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Friday, August 28, 2009

The Consequence of Naming Things – CREDO LXXXIII

   
I once asked Dr. Edward Edinger, now the late great Jungian analyst, about projection, and he told me all consciousness is projection. This can be further differentiated by the fact that no two people see exactly the same thing because 1) all of us will process what we see, hear, and feel in different and individual ways, and 2) our charts are descriptions of the unique way each of us processes any experience. This is the miracle of unity and diversity, if you think about it. However, some of us are more conscious than others, and, of course, what we choose to be conscious of is greatly determined by our Unconscious!

A toddler learns by naming. So does a student of a foreign language. Naming unites an object with our consciousness. Consciousness, per se, words, and the human bicameral brain are all ruled by Gemini, whose symbol is the Roman numeral II. Words and names both separate and communicate. My brilliant British friend, author and spiritual being Timothy Freke, just discovered the names of Yuk and Yum!! They sound like Beejum Tibetan twins, but those words describe Jung’s projective “feeling function” in a nutshell. Brilliant!

The Chinese sage Lao Tzu (604 BC) wrote the following in his Tao te Ching, translated here by Witter Bynner:

            I
Existence is beyond the power of words
to define:
Terms may be used
but are none of them absolute.
In the beginning of heaven and earth
there were no words,
Words came out of the womb of matter;
and whether a man dispassionately
sees to the core of life
or passionately sees the surface,
the core and the surface
are essentially the same,
words making them seem different
only to express appearance.
If name be needed, wonder names them both:
from wonder into wonder
Existence opens.


So the concept of names, their differentiation, and consciousness is not exactly new. My hope is to point out that the things named also have a function for us! They are not just to be bought, sold, or possessed, they need to be listened to! They can be our teachers because they are manifest proofs of archetypal processes. The Emerald Tablet of Hermes gives us the words: “As above, so below . . .” so if we start with below and think symbolically we can unlock a wee bit of the above of that “heaven spread upon the earth that men do not see,” which the Gnostic Gospel according to Thomas refers to. The trick is to pay attention to what Jung implored us to do and wrote volumes about: to think symbolically and thus climb, step by step, to understanding and wisdom. Or as I have applied this, in what a zipper taught me!

This idea could help us, having eyes, actually not only to see the “heaven spread upon the earth” but might help transform our attitude to the material world that we are so busy consuming, abusing, and destroying! My whole preceding chapter of nonsense has this sense hidden in its nonsense because by naming a few objects, we were stumbling onto the realization that these objects had hidden gifts for us!

The alchemists knew this. Paracelsus taught it, and it was Agrippa who wrote, Virtutes divinae in res diffusae – divine powers are hidden in things! I used to write this on top of the blackboard at every lecture. The reference in the preceding CREDO to the same geometric spiral of the cowlick, the nautilus shell, and the spiral nebula are concrete proof of this – you cannot deny it! So Mother Nature, whose name mater hides in our word matter, is waiting through eons for us materialists to acquire fewer things and stop and learn from what we already have. This is Sophia’s game! Her delight! It is as if every thing is symbolized by wrapping paper. When you unwrap the gift, out comes a surprise! In short, there is a whole new way of applying “materialism.”

So how do we go about it? Stop reading and look for any object and say to yourself, “I know what you are, but what do you do??” Then listen.

This is the flowback of projection, which is active; now one is in a passive and receptive mode. The object can be a natural or a manufactured object, makes no difference. What you are doing is simply turning a noun into a verb. (The word noun comes from Latin nomen, the root of English name). A movie filmstrip is a sequence of “stills,” but when they move they tell a story . . . As the pre-Socratic Heraclitus wrote, panta rhea, everything flows. Nouns stop the flow. (Mercury, ruler of Gemini, as Trickster!)

One of my books, The Dove in the Stone, has the subtitle “Finding the Sacred in the Commonplace.” The title comes from a Hermetic treatise, because it was heresy for the alchemists to maintain that matter has spirit. The priest Matthew Fox was excommunicated from the Catholic Church, just a few decades ago, for saying the same thing! But the time has come for a whole new attitude toward the material world. If this idea can spread, this earth and we ourselves could live to see a whole new world.

