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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.