Let Leadership Speak

Noticed how many news posts quote
those in government positions?

Political power brokers
of broken systems
choking on COVID
responses…

Shhh…
Please let the leaders
speak.

How often have we heard from
an economic leader? –
Business people
speaking confidently?
(Not just a finance
minister.)

When’s the last time
we saw a cultural leader
who wasn’t a doctor
supporting another political
response
or reassurance?

Shhh…
Please let the leaders
speak.

For that matter,
remember back to the last time
you saw that opposition bureaucrat
criticising this or that…

Bill Shorten?
Are Bernie and Biden
(I had to look his name up)
still at it?
Is there even an opposition
in Britain?

In the course of just a
few short weeks…

Shhh…
Please let the leaders
speak.

Where are the stages
for those not just aged
but for Elders? –
the wisdom holders.
Let them lead.

Spiritual-cultural
leadership
is needed more
than we might
realise.

Now is the time.

Let the becoming leader in me
hold open a space
for the becoming
leader in you.

Replace the media
screen
with a worldwide DIY
platform for
spiritual-cultural life.

Now is the time.

Because what we might find
is that leadership resides
not in self-isolation
but in social connection,
of space creation
through a listening
individual, organisation,
nation, global
population.

Listening for wisdom,
listening for the leaders becoming
in one another;
this is a stage –
a space we can make.

I make it between my ears,
lungs and feet,
I make it on this screen,
and hold it open
in the quiet city street.

Now is the time
to let the spirit of our time –
to let the leaders who see this –
the leader in you,
the leader in me –
now is the time…

…wherever
the spirit
of leadership
seeks to be –
make a stage,
a press gallery –
and
let
it
speak.

 

John Stubley

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Coronavirus and the Health of the Social Organism (Part 1)

Coronavirus can bring about an inflammatory response within the human organism. The inflammatory response is not the illness but the body’s attempt to overcome something that is foreign to itself. The illness is the presence of something antipathetic to the human organism; the inflammation is the body’s attempt at healing – it is an acute response.

Likewise, in the social organism, we can see the various responses by government, business and the not-for-profit sector to the current social situation. These are all attempts – however varied – to help the social organism find some kind of health. This is the social organism’s attempt at healing. In the case of the social organism, however, the illness is not the presence of something foreign to itself – the virus – as is the case for the human organism but, rather, the illness in the social organism is that it has not been configured in a healthy way. 

The social organism has been ill for some time. The symptoms for this have to do with the inter-relationships between the three areas of social life – culture, economy and polity, as expressed through civil society organisations, business and government. Essentially speaking, it has not been possible to find the human being reflected in the social organism. The social organism has become inherently hostile to the whole human being. The illness of the social organism expresses itself in different ways in different regions of the earth. But essentially we can say the social organism has been suffering with a chronic illness for some time.

All inflammatory illness, if left unchecked, can prove harmful – even fatal – for the human being. It is the celebrated accomplishment of modern medicine that the inflammatory illnesses of the world have been reduced. However, the cases of chronic illnesses have increased. In many ways, globally speaking, we have replaced our acute illnesses with chronic ones. 

The quality of an acute, inflammatory illness is, generally speaking, that it tends towards heat, pain, redness and swelling. The general quality of a chronic, sclerotic illness is that it is cold and contracting. A polarity can be seen here: Expansive and dissolving when it comes to acute illness; contracting and hardening when it comes to chronic, sclerotic illness. Inflammatory illnesses are generally seen in younger years, while chronic, sclerotic illnesses generally belong to later life. 

If unresolved, acute inflammatory illnesses can move to become chronic ones. In terms of social life, sudden upheavals represent an acute, inflammatory change in conditions (think of any revolution); while existing power structures continually re-asserting themselves represent a hardened, chronic condition. 

In the Western world, at least, it has been some time since we have found ourselves in an acute situation such as this. Our current situation goes further than the so-called Global Financial Crisis. So how are we expected to work with the current, inflammatory moment?

