Tuesday, 26 October 2010

Still waiting for equality

I was recently asked if I was willing to be the external examiner to a MA in Integrative Psychotherapy run at the London School of Theology and validated by Middlesex University. I was interested but visited the website and was troubled by the word 'evangelical'. So I asked the course organiser about the course and the college's view on homosexuality telling her I was committed to gay and lesbian equality.

The course tutors' response was fairly liberal but the college's official viewpoint was shocking. I quote in part rom their official viewpoint:

"2. We value contemporary tools of scholarship which help us to understand God's written word but must never use them to try to make scripture say what it plainly does not say.

3. In that connection we do not accept that scripture can be made to say that homosexual practice is a God-approved way of living. The variety of scriptural texts, each of which individually requires carefully nuanced interpretation, from different ages, cultures and parts of scripture, collectively and unitedly express God's disapproval of homosexual practice. Recent attempts to revise our reading of these texts often involve special pleading or sleight of hand.

4. Even if that were not so, homosexual practice is incompatible with the plain teaching of scripture that God's will is the physical expression of human sexuality should be limited to a lifelong, monogamous relationship between husband and wife."

I find this shocking and offensive. It both offends my own religious beliefs but also I think it is incompatible with counselling ethics. Needless to say i have declined their invitation:

'In the light of the official LST view on homosexuality I can't in all conscience be your external examiner. As a Quaker I am committed to equality for LGT people and likewise as a BACP Fellow.'

Friday, 15 October 2010

If not (poem)

On the wall in my mother-in-law's bathroom is a copy of Kipling's IF. I have often puzzled over it and played around with it. Redaing aloud everys econd word of each line etc. Last week David the Cake maker at work (He did my legendary 60th birthday cake) asked me how I was. I found myself misquoting If in reply and that set me off!


IF you can lose your head when all about you
Are keeping theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can doubt yourself when all men trust you,
But make allowance for their trusting too;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds' worth of frantic pace,
Yours is not the Earth and nothing that's in it,
And - which is more - you'll be a fool, my son!

I WANDER'D lonely as a clown
That floats on high o'er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden caterpillars;

In Chorlton did Kubla Khan
A stately organic cafe decree:
Where Mersey, the sacred river, ran
Through sewage measureless to man
Down to a sunless sea.

Shall I compare thee to a winter's day?
Thou art more cold and more grumpy.
Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,
And winter's lease hath all too long a date.

And did those feet in ancient time
Walk upon Chorlton's gardens green?
And was the holy Lamb of God
On Chorlton's pleasant pastures seen?
And did the Countenance Divine
Shine forth upon our clouded beer?
And was Jerusalem builded here
Among these dark satanic cafes?

Thursday, 7 October 2010

Mystic Detective(13)

Frankie was suffering. He sat there with his head in his hands, his body slumped over. For a usual snappy dresser he was a mess. His hair was lank and greasy clearly needing a wash, his shirt was crumpled and his tie was at half mast. He was a picture of misery. Paul waited patiently for his friend to speak again. Frankie groaned and looked up at Paul with a wild beseeching look in his eyes that hit Paul in the bottom of his stomach
- I’m losing it…. Big time
- Oh Frankie!
- Yes, the business with Claudia and those bastards in OM is doing me in
- Tell me what happened
- Oh, (groaned Frankie as if the effort to speak, indeed the effort to think was too much for him) get me a coffee … or something stronger
- Let’s stick to an Americano.
Paul signalled to a waiter who came across and took his order
- Why not start at the beginning?
- Well you know how I gave OM one thousand pounds
- Oh you did in the end?
- Yes… and how Claudia wanted me to do their Level Two
- No
- Yes, Level Two
- And you did it?
- Yes (Frankie swallowed) I wish I hadn’t
- What happened?
- What happened? (Paul nodded) .. . ahm… Well that’s it. I know they used a drug on me for what they call memory enhancing but actually I have gaps in my memory. I-I-I remember going to the their centre with Claudia and taking part in a welcome meeting – welcome my arse! that was a laugh (said with bitterness)
- And?
- And then it gets hazy, a jumble of memories for the next few days…. I think I had sex with someone and I laughed a lot and the whole world seemed to laugh with me event he video camera man-
- Whaat?
- Eh… yes video camera man oh shit… and then I remember laughing and crying and crying and laughing and disappearing into a dark hole and emerging into white light… and then… and then… gradually coming back to some kind of normality but I feel so sad and blue… everything is pointless…Ah…
- What does Claudia say?
- Claudia?
- Yes Claudia
Frankie shook his head as if trying to get back into the conversation.
- Oh… er Claudia… well she is already doing Level Three and apparently she was my Level Two partner or Leveller as they are called though usually you don’t act as Leveller with members of your own family… where was I? …. Oh yeah Claudia says I had a particularly difficult Level two experience and that she had to work hard to get me through it but it came alright in the end.
- Yeah?
- No! I am not alright, am I? (Paul nodded his agreement) and at some point in those three days I signed an agreement to give OM another five thousand
- Five Thousand?
- Yes five thousand, that means I am now in for six thousand in total and they are asking me to round it up to then thousand
- Bloody hell
- Bloody hell yes. And I feel like hell too
Frankie looked so thoroughly miserable and a tear ran down his face
- And Claudia?
- Oh she’s alright, she’s their bright eyed babe. I’ve seen through her. I don’t care whether she is my daughter or not. I’m finished with her
Frankie began sobbing which contrasted with his angry words. Paul reached out and touched his friend’s arm causing Frankie to flinch before relaxing and receiving Paul’s touch.
- Is there anywhere you could go?
- I don’t know….Rome maybe, my cousin’s there…. It would be great to get away and there is no OM centre there. The Italians have too much sense!
- Why not got his weekend? Why not go today?
- Well I’ve a few meetings, a few tutorials but…
- But they can wait and they will be all the better for you having a break
- Paul you are dead right. I’ll make the arrangements right now.