Native people all around the globe know this instinctively but the so-called civilized world has forgotten or rejected their insight and continues to stress building an economy bent on getting and having more and more things instead of pausing to listen to them, to learn from, and appreciate the wisdom they conceal. From wonder into wonder existence opens!

lovingly,
ao

P.S.: Lest I be accused of anthropomorphism, I am conscious of the playful projection, but when it comes down to it, it is the archetypal processes that I am honoring. I can see, however, how unconscious projection can lead to the making of idols. Quite a lesson!

Monday, August 24, 2009

The Joys of Naming Things – CREDO LXXXII

   
It must have started in 1927, when my parents and I began traveling the world. With our constant separations, they had to cable directions about luggage, so each suitcase was given a name. A typical yellow folded telegram would arrive, and my mother would unfold it and read typed on the white strips such words as HAVE CHECKED DRAGON AND PLATYBUS PARIS GARE DU NORD STOP PICK UP FOR ROME LOVE REG. I remember Mother got in trouble with the Egyptian government when she wired SENDING DROMEDARY BY BOAT TO PIRAEUS LOVE PENELOPE. She was told she could not ship an animal without a permit! I had the Camel because it humped when full and the Kangaroo (pockets in interior) and my beloved Spy Bag, an over the shoulder strapped leather pouch. So naming things came naturally.

Walter, my beloved husband, the Polar Bear, understood immediately. He had the Moon in Gemini. When we married in 1980, having met on the ship cruising the Mediterranean that I was teaching on, he lived in La Habra, California and I on Long Island in New York. So after the wedding, he went back west and bought a bigger house, and I traveled shortly to a whole new life.

Walter showed off our new home but was very apologetic about the garbage disposal in the kitchen sink. (I had never seen one!). It seemed he had put three orange remnants in it and they came up in the washing machine! So I named it Prokofiev, for the composer who wrote “Love of Four Oranges.” Happily, we took to “feeding Prokofiev” and he would go growlrowlgrowl from then on. When we moved east, I actually felt terrible at parting from him! I had brought Brother Lawrence, the new brown plastic garbage bin that held our ice at the wedding. I think I have mentioned the connection before. Brother Lawrence was the monk who wrote The Practice of the Presence of God in Paris and felt closest to God in the kitchen. He is still with me in mine.

When we came to Rosecroft in 1983, we purchased a freezer. Walter called it Niflheim and explained, as a Norseman himself, that this was a reference to the Norse myth of creation. It seems the world was covered with ice and given that name. Then a heavenly cow licked the first man and woman out of the ice, which is the origin of our “cowlick,” the first thing to show at our birth! Then I pointed out that the geometric whirl is the same spiral as that of a nebula in the heavens or the whirl in the water flushing down a toilet, or the way a chambered nautilus grows. So Niflheim is still a fixture in “Switzerland,” the laundry room that is neutral territory between our house and the house of my daughter Beth and her family next door. My icebox is the Igloo, and the bathroom downstairs is Tivoli, named for the child’s wallpaper featuring toy wooden soldiers in red/blue and ballerinas. For me, Tivoli is Copenhagen’s original nineteenth-century fun park plus the Royal Ballet the city is famous for. My daughter Beth disapproves of the wallpaper, but I chose it because when my clients come for a reading of their chart, they first often are apprehensive and go piddle. One sight of that wallpaper clues them in –that there must be some humor in this house – and there is!

Upstairs, we had a group of stuffed animals that turned out to be archetypal. After my stroke, I could no longer make my bed, so Walter made it and took to arranging the critters in different ways every morning. The very last time, I came up to find the wee hedgehog, Dr. Zweistein, on the baby pillow with a bottle of my “Stinkum,” my Grandma King’s name for perfume. The two bears, Rosie and Rofty (a polar bear); Oxo, the bison; and the two camels, Camille and Kahlil, were all in a circle around the pillow paying close attention. At my look of inquiry, Walter explained: “He’s giving a lesson in aroma therapy!”

Camille, the smaller camel, deserves special mention. On the ship, there were a number of middle-aged single women who all liked the handsome white-haired widower. To make them happy, he would joke with them and promise their fathers ten to twenty camels if they would become wife Number 3,.7, 8, etc.! But at 9 o’clock pm, I was No.1!! He kept us all in stitches. So at the wedding reception, the cake was brought in topped by a foil pyramid, and Roger Woolger, a Jungian analyst and the Best Man, explained that at the church wedding I had been only a proxy bride. The real one was under the pyramid. Ta dah! He lifted it to reveal Camille with a little bridal veil. There she was and, believe it-or-not, she traveled with us everywhere for eighteen years, went to the hospital with Walter each time, and was tucked under his arm on the gurney as he drew his last breath!