When it comes to inflammatory illnesses of the human organism, the medicine that is the fruit of a sclerotic social organism often seeks to remove warmth, reduce pain, and so on. That is, it can seek to go against the inflammatory process. Needless to say, this is sometimes necessary when the illness carries the patient too close to death. The number of potential deaths from coronavirus points, generally speaking, to our inability to combat this virus and to work with the body’s inflammatory response to it. As a side note, even if it were bacterial in nature, we are seeing more and more antibiotic-resistant infections (35,000 Americans die as a result of such infections each year). 

There is currently a growing recognition amongst scientists and doctors (see here) that the best way to treat a fever, for instance, is to work with it, and not against it. Of course, given we are in the midst of a pandemic, many other measures are also required. The nature of the coronavirus also targets a particular part of the organism, being the lungs, which also requires additional treatment. But here we are talking general principles, not in order to treat the virus more effectively, but to understand the situation – the health, or otherwise – of the social organism.

So the question remains, How are we to work towards health in the social organism in the current situation? If we are to consider the current global situation as being generally inflammatory (in relation to existing social structures), then we must ask ourselves what the appropriate course of treatment is wherever the global social organism finds individual expression in the different parts of the world. In some countries we also see, mixed into the inflammatory response, a reinforcing of existing structures and the status quo (see Hungary, for instance). Certain countries have also gone through various stages of denying that there is even a problem (USA, Brazil – but most countries, to some extent). And while the effect of some of these social responses is to further socially isolate human beings – making it more of a sclerotic effect, by nature – the activity behind this effect, or that which causes it, can be seen as coming from a place of acute, inflammatory social reaction. 

If the best way to work with fever, generally speaking, is not to fight against it but to work with it – to carefully monitor and actively engage in the body’s attempt to heal itself within certain parameters (outside of which further interventions are required) – then we can see that in the current situation we are being asked to work with the increased temperature of the social organism – to approach it as one way in which health may be promoted. One example of this is the UK government’s and the Australian government’s payments to employees whose work is affected by the virus. While not exactly the same, this deed begins to move in the direction of a universal basic income (which would be understandable coming from more left-leaning governments, but both of these governments are conservative). Taken through to its logical conclusions, we have here to do with the separation of labour from income – with a de-commodifying of labour (we may also, in time, come to a de-commodifying also of land [seen, in some ways in the housing of homeless and others needing to self isolate, be it in vacant properties or in hotels], and of capital [though we did not seem to learn this lesson during the GFC]).

One way of working with fever in the human organism is to stay warm. When it comes to the social organism, warmth is carried and created in the relationships between human beings. Social warmth is required now more than ever (albeit at a physical distance). 

The characteristic of pain is that it brings consciousness to a particular part of the organism. Now, more than ever, we can also see where the regions of ‘pain’ are within the social organism. Those most affected are the most marginalised – indigenous people, those without a home, the aged, the chronically ill, those who are economically impoverished, artists, cultural creatives, and so on. These areas of social pain are brought to attention now in new ways. 

One of the functions of illness is that it provides a different place for a system to (using the language of MIT’s Otto Scharmer) see and sense itself; that is, for a system to see and have a feeling of/for itself. In systems-change processes we attempt to create the conditions whereby stakeholders can experience this through various creative processes, including the social arts and other mapping techniques. In illness processes we are forced into this situation. We see both the system and ourselves. In the current moment we can see both ourselves as human organisms, and we can see the social organism. 

The question is, to point to the ideas of Schiller and others, Can we find the human being within the social organism? Do we organise social life in such a way that it is possible to find the human being – ourselves – therein? 

The current situation is, generally speaking, showing us a socially inflammatory and dissolving process – numerous social structures that we might have been tempted to think as given, or somehow natural, are currently being remade. The temptation is, of course, to want to return to how things have been previously. There is always, in any illness, the tempting desire to turn the clock back – to avoid the illness at all costs – and return to how things were beforehand.

