Category Archives: spirituality

Hacía el universo interior by Rubén González Lillo


Hacía el universo interior


La vida que he vivido no significa nada.

El cuerpo que yo he sido no es el cuerpo que ahora soy.

Las emociones que he vivido no las puedo vivir hoy.

Los recuerdos del pasado no me sirven para nada.

La vida que he vivido no la puedo vivir hoy.

Las alegrías del pasado no tienen ningún valor.

Los amores que he amado no son el verdado “Amor”.

Los caminos que he transitado no son el “Camino”.

La vida que he vivido no significa nada.

Los dolores padecidos no me pueden dolor hoy.

El pasado no lo puedo vivir hoy.

Y aquí y ahora, sentado en el cojín negro,

Ya no me queda nada.

Sólo puedo mirar hacía adentro,

Hacía el universo interior,

Para darme cuenta de que todo

Se une en la postura del zazen.


            Rubén González Lillo


Eckhart Tolle and the Obsession with Economic Growth


Eckhart Tolle and the Obsession with Economic Growth

These days the subject of mass-immigration and the Islamification of the West never seems to be absent from our news coverage. While Christians are being murdered and ethnically cleansed from the Middle East and other parts of Asia, our political and middle-class elite want us to accept more and more Muslim ‘refugees’ into our already overpopulated countries even though they know that it puts increasing pressure on housing and social services as well as depressing wages and pushing up rents for the less well-off, causing division within our societies…not to mention creating crime and other associated problems which mainly affect the working-classes.

Recently in the UK, for example, The Daily Mirror newspaper termed as ‘purely racist’ the decision of the BBC to broadcast a documentary called, ‘The Last Whites of the East End’. It’s as if not wanting to destroy one’s own country is ‘racist’ as is implicit in some statements by German, Swedish and other European politicians.

Some politicians say that immigration is “good for the economy”, as if that is all that mattered, and I myself find it difficult to make sense of the decision of Merkel and other leaders to open the flood-gates, for want of a better expression. So, it may be wise to consider what Eckhart Tolle, a now well-known spiritual teacher, has to say.

In his book ‘A New Earth’ [p.26] Eckhart Tolle says, “But we cannot really honor things if we use them as a means to self-enhancement, that is to say, if we try to find ourselves through them. This is exactly what the ego does. Ego-identification with things creates attachment to things, obsession with things, which in turn creates our consumer society and economic structures where the only measure of progress is always more. The unchecked striving for more, for endless growth, is a dysfunction and a disease. It is the same dysfunction the cancerous cell manifests, whose only goal is to multiply itself, unaware that it is bringing about its own destruction by destroying the organism of which it is a part. Some economists are so attached to the notion of growth that they can’t let go of that word, so they refer to recession as a time of “negative growth.””

In a different context, Tolle went on to say: “Every country in the world wants growth every year. That is like saying what goes up must never come down. Every politician and statesman is looking for ways to boost GDP to higher and higher levels. But what would happen if we had economic equanimity? What if President Obama as the head of the world’s strongest economy began to talk about inner peace instead of economic growth at any cost? Did making more money ever bring anyone you know permanent happiness?

We’re not talking about accepting less. We’re talking about accepting. Part of living in harmony with the Universe is accepting its physical laws which include the economic cycles of nations. Regardless of the recklessness of banks and stock traders, the universe cannot sustain continuous expansion. Even the Big Bang, which states that the universe is constantly expanding, also says that in that expansion the Universe will cool down until all the stars burn out. The universe will continue to get larger, but it will be a cold, lifeless, and dark universe bereft of planets and suns.

This too is what could happen to countries obsessed with positive economic growth. The hapless search for profit at any cost bankrupts our values and quality of life.”


Total population (UN estimates)

1950: 37,547,000    2011: 173,593,000    2018: 200,813,818

Total population (UN estimates)

1951: 41,932,000    2001: 124,355,000    2015: 160, 996,000

It would seem that since 1950 both the above Muslim countries have quadrupled their populations. Should we in the West continue to allow them to continue coming over here? What would the result be?


 Why are we obsessed by growth?

By Anthony Reuben, Business reporter, BBC News, 25 July 2012


The latest figures have shown that the UK economy contracted more than expected between April and June.

The output of the economy as measured by gross domestic product (GDP) figures fell by 0.7%, according to figures from the Office for National Statistics.

It follows a period of small rises and small falls in growth showing the economy has basically been stagnant.

red mushrooms

Why is that lack of growth a problem?

“In the long term, we grow because technology gets better and we get better at producing things,” says Jonathan Portes, director of the National Institute of Economic and Social Research.

“In the short term, growth is an indication that the economy is producing as much as it could be and resources are not being needlessly wasted.

“At the moment we are producing considerably less than we could be because the economy is being mismanaged.”

Creating jobs

One of the resources not being used as much as it could be is labour.

“If the economy is growing at less than about 2% a year then unemployment rises because output is just not rising fast enough,” says Prof John Van Reenen from the London School of Economics.

“With a growing population and rising wages, the economy has to grow to create jobs.”

Having more people out of work increases the amount that the government has to pay in benefits and also reduces the amount it receives in taxes.

That is a particular problem at the moment, given the debt problems currently facing the government.

“Debt matters because it has to be paid,” Jonathan Portes says.

“Growth would make it significantly easier to deal with. If we are growing slowly it gets worse and worse.”

A classic example of what happens when there is no growth is Japan, which has had almost no real growth for the past 20 years.

“Japan has stagnated, although it is not a broken society,” says Jonathan Portes.

“But low growth has been bad for young people who cannot find decent jobs.”

Low growth has also meant that its government debt as a proportion of GDP, which is a key measure, has spiralled.

It currently has a debt-to-GDP ratio of over 200%, which is the highest in the developed world.

‘More and more junk’

But some people think that a zero growth economy could be a good thing.

Brian Czech, president of the Center for the Advancement of the Steady State Economy (Casse) says that the UK economy has already grown beyond its optimum size.

“There are too many problems caused by increasing production and consumption of goods and services,” he says.

Casse argues that growing the economy further creates social and environmental problems that outweigh its benefits.

“Lots of sacrifices come with growing GDP, such as working too long hours, the depersonalising of workplaces and spending on advertising to persuade people to buy more and more junk they don’t need,” Mr Czech says.

Casse’s position is certainly not a mainstream economic view, although there are strong arguments that GDP by itself is not enough to measure the state of a country or an economy.

On Tuesday, the Office for National Statistics released its latest findings in its measurements of national wellbeing.

Also, inequality in the UK economy means that growth would not necessarily benefit everyone.

But for the moment, GDP growth will remain the focus for analysts and news organisations alike every three months.

“GDP is not perfect and it ignores intangibles such as happiness and the environment, but it is still the best measure of all we produce,” says Jonathan Portes.

John Van Reenen adds: “When GDP grows, the size of the economic pie grows.”

“That allows you to slice the pie to get what you want, be it higher wages, more leisure time or increased government spending.”

Eckhart Tolle on art



Eckhart Tolle on art

I was recently watching a video of Eckhart Tolle’s Findhorn retreat and found his comments on art very interesting, as they reflect some of my own concerns. Here is an approximate quote:

True art reflects the state of consciousness from which it comes. Art should be a portal or access point to the formless or the sacred so that when we see it or experience it we experience ourselves through it. We see ourselves reflected in it – the formless shining through the form. There’s always more than what we see or hear. However, clever minds are creating pseudo art which lacks something and is totally trapped in form, it’s just manipulating old forms and nothing new has come in and nothing which can lead you back to the formless which is the original reason for all art – the sacred.

Talking about the current state of the arts and culture in general, Tolle  goes on to say in his book, The Power of Now,

“Because we live in such a mind-dominated culture, most modern art, architecture, music, and literature are devoid of beauty, of inner essence, with very few exceptions. The reason is that the people who create those things cannot — even for a moment – free themselves from their mind. So they are never in touch with that place within where true creativity and beauty arise. The mind left to itself creates monstrosities, and not only in art galleries. Look at our urban landscapes and industrial wastelands. No civilization has ever produced so much ugliness.”

What Tolle says is reflected in Douglas Murray’s recent book ‘The Strange Death of Europe: Immigration, Identity, Islam’ where he says,If that is so and art does indeed make nothing happen, then in the final analysis culture is of absolutely no importance. This is one explanation at least for why the art world currently plays the same games of facile deconstruction that the academy has engaged in. And why the partly New York imported art of tongue-in-cheek, naïve, ironic or jokey insincerity, fills so many galleries and sells for such huge sums of money. The three movements in contemporary art – the parasitic, the haunted full-stop and the studiedly insincere – are not aberrations in the culture.”

When Death Comes by Mary Oliver



When Death Comes

by Mary Oliver


When death comes
like the hungry bear in autumn;
when death comes and takes all the bright coins from his purse

to buy me, and snaps the purse shut;
when death comes
like the measle-pox

when death comes
like an iceberg between the shoulder blades,

I want to step through the door full of curiosity, wondering:
what is it going to be like, that cottage of darkness?

And therefore I look upon everything
as a brotherhood and a sisterhood,
and I look upon time as no more than an idea,
and I consider eternity as another possibility,

and I think of each life as a flower, as common
as a field daisy, and as singular,

and each name a comfortable music in the mouth,
tending, as all music does, toward silence,

and each body a lion of courage, and something
precious to the earth.

When it’s over, I want to say all my life
I was a bride married to amazement.
I was the bridegroom, taking the world into my arms.