So even on his Aberduffy Day, Walter conveyed a smile for comfort, and today Camille presides on a shelf next to my new bed in my new bedroom downstairs.

You can imagine the whoop of joy I gave when I read in one of Jung’s biographies that he also gave names to his pots and pans and spoke of das Tuecke des Objekts, the mischief of objects, if they are not treated with respect (read affection?). If you have read my The Beejum Book, you can surely see that he was a Beejum himself!

lovingly, with a fond smile,
ao
----------------------------------------------------------------------------
Just remember that nonsense is every bit as important as sense, because sometimes it’s the last resort to help people come to their senses!” Lonesome, the rabbit psychopomp’s advice to young Teak, The Beejum Book, p.47. A sensible consequence to this Credo follows in Part II .Be sure to read it!

Love is never wasted – CREDO LXXXI

   
A helpful friend was aiding me in clearing out and reorganizing my stationery cupboard, which, before my stroke, was my secret delight and an example of a triumphant Virgo Prunefiddle. However, since my stroke thirteen years ago and the resultant loss of the use of my right hand, the cupboard has become a shambles. The task triggered my memory and the origin of my passion for stationery.

Seventy-nine years ago, I was sent to an English boarding school, St. George’s, in San Remo, on the Italian Riviera. It was a so-called Christian school set in a marble mansion built as a winter residence for Russian nobility. It had a glorious garden and view of the Mediterranean. There I was physically and psychologically abused. Cut off completely from my parents and unable to write an uncensored letter, I suffered in despair. I was eight and a half years old. (I have written about this in a separate chapter and would be willing to send it as an attachment to anyone interested.) The whole experience turned me away, big time, from Christianity. But hidden, it was my first experience of love from two strangers, and since then I have realized that such love is never wasted or even diminished by time.

These two women have a special place in my heart. One was the Italian seamstress who mended our clothes. I first encountered her when I was sent down to the supply closet for fresh paper. This closet had the marvelous fragrance of stationery stores. I could see stacks of pencils and pads, notebooks and drawing paper, clips in boxes, all neatly in place. When I ventured further into the basement room, there sat a voluminous woman all dressed in black. She smelt of honest sweat and garlic and unabashed affection. Seeing how small I was must have touched her, because she would never fail to put aside her sewing and sweep me onto her lap for a swinging hug. She would croon, “Che bella piccola! Che carina! Aleechay, vieni qua!” which translates loosely into words of endearment and approval. I would curl up and cling to this earth mother and shower her with kisses and laughter. Pretty soon, I would learn to rip the hems of my uniforms on purpose to be sent down for more doses of maternal love. I still love and bless that dear woman for understanding the needs of a lonely child. Dear Maria, you taught me to love the smell of garlic! Not only that, but a passion for stationery, and my first lesson that no love is ever wasted. Such was the gift she still gave me yesterday as I gazed into the past delights of my very own cupboard.

The other woman was called Matron. She was the school nurse. She was Scottish, and dour, and had a purple nose. She growled and she twinkled; she was gruff and caring at the same time. She made you feel safe and secure. Perhaps we each understood the suffering in the other.

After a few months, a terrible thing happened. At assembly we were told that Matron had suddenly died and was no more. It came as an enormous shock. It was, perhaps, the turning point for me. My best friend, Patsy Cliff, also my age, knew what biblically was called for: sackcloth and ashes! So we locked ourselves in the playroom, dumped our toys out of burlap bags, stripped and sat down in the fireplace and covered our faces with ashes and wept grimy tears. Never was anyone mourned more sincerely for about three minutes. Then we looked at each other and saw what a mess we were and began to giggle. After cleaning up in the bathroom, we went out in the hall and played leap-frog and were reprimanded severely by a teacher for irreverence and given two demerits each! But today almost eighty years later, I can close my eyes and feel the love that Matron gave me. It was her knowing look of secret recognition of the potential good seen in a naughty child. My soul felt realigned briefly in her presence. These were two strangers.