Sometimes the best insights come from single individuals after a lifetime of observing related phenomena. The Dutch GP L.F.C. Mees observed the biographical and health journeys of his many patients throughout the course of his professional life and concluded that people can experience positive growth, development and transformation if they are able to approach their illness in a healthy way, and with the support of others who are prepared to see things in a similar way with them. He summed this up in the title of his book, Blessed by Illness

Now, of course – when it comes to the human organism – this will not necessarily always be the case, nor will it be experienced as so simple. Many people will die because of this and other viruses; much pain will be experienced, and the last thing it will feel like to many is a blessing. Essentially, it is impossible to enforce such an idea onto others – nobody can ever say to another ‘you are blessed by this illness’. Rather, it is only a question that can be explored by myself if I choose to do so. Others can support me in this, such as doctors, if I invite them into such a process. 

When it comes to the social organism, I am called on to be just as (or even more) active in this process, and to also support others in their processes. What does this social situation say to me? Is there a blessing in this for me? Are there things in myself that I might be being asked to overcome? What is not essential that I might be being asked to discard? What is essential in what I carry – in who I am – that might be being called for now more than ever, in this very instant? 

In Scharmer’s schema, if the system can see and sense itself, then consciousness can be transformed, and if consciousness can be transformed then systems can be changed and thereby understood (also Kurt Lewin on this last point).

The current acute illness of the social organism is forcing us into a position of seeing and feeling the reality of the social organism and also its relation to the human organism. What is my contribution to this situation in the current moment? What is my current social contribution? How can what is currently observed and felt become the foundations from which a new world is made through a healthy and revitalised social organism and by a healthier and more whole human organism – a human organism which is able to be active out of all that it is – a physical being, but also an enlivened being, an ensouled being, and a Self-possessed or spiritual being capable of imagination, inspiration, and intuition for what the highest possibilities of the earth and of the human being are asking for  – are asking of us – right now, in this time, in this place. 

John Stubley

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Koran-koran and the Virus

Koran-koran the pied oyster-
catcher.
Haematopus longirostris.
Blood-red beak and eye,
red legs too, black pupil
matching chest and wing,
with white underbelly.

The black centre of its eye ringed in red,
opposite to a bull’s-eye,
stares from endless depths.

Its long beak announcing
something of its purpose.
Longirostris.

It floats in, solitary
and isolated from beach end,
as I approach opposite,
yet the same.

It sets down on the
sand, near granite rocks
placed against the rising tide.

I sing to it a while,
and it sits, pauses, listening.
As I pass, my shadow touching it,
it lifts off for a breath,
and lands upon a rock.

It keeps its beak pointed north-east
to wind and morning sun,
as do three cruise ships
waiting on the horizon.

Soon he’s scanning the granite
rocks for shells, which he plucks
and carries away from waves
to the water’s furthest edge.
He pokes the shell with his
beak, driving it into
the sand, before pulling something
out and swallowing it.
(Or else he tries it on the
granite rock itself.)

A city beach in the world morning,
just me and koran-koran.
And I can’t help but think
he’s been shaped for this way
of hunting, of gathering –
his calling.

Same way birds – in general – are shaped –
are sculpted – by air and wind.

Same way –
strange to say –
our lungs are shaped
by earth.

Churchill said,
“First we shape our buildings;
thereafter they shape us.”

Same way we shape institutions
and all of social life –
all society –
with it then shaping us.

A virus is a physical thing –
it fills our physical substance,
moreso if this is not occupied by
the rest of us – it’s our
Self that fights it off.
What is us
and what is not.

Do we find these Selves – these I’s –
who we are – in the world
around us?
Is it this that shapes society?

Things are not so fixed
as they may seem.
Schiller said that in our social forms –
society –
we must be able to find
the human being.

Things are not so fixed as they may seem.
Society is a being.
How healthy is it?
Do we shape it as it needs to be?
As the human being
needs?