When it’s over, I don’t want to wonder
if I have made of my life something particular, and real.

I don’t want to find myself sighing and frightened,
or full of argument.

I don’t want to end up simply having visited this world.

Benjamin Smythe quotes


Michaël Borremans, Four Fairies, 2003

Some Benjamin Smythe quotes:

These quotes are mostly culled from Benjamin’s talks on youtube. They’re edited, to a small extent for consistency, and may well be out of context. At times they may also be contradictory and Benjamin might not now agree with what’s in print here, so they’re just food for thought…and for your consideration.


Benjamin Smythe mentors therapists, teachers, students and professionals around the island who are “interested in generating less ow! and more wow! in their working, playing and loving.”

Ben’s mantra would seem to be, ’No one is in charge. No one knows. No one is coming. Everything is over.’

He says, “I am the truth. There is no other option. Since I don’t exist without you, you must be the truth, too. Wanna play? I thought I knew something. It turns out I didn’t. My heart explodes into pieces and they rain down everywhere I look. It doesn’t feel as new agey as it sounds, and that ends up being such an incredible delight. Nothing spiritual I have ever encountered has anything to do with the simple Wow I am talking about. It is this plain old life. Wow!”


Benjamin Smythe giving a talk in Milan, November 2015

Everything’s over except this. Can you find it now? Maybe we’re already free of it.

Before language…the body!

The body doesn’t need the hitch-hiker that is the social identity to do what it must do. It puts up with it. This is the opposite of joining a social club or seeking confirmation, validation. The social identity is so expensive.

I’m into the idea of it, circling around it on the periphery, I’m safe about it (it’s guaranteed) saying, “Ah yes, I’m going to get in there…” I’ve got to get down to my motivation – what am I going after really? What am I really doing this for?  I’m not actually into it having dived into it with all the messiness etc. – I don’t have to force myself then. I’m sitting there working on it and having fun.

If you’re really looking at this world/the colours you can’t feel fear/anxiety.

No-one’s watching, looking or remembering so you’ve got nothing to worry about. No-one’s listening or cares. Anxiety is caused by thinking that people can see things about you that you don’t like. Do people know what you hate about yourself? You’re a mechanistic machine filled with other people’s ideas. See how full of shit the judging critic is. It’s a comedian! So, experiment & play. There are no rules. No-one asked to be born. No-one’s in charge.

Everything that has ever happened is over. Every experience is over and what’s left is indescribable. Every story is over. Just telling you is after the fact. It can’t be captured in a word.

Suffering is…”that shouldn’t have happened.”

“I” is memory.

Let listening be the default – it’s your fundamental nature. You don’t have to “do” listening – there’s no effort required.

Concerning your major “problems” in the past: See the world you’re in – this I have. This is it. My life’s happening here. Am I willing to pay any price for reality peace?

A ghost is telling another ghost something which will be forgotten about forever: “Do you want to hear my story?” What else can you do except chill out and lay around? Just keep making stuff up – cultural ideas, art and music etc.  Just think about all the people that lived two-thousand years ago.

It’s so much more relaxing being like everyone else (it’s beautiful) rather than being or trying to be special. We’re all going to die!

We hate not getting what we want. We hate it! We’re like little kids.

Self-love is the cure to suffering.

You’re perfect!

No one is in charge. No one knows. No one is coming. Everything is over.

Anxiety runs on memory.

This is what’s happening. This is how it is.

When someone says, “You’re ugly!” and you reply, “I don’t know.” then it doesn’t stick.

Anything that reaches for something that isn’t in front of you, in this kind of lose just enjoying life way…all of that is fear – it’s the fear of future. The future doesn’t come. So, why would you need to believe in heaven if you haven’t seen this yet? All spirituality is, in some ways, the belief in heaven.

Every single one of us, because there really is no God, is an orphan. We’re all orphans here together.

It’s unfortunate that someone would charge money to help bring clarity.

No story of the future is true.

The story of your life is more stressful than your life.

You haven’t made a mistake. You’re just sitting there watching a video, or whatever.

No-one’s going to remember you. No-one’s going to remember all that shit. We’re all going to die. No-one’s made a mistake yet because everything’s gone. Where’s last week?

No matter what I call ‘this’, here we are. I don’t need to believe anything. I don’t need to know anything. I don’t need to have any conclusion to sit here. It’s so amazing! There’s nothing to figure out. It’s okay to not know Jack shit and just be alive. It’s the most beautiful feeling. It’s so peaceful having nothing to sell, having nothing to convince. Total ignorance!

Adding meaning is optional to any event, because sitting here right now, no meaning is required whatsoever to experience this sound. Life is already happening and the meaning is always going to be after the fact of the obviousness of this. The interpretation of this, whatever it may be, is optional for the experience of it. I can either relax or worry while I attempt to take care of my business [because I’m not in charge]. Either way, the events aren’t going to change very much and the situation is as it is.

It’s up to me how I tell the story about what’s happening, and adding meaning is optional. I can either relax or worry. The amazing thing is that a relaxed place is totally attractive. Who doesn’t want to be around someone who’s relaxed?

Notice that life’s going to keep on happening…really perfectly!

The stigma is imagined. You’re the only one who believes any stigma that comes with any experience. If you can just find the belief like…”this means this about me”…and ask, “Does it?” and ask other people who’re having a similar experience and don’t care.

What if no-one on Earth has any idea what they’re talking about? Does that hinder you in any way in investigating?

When you try to get enlightened, you’ve already decided what it is – you’re trying to get the thing you’ve decided enlightenment is. The seeker has decided that enlightenment can’t be this. It’s got something to do with some kind of payoff for “me.” There’s nothing wrong with making an effort. You can strive for enlightenment for the rest of your life, and the effort you make won’t make an effect on consciousness.

Do I want to be pissed off or not? If I want to get pissed off all I have to do is get an opinion about somebody else’s life. I’m the only one I can bother.

You can either spend your life trying to maximize dependent happiness strategies, or you can spend a year or two… solidifying, deepening, and fully trusting the independent happiness – peace, contentment, quiet love – that’s right here. Which is a better investment? Sixty years of trying to be happy with ‘stuff’ or a year or two discovering happiness that never leaves?

I recommend not making any more players and enjoying ice cream while you watch the firework show we tend to call “sun set”.

Find the contentment that’s independent. You won’t even have an opinion about other people’s lives when you’re at peace because the very act of having an opinion disturbs the peace, and what you want is to have peace.

On not having anything in common with your friend’s friends: Already we’re all connected in the simplicity of not wanting more suffering. The fundamental “don’t want to suffer” connects us all.

You can’t make a mistake. You’re just going to learn how you piss yourself off waiting, wanting and hoping for validation – and joy, happiness and connection – to come from identity, hobby, face. What are you doing? I’m looking for my happiness out there – I’m going to be pissed off now and then because this strategy that I’m employing isn’t the best one – outside happiness!

I wish you all the best. Thanks for your time.

What’s to lose? Give it a shot! You never know the connections you make, or the people you inspire. You never know! Be very clear, what is it you want to do? We’re driven to be passionate/creative. For no reason you change a life – just see what happens! Success or failure happens where? Here? In this incredible explosion? Has the universe succeeded or failed? Just see what happens if you give it a shot. Take the brakes off and follow your guts. It’s not easy and there’s no guarantee…but that’s always been the case.

If I cut off my arm you’re not going to feel it. That’s why I draw the line with the “I am you” thing. Pain isn’t shared. No-one could walk, no-one could get out of bed if pain was shared.

The simplest way to forgive yourself is to realize you’ve been doing the best you could do given the thoughts that were happening at the time. You can look back in the ‘photo-album of your life which can’t be found anywhere in the room. You’re never going to find your life if you look for it. Everything’s over…look for yesterday right now.

There’s no yesterday in the room right now. You can’t find it. So, see the world you’re in. This is all I have. This is it. This is where my life is happening. I see the ‘photo album, the Kodak moments; however if I were to actually look for them – like 30 years of meditation – can I actually find it here? How could you be a victim here if everything is over? Just sitting here. Alive. Everyone on this Earth is doing their best.

Boredom is repressed excitement. If you’re bored put a blindfold on. It’ll immediately make things interesting.


Michaël Borremans, The Pupils, 2001,

If you have negative emotions it means you want to live, because you’re curious, you want to be happy, to feel good. Negative emotions don’t arise if you don’t give a fuck. Learning something I don’t know how to do and showing up to it, even if it’s skateboarding, it’s awesome!

This, right here, is your life. You’re just going to get what you want – and not get what you want…until you die.

Hold, as an idea, that there’s nothing inside you but blood and meat. That all you have is vocabulary…words reinforcing words. Realize you’ve collected tons of other people’s ideas and haven’t stopped for a second to realize you’ve collected tons of other people’s ideas and thought about whether any of it applies to you. If you don’t do that you’ll take things as given that aren’t given like the subconscious or levels or energy or whatever.

If I fight with what I have, how does it feel? You don’t deserve nice things, life is a gamble. You’re just trying to get what you want every day, and you’re successful or not successful given the natural way that life works. You could have a playful attitude about it…but I wouldn’t add other people’s ideas to it. That doesn’t make sense.

There’s no way to screw up being you. It’s not possible. There’s just different experiences happening.

Just think about it. You’re playing survivor with all the people you love, and some, by sheer luck of genetic lottery, end up on the right team. This team simply knows how to dominate the game and understands there is no referee or rules. In fact, this team is so good at the game, it makes up invisible referees and rules for other teams to find. They simply do what they want because they understand there are no such things as rights. However, the consolation prize for knowing the campground is puppet-stringed by a small herd of psychopaths, and there’s no one for them to pass the reigns on to. In the end, any evil there is in the universe also dies.