Since then, I myself have loved and lost in numerous hopeless love relationships and yet in every case turned them into lifelong enduring friendships and vice-versa. One of them described himself as offering “stepping stones” to the real thing that would come along, as it finally did when I was fifty-eight years old and met my so beloved Walter, who was sixty-nine!

In years of counseling others, I have heard so many versions of lost loves and have noticed the difference between those who react with anger or bitterness and those who truly try to understand and want the best for the other. The first group love out of hidden need, which is not the love that lasts, but the second group send out the message that their love gathers itself into a gossamer container, impervious to time or even future lives, that somehow is or will be available to the recipient when ready to receive. Such love is never wasted. Trust me!

As a teacher of kids, I had love for many of them. It is the fate of so many teachers that they give of themselves to their students only to lose them forever. But not always. One of my sixth grade students, came back, now a mother herself, and reminded me that I had told her that she had a flame inside her that no one could blow out! Am blessed to still be in touch with quite a few.

You can see what I learned from discovering Bronson Alcott’s book which, I was able to republish more than 150 years later as How Like an Angel Came I Down. Alcott loved his students and was rewarded by a letter from an eight-year-old boy, which Elizabeth Peabody added in 1834 to the appendix of the original Conversations with Children on the Gospels. Here is how the boy concluded his letter:

The comparisons in your letter, I think were very good – the one that struck me most forcibly and which I have before mentioned in my journal, was the Looking Glass of Circumstance, which I think meets the subject. In this letter you have fully convinced me, that we should not too often commit the dreadful sin of seeking all good without, and not beholding it within our imagination.

From the Jungian perspective, true love comes from the Self of one to the Self of the other. Alcott demonstrates that true teaching does likewise. Most relationship functions on the ego-to-ego basis, including that of teaching. It might be helpful for any readers of this to take a moment to reflect on those people they can call to mind who have recognized the Divine Guest in them or who have tasted the enduring joy of love that lasts. Esoterically, this is the nature of the catena aurae, the Golden Chain, the one of lasting, living filaments that links us forever with the wisdom and love of the great Givers of Gold, those Teachers, all composers, in different fields and times, of lasting inspiration. .

God’s grace is like an ever-blowing breeze, all we have to do is lift our sails to catch it! – Sri Ramakrishna

lovingly,
ao

Monday, August 17, 2009

The Bottle Game – CREDO LXXX

   
I learned about this game from Penny Harris in 1944. Penny was a petite woman of my mother’s generation. She knew M before I did, and he called her Nickel. Widowed and a mother of three sons, she was an heir to the Borden milk company, and had a lovely apartment on the upper east side of New York and a beautiful old home in Connecticut. Bill Regan, M’s closet companion, had been a close friend of her husband, and was now back at West Point teaching during the war. I mention these two because it reveals the kind of people that surrounded M. Penny was a Gemini and, as I was by far the youngest in the group, we became fast friends and almost like kids together. Penny struggled mightily with the highly erudite and esoteric material we studied. Her disposition was to being loving and generous. For instance, she gave M her own large bedroom in her apartment and slept in a maid’s room so that he would have the space for a meditation center and the comfort he needed for his work. He was already in his seventies when I met him. As it was up to me to translate the concepts and terminology of, say, the Kabbalah, by hindsight, I see that this was an introduction to my life’s work: helping the concepts of the Above make more sense to the Below. A kind of spiritual algebra … I was deeply touched when she once turned her beautiful blue eyes to me and said she wanted to be my child in our next lifetime! It was Penny who told me about the Bottle Game.

This was a game played at parties during the “Flapper” era of the post WWI days. It helped if the players were in a playful mood. As Penny described it, I began to see its value on an entirely different and symbolic level. I recommend it highly to any of my readers involved in giving workshops. It is certainly a good example of Sophia’s delight in making wisdom fun. Here’s how it goes: a row of eight empty bottles is set up about two feet apart. An innocent volunteer is chosen to prove that he/she can slalom the row without knocking over any bottle. This is carefully practiced three times. The volunteer is then taken to another room and blindfolded while the host explains the rules of the game. Then the volunteer is brought back and set exactly at the head of the row and challenged to slalom again while blindfolded. The other guests are instructed to make soft positive and encouraging remarks during the time the volunteer triumphantly manages to succeed. At the sound of applause, the volunteer removes the blindfold, and surprise!! No bottles!!!