Things are not so fixed.
In the lung the outside world
meets the in.
A virus forces us to
be conscious of what is –
and what is not – us –
our Selves.

Can these Selves now shape
a world that then shapes us –
a better world, where the human
being is reflected;
nothing less,
and nothing more.

Are we shaped by these forms,
as well as this place and time?
Are we shaped and here now, fit-
for-purpose, like koran-koran?

Is it not the case – for all of us –
as a colleague has said,
“This is the moment
I was born for”?

Screen Shot 2020-03-25 at 10.10.44 am

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In Memoriam: Dolores O’Riordan

In the work of Dolores O’Riordan – The Cranberries lead singer who died earlier this week – we see the realisation of creativity towards social change. The band had many popular songs, but none more so than their 1994 hit ‘Zombie’. The song was written in response to the Irish Republican Army (IRA) bombings in Warrington, England, which killed two children. Shortly before the song was released, the IRA announced a ceasefire after a 25 year campaign.

In the song, mention is made to “their bombs, and their bombs, and their guns”. Indeed, the song itself is a powerful one, full of creative force, having to stand equal to – in creativity – the force and power of the violence taking place in relations between the Irish and the British.

The song takes no real side but, rather, points to the inner condition of those taking part in the violence. A zombie, by definition, is “a will-less and speechless human” that is “held to have died and been supernaturally reanimated” – a “supernatural power that…may enter into and reanimate a dead body” (Mirriam-Webster).

In the song it is the violence that “causes silence”, and one can have the feeling that silence also causes violence. Here also is the speechless human, as well as the will-less human – one who, in any field of life, does not make use of their capacity to create change but, instead, speaks / wills the impulses of another (or else does nothing). There is a kind of inner death that takes place here – the individuality is subjugated to another power. In the context of this song it would be commanding officers of either army but, in reality, we can find this happening anywhere in daily life. The picture of the “supernatural power” that “may enter into and reanimate the dead body” points not only to the authority we can give to other humans over our own individuality, but also to that which lives in the realm of ideas. Even in the case of the military line of command, the idea must have originated somewhere – and it exists there also that the will-less and speechless, dead human is reanimated by a supernatural power. In this case it is a call to physical violence though, in daily life, this call can be to any number of activities, based as it usually is on fear, hatred and criticism / doubt / judgement.

The song that O’Riordan and The Cranberries created was the antithesis to this process. In the act of writing the song, the band brought this inner process into the light of day, and in doing so overcame it by realising its opposite. They each took hold of their individual willpower and expanded it to the size of their band, at least, if not also to the victims of the bombing and beyond, and spoke their own speech. They too worked with a kind of “supernatural power” – that of the song itself – and put themselves willingly, wide-awake and alive, in service of it. They acted on it, and the song Zombie was born, which illustrated the inner aspect of the very violence they were countering by overcoming it as part of their own creative process. They became not dead and reanimated by something other than themselves but, rather, ‘more alive’ through being filled with that which the substance of their Selves was made of. This process is then invited in others through listening to the song.

They could also have reacted with violence, crafting a song of hatred, of fear, of judgement, but they instead used their creative capacities to shine a light on the futility of this path, and thereby broke the zombie spell, and made something new. It seems no coincidence that the ceasefire was called around the same time as the creation of this song.

Creativity is the antidote to violence. It is the real ceasefire. More, it is the peace process itself. It shows the necessity of personal reflection and individual transformation when it comes to how we interact and relate with others. Every encounter can be violent in one form – be it in our thinking (judgements, criticism), our feeling (anger or hatred), or our willing (fear, inaction, silence, or else actual physical violence). The question is whether or not we are aware of our own will-lessness, our own speechlessness – whether we are aware or not of having given our will over to another human or to an idea which we have not fully penetrated with our own thinking, our own feeling, our own will – and become, consequently, nothing but a dead body, “speechless” and possibly also “reanimated”.