Listening is the default. When you relax, you relax into listening. Not because you get anything, but because listening is your fundamental nature. You don’t have to ‘do’ listening. It doesn’t require any effort.

The program that you run is the particular set of beliefs you have, and those are usually in some form of language or picture or image. So imagine you’re born as potential, and then there’s stuff added. I am. ‘I am’ is pure potential, and then phum!…here comes all the so-called conditioning…all kinds of experiences begin to pile up…there’s that moment of embarrassment, that moment at high school, you’re in love etc, and it goes on and you have this story being developed. Because the story isn’t really who you are, at some point you might discover that you’re really tired. I’m exhausted being me. I’m lonely, sad, bored, angry, frustrated or whatever it is because I’m this limitless potential and I’ve somehow gotten caught or entangled in an entire story about “what I am”. I am x, y, z…and it’s felt as a limitation because it isn’t true. You’re not x, y or z. You are! Pure, creative possibility! Frustration arises because you know you’re not limited in any way. You’re not bound in any way by your circumstances. Every person on this Earth, in this instant, can drop everything and walk across the country. This particular idea that you’re locked into your social position, your community of friends, your idea of yourself, is the belief that isn’t true. You’re no more limited now than you’ve ever been. That is the usefulness of discovering what you are. You are pure potential. You are pure creativity. Tracing the ‘I am’ back to its source allows for a break, a rest…like Ramana Maharshi in his cave. Knowing what you are you can come back into the world…write a new program, create something different until that falls apart, always being able to visit the source of you. The source of you is constant and forever available…now, now, now…this, this, this. Where are you coming from? It isn’t a word…you’re never going to be able to tell someone about it. Self-inquiry is that door…to finding out who you are. What you are is spaciousness itself – you are the one I am.

Anxiety runs on memory.

When you see clearly that you’re just going to die then all this…“Am I doing this right?” or “How do I do this?” …you lose interest in the idea that it’s stressful and you have to figure it out. You don’t have to figure anything out – you just do what you want. You’re ageing, you’re waiting to die, and you’re either doing what you like or you’re not. You’re comfortable or uncomfortable, that’s it! No-one’s in charge, so if you don’t like this you just toss it aside and pick something you like – that’s how free you are! Motivation comes through not having hope. When you have no hope you just do what you want…and you hope it’s okay.

You can actually look at the world, at what’s going on…you can sit there and think about it yourself. That’s beautiful! It’s not about getting together with a group and feeling we belong. We never belong because all the categories are arbitrary. We just make them up.

Some form of “This shouldn’t be happening” is suffering. The cost of believing such and such…is suffering. Taking life personally is what hurts.

Everything that has ever happened is over. A description of the trip, or the event, is an after-thought. The minute the mouth opens it’s a report after the fact. This can’t be held onto or grabbed in any way. There’s no “my life somewhere” here. There’s just this bird flying overhead…the trees…the wind. But even as I try to tell it to you it’s after the fact. Everything I can say…my life…every experience…is over. Every sad, blissful or happy moment, every awakening, every story, is over. What this is, is uncapturable in a word. When yesterday is held as something that actually happened, when the thought forms are being believed there’s a contraction, a density. And when everything’s over, everything’s over! The one thing that isn’t over is what’s left…and what that is, isn’t describable. Incredible! Obvious…and maybe not even obvious!

Most difficult situations are defined by “I’m not getting what I want.” Everything comes down to desire, to have some kind of control…to get what you want.

Isn’t it funny that we’re just going to move things around or sit still…until we die? That’s all we’re going to do! Part of what we’re going to move around are our ideas about what this is.

Aren’t we silly? We want to know the future. We want to be safe. But none of us make it…we do all we can so that we die later.

All the reports are after the fact. As you list a series of experiences…well, they’re all gone except for this thing here which is the one thing you can’t report on.

If you can just sing and dance a bit each day…you don’t get to get out of here until you die, and you’ve known that from the age of six. All the spiritual stuff is just hocus-pocus.

For there to be freedom there has to be bondage, so rather than looking for freedom just find out if you’re bound. Where is this bondage that I’m trying to get free from?

In this moment sitting here, is there a problem? In this place is there a problem? Obviously you can perceive yesterday’s problem and tomorrow’s problem. But in this place, in the actual world, is there a problem now for you? Yes, you can think of problems all over the globe, but you’re not there. Is there any bondage here?

You don’t want to be lonely? Well, you’re alone, so the fear of loneliness is the fear of yourself. It’s the fear of what you are. You’re alone, you’re here twenty-four seven and everything else comes and goes. You’re standing on this Earth, surrounded by people who are all alone too, that’s why we have communication. We do our best to communicate to each other. Life is for you to do whatever it is you feel like you really want to do. You’re only limited by what you believe and think, and the reality of this place. The external reality is the way it is and you use it the best way you can. We want things we can’t have and we drive ourselves crazy. Like a monkey in a cage in a pet-store or the zoo, it’s running round and round in circles or holding onto the bars and screaming because it’s in a cage. Well, that’s what we’re doing to ourselves when what we want it isn’t here. When we want something and can’t have it we’re like the monkey in the cage. So, we stop by stopping wanting the thing that isn’t here.

What if this is it? This is all there is, and no-one’s coming…and no-one’s in charge…and no-one knows…and everything that’s ever happened is over.

You can do whatever you want, as no-one is in charge. Being violent takes so much effort. It is an option but it doesn’t do anything. It’s exhausting attacking other people, criticizing and having opinions. Oh God, why bother? Who cares? It’s so tiring! And you can have hope that for the rest of your life you’ll figure this out, and that your life will work out for you. You can do that as no-one’s in charge. Motivation comes from not having hope. When you have no hope you just do what you want.

Everything the human being believes is made up…by other people. Everything is made up! The school system, the way you’re supposed to dance, the way your house is supposed to look…is all made up. Somebody dead made this shit up. Whoever made up religion or the different political systems…is dead! We live on a planet where we worship the dead.

Hunger, thirst, going to the bathroom…those things rule. If you get what you want, then you’re lucky… but you’re still going to have to buy some food and drink something. The events you went through, they weren’t your fault.  Whatever happened in the last six months, it’s not your fault or responsibility. It’s just the way it went. You don’t have control over the past. It happened exactly as it did, and it wasn’t your fault or responsibility. No-one is that powerful that they choose.

Everyone is serving a life sentence that ends in capital punishment.

It’s the exact opposite of everything you learned in school. You’re going to be working towards your future…well, no you’re not! You’re literally just gonna be experimenting with different shit and how to be happy and eventually you’re just gonna disappear forever and no one’s gonna remember you. So enjoy yourself as best you can.

What does it mean to be yourself? People say “Just be yourself.” and “I don’t know if I’m being myself.”   Well, everything after the ‘I’…delete!

Confidence is trust.


Michaël Borremans, The Load, 2008, Oil on canvas, 40 x 49.8 cm

What’s the point in hating someone just to defend an identity that’s doomed? It’s a waste of time. We’re all just trying to enjoy this life, and we’re all going to die eventually, and we’re just doing our best to stay alive…but we’re going to fail. So in the compassion of the absurdity of our situation…all the energy it takes to hate somebody isn’t worth it, ‘cos what’s the point? It doesn’t really make sense. We’re doing the best we can do to survive. It’s relaxing to stop hating. We’re just here. When we take it so personally, asserting our own importance makes life harder for us. Finding everything to be wrong…but this is just the way it is.

We’re full of shit when we think we can change our emotions like there’s a dial.  No-one has choice.

Like two people fighting for the last deckchair…on a sinking ship. We’re all fucked anyway!

When everything around us is dying, decaying, changing, transmuting – and we’re accepting that and seeing that – we can’t help but love, deeply so.

Love so much – that hate becomes impossible. Accept – feel the wonder of everything. There’s so much uniqueness in everything.

You’re sitting in a waiting room, so play! Try everything.

Adding meaning is optional to any event. You can relax or worry. The interpretation or meaning is optional to the experience of it, and comes afterwards.

The greatest limitation on the spiritual path is the lack of imagination. You’ve got to have imagination!

Focus on what you care about, not on what’s not here or doesn’t matter to you. Be adaptable and enjoy the situation you’re in at the moment.

Since life is short and the world is wide, the sooner you start exploring it the better.

We live, we die. We laugh and we cry. Life!


Some people might say: I had to suffer yesterday and tomorrow.

So, try something today!

No, because I’ll fail, because I failed yesterday, and I’m gonna fail tomorrow so I’m not going to try anything right now!

So what do you want?

I want yesterday to have been different. I want tomorrow today. No, I can’t do anything today.

I’m just alive. We have to call bullshit on ourselves every time we think we can go backwards or forwards. This is where I’m gonna die, this is where I’m going to live, this is where it takes place! What do we want? We’re smart enough to know that we have to do certain things to get certain things in this world. You gotta wait a little bit. You can’t have it immediately.