Paul was pleased with his friend’s decision but still very concerned about the state Frankie was in. But maybe a break in Rome would at least serve as a kind of convalescence for the bad drug induced experience Frankie had clearly gone through with OM.

Wednesday, 6 October 2010

Getting out of the human condition

Getting out of the human condition

For me there is a huge philosophical and spiritual question
To do with truth and meaning
I can never…..
Let me try
I can never transcend being human
I can never step outside of being human
The universe to me is spiritual
I experience that
I have times of experiencing an inter-connectedness
That I regard as spiritual

I cannot not have had that experience
But there’s a sense in which
Perhaps I could
But it feels like I can’t
That I can’t stand somewhere
Outside of being a human spiritual being

And so everything I do
I’m in
And I can’t get out

(I got interviewed by Kim Etherington some time ago and she turned some of my words in stanzas and published them in her On Becoming a reflexive Researcher book. So I decided to draw out these stanzas sutibaly edited as poems. here is one of them)

On being blisssed out

Until a couple of years ago I used to attend a weekly yoga class run by Ananda Marga. It was gentle yoga with a lot of resting between postures and it ended with a meditation. I would come out 'blissed out'. This was different to my Quaker blissed out state - more of that later. I liked the Hindu inspired teachings that were part of the class and the various teachers over the years mostly young white and European were gentle souls. Then things got a bit evangelical for my taste and so I stopped going. But I miss it - the yoga and the blissed out state so I am thinking of going again.

I have always been blissed out from time to time at least since I was a teenager if not earlier. Maybe a briefish dabble with hash helped - it used to bliss me out even on small doses and then it didn't. But getting involved with spiritual healing, meditation and Reichian therapy (an energy based form of psychotherapy) in my late twenties early thirties led to more regular blissedoutness. But I never came to rest quite within a spiritual/religion home.

Then 20 years ago I stumbled across Quakers and felt I had come one. The blissed outness seem part of things and I loved their archaic language and their egalitarianism - I am convinced I was in the English Civil War in a past life and of course Quakers stared in that period - 1652. Many of the people who were Levellers in the 1640s became Quakers in the 1650s.

But I have a problem. I find it hard to talk about my blissed outness to my fellow Quakers. This problem of mine reduces my intimacy with my fellow Quakers. It's like I can't switch out of my blissed outness into ordinary' conversations over tea afterwards. No-one seems to talk about what we have just done together int eh silence of the Meeting. I am also rather lacking in some social skills (we teach what we need to learn!) and I struggle in social situations with people I don't know that well. So after 15 years of attending Manchester Quaker Meetings I still feel on the edge. |Even I've been an Elder and am in my 7th year as Quaker Chaplain so in theory I should be in the thick of things.

Back to the blissed out thing. I guess I became a Quaker because this was a great way of honoring and developing my blissed outness even if we don't really have much apparent Quaker language for it. Unlike say Wilber who offers an all signing all dancing model of human spiritual development. So I was culturally ready for a quaint old fashioned language egalitarian group that was inclusive and which struggled with the word 'Christian' and it also helped me resolve some of my issues around sin.

But I struggle on a human level with this being a Quaker.

OK back to blissed out. Ananda Marga blissed out is different to Quaker blissed out for me. It's calmer perhaps because it is after and during yoga. I come out of the classes often feeling lit up. Quaker blissed out seems different. Maybe it is partially because after the Quaker silence there is usually lots of notices which pulls me back into being cerebral. It is as if I/we can't say 'that was stunning'. Or 'that was stunning for me how was it for you?' I know, I know, people who were not stunned might feel excluded. But not being able to acknowledge I feel stunned is excluding me. OK so I am going to have break that taboo.

Basically I am a mystic as some of you know hence this blissed outness. OK then what is being a mystic? Let's leave that one for another post!

Thanks for your listening to this!