Shining a light on this process in ourselves, however, can lead us to the same creativity expressed in this song, and can do so in every aspect of life. We can open our thinking to the truth of any situation, our feeling to the beauty of the world, and our will to the goodness therein. We can, instead of sleeping or dying while alive, animate ourselves with our own creativity in wide-awake and self-willed self-spoken service of other human beings or of ideas which we have made into ideals through our own penetration of them, and thereby expand ourselves as far as our will-filled thinking might take us.

One path extinguishes the self in silence and inaction, another in reactionary “reanimated” violence. Both of these paths leave the human being unfree. Only the path of creativity expands the individual self in free service of something beyond ourselves.

And where does this choice – this battle – of paths take place?: “In your head, in your head, they are fightin’”.

This is what The Cranberries achieved with this song.

It made it to number one in Australia, Belgium, France, Demark and Germany – all countries which have seen their fair share of violence “since 1916” – and made it to number two in Austria, Norway, Sweden, the Netherlands, Switzerland, and Europe as a whole.

O’Riordan had only just turned 23 when the song was released.

Click the image below to view the film clip on YouTube. It has so far received around 670 million views.

 

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The Magic of Imagination: What is a new year worth?

A new video post from John Stubley called ‘The Magic of Imagination: What is a new year worth?’ Click on the image to watch the video.

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Australia says ‘yes’ to marriage equality

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The Force of Star Wars in Our Time

The recent release of the latest Star Wars film invites us to consider more fully the continued success of this long-standing cultural imagination. Why, almost forty years after the release of the original Star Wars film, does this story continue to be so well received by human beings all over the world? And what does this latest release, in particular, reveal to us about ourselves at this stage of human and world development?

The latest film is entitled Star Wars: The Force Awakens. This follows on from A New Hope, The Empire Strikes Back, and Return of the Jedi. What we see now is that the ‘force’ itself has taken centre stage. The main theme of the film is reflected in the title, and this is not explicitly directed at one side of the battle or the other, nor at an event (see also The Phantom Menace, Attack of the Clones, and Revenge of the Sith), but rather at the force itself, that it is awakening, and that it is awakening through human beings.

Here we begin to see, therefore, the beginning of a more substantial imaginative exploration of what the force actually is. Throughout the films this so-called force is respectively passed off as religious mumbo jumbo, or else it is feared (as in ‘the Dark Side’) or admired (as in the ‘Jedi Knights’). Generally, we see its central drama play itself out in the fortunes of one familial blood line.

And what of the characters who make up this unfolding mythology, and what do they tell us about ourselves? In the centre of the myth, we find the key characters of Luke, Princess Leia, Han Solo, Chewbacca, R2-D2, C-3PO, Darth Vader, and several more teachers of either side of the force, including Obi-Wan Kenobi, the Emperor, the Supreme Leader, and Yoda. Importantly, some of these characters cross from one side of the divide to the other – from light to dark, and vice versa. Other characters also come and go as required. In the centre, though, we can see the growth and development of both Anakin and Luke Skywalker from youths – through an initiation training – into powerful leaders. Here we see the unfolding, growth and development of our own higher selves, which can be tempted either by the dark side (Anakin becomes Darth Vader) or to the light (Luke inherits no new name but becomes another Jedi Knight). In Han Solo we see the cautious, sceptical, whimsical, cynical, humorous, activities of our everyday selves, complete with relevant vices, such as smuggling, drinking, gambling, and the resulting debts that such activities accumulate (he becomes entangled in the tempting, self-indulgence offered by the Jabba the Hutt figure). In Leia we find something of our most feminine and worldly soul life, full of feeling (here is the romantic love relationship of the later episodes); in Chewbacca, the giantness of our own will power; in C-3PO the doubt and indecision of our thinking, unless it is brought more alive with the assistance of a more intuitive (courage or will-imbued) activity expressed in R2-D2. In the teachers of the film, we find those characters in ourselves that come before us or exist within the environment of our own soul life, for better or worse, leading – through selfishness and fear – to the creation of Darth Vader, or through selfishness and self-indulgence to the gluttony of Jabba the Hutt, or through selflessness and service to the Jedi activity of Obi-Wan or Yoda. These are all imaginative expressions of real forces – real characters – real beings – of our own soul life. As Rilke puts it, what is within surrounds us, and here it surrounds us on screens the world over.