They say you’ve got to have a meaning or follow a path in your life. There’s not two things here. The whole story of what we’re doing is either shit we hate or shit we like. This life isn’t a lesson – it’s the dance-floor. What do you want to do? What do you really want to do? You’re smart enough and are able to learn and adapt, so what would you like to do? There’s nothing to make up. This is your life. This is it! Right here is where the artistry takes place. All we ever have is the story we think is happening. You never have a life – that’s possession. There are people who give it their best shot, people who’re terrified of doing that…and people who don’t give a fuck either way. I’ve been reading books for thirty years – dead sentences when I could be having living conversations. I find it’s not it’s actually not that interesting …reading something compared to being on the street talking to somebody or just chillin’…but there’s always this! What you’re looking at is a kind of skipping stone, and you’re one of those. That’s what I’ve found – it’s all right here! The so-called ‘path’ doesn’t exist.

Thinking, “I could have done something differently” kills the joy of life.

Hatred is blame. What or who’s to blame for life being the way it is? Follow the hatred back to the delusion that someone is to blame. Everything’s over…except memories.

You want ecstasy only…without ceasing? That’s silly!   …you’re addicted to a memory!

Just think about it. You’re playing survivor with all the people you love, and some, by sheer luck of genetic lottery, end up on the right team. This team simply knows how to dominate the game and understands there is no referee or rules. In fact, this team is so good at the game, it makes up invisible referees and rules for other teams to find. It simply does what it wants because it understands there are no such things as rights. However, the consolation prize for knowing the campground is puppet-stringed by a small herd of psychopaths, and there’s no one for them to pass the reigns on to. In the end, any evil there is in the universe also dies.

Wanting to stay in bed and sleep is a form of suicide.

You’re totally confused? You’re here! Life is strange. We’re all here for the first time. There’s no path…there’s just this…stepping-stones, and you’re a stepping-stone.

Psychology is just nineteenth-century spirituality.

Growing up is really about overcoming anyone else’s disappointment in what you are, or who you are and what you do. That’s what growing up is, and when someone says “You can’t do that!” you go… “That’s cute!” …and you think you’re in charge.

People just fight over their certainty: “I’m right. You’re wrong.” It’s weird!

Fear has no creativity – it’s reactive. Once the resistance is gone, once you’ve reconciled “Oh fuck, this is the way it is!” then any change, any creative endeavor can happen with full participation because the one thing that keeps that from happening, that is now out of the way, is the belief that something is at stake. You cannot move effectively, efficiently and intelligently to create the situation you would like to have as long as you believe that if you don’t then you’re fucked because fear has no creativity – it’s just reactive. When you allow yourself to say, “Oh shit, I’m fucked up dude! Everything here is temporary.” When you know that everything is hopeless. When that can honestly and completely enter into the vibrancy of your experience – when it becomes the fundamental truth of the reality you operate in, then inspiration, child-like wonder and creativity is available.


Michaël Borremans, Everything Falls, 2012

Focus on what you enjoy or care about, and remove resistance to what you dislike or don’t care about so there’s no charge in that thing anymore. Don’t give something more attention than it deserves, because you won’t get that time back.

How much time would you like to waste knowing people have fun without you? Oh my God, don’t leave me please! You don’t get to possess anyone anywhere. It comes down to self-confidence, and which really comes down to maturity. You can pretend it’s not the case but you’re alone with your death and nobody can help you, and there’s a joy in knowing that.

You can’t go backwards, there’s no time machine. You didn’t know. You didn’t. You were doing the best you could. You can’t do anything yesterday. It’s impossible! This is where you’re alive. Everything you can do, you do here. You were a jerk before, but the past is over – don’t be a jerk today. You’re alive! Everyone’s doing their best and they’re not going to make it. If you can relax and have some fun, relax and have some fun!

I’m gonna sulk ‘cos I want yesterday to have been different. I failed yesterday so I’m gonna fail today, and I don’t know what tomorrow’s gonna be like.

Not being able to express yourself the way you want to is a challenge. It’s a challenge to be yourself – it’s not easy to be yourself because you don’t know your real voice. You were controlled from a very young age…it’s like…sit still – be quiet – listen to this shit – eat this – go to sleep. It’s no wonder we grow up to be adults not really understanding who we are or what we want. We can’t go backwards and get what we want – it’s just not the way reality works. It’s too simple. We think if we just think about it enough back in the past we’ll figure it out. It’s not true. It’s impossible – it only works for detective cases involving murders.

Everything that has ever happened is gone – it’s over. It’s physically over, and then the language has the ability to echo it as if it’s still taking place and that creates a nervous system of a kind which would just mean a reactive system. You can almost see a pattern of reactions.

How do you find passion in your life? You want to know what you are. That is your passion. You may have to wade through the appearances of the world, wade through the piles and piles and piles of objects to discover that none of them have anything to do with you; and when that obviousness is your experience then the search for passion will be over because you will know what you are. What you are is not swayed by a need to look any particular way. When you know yourself very naturally the appearance of expressions will happen. You will no longer be concerned how it works out because you will know what you are, and what you are is not something that can be bound by working out or not working out. If you want to find your passion, desire to know yourself as you are more than anything else in this world – even more than remaining alive.

Focus on what you care about to such a degree that you don’t focus on what you don’t care about, as you’re too busy focussing on what you do care about. I care about what I say I’m going to do – like having fun at the skate park. I can focus on the things I wish weren’t here and thus give it all my energy, or focus on things I care about. Notice how much attention what you don’t care about is getting, like the religion example – by focussing on that I’m giving it more attention than it deserves. So, just forget about it. Too busy even to have a conversation about it, and there are so many things that can fall into that category…like spirituality…what do I care? I’ll never get that time back. Believe whatever. I’m not going to focus on it. Become busy doing the things you really love to such a degree you don’t have time to lament and give energy to the shit that doesn’t matter to you. I’m tired of stressing myself out with things that don’t matter. No shit! It’s tiring because it doesn’t matter to you – of course you’re tired because it doesn’t matter! So the only obvious solution to that is to focus on the things that matter to you, and the negative stuff goes into the trash can. Direct your attention to the things you really appreciate and enjoy, like partying, dancing, or having fun, sex, or all kinds of things.

How could you be a victim here (just sitting here, just alive) if everything is over?

We live in a universe where there’s no time machine, and the haunted house is literally a photo album of images collected from an endless series of yesterday’s that cannot be found anywhere. Don’t believe me – look for your life in the actual world. Go look for these traumatic memories in the actual world. You can’t find them here. Look for them here where your life is – don’t tell a story if you can help it. Don’t tell a story about having somehow fucked it up.

We really want the haunted house to at least be true because then it will justify why we feel miserable, but the haunted house isn’t true. There’s no yesterday anywhere in the room right now. You cannot find it, so before you do anything, see the world you’re in. Oh shit, this is all I have!


Benjamin Smythe_I Am Life

benjamin smythe a beautiful disaster – April 2014

Lucid Living by Timothy Freke



lucid living

a book you can read

in an hour that will turn

your world inside out

by timothy freke


Imagine for a moment you are dreaming. You are completely engrossed in  the dramas of your dreamworld when a mysterious stranger appears in your dream. He sidles up to you and softly whispers something extraordinary in your ear: “Psst! Wake up. You’re dreaming.”

You’re disconcerted but keep your cool. You know that the best way to deal with people who are clearly out of the box is to nod politely and hope they will go away. But the stranger is persistent. “I know it sounds mad to you right now, but you’re dreaming.”

You feel irritated: “That’s absurd!” The stranger is unperturbed:  “Is it really absurd? Haven’t you noticed how full of significant patterns and strange  coincidences your experience is? As if there is some hidden meaning? Well, that’s because this is a dream.”

You become angry: “What! Are you saying that this world is just some kind of unreal delusion?  I find that offensive. Tell that to all those people who are suffering!” The stranger is patient: “Of course this world is real. It is a real dreamworld. Its wonders are truly wonderful and its horrors are truly horrible. I’m not dismissing it. I’m simply pointing out that it’s a dream.”

You are confused: “What do you mean?” The stranger explains:  “Right now you think you are a person talking to me.  But that’s just who you temporarily appear to be in this dream. The real you is the dreamer. And this whole dreamworld exists in you.”

You feel stunned: “Are you asking me to believe that I am imagining talking to you? Surely you are not a product of my imagination?!” The stranger smiles kindly: “The person that you seem to be is not imagining this conversation with me, because that person is a part of the dream. But really you are the dreamer who is imagining everything and everyone in this dream.  We appear to be separate people having a conversation, but actually we are both the dreamer.”

You begin to panic: “Now you’re freaking me out. I’m losing my hold on who I am.” The stranger is reassuring: “Don’t worry. You’re just beginning to wake up. This is a dream of awakening. It is designed to progressively make you more conscious, until you’re conscious enough to realise that you are dreaming.”

You are confused: “But I don’t understand. How do I wake up?” The stranger looks you straight in the eyes: “You can wake up anytime you want. You simply have to want to wake up more than you fear it. And there is nothing to fear. Waking up feels good. Knowing you are dreaming is the secret of enjoying the dream.”

Your anxiety becomes excitement. You want to wake up. And the more you want to wake up the more you become conscious that you are dreaming. And that feels good. You are no longer frightened of all the terrors that may afflict you in the dream, because you know that the real you is safe. Even if the person you seem to be were to die it would be OK, because actually you are the dreamer. How marvellous!

Overwhelmed with gratitude you begin to thank the stranger, but he has moved on and is now deep in conversation with someone else, who is looking shocked and intrigued. You call after him:  “What now?” He turns to you briefly and grins: “Enjoy the dream. And help everyone else enjoy it as well, because we are all you.”

For a moment you just stand there and let this awesome realisation sink in. Then you notice nearby a number of anxious looking people hurrying about their business, fully convinced they know exactly who they are and what is going on. You smile to yourself, sidle up to one of them and whisper softly: “Psst! Wake up. You’re dreaming.”