Tuesday, 5 October 2010

At the cathedral last night

Last night I spoke for 5 minutes in Manchester cathedral - my first and probably only time I will speak there. It was at the book launch of my friend Terry Biddington, the Anglican chaplain to the Universities, whose new book 'Risk Shaped Discipleship' is just out. Follow this link to Amazon for more details: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Risk-Shaped-Discipleship-Going-Deeper-into/dp/089390693X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1286263062&sr=1-1
If you can cope with the Christian language and the references to the Bible you will find this book of great relevance to your spiritual life.

There are some extraordinary people like Terry in the Christian Churches who hold to a different view of the religious life and who claim a different understanding of Christianity.

I also met a good vicar I know a little bit last night. He is doing tremendous work with ordinary people in his parish. He intends to have a civil partnership do in the near future but he is wondering how to tell his bishop! Gay people in the Christian church and Lesbians and women as a whole have my profound respect and love as they struggle for real equality. Despite the oppression and nonsense they get they hold to their vision and their faith. Of course with a more inclusive church their light would shine even brighter. And sometimes the pressures get to them.

As we sat together in the pub afterwards and I felt such a connectedness I somehow belonged among these people even though I can only visit a Christian church once in a blue moon and then mostly to support my mother-in-law.

I know us spiritual and religious people should do it better, our light should shine more brightly we should be examples. AND we are all too human. The same is true of counsellors - surely we should understand human interactions and groups and so our organisations should be so healthy. They are not!

But it is worth searching for a better place inside. It's worth facing one's shadow and demons and reclaiming the energy for a different usage. And when I love people like these friends of mine last night it feels good and I am a better man for it.

Saturday, 2 October 2010

Mystic detective (12)

‘Don’t give all your Northern pain’ sang Neil Tenant through Paul’s headphones on the train to London. London had been the magic metropolis of his childhood and a place for teenage delights later. But no older but probably no wiser London was more like a down at heel eccentric but still lively aunt. ‘I’m getting too old for this caper. No I’m getting to healthy to want to live this way’.

Paul was in London for a meeting with Abdul who insisted that he had some hot information on OM and must, must see Paul right away. Abdul was in London for a few days prior to an extended visit to India – ‘sort of spiritual sabbatical’ and he had information he did not want to put in an email or speak on Skype or over the phone about – ‘call me paranoid if you like’.

They had agreed to meet up at Euston Station and then walk to a nearby coffee shop. This way it would be easy to tell if they were being followed. Abdul had a cautious edge to him and kept looking back and stopping to look in shop windows.

They found a small brightly decorated but otherwise nondescript café – Kool and sat down with a cappuccino for Paul and an Americano for Abdul.
- So
- So mystic
- What have you got for me?
With a quick glance around Abdullah leaned forward and spoke
- This OM shit is even worse than thought
- Yeah?
- Yeah. They have got a dirty trick department and by the saints it is dirty. They target anyone they don’t like, anyone who speaks out against them so you be careful Paul. They’ll plant newspaper stories, arrange sexual set-ups for you in which you get videod in compromising situations. They’ll even get people to testify against you. They’ll use drugs (Paul nodded)… People have been beaten up. Documents they’ll forge them. Computers, phones, mobes, they’ll hack them. You name it they’ll do it
- Why?
- Why?
- Yes why?
- This is the key bit. OM is whatever their Guru decides it will be. OM serves its Master who is keen to build up his fortune and influence. He has 7 Roll Royce, one for each day of the week, one for each chakras – you know what the chakras are? (Paul nodded) – each one one colour of the rainbow, each colour linked to a different chakra.
- Apart from serving their Guru what else is OM about?
- One of its rackets is illegal immigrants, they are old hands at forging papers, changing people’s identities, moving people between their various centres. They are also heavily into the high end of the drug trade mostly coke. And they’ve got big connections in the Tory party and the police.
- This makes so much sense to me and pulls together a lot of what I already know…. But what are they really up to? What’s their ultimate aim?
- They are amoral, they hide behind their simplification of Hinduism. Their spirituality is a front – well I guess some of them truly believe it but not the leadership and certainly not their Guru
- And is there something big, something else going on?
- Yes, said Abdul who suddenly went quiet as a stranger entered the deserted café. He was white with denim jeans and jacket with next to no hair, deep set blue eyes, designer stubble and the body of a man who worked out, every day. Sensing his friend’s discomfort Paul said, ‘Let’s go.’
Abdullah nodded but first went to the bathroom.

Paul waited and watched while the stranger bought a coffee. A few minutes passed and Paul began to grow uneasy and decided to check out the toilets. They were empty apart from Abdul’s prayer cap lying on the ground. Paul frowned. Abdul would never leave his prayer cap behind and certainly not on the floor.

Outside the toilet was a door that led out on tot eh backstreets and it was ajar. Paul quietly slipped outside but there was no sign of his friend.