As the Han Solo character puts it in the latest film, looking back, set some 30-odd years after the last instalment, “It’s true. All of it. The Dark Side. The Jedi. They’re real.” Meaning, not just that it was real and that it happened in the imagination of the films, but that it is an expression of real characters – real beings – within each of us. The film is popular because we see, lit up on the cinema screens of the earth, our own selves.

And what do we see in this latest film? – we see something in ourselves awakening. We see the force awakening. There is no real religion or mythos expressed within the films themselves other than that which is expressed in the concept of the force. It is expressed by Obi-Wan as a life force, as “an energy field created by all living things. It surrounds us, penetrates us, and binds the galaxy together.” It can also be used, for both good or evil. Other than this, where it comes from, its history, its future, and so on, is not really touched upon. There is talk of prophesies of a Chosen One (whose powers will be discovered slightly later in his development, who will be trained in the ways of the force, who will bring much death and destruction, but) who will ultimately bring balance to the force. This is fulfilled in the tragedy of Darth Vader, and his redemption. In the latest film, a search is underway for Luke Skywalker who, it is believed, has returned to the first Jedi temple after one of his students turned to the Dark Side and destroyed the new class of Jedi he was training. That is, the higher self put itself in service of the force, and yet a student of this path, when confronted with the question of whether to put his skills in service of others or to keep this power for himself, chose the latter. And so exists the choice for all who walk a path of self development – at this juncture, one must choose to become either a black or white magician, or, in the language of Star Wars, a servant of the Dark Side or a Jedi Knight. The character (Kylo Ren) who chooses the former path in this latest instalment says his bedside prayers to the mangled mask of Darth Vader, whom he fears he will never be as powerful as. That is, he draws his strength from the countenance of a now mythical religious expression of that which can also inhabit his own dark nature, and so it may be for us. Some thirty years later, new characters are expressing the birth, for a new generation as well as for those who have seen the previous films, of our own highest selves and the choices that will be encountered – and here we find the central characters of the latest film Kylo Ren and Ray. Here they are not positioned as father and son, but exist more side by side. The battle for the self, and with it the world, is more close at hand. (In the character of Finn we see a soldier who awakens to the immorality of his actions, and rebels against the conformity of his vocation – who cannot identify, to a degree at least, with this?)

And, yet, what is really said or known of the force itself – this mysterious power? When Star Wars creator George Lucas was asked by Bill Moyers where the imaginations for his stories came from he replied, “Now that I don’t know – that’s a mystery.” In creating the films themselves, however, he answers, in part, something of this mystery question. In the myth of the films we see our own soul-life writ large. In the force, we discover all the spiritual strength that can stream through such soul-life and animate the higher selves of the central figures of the story. In a way, therefore, the content of the films themselves is already an expression of the force – in one sense, the force of the imagination. The soul life is already a non-physical reality, and is expressed, as mentioned, in the characters of the film. All that lives in the elemental, vital nature of the human being can be found in the various creatures that inhabit the sands (such as the Sand People), the forests (the Ewoks), the waters (the Gungans of Naboo [such as the Jar Jar Binks character]), and the air (flying creatures such as Watto, Anakin’s slave owner) – here we see expressed in imaginative form the characters – some of the beings, both good and wicked – that inhabit the elemental, vital, etheric substance of our own selves and the world around us.

But in the force itself we find a spiritual reality. While it inhabits the physical, the elemental, and the soul settings of the film and the human being, it can also be investigated and discerned within its own environment. In the film, there is no imagination for this other than the force itself. And in this film, it is an awakening power.