Wouldn’t that be an amazing dream!

But how would you react if this were to actually happen to you right now? Because I am the stranger and I want to make an extraordinary suggestion…

Life is not what it seems.


You’re not who you think you are.


Life is like a dream.


And you are the dreamer.


Have you ever been conscious that you were dreaming whilst asleep at night? This is known as “lucid dreaming”. I want to suggest that it is possible to experience an ultra-­awake state I call “lucid living”, in which you are conscious that life is like a dream. But I’m not asking you to just believe me. I want to share with you a way of thinking about life that will wake you up, so that you experience lucid living for yourself.

Lucid living requires a fundamental shift of perspective, comparable to looking at one of those pictures of coloured dots that suddenly turn into a spectacular 3D image. The first such picture I looked at promised me dolphins, but I could see only dots. I didn’t know how to make the image come alive. My friends kept assuring me that, if I just stopped concentrating on the dots and focused my eyes on infinity instead, I would definitely see the 3D image. But the more I was reassured, the more irritated I became at my failure. Then suddenly, for a startling moment, the magic happened.  Dots became dolphins, leaping life­like out of the page towards me. And, just as suddenly, they were gone again. Encouraged by my brief success I kept looking until I gradually got it. Now I can see these 3D images quite easily.

Experiencing lucid living can be like this. At first it sounds ludicrous, but keep looking and eventually you will get it. The trick to viewing a 3D image is to change your visual focus. The trick to experiencing lucid living is to change the way you think. And that is what I am here to help you do.  I want to introduce you to a way of thinking about life that will utterly transform  your experience of living.

I feel privileged that you have invited me into your mind to share these ideas with you.  And I don’t want to abuse your hospitality by wasting any of your valuable time. So, I’ve kept things as concise as possible, by distilling down the simple essence of lucid philosophy. But that makes for rich reading, which means this book needs to be savoured not gulped. Speed­reading may lead to mental indigestion. The more consciously you read, the more likely you are to experience lucid living.

I am going to lead you through seven powerful insights that will work together to wake you up from the sleeping sickness that keeps you unconscious in the life­dream. Some of these insights are deceptively simple. Some may seem familiar and others may seem weird. But I urge you to approach each insight with an open mind and to give it your undivided attention. If you assume you already understand what an insight means, or you have already decided that it’s meaningless nonsense, this will prevent you awakening.

To help you avoid just reading the words and missing the meaning of each insight, I am going to suggest you perform a number of philosophical experiments. In these experiments I will talk you into experiencing lucid living by posing questions and then presenting my answers. Take time to perform each experiment yourself and see if my answers also work for you. Make sure you actually do this. Otherwise lucid living will remain just a bizarre idea.

Before we embark on our philosophical adventure, let me make something very clear. When I compare life to a dream I do not mean to denigrate it as some sort of meaningless fantasy. Life is too wonderful to be called an “illusion”, unless we whisper the word in amazement, as we might when witnessing the most astonishing magic trick. What could be more magnificent than this glorious universe, in all its multifarious extravagance? Its awesome vastness and delicate detail. Its impersonal precision and intimate intensity.  Its harsh necessities and lush sensuality. This dream of life is truly marvellous.

This is a little book with grand aspirations. It will take you less than an hour to read, but it could change your life for good.

I urge you to read it straight through, because you’re more likely to reach a philosophical climax if you take it all at once. Especially if it’s your first time.

I can’t promise to wake you up. Lucid living is like falling in love. It happens when it happens. You can’t force it and you can’t prevent it.

But I can take you on a blind date with some extremely bold and beautiful ideas. And ­ you never know ­ it might be the beginning of something big!

So let me introduce our first insight….

life is a mystery




The idea that life is like a dream seems preposterous because we presume we are already wide awake. But most of the time we are so unconscious we don’t even notice the most obvious thing about existence: It is an enigma of mind­boggling enormity. Life is the mother of all mysteries ­ quite literally! Yet we are normally so asleep that we manage to go about our daily business as if being alive is nothing remarkable.

Join me in a philosophical experiment and let’s examine the human predicament…

Here we are.

Meeting in this perpetual moment we call “now”.

Participants in this bizarre business we call “life”.

Awaiting the inevitable ending we call “death”.

What’s it all about?!

Do you know?

Does anyone really know?

People travel all over the world in search of mysteries and miracles, but what could be more mysterious and miraculous than life itself?

Not just what it is, but that it is at all!

When the Hubble telescope was focused on the night sky each tiny black dot revealed dozens of galaxies, with each galaxy containing millions of stars!

The universe is too immense to imagine and infinitely mysterious. And if you live to be eighty years old you will have just 4000 weeks in which to understand it.

That puts things in perspective, don’t you think?

Our predicament is so profoundly puzzling, it is astonishing that we aren’t permanently perplexed.

Most of us rush around as if there is no more to life than making a living and not thinking about dying.

We never stop to wonder.

We behave as if we know exactly what life is about, even though secretly we know we don’t.

It is as if we are mesmerised by our assumptions about life into a sort of semi­conscious trance, which anaesthetises us to the awesome strangeness of existence.

That is until the bubble bursts and we unexpectedly wake up.

It may be an encounter with death that jolts us back to life. Or the bewildering bliss of falling in love. Or a simple shaft of sunlight through a window.

Whatever form the wake­up call takes, for a marvellous moment we shake off the numbness we call “normality” and find ourselves immersed in overwhelming, unfathomable, breathtaking mystery.

Have you ever had an experience like this?

Be conscious of the mystery of existence right now.

The fact that we normally take life for granted, when it is actually so utterly mysterious, shows how unconscious we usually are.

We are so wrapped up in our opinions about life we mistake our own make­believe world for reality ­ just as when we are dreaming.

Becoming conscious of the mystery of existence is like waking up from a dream.

If you’re feeling mystified that’s good, because it means you’re ready for our second insight…

now is all you know




When we are asleep and dreaming, things are not what they seem. We are so engrossed in our imagination we don’t realise we are dreaming. We believe we know what is going on, but really we don’t. I want to suggest that life is like a dream. And that right now we are so engrossed in the life­dream we don’t realise we are dreaming. We believe we know what is going on, but really we don’t.

Most of us are so completely certain of our everyday understanding of life that this seems ridiculous. But are we right to be so certain? I don’t think so. I want to suggest that all we actually know for sure is what we are experiencing right now. And if we really pay attention to our experience of this moment we will discover that life is like a dream.

Join me in another philosophical experiment and let’s think it through together…

To most people the idea that life is like a dream is ludicrous. I’m a philosopher not an evangelist, so I am all in favour of giving new ideas a sceptical reception.

But I am also in favour of adopting the same sceptical attitude towards our familiar ideas.

Are you open to the possibility that your present understanding of life could be mistaken?

Is there actually anything about which you can be absolutely certain?

Can you be certain of the common sense understanding of reality taken for granted by most people in our culture?

I don’t think so.

History shows that today’s sensible certainties soon become tomorrow’s silly superstitions. We look back at many of the beliefs of our ancestors and find them crazy and amusing. Isn’t it possible that our descendants will look back at our present cultural assumptions and find them equally crazy and amusing?

Can you be certain of your own personal convictions?

I don’t think so.

Haven’t you often felt completely sure about something, only to later decide that you were wrong? Isn’t it possible you will discover your present beliefs are also wrong?

Are you with me?

You can doubt all the beliefs that you have taken on trust from other people, because you don’t know them to be true for yourself.

Do you agree?

You can doubt all beliefs that are based on your memories of the past, because memory is fallible.

That’s a full­on thought, but it’s right, isn’t it?

Is there anything about which you can be absolutely certain?


You are experiencing something right now.

That’s indisputably true, isn’t it?

Your experience of this moment is not a belief that can be questioned. It is a self­evident certainty.

Your experience of this moment is all you can be absolutely sure of.

So the only way to really understand life is to examine your own immediate experience of living.

That’s an empowering realisation!

If you want to know what is going on you can’t rely on me or anyone else to tell you.

You must find out for yourself by paying attention to what you are experiencing right now.

And ­ I want to suggest ­ if you do become more conscious of this present moment you will discover that life is like a dream.

Ok so far? Because from here it’s a bit of a philosophical roller­coaster ride. Hang on tight. Or better still let go completely!  Because we are going to be moving fast.

Lucid living isn’t believing the theory that life is like a dream. It is directly experiencing the dream­like nature of reality in this present moment.

I want to point out some clues which suggest life is like a dream, for you to check out for yourself in your own immediate experience.

The first clue is our next insight. But be prepared. It challenges our most basic assumption about who we are…

you are not a person




When you are dreaming you appear to be a character within the dream. But this is only your “apparent identity”.  It is not who you really are. Actually you are awareness which is dreaming the dream. This is your “essential identity”. I am suggesting that life is like a dream. Right now you appear to be a person in  the life­dream. But this is only your apparent identity, it is not who you really are. Your essential identity is much less concrete and much more mysterious. You are awareness which is witnessing the life­dream.

If you are willing to let go of the assumption that you are a person ­ just as an experiment ­ I will point out who you really are…

Examine the reality of this present moment.

You are experiencing something right now.

That’s obvious, right?

So you are an experiencer of experiences.

That’s a weird way of seeing yourself, but it’s clearly true, isn’t it?

Try it out.

Be an experiencer of experiences.

Be awareness witnessing all that is happening right now.

Common sense, of course, says you are a person. But even in everyday speech we say: “I have a body” not “I am a body”. And we talk of “my mind’ as if the mind is something we possess, not something we are.

