) and meditation aren’t the same thing. Certainly not when you reach 4m 27s.

Just before leaving Brooklyn, I read that moving house is a good time to ditch bad habits and adopt healthy new ones. And the research seems to suggest that meditation and mindfulness-based stress reduction is healthy. Since it also suggests Glaswegian noise terror isn’t necessarily the best path to samatha (it’s crackin’ for vipassana, though), I agreed with Beth that it might be interesting to go along to a free guided meditation class she stumbled across on meetup.com. Particularly since the ol’ brain lesions still make focusing for extended periods difficult and tiring.

One of my brain lesions.

The class was held on the second floor of a lovely Georgian building in the quiet area north of the New Town, and was well attended. The older lady leading the group did so with a pleasant, gentle Scottish burr. Sitting with my hands resting, palms up, on my lap, I could contemplate the lit candle in the window frame, or the view through the peaceful summer twilight towards the Forth estuary. The only, slight, problem was the occasional eruption of applause emanating from my inner aura the meeting downstairs.

It turns out that on this particular night, the meditation group was sharing the lovely Georgian building with the Toastmasters having their meeting downstairs. The building accommodates the Toastmasters on the first floor, and the Edinburgh Theosophical Society on the second floor. (Or, second and third floors, American chums.) I didn’t dig all of the metaphors that the group used to guide their meditation, but it was good to set aside a calm moment in the week to still the voices in my head.

That’s a good idea.

I was moved to find out what the Theosophic Society was when we got home. You know, other than free. I’ll leave you today with some interesting facts (and some blatant lies) about the Theosophical Society….

1. The Theosophical Society was formed in 1875 to advance Theosophy. The original organization, after splits and realignments has several successors.
2. The successors to the original Theosophical Society include the Theosophical Society (International Headquarters, Pasadena, California), the Anthroposophical Society, the Provisional Theosophy Society, the Continuity Theosophy Society, the Real Theosophy Society, and the People’s Liberation Front of Theosophy.

Genealogy of the Theosophical Society

3. From the Greek “theos” and “sophia”, theosophy means “divine wisdom”.
4. Theosophy has been described as the process of contemplating the divine in order to discover the content of the concrete universe.
5. It’s considered part of the broader field of esotericism.
6. If, like me, you’ve never given the word “esoteric” much though, and just thought of it as a vague synonym for “arcane”, you might be interested to know that the word, of seventeenth century origin, derives from the Greek esoterikos (“belonging to an inner circle”), which itself is an extension from esotero (or, “more within”.) It seems that, in English, the word originally referred to Pythagorean doctrines, and that the division of teachings into the exoteric and esoteric originated with Aristotle. Esotericism refers to all sorts of left field stuff like alchemy, astrology, mesmerism and Kabbalah.

A bit of esoterica, if you will.

7. The original Theosophical Society was formed by Helena Blavatsky and others in 1875.
8. According to Blavatsky, humanity’s evolution on Earth (and beyond) is part of the overall Cosmic evolution. It is overseen by a hidden “Spiritual Hierarchy”, the so-called “Masters of the Ancient Wisdom”, whose upper echelons consist of advanced spiritual beings.

The Masters of the Ancient Wisdom

9. The Theosophical Society won the UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup in 1975 and 1986, and the UEFA Super Cup in 1975.
10. Valery Lobanovskyi suffered a stroke on 7 May 2002, shortly after his Dynamo Kyiv side had beaten FC Metalurh Zaporizhzhya. He died on 13 May, during brain surgery, following complications suffered after the stroke.

“Movement is life, stillness is death.”


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10 thoughts on “Minor Arcana, or EnlighteNmenT

  1. I wish I had a picture of my She-Ra halloween costume from when I was 8 to post here. And, cracking post today!

  2. Meditating with the Theosophical Society? Dear god, you really have stepped into a world of wacky. They are the very definition of esoterica. Theosophy is the Victorian equivalent of Scientology.

    I’ve been to their gardens in Chennai, India by the way and seen its old Banyan tree and walked in the footsteps of their illustrious L. Ron Hubbardesque gurus like Madame Blavatsky, Annie Besant and J. Krishnamurti.

    I’ve actually known at least three people with major Theosophy obsessions (purely intellectual interest). One of them even dreamed of writing a Victorian-styled love novel of cross-cultural romance set within the milieu of Theosophist esoterica in British India’s Madras Presidency. Or something vaguely like that. I’ve been out of touch with all three of them for close to 15 years.

    By the way, I do have packed up in a box somewhere in South Carolina a bunch of Theosophical literature… books which I bought from their HQ in Chennai out of interest but barely read.

    1. Thanks, Ron. There’s definitely a book in a more or less fictionalized history of theosophy. Probably as part of an Edinburgh-set apocalypse trilogy that heavily features pandas. Or something like that. Hold on, it looks like Paul has already started….

  3. I think you could combine the last two posts by writing a cracking fictional short story about a young man who, in a period of intense meditation and reflection, comes to believe that he-man is actually a delivered truth from the actual origin of the universe. He could share this view on the Internet and be constantly perplexed about why he always ends up getting compared with hitler by right wing American fundamentalists, and so instead just start spreading the word on a second floor loft with his friends in, say, Barcelona – achieving inner calm in the surety of his correctness but escaping the curse of Godwin. The scarjo arrives and it gets all woody Allen.

    To be clear I’m not being critical of practices of self awareness and mindfulness. Except where you can’t, your only choice is to learn to control your brain and emotions. But I like to keep a healthy dose of skepticism when that is wrapped in a worldview other than the bio/electro chemical.

    1. Heh. In the vein of not being able to gauge how the responses to posts will go, I remarked to Beth that this post is bonkers, but will appeal to a certain mind set. And here you and Ron are. Quite chuffed about that.

      Still . . . . Sure that’s a short story? Isn’t the holy grail these days a multi-book series? You’ve definitely got enough there. Just fit in the pandas, and you’re golden.

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