The bottles seemed to me to represent many of the unconscious, built-in inhibitions we all absorb in our youthful development placed there by family, education, religious doctrine which are accepted, perhaps misunderstood, but left unexamined. As a workshop proceeds, it may be helpful for participants to list and perhaps discuss some of these. I will never forget one woman who burst into tears when she removed her blindfold. Her reason? “I was totally convinced that the bottles were there! How can a person be that wrong!” I rest my case.

I think we need to distinguish cultural mores and apply psychological and spiritual tolerance. An example is that a Muslim is permitted more than one wife, but Christians are not. An Orthodox Jew may commit a sin if he eats pork or shellfish, good advice in the light of trichinosis and a hot climate, but today it may seem unnecessary to others. I think I have already mentioned the factor that turned a boy into a lasting agnostic when he was forbidden to attend chapel wearing white socks at his boarding school. One of my own daughters was turned away for forgetting to wear her beanie! On a more serious note, the ubiquitous scandal of priests molesting altar boys has undermined their teachings of Jesus. On the positive side, the gradual shift in the acceptance of Christian women as priests in several Protestant denominations has only happened during my lifetime, and as a student of history, I find it fascinating that one century’s heretic is another’s saint (Joan of Arc, Mary Magdalen), and that goes for scientists such as Galileo and even some recent political leaders like Mandela. One of Pope John Paul II’s finest acts was his public repudiation of the condemnation of Galileo and Luther.

In closing, I really have to recommend the “Milk Stool Principle of Love, Wisdom, and Power” (Credo XXXVIII) that can help keep us more balanced and spiritually sound. The ‘Shalt-nots!” need to be replaced by our own positive personal conscience, responsibility and tolerance – my personal favorite being Buddha’s “The Noble Eightfold Path” (see Credo LXXI), which can apply to anyone. I am also partial to the kindness suggested in this Sufi counsel:

Before you criticize, pass your words through three sieves:
Are they true?
Are they kind?
Are they necessary?


lovingly,
ao

Friday, August 14, 2009

Buddhism, Jung, and the Ego – CREDO LXXIX

   
The following quote from the late Tibetan Lama Dudjom Rinpoche reinforces the message of a recent Credo, adding the spiritual application. I was struck by this as I was reading his book of lectures Counsels from My Heart. Here is what he said:

What is the root of all this, the source of both good and evil? The doer of all virtue is the mind, when it makes positive use of body and speech, its servants. The doer of all evil is also the mind, when it uses body and speech negatively. The root and cause of good and evil is in the mind itself. Nevertheless, in a sense, this mind of ours is something unknown to us. It does anything and everything, like a lunatic running here and there at the slightest impulse. This is how it accumulates karma.

The mind is the root of every defilement. It is here that anger is born; and from anger, every kind of hurt and injury to others: fighting, beating, and the rest. The mind is the soil in which all this grows: all malevolence, envy, desire, stupidity, arrogance, and so forth. That is why the Buddha told us to get a grip on our minds. Having realized that the mind is the root of all affliction, we must be vigilant in keeping it under control, holding down our defilements as much as we can. We have to be completely focused on this, gaining mastery of whatever arises.

The mind can move in a positive direction as well. . . . Through the practice of the Dharma, the mind can also accumulate the causes of its own liberation and that of others. Therefore, since the mind is the root of both good and evil, it stands to reason that it must be corrected and transformed. The examination of one’s mind is thus the principal feature of the practice.


The interesting point to me is that if you substitute the word ego for mind, you would hear Jung saying the same thing! He defines the ego by the psychological terminology of “center of consciousness” and also sees it as functioning through duality. (Astrologically, the brain is ruled by Gemini, whose glyph is II.) When we identify with our ego, we give it our name, and it serves us daily in making it possible to live in the manifest world. We do get an involuntary break every time we sleep or are rendered unconscious. It is the part of our psyche that constantly is having to make choices, not only in practical matters, but also in allowing ourselves to be influenced by the emotions Dudjom describes above. In terms of my diagram, the ego, that small circle divided by the circumference, half looking out to the world and half looking inward to the psyche, goes round and around searching. But there is a conscious decision that we can make that is helpful: meditation!