What is this mysterious “I” which is not the body or mind?

It is awareness which witnesses the body and mind.

Can you get that?

Over your lifetime your body has aged and your mind has matured, but don’t you feel as if something has remained the same?

Isn’t the essential you no different now from when you were younger?

What is this essential you that is constant and enduring?

It is awareness.

Awareness is the constant background of all your experiences.

Awareness is the unchanging witness of all that changes.

Awareness is the perpetual presence that is always present.

Do you agree?

Right now you are awareness witnessing a flow of experiences. This is your permanent essential identity.

Within the flow of experiences you appear to be a particular person. This is your ever­changing apparent identity.

Your apparent identity is not who you are. It is who you temporarily appear to be.

This will become obvious if you consider your daily experience of waking, dreaming and deep sleep.

When you are asleep and dreaming, the person you presently appear to be disappears from awareness and you appear to be a different person in a different dreamworld.

Your essential identity as awareness remains forever the same, but your apparent identity is completely transformed every night.

Indeed, in deep sleep your apparent identity disappears altogether! Because when awareness is unconscious you don’t appear to exist at all.

Common sense says that you are a body within which awareness comes and goes.

But in your own experience you are awareness within which the body comes and goes!

That’s an outrageous thought, but it’s right, isn’t?

Whilst you are dreaming your dreamworld seems very real ­ sometimes terrifyingly so ­ and you believe you are the person you appear to be in the dream.

But when you dream lucidly you know that this isn’t who you really are, because you know you are the dreamer witnessing the dream.

If you want to live lucidly, stop believing you are the person you appear to be right now.

Be awareness witnessing this ever­changing moment.

How are you doing? Grasping unfamiliar ideas can be a bit like trying to hold onto the soap in the bath, so take a mental breather if you need one.

But not too long, because we’re working towards a reality­shift which will ­ quite literally ­ turn the world inside out. And that will require plenty of philosophical momentum.

Ok. Ready to play? Insight number four is…

the world exists in you




When you dream you appear to be a dream­persona in a dreamworld, but actually you are awareness and the dreamworld exists within you. In the same way right now you appear to be a person in the life­dream, but actually you are awareness and the life­dream exists within you.

Let’s look…

Right now you are experiencing your thoughts and the world of the senses.

Do you agree?

We usually think of our thoughts as existing within awareness and the world as existing independently of awareness. But is that right?

If you pay attention to what is happening right now you will see that you experience the world as a series of sensations: visual images, tactile feelings, background sounds, ambient aromas.

And sensations exist within awareness, don’t they?

Everything you are aware of exists within awareness, otherwise you wouldn’t be aware of it!

So what is awareness?

Awareness isn’t something within your experience. It is an emptiness that contains all you are experiencing.

That’s right, isn’t it?

Become conscious of yourself as a spacious emptiness within which everything you are experiencing right now exists.

These printed words you are reading on this page exist within awareness.

All you see and hear and touch and imagine exists within awareness.

The world exists within awareness.

You may appear to be a physical body in the world, but actually you are awareness and the world exists in you.

If that comes as a shock ­ there’s more.

You don’t exist in time!

Look for yourself right now.

Time is the perpetual flow of ever­changing appearances which awareness witnesses.

Time exists within awareness.

Awareness is outside of time.

You are timeless awareness dreaming itself to be a person in time. Far out!

Are you suffering from philosophical vertigo?

Well, stay steady. Because our fifth insight is a very big idea indeed…

all is one




When we dream we appear to be one of many characters in our dream­drama. But actually everyone and everything is being imagined by one dreaming awareness. It is the same right now. We appear to be many separate individuals. But actually we are all different characters in the life­dream that is being dreamt by the one life­dreamer. And that’s who we really are. We are one awareness dreaming itself to be many individuals in the life­dream.

Take a look…

As a person you have different mental and physical characteristics to me.

Do you agree?

Your apparent identity is distinct from my apparent identity.

But is your essential identity as awareness distinct from my essential identity as awareness?


As awareness you are a permanent witnessing presence. And as awareness so am I.

As awareness you are not in space or time. And as awareness neither am I.

We appear to be different, but essentially we are the same.

That’s right, isn’t it?

We share our essential identity as awareness in common.

As awareness we are all one.

We are one awareness dreaming itself to be many different persons in the life­dream.

We are one awareness experiencing the life­dream from the different perspectives of these different personas.

That’s massive!

Are you enjoying the ride?

Don’t be surprised to feel like you’re in the Matrix or Alice Through The Looking Glass. Because in a way you are. Except the life­story is even more full of ironic twists.

Lucid living is realising you are both the hero of your particular story and the imagination which is conceiving the whole cosmic drama.

It is understanding our sixth insight…

you are a paradox




When you dream you are both the source of the dream and a character within the dream. Your identity is inherently paradoxical. In the same way your identity right now is also inherently paradoxical. You are both the source of the life­dream and a character within it. You are the life­dreamer imagining yourself to be a particular person in the life­dream. Whilst you identify exclusively with your life­persona you will remain unconsciously engrossed in the life­dream. Lucid living happens when you become conscious of both poles of your paradoxical nature.

Give it a go…

You appear to be a body in the world.

Now flip it around.

You are awareness and the world exists in you.

Try it again.

You appear to be a person in time.

Flip it around.

You are a permanent presence witnessing an ever­changing flow of appearances.

Try it again.

You appear to be a separate individual.

Flip it around.

You are the life­dreamer experiencing existence from a particular point of view.

One more time.

You appear to be a character in the life­dream.

Flip it around.

You are the life­dreamer and everything is you.

Lucid living is consciously being all that you are.

Waking up to your essential identity as awareness doesn’t negate your individuality. Quite the opposite.

Lucid living is understanding just how important your individuality is. Because it is by dreaming itself to be you as an individual that the life­dreamer is able to experience the life­dream.

Lucid living is feeling truly empowered as a person. Because you know that the creative energy of the whole universe is propelling you forward in your life.

Lucid living doesn’t deny the delights and dramas of everyday existence. It charges life with new significance and meaning.

Everything you experience is a manifestation of your essential nature. So everything is showing you something about who you are ­ like a dream.

You are continually dreaming up new situations that give you the opportunity to become more conscious.

Lucid living is wholeheartedly engaging with ordinary life as an epic adventure of awakening.

Lucid living isn’t withdrawing into some detached state of enlightenment. It is enjoying an exhilarating state of enlivenment!

We have travelled a huge distance in a short time, so don’t be surprised to feel a little dizzy with philosophical jetlag.

Yet, here we are, exactly where se started. Conscious of this present moment.

Nothing has changed. Yet everything has changed. Because waking up fundamentally transforms how it feels to be a person in the life­dream.

Which brings us to the climax of our philosophical reality­check and our seventh insight…

being one is loving all




What is love? We love someone when we are so close we know we are not separate. Love is what we feel when we realise we are one. Normally we presume we are just the person we appear to be, so we feel connected to those we embrace within our limited sense of who we are, such as our friends and family. We are hostile to those who threaten our personal self and indifferent to everyone else. Our loving stops where our sense of self ceases. But when we realise we are everyone and everything, we find ourselves intimately connected to everyone and everything. When we know that all is one, we experience love without limits.

Check it out…

Meet me at this moment.

These words are reaching through time and space connecting us together.

I am conscious of you reading. Are you conscious of me writing?

Here we are.

The one life­dreamer meeting itself in different forms.

Apparently separate. Essentially the same.

Are you with me?

How does it feel to realise that we are not separate?

How does it feel to be one with everyone and everything?

For me it is an experience of communion and compassion.

Being one with all, I am in love with all.

When I wake up to oneness I feel a limitless love which is so deep and poignant it embraces life in all its ecstasy and agony.

I share in our collective joy and suffering.

And I find my selfish preoccupations are replaced by a longing for everyone to love living.

When I know I am the life­dreamer I want to enjoy the life­dream in all my disguises.

I want to alleviate our collective distress so that we can celebrate the miracle of existence together ­ without fear, oppression and hardship.

Don’t you also want that?

Since time immemorial wise men and women have been assuring us that love is the only solution to our problems. And they are right.

Only love can heal the divisions between us, because love is the realisation that we are one.

When we assume we are just separate individuals we act in our limited self­interest, regardless of the suffering we may cause others.

The illusion of separateness leads to selfishness and suffering.

But becoming conscious of the reality of oneness leads to the selfless desire to end all suffering and create universal wellbeing.

When we realise separateness is an illusion we understand that conflict is never between us and them, but always us against us.

This realisation has huge implications.

It means harming someone else is just hurting ourselves.

It means revenge ­ even against the most hideous of criminals ­ is hurting ourselves again.

It means war ­ no matter how righteous ­ is grotesque self­mutilation.

Think of all the needless suffering we are causing ourselves through our mistaken belief that we are separate.

Now imagine how easily we could utterly transform our collective experience of life if we simply lived lucidly in love with all.

Imagine for a moment how good the life­dream could be if we could just wake up!

Lucid living is the simple secret of transforming the life­dream from a nightmare of separateness into the joyous celebration of existence we want it to be.

I am writing these words to you because I want us to wake up.

I see what a wonder you are.

You are infinite potential playing at being a person.

You are the mystery of life made manifest.

I celebrate you.

You are different from me and yet we are one.

And it is only because we are both separate and the same we can love one another.

That’s beautiful!

I want you to see yourself as I see you, so that we can help each other enjoy this great dream of awakening.

