Conversation Notes for February 16-18th
February is devoted to a time of ‘stopping’, in which residents and guests are invited to enter into a spirit of shared enquiry and deep questioning of what is to be next for the place and our place in it.
Notes on the daily conversation, in the form of short reports, are made by Robin Thomson and updates appear here most days.
To start at the beginning of the notes please click here...
Friday, 16 Februaryb
How do we communicate what takes place in these conversations to our friends and the wider world?
What happens here is particular to the time and the people present.
And yet it has real effect and can thus be effective more widely, particularly given that the recent newsletter invited readers to agree with our intentions for February and for this year. If the effect is real, it will be effective whether one is informed of the detail or not. Meanwhile how is meaning conveyed at all? You yourself are the meaning.
The website, though virtual rather than face-to-face, can play a valuable part in announcement, and this can be explored further. Can we meanwhile allow the site to be used for reports and communication more spontaneously, without protracted editing and official approval?
But what is really needed is face-to-face encounter?
The human collectivity and the human singularity, the global human being that has so many manifestations.
We may be inspired in ourselves to come here by reading something, but Chisholme is to support the global evolution of mankind, not personal enlightenment. We invite people here for self-knowledge, but the kind of knowledge – and the kind of self – that they realise is not what they first expected. So, the self we think we want to know is not what we think it is. Yet we have been invited to ourselves and invited to extend the invitation.
Sat 17 February
Does or can Chisholme have a ‘mission statement’ – to make it clear to people what the place is for?
The articles of association give a loose indication, but the true purpose of the school seems difficult to communicate directly. The education here is by taste, and it has to be tasted to be recognised. The words on the website read differently after one has experienced Chisholme directly.
So how do we announce in mere words?
When the time is right, perhaps, people will find the invitation arising in them of itself; for now, it remains our task to announce in whatever ways present themselves.
And what is our task here, holding this physical place – the house and estate of Chisholme?
It is not that we can offer visions of Unity; that is for the Real alone to accomplish. Our task is simply to maintain and care for the buildings and the land, keep them and ourselves clean, so that what the Real desires can take place when it will. Meanwhile this work of maintenance and upkeep is itself nourishing and educational for those involved in it.
The estate could be worked more intensively so that we grow more of our own produce. This could be intended as a devotional act and as a demonstration of the nourishment of the Nourisher. This approach is commendable for its sentiment of commitment and engagement; but it should still be the case that all this is for the Real alone and not a ‘thing in itself’; an ephemeral form and not the unchanging essential vision.
In any case the intention for a school remains, and the place has been established in a real sense. The spiritual governs the material, so that what needs to happen will happen in a prepared place. Meanwhile our work is to hold the place, keep it clean, pay the bills, maintain it as an estate and a charity, and be present ourselves.
Sun 18 February
A larger group today, asking what has come up so far this month.
In summary, we mentioned ablution, clearing the spaces, letting go of old narratives and old accumulations.
And asking what now for the school?
How does the Real educate and invite?
For taste to educate, it has to be strong in oneself. Our own progress is our objective, each of us, and it is that which will draw others. The need for ablution, and the intention which we can sense within it, is surely to discriminate between what is fresh and of the spirit, from what is old, tired and received. The latter includes both our personal histories with one another and the system of beliefs we have constructed here as a cosy habitat.
Biological evolution has brought us here, and our own form, our body, has brought us together today for education.
Who in fact am I?
Who in fact has come into the room and sat down?
In order to receive the fresh, the ‘gifts of the spirit’, ablution is the primary requirement.
We have to be empty, clean – have no being of our own.
There is work in this for us, who are students and who yearn for closeness; this keeping clean, this letting go of histories and narratives and clinging is an ongoing effort.
‘We’ have to keep our relationships with each other clean – who in any case is this ‘we’? Is there a ‘we’, an easily assumed community, in fact? Another easy assumption is an exceptionalism (that ‘we’ are in some way extra special), the effect of which can be dangerous.
This conversation can become sharp, even confrontational, where real need for clarity is felt. Can we learn to speak to each other directly, within the strong intention for it?
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The Red Sail
Katharine Tiernan writes about St Cuthbert's years
in retreat, for Beshara Magazine
The Twenty-Nine Pages
An Introduction to Ibn 'Arabi's Metaphysics of Unity
is available from Beshara Publications