One of the purposes of meditation is to become aware of our ego or “monkey mind.” Every religion has some form of it. Many, though, confuse it with prayer which is active, whereas meditation is receptive, a surrender to something greater than one’s mind. At first, we usually have trouble concentrating, but eventually awareness grows and you ask, “Who is watching?” That is the breakthrough! Who indeed? In this magic moment the radius to the centerpoint of Jung’s Self becomes a reality in Hagia Sophia’s process of in-tuition. Holy Wisdom, Holy Spirit, name it what you will, is the “Only Way” (process, verb!) that connects us to that wick in us that holds the universal flame of Spirit. And, as Jung points out, this center dwells in (sigh!) the Unconscious! The mind can reason that there must be something going on, but what? “The Tao that can be defined is not the Tao.” So, to repeat what Jung said, “The longest journey for most of us is from the head to the heart.” To meditate is to visit a place of love and eventually a state of bliss. Now Teachers and mystics have all pointed this out in every culture and every age, one way or another, but Jung clothes it in psychological terms because so many of us are ego identified and unhappy, lost and not conscious of why. Now, I am probably stepping on many toes, because there are so many instructions and how-to’s to meditation, but, honestly, forget all that to start with – just light a candle, close your eyes, and sit and listen to and receive the Silence, “that peace that passeth understanding.”

One of my favorite stories is that of one of the greatest intellectuals in history, Thomas Aquinas, who pursued and exhausted the philosophical proofs of God. At the end of his life, he had a spiritual experience that knocked his socks off! He came out of it declaring that all he had written was “as straw”; he surely had gone from the mind to the greater mystery of the heart. The Hindus would say that he practiced jnana yoga, the path of knowledge. They also tell us that there are different approaches to that “Vast Certainty”: bhakti yoga, the emotional approach of devotion; raja yoga, the totally committed path, taken by priests, monks, and lamas. A fourth, karma yoga, is to live in the world and give all of the fruits of your actions to God – my path, for sure.

Another person, lesser known, I admire immensely is Brother Lawrence, who was a French lay monk in Paris in the 1600s. He wrote a small book called The Practice of the Presence of God. He felt closest to God in the kitchen! It is a paean of delight among his pots and pans and profoundly spiritual in its joyful practice. Perhaps Julia Child is his reincarnation!

In his honor, I have a brown plastic garbage can which held the ice at my wedding to my beloved Walter in 1980. It has a label pasted on top + Brother Lawrence +. So he is a real and daily reminder in my own kitchen.

In conclusion, I am just trying to point out that one can consider oneself of no consequence and meditation to be a lofty and unreachable pursuit, but that is not the case. Each of us, if we are alive and conscious, is precious and unique, so all it takes is to be conscious of the gift and ultimate purpose, perhaps, of consciousness. As the Hindu Dadaji put it, “God is making love in your every heartbeat twenty-four hours a day.”

lovingly,
ao

Monday, August 10, 2009

Radiant Dew – CREDO LXXVIII

   
We bought our home here in 1983 and called it Rosecroft. It is a very old white clapboard New England house whose history dates back to the late 1600s, according to the history we had researched. When we moved in, there was a tiny two-room addition, a cottage that had no cellar. We called it the Lovecot because most of our guests were lovers. We then bought an orange tented, screened gazebo that could be put up in spring and taken down for the snows of winter.

This gazebo had flagstones under it, a large round white table, chairs, and potted plants. I spent many happy hours in it with my Jung volumes open on the table, doing research and writing The Dove in the Stone and The Web in the Sea.

Walter, my beloved Polar Bear, and I had a habit in the summer of getting up very early and taking our coffee out to the gazebo, sometimes even in our dressing gowns. Then we would sit together blissfully looking out at the dew carpeting the green lawn, shaded in spots by the tall maples and pine trees that surround it. It still is a large unbroken glorious green today though the gazebo is long gone and the Lovecot sacrificed to a permanent annex to our house in which my daughter and family happily dwell.

I remember one glorious morning, looking at my husband with his white hair and handsome face, even in his late seventies, and watching a deep smile slowly spreading across it, followed by a sigh of satisfaction. “How rich we are!” he exclaimed. To which I responded, “If you want to be rich, count your blessings!” The chirruping robins agreed.