So that we can inspire each other when we feel lucid and in love.

And comfort each other when we feel lost and alone.

So that we can walk each other home.

So that when I become engrossed in the collective coma we mistake for real life, you can remind me to live lucidly.

You may be that kind of stranger who will whisper softly…

wake up

At the Altar – On painting and spirituality‏ by Emma Chrichton Miller



At the Altar

On painting and spirituality‏

by Emma Chrichton Miller

I was in my teens when I first started to really look at paintings. Although I didn’t just look, I bathed in them, and I was perpetually teased by my friends for the tremendous length of time it took me to navigate an art gallery. This pleasure of looking and of being completely absorbed in painting has remained constant; whether ancient or modern, figurative or abstract, and whatever the style, I am prepared to give every work the chance to lure me in.

Going to an art gallery is like going to church — a spiritual experience. But what makes a painting worthy of veneration?

What is so compelling? When art was an adjunct of religion, its power was clear. But from the Renaissance on, painting, at least in the Western tradition, has preoccupied itself as intensely with secular as with overtly religious subject matter, or else with no subject at all. Yet when you are in the presence of an unequivocally great work of art, it seems to open a door to a realm of ideas and emotions not accessible through any other route. It’s a quality that goes far beyond prettiness or great skill, which on their own can numb and irritate, and it transcends the visceral excitement of paint, or the sorcery of summoning life onto canvas. Nor is it just the stories of power or desire, however literal or oblique, that binds us. There is some hankering after truth that drives us to look intently at pictures, some hunger of the spirit as much as the senses.

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Colin Drew, Untitled, 1990, oil on canvas

One way or another, I think, artists themselves have always known this. About 3-4,000 year ago, artists in Ancient Egypt began to use borders to mark off narrative scenes and decorative panels on tomb walls. The great vase-painters of Ancient Greece and the mosaicists of Ancient Rome also understood the power of the edge in transforming our relationship with an image. Rather than being continuous with our mundane world, as is sculpture for example, a framed painting, or bordered image, offers a world apart, transfigured from four down to two dimensions; a window onto an ideal space.

For those of us who love painting, this is the key to the medium’s hold over us. Be it traditional, figurative painting, or abstract; Byzantine, or cubist, and whether from the 12th century or the 21st, the core pleasure of any painting is that of moving into another world, where time is stilled and passage for the eye is swift and free. This is as true of the blue depths of a landscape by 16th century Flemish artist Joachim Patinir as it is the complexity of character, wrought in swirling oils, in a portrait by Frank Auerbach. Of course, a great deal of the experience of a painting is aesthetic and even intellectual – you enjoy the structure of forms, textures and colours and you respond to the story, or ideas, or emotions the artist is eager to communicate.  You go to painting eager for a new vision of this world.  But you also go very often with a hope, too, for a glimpse into another.  Perhaps it is this illusion of a threshold that enables painting to so readily serve as a gateway to another psychological or even spiritual domain.

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Colin Drew, Untitled, c 2005, 18 x 34 ins., oil on canvas

One painter who understood this potential very well was Balthus. In many ways a fantasist, with an unsettling fixation on young girls, he was compelling in his commitment to the power of painting to put us in touch with a spiritual dimension.  I have always been drawn to his landscapes, with their serene nostalgia for another world, and to his quiet interiors, in which a figure often stands against or looking through a window. These paintings conjure explicitly the pleasure we gain from looking through a frame at a painted landscape, as much as the pleasure of looking at the landscape itself.

It is the psychological power of the framed space that has long made painting, in particular, a natural ally of religion

According to Semir Zeki, professor of neuroesthetics at University College London, our pleasure is a neurological aptitude built into the visual system of the brain, whereby we are drawn to window-like, frame-like structures. For Zeki, Balthus is the quintessential painter in his ability to generate maximum excitement in our brain. But whatever the neurological source of the pleasure, there is no doubting the lively sense of communication, even of communion, that lovers of painting experience when they spend time in front of a great work. You have only to think of the hushed awe in the Sistine Chapel, despite the cricked necks, or the reverential queues of people wishing to pay homage to the Mona Lisa in the Louvre. Even the crude vandalism of Vladimir Umanets, who scrawled black paint on Mark Rothko’s painting Black on Maroon (1958) at the Tate Modern in October, is a perverse recognition of the painting’s power.

The Guardian’s Jonathan Jones commented at the time: ‘It is a horrible fact that people who for whatever reason feel compelled, in an art gallery, not to stand and look but to scribble, or throw acid, or pull out a hammer, tend to pick the most potent and authoritative works of art for their assaults. It seems there is a psychic force in truly great art that draws the attacker.’ Jones gave the example of Leonardo da Vinci’s Burlington Cartoon in the National Gallery – that soft sensuous deeply moving evocation of motherly love which portrays Mary and her mother Anne, with the infant Christ and the child St John the Baptist – which was shot in 1987 by a man with a gun. Likewise, in 1985, Rembrandt’s radiant and alluring Danaë in the Hermitage so provoked a visiting Lithuanian, later declared insane, that he threw sulphuric acid over the canvas before slashing it.

Setting aside the provocation of their subject matter, these works are obvious emblems of established value. The institutional apparatus of the museum – the velvet ropes, bullet-proof screens, priestly attendants and hushed whispers – all conspire to guide the alienated and angry to the most revered works. In just the same way, such scene-setting  encourages the homage of those more inclined to worship at the altar of art. These trappings of cultural value contribute to what the German philosopher Walter Benjamin, in his essay ‘The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction’ (1936), defined as the specific ‘aura’ of the unique work of art: they shore up our dwindling faith in the unique.

But I would argue that it is also the psychological power of the framed space that has long made painting, in particular, a natural ally of religion. Tradition holds that Saint Luke the Evangelist, as well as being a physician was also a painter. Legend has it that he painted the Virgin Mary from life, which perhaps, is the source of his status as the patron saint of artists, capturing with his likeness the power of the Virgin to heal and forgive. From the earliest Christian paintings in the catacombs of Rome, painting has proven to be a forceful tool of evangelisation, depicting on the walls truths too dangerous to speak, while reminding those persecuted for their beliefs of the glorious otherworld of grace to which they aspired. From the conversion of Emperor Constantine, religious art came above ground, with the icons of the Byzantine Orthodox Church standing as a passionately defended aid to devotion.

If part of the allure of great painting is its capacity to draw you into another world, to make an elsewhere tangible, the icon painters hoped in turn to be channelling a sacred power – one that would flow out from the image into the beholder.  It was the fear that the populace might take this transfer of sacred power too literally, might ascribe to the image the holiness reserved for the spiritual subject of the image and so fall into the sin of idolatry, that led to the fierce debacle of iconoclasm in the Orthodox Church of the eighth and ninth centuries. At two pivotal Church Councils, in 754 in Hiereia and 787 in Nicea, the use of sacred images was first condemned and then defended, but not before the destruction of many images.

It was not until 843, after yet another wave of vehement iconoclasm, that Theodora, widow of Emperor Theophilus (829-842) and regent for Emperor Michael III, was able finally to restore the use of images in the Orthodox Church.  She is supposed to have said: ‘If for love’s sake, anyone does not kiss and venerate these images in a relative manner, not worshipping them as gods but as images of their archetypes, let him be anathema!’ Theodora raises an argument as old at Plato: are images to be condemned because they are merely delusional copies of the shadows of reality that surround us; or are they rather to be celebrated as bringing intimations of the ideal world beyond?

Theodora drew heavily on the writings of the theologian St John of Damascus, who suggested that the Old Testament ban on graven images applied only to God, who is ineffable and invisible. St John argued that the act of incarnation was in itself an argument for the holiness of representation, since Christ was in a sense a representation of God in human form. To condemn religious imagery was therefore to refuse the miracle of Christ’s birth and the salvation he promised for the whole created world. From the point of view of art history, this was the decisive point where Christianity departed most completely from the monotheist traditions of Judaism and Islam, with their ban on religious imagery.

By the 12th and 13th centuries, sacred images had, in Western Christendom, become a powerful means of ensuring the flow of a potentially radical and passionate piety into orthodox channels.  The earliest painted borders, those first demarcations between the sacred and the profane, had become entire altar pieces – the elaborate architecture of public piety, where the sacred image was protected, honoured: separated out from our fallen world with gilded carving, but also made available to us for our contemplation. Our communion with the infinite was focused tightly through the lens of Christian mythology.

Then, on the threshold of the Renaissance, in the frescoes of Giotto and his followers in the 14th century, the membrane between the world of the Bible and sacred fable, and the day-to-day world grows thin. Giotto’s use of three dimensional modelling and naturalistic detail invited us to find eternity on our doorsteps, just as the earliest humanist philosophers encouraged us to trust our own enquiring intellects and all five senses in exploring a created world that was no longer opposed to heaven, but shot through with divinity. In the magnificent decorations in the Scrovegni Chapel in Padua, accomplished around 1305, which consist of 37 frescoes of the life of the Virgin Mary and the life of Christ, Giotto explores the manifold hopes, fears and dreams of humanity. Though expressly Biblical, these theatrical scenes are played out on a stage that seems tantalisingly adjacent to our own.

From then, the conversation between painting and religion has never entirely gone away, although the portal to the sublime has become wider, encompassing landscape, portraiture, and, latterly, in the 20th century, abstraction.  But whether these doorways lead anywhere except to a wall of paint, has become a central question for both artists and audience.