What is it that we then discover in the megaplexes of the world when we view a film such as The Force Awakens? We see the awakening of our own spiritual activity, and, now, our own capacity to investigate this phenomenon. No longer is it utilised as a purely unconscious element – i.e., it is not consciously known from where or what or who it springs – but it is, rather, beginning to awaken, to become part of a conscious process. At the end of Return of the Jedi we found the robed, deceased Jedi Knights of Yoda, Obi-Wan and Anakin Skywalker. In this scene we see the capacity of Luke to work with and be inspired by the dead as they manifest in the etheric or soul (and possibly spiritual) worlds. They are characters who work from these worlds, and help Luke along his path at various stages, particularly Obi-Wan. Luke is conscious of who they are, and allows himself to be inspired by these characters in higher worlds, in complete freedom. He is, in a way, a servant of them and what they stand for. Vader, on the other hand, serves only himself (or his evil master, the Emperor – whom he eventually turns on), and uses the force to do so. In a way, we could say, Luke puts himself in service of the force and certain characters he is aware of, such as his previous teachers, while Vader, or this new character Kylo Ren, use it to serve their own ends. (Kylo Ren expressly needs to fight against the ‘light’ which he feels emerging from time to time within him.)

The question we are left with, however, is who (in addition to the dead) are the characters of the force itself? If the force itself were to play itself out imaginatively on the big screen, what would we see? And what would it tell us about our own spiritual nature? This is the real question we are left with at the end of the Force Awakens, if we are prepared to acknowledge it. It may be a mystery, as it has been for Lucas, but it can begin to be explored further, now that the force is awakening in us, and as we are beginning to awaken in the force. This is an awakeness, in full day consciousness, and not a dreamy, half sleep. While we have been given the imaginations of the elemental, etheric world, and the soul life, as they have been given to Lucas in imaginative form, together with a bridge that can be built with and through a conscious working with the so-called dead, the question now is, ‘Can we, with full, wide awake consciousness – and with the whole human being – begin to explore the characters – the beings – the spiritual beings – who inhabit the force, who make the force possible, who, essentially, are the force?’

(And a warning here – a minor plot spoiler for the latest film is found in what follows; this is unavoidable if we are to continue the current line of exploration.)

It is no accident that the final scene of the film – where the young Ray – where the young Jedi-in-becoming – where our own emerging higher self must come to, and where Luke Skywalker already is – where he apparently waits patiently, is the same place. The older films and the new come together. The imagination of the higher self of the previous films, and that of this new awakening come together. There is a kind of nostalgia that is possible here in the encountering of an aged Skywalker (and indeed, the aged characters of the rest of the film), because we can see the way in which our own selves have grown older – not just our outer physical forms, but our inner lives. Thirty years since the release of the last film, and almost forty since the first, we measure where we have come to in our own soul development in this reflection of the same development in the characters on the screen in front of us. We remember. And we remember what we are here for. This new, younger character leads us to Skywalker and the others again. The younger generation, who may or may not have seen the previous films – and, if so, only recently – find in the Ray character the expression of their own highest becoming, and in so doing, ultimately, connect with that which is the same in the older generation. In this sense, we find here also an expression of a social deed – that in order to find one another, including across generations, it is the highest selves who must meet. And how do they do so? They make a space for one another. Ray comes bearing, and offering, Skywalker’s old light sabre – his sword of light. It is like a kind of reminder, as if to say, ‘Do you remember? Do you remember what you, the higher self in all of us, are destined to do – what you came here for? I come as a new expression of this, for I am here to do the same. We can help one another. I bring something new, and you have skills I need to learn. Let us meet here and put ourselves in conscious service of the force, not for the sake of the Dark Side, but of the light.’