“Not just blessings,” said he,“Jewels! Jewels!” and he pointed to the sparkling of the dew on the grass. The sun was turning the tiny prisms of moisture into a carpet strewn with glistening diamonds, rubies, sapphires, and topaz. It was such a magic moment, I held my breath – one of those moments to make things conscious and share them with one’s Divine Guest. How rich, not only in the jewels of the radiant dew, but in the love we shared, the good sharp taste of hot coffee, and the consciousness of being conscious in the first place!

Grace falls like the dew … Just think about the nature of dew itself. It is moisture so fine, it refreshes everything in nature that it touches, almost daily –every blade of grass, every leaf, every flower, cobweb, creeping thing, every rooftop, in short, the entire landscape. It is miraculous by nature of its tenderness. Unlike rain which can in excess flood and destroy, dew’s function seems to cool, heal, and truly, like grace, calm those that it silently blesses. It does this in total silence and most of us, including myself, take it for granted.

So before this summer ends, I just thought to suggest that it would be nice to get up early one morning and notice this great gift given so freely and maybe even see those jewels strewn by nature that make us richer than rich, because once truly received, nothing can steal them nor can you lose them. Trust me, their radiance has fallen upon your heart,

lovingly,
ao

Friday, August 7, 2009

Swiss Teaching Methods – CREDO LXXVII

   
Years ago, before left/right brain theories developed, the Swiss were already masters of insight when it came to teaching kids. As I taught children for 18 years, I tried to emulate some of their techniques. Here, briefly, is a summary of their approach in what would be the equivalent of sixth grade up. They knew that some children learn best by hearing and others by seeing. If you can remember where roughly on a page you read something you and I have primarily visual memory; if you remember spoken directions for how to find an unknown street with ease, you are blessed with auditory memory. If you have both, you are truly blessed!

I will label A for auditory; V for visual.
1. A – The teacher introduces a new topic to the class verbally.
2. V – The teacher writes short notes on the blackboard.
3. The students copy these in their own way into their Schmierheft, an uncensored scribble copybook.
4. For homework, the student turns that information into tidy complete sentences in a Gutes Heft, a good copybook, which even sports a protective paper cover.
5. A – An informal spoken review next day; V – possibly reinforced by students at blackboard, as in math.
6. A midweek written quiz, corrected by comments and numerical grade in math.
7. An end-of-week written test, requiring self-expressive summary of the topic, as in history or grammar, or free composition. Geography involved hand illustrated maps. Again graded by comments; math by marks.
8. Eventually, an exam! with both numerical grades and comments.
Oddly, there were few textbooks but we were encouraged to read real storybooks.

When I taught students in the ’60s and ’70s, I noticed a distinct shift in the collective classes from V to A! This was probably due to the increasing use of television, which is not received by the linear or left brain, and the changing emphasis on music and the hippie movement, in general. The kids became freer, more creative, self-expressive, and far less motivated to read texts and cough up facts. They were becoming more A. TV is viewed as a whole picture. This raises the question of Egyptian hieroglyphics and Chinese characters . . .

On a personal note, I suffer as a grownup not from dyslexia but from dyscalculia, the reversal of numbers! As I learned math in three foreign languages, Italian, French, and German, I was subjected to 88 = as acht und achtzig (eight and eighty) or quatre-vingts huit (four-twenties eight) etc. The nightmare for me was Kopfrechnen (head reckoning). One had to stand alone in front of the class and answer things like take 2 multiply by 5; add 26, sechs und twantzig, etc, etc. The result has been problematic in the extreme! I was called to the IRS because in copying from page 4 to page 1, I reversed numbers! I drove my beloved husband Walter nuts reversing telephone numbers and balancing checkbooks! Now that I am alone, I have to double-check from phonebook to dialing all the time. Sigh!

In addition, since my stroke 13 years ago, I have been unable to write with a pen, and so the quotations for my Commonplace Book Vol.VIII have to be entered by someone else. I find that I have no clear recollection of what is copied!

I learned from a professional friend that if you are driving a car and see an arrow pointing left, you read that with your right (imaging) brain; if a sign says LA GUARDIA AIRPORT, you read that with your left (linear thinking) brain. One way you can tell if you have a preference for linear memory is that if you read something in the newspaper, you will remember if it was on the left or right page and approximately where. For those who hear traffic directions to a location and can remember them, you know you have a right brain preference. A hopeless situation for yours truly but

lovingly,
ao