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Colin Drew, Untitled, 1990, oil on wood

In the second half of the twentieth century, Mark Rothko’s dark, intensely layered abstract paintings – which promise depth and invite introspective reflection – became emblems of a contemporary art of transcendence that avoided the discredited symbolisms of both Christianity and Romanticism. In conversation with artist and critic Selden Rodman, Rothko defended himself against the claim that his abstract colour works were merely decorative and formalist.  He said;  ‘I’m interested only in expressing basic human emotions: tragedy, ecstasy, doom, and so on, and the fact that a lot of people break down and cry when confronted with my pictures shows that I communicate those basic human emotions…. The people who weep before my pictures are having the same religious experience I had when I painted them. And if you, as you say, are moved only by their color relationships, then you miss the point!’

The son of Russian Jewish immigrants to the United States, Rothko’s reading of Friedrich Nietzsche, Freud and Jung inspired him to search, in paint, for an alternative language of spiritual expression to that offered by traditional religious imagery.  He acknowledged the difficulty of doing this when, in 1947, he wrote: ‘Without monsters and gods, art cannot enact our drama: art’s most profound moments express this frustration. When they were abandoned as untenable superstitions, art sank into melancholy.’  Rothko saw his increasingly abstract art as an attempt to overcome this melancholy: ‘I do not believe that there was ever a question of being abstract or representational. It is really a matter of ending this silence and solitude, of breathing and stretching one’s arms again.’

Is it enough that what we find when we plunge in might be no more than an aura, or a trace, or a scent of the sublime?

In 1959, en route to Europe, after having embarked on that great sequence of murals for the private room in the new Four Seasons restaurant at the Seagram Building in New York – nine of which are now housed together at Tate Modern, and one of which was vandalized this year– Rothko explained in an interview that he had been deeply influenced by Michelangelo’s walls in the staircase of the Medicean Library in Florence. ‘He achieved just the kind of feeling I’m after,’ Rothko said, ‘he makes the viewers feel that they are trapped in a room where all the doors and windows are bricked up, so that all they can do is butt their heads for ever against the wall.’

In this light the Seagram Murals might be understood as a punitive refusal of transcendence for the restaurant’s privileged clientele, or else an admission of his own despair.

In the final six years of his life, before his suicide in 1970, Rothko dedicated himself to the creation of what is now known as the Rothko Chapel, in Houston, Texas, commissioned by the Texas oil millionaires John and Dominique de Menil. Initially conceived as a Roman Catholic chapel, Rothko intended this to be a place of pilgrimage for those seeking, as he did, a contemporary religious art.  Now non-denominational, the small, windowless building houses 14 large canvases, arranged in a series of triptychs, together with five individual canvases, all built up with impenetrable layers of chestnut brown, brick red, mauve and black. At the chapel’s dedication in 1971, Dominique de Menil, spoke unequivocally about her understanding of the significance of Rothko’s work: ‘We are cluttered with images and only abstract art can bring us to the threshold of the divine.’  Whether it is indeed to the threshold of the divine, with room to breathe and stretch one’s arms again, or to the blank end of some dark tunnel, where we can only butt our heads, is for the viewer to determine.


A portal onto the divine? Mark Rothko; Orange, Red, Yellow 1961.

What is certainly true is that there are many very wealthy individuals who are prepared to pay for the experience of owning, and, presumably, contemplating a Rothko canvas. His glowing Orange, Red, Yellow (1961) shattered all auction records for post-war and contemporary art, when it sold for nearly $87 million (£54 million) at Christie’s in New York.

It is within the context of the near-veneration of Rothko’s work, both by the market and by the priesthood of art critics and museum curators, that we arrive at a contemporary cliché.  Art, we are told, has become the new religion.  In the godless West, where the churches are empty and theology is dismissed as a fairy tale, we seek spiritual nourishment in our temples of culture, and find in art the sublime we once sought through it. So when a small group of pilgrims reaches that great masterpiece of Marian devotion, Piero della Francesca’sMadonna del Parto, in its quaint wayside chapel, the tiny Museo della Madonna del Parto of Monterchi in Tuscany, it is the painter’s intercession with the beyond through paint that we beseech, rather than Mary’s mercy.

To follow the argument further we need to turn to another late-20th-century master, the German painter Gerhard Richter. Richter began his artistic career in Dresden in East Germany, painting murals and portraits, but he escaped to Düsseldorf just before work began on the Berlin Wall in 1961. In Dresden he had absorbed the priorities of Soviet Realism but also (under the influence of Dresden’s former resident, the great German Romantic artist, Caspar David Friedrich) the capacity of painting to invite the viewer to share the artist’s own subjective, spiritual communion with nature. In the West, Richter was stirred by American Abstract Expressionism, then Pop Art, and he began to work consistently with photography and found images, as well as paint. His oeuvre deliberately crosses between abstraction and realism, photography and painting, as if searching for the truly authentic image. Whether through a richly coloured portrait of his daughter; a painting of a bare flickering candle; a monochrome painting derived from a black and white newspaper clipping; a many-layered abstraction, hinting at a landscape just beyond; or simply through his veiled, questioning politics and refusal of obvious emotion, his work invites a profound engagement.  Perhaps it is for this reason that Richter, like Rothko, finds himself at the very top of the art market.  He became the most expensive living artist when his Abstraktes Bild (809-4), a vast haunting abstract canvas, created in vertical bands of colour with a squeegee, sold at Sotheby’s auction house in London for £21.3 million ($34.2million).

‘The church is no longer adequate as a means of affording experience of the transcendental’

Born in 1932, in Dresden, into a staunchly Protestant household, Richter grew up beneath the twin tyrannies of Facism and Communism. Consequently, dogma has been anathema in his work, but the relationship between the search for meaning in art and the search for the divine has always been central to his thinking.  In 1962 Richter wrote in his notebook: ‘Picturing things, taking a view, is what makes us human; art is making sense and giving shape to that sense. It is like the religious search for God.’


Gerhard Richter, Abstraktes Bild, 1987, Catalogue Raisonné: 627-4, oil on canvas, 52 cm x 72 cm

By 1964, he had grown bolder:  ‘Art is not a substitute religion: it is a religion (in the true sense of the word: ‘binding back’, ‘binding’ to the unknowable, transcending reason, transcendent being). But the church is no longer adequate as a means of affording experience of the transcendental, and of making religion real – and so art has been transformed from a means into the sole provider of religion: which means religion itself.’ This, surely, is the nub of our desire to tumble in imagination headlong into the spiritual depths (or heights) of a painting.  But is it simply enough that what we find when we plunge might be no more than an aura, or a trace, or a scent of the sublime?  That painting might indeed bind us back, but only to our own unknowable selves?

Richter’s insistence on the equivalence of art and religion reminds me of the French writer, art historian and mystic Romain Rolland, as quoted by Sigmund Freud in Civilization and Its Discontents. Freud had sent Rolland his book, The Future of an Illusion (1927), which as Freud cleanly puts it ‘treats religion as an illusion’.  Rolland had written back describing ‘a peculiar feeling, which he himself is never without…..a sensation of “eternity”, a feeling as of something limitless, unbounded – as it were, “oceanic”.’  Rolland was clear that this feeling was a purely subjective fact, ‘not an article of faith’.  But he also argued that it was the source of the energy that all the world’s different religious systems channel to their own ends. Freud’s gloss on this perspective was characteristically insightful: ‘One may, he thinks, rightly call oneself religious on the ground of this oceanic feeling alone, even if one rejects every belief and every illusion.’  The question we confront is whether the oceanic feeling, which for so many people is part of the pleasure of looking at certain paintings, that sense of time stilling to allow boundless  contemplation, amounts to a religious experience, or more properly to an experience of art’s own peculiar solace, which is not necessarily religious.

For Richter, himself a professed atheist, the status of art and the experience of art continues to be both a puzzle and a driving force. Even the gorgeous, stained-glass window he created for Cologne’s Roman Catholic Cathedral is a question rather than an answer. This is the Cathedral of the city where he lives, and where his three children and his third wife, Sabine Moritz, also a painter, were baptized. It is where he sometimes attends worship. And yet the window, far from some all-confirming assertion of Catholic teaching, is made up from 11,500 squares of glass in 72 colors, randomly organised by a computer to resemble pixels. The dazzling shower of multi-coloured light can lead one’s thoughts and emotions in many directions and can be harnessed to almost any orthodoxy – including an embrace of the pure chance of our existence. In fact, so outraged was the Archbishop of Cologne by the window’s stubborn refusal to give specific doctrinal shape to the emotions it stimulated that he found he had a prior commitment elsewhere on the day of its unveiling.

Perhaps there is no more to be said about painting’s seductive offering than Richter’s tentative statement to the American curator and critic, Robert Storr: ‘A painting can help us think something that goes beyond this senseless existence’.  In doing this it offers both the painter and the viewer a kind of salvation. And perhaps this, as Rothko said, is the miracle that every artist strives to achieve: ‘Pictures must be miraculous; the instant one is completed, the intimacy between the creation and the creator is ended. He is an outsider. The picture must be for him, as for anyone experiencing it later, a revelation, an unexpected and unprecedented resolution of an eternally familiar need.’


Colin Drew, Untitled painting, acrylic on canvas, 101 x 105 cm, September 2015

The miracle, in other words, is creative resolution. While our desire to look at a painting might be powered by the same eternal, spiritual need that drives us to the desert or the temple, the revelation we find there is of a different order. True, we continue to seek in art, among many other things, a correspondence with those oceanic feelings, a soothing of our hunger for transcendence, but the salvation it offers is without substance or destination.