Where do they meet? Where do they find one another amidst this questioning, this invitation, that ends the latest film? In the imagination of the film it is a cliff top perched above a lonely, isolated, island in the middle of an ocean – an island with stone dwellings – which we can only assume are the remains of the original Jedi temple. And where, of all the places of the earth, was this scene shot? – for everything is an imagination, in this sense – it is none other than Skellig Michael, off the coast of west Ireland.

Skellig Michael is a mystery ‘temple’ dedicated to and inspired by, as the name reveals, the Archangel Michael. Michael is another imagination, though of what exactly? Michael, as imagination, has been expressed throughout the centuries as one who wields a sword – in a way, a sword of light – and does so to keep the Devil or, we could say, the imagination of the Dark Side, in his place, beneath Michael’s feet. Michael’s gaze is often depicted as steady, and directed forwards. He, in a way, waits. He waits for human beings to come to him, in freedom. And so we have here, as the original and, up to now, final place of the Jedi – of the higher self (and of higher selves coming together, in the social sense) – the place where this being – this being of light – waits patiently for the higher self of the human being. In the sense of the film, therefore, this is the place that the force is born and springs from, resides, and can currently be found, waiting. Michael is, in this sense, a character of the force itself, is a being of the path of the force – is a central being of the force.

We could say, in this imaginative sense, that the imaginative earthly setting of the final scene of the film reflects back upon the imaginative cinematic setting to inspire it, however consciously, with a further step in the conscious investigation of what the force is, and who the characters or beings are that inhabit it. In order to be a free servant of something, one must be aware of what or who one serves. Michael waits patiently for the free human being to arrive in a mood of conscious investigation and service. So, though we might be tempted to say, out of such an imaginative exploration, that Michael is the force, we would perhaps be better positioned if we were to say that here we have a character, a guide, for the further inner workings of the force. It is his temple and, in a way, his school – the school of the Jedi Knight – but there are other characters, other beings who make up this school, this temple of the human being and the world.

If we see the mangled mask of Darth Vader as the countenance of the ruler of the Dark Side which, in the imaginations of centuries past, we may call the Devil (though there are other names for this character, and other characters that inhabit such darknesses), here we can also ask, ‘So what is it that Michael is the countenance of?’ Here too many other characters inhabit the light and make up, again, this temple, this school, this path, as the genuine mystery traditions of the world reveal in imaginative form, be they indigenous traditions, the Eastern path, the Christian-Gnostic path, or the Rosicrucian path. Within such traditions (and in different ages) there exist different names, however, for the being who Michael stands as the countenance for. There is, of course, a great deal of historical-cultural baggage that is connected with such names. Suffice it to say, all such names point to the character – to the being – the being that Michael stands with and for – the being who, in world evolution has sacrificed most. It seems that higher stages of ‘training’ (in the Jedi sense) or of initiation (in the mystery sense) are approached through higher levels of sacrifice. The central being of the force, therefore, along with all the other hierarchical beings who make up this same temple, in the schooling path made possible today, in freedom, by Michael, is connected to that being who has and continues to sacrifice and serve most selflessly in world evolution, and in our own selves. There is a part of ourselves – our higher selves – which serves the forces of light and humanity, with no desire for the selfish temptations of the Dark Side – this part of ourselves is the being who is awakening in our time to that most selfless of beings, and who we can awaken to, through the training of our own inner Jedi – our own higher selves – in order that we may serve consciously and selflessly this most selfless of beings that constitutes the force, and in so doing hold open a space for the same possibility to unfold in others.

For, with the final scene of The Force Awakens, we are left also with the question, ‘How do I need to be in order that you may become a Jedi? – How do I need to be in order that your own highest self may be more fully realised? How do I need to be in order that the most selfless of beings in world evolution can live and weave between us in order that we may put ourselves in service of it, through the schooling made possible by the inspirer of the temple-island upon which we now stand, and stand in every social encounter?’

How we answer such questions will determine the direction in which civilisation continues in the time between now and when the next film returns to the very place from which this one left off…and beyond.

 

John Stubley, PhD

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