(M.J.E. Spirit / Fri., 5 May, 1995)

Spirit Dialogues

Explorations of Spirit
by Michael Edwards

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Friday, 5 May, 1995

      Michael: Good evening, Bivalia.

      Bivalia:[a] Good evening, Michael. How are you tonight?

      Michael: Oh, so-so.

      Bivalia: You're honest, aren't you? No polite answers of "Fine" or even "Great" just for the sake of politeness.

      Michael: I see no point in that with my Higher Self, where honesty is the key word. If I'm not at least mostly honest, the whole exercise is a waste of time.

      Bivalia: I couldn't agree with you more.

      Michael: With other people, I sometimes give a polite answer, when it seems they don't really want to know, but are just casting about for something to start a conversation; but even then I can only go so far, and I never say "Great" or "Fine", but merely "All right" or "Okay", and even then with a certain lack of enthusiasm. They can probably guess it's just an act.

      Bivalia: Do you ever say "Great" where you really are feeling great, so that on such occasions you would be speaking honestly?

      Michael: I never feel great, so I can't really answer that.

      Bivalia: I'm sorry to hear that.

      Michael: I'm sure you knew all along that's true.

      Bivalia: Yes, you are right; but I am still sorry that it is so.

      Michael: I suppose you're feeling great all the time.

      Bivalia: Most of the time. But I have a broader perspective than you do, and although your troubles are mine, because you are really just a part of me, it hurts me much less than it hurts you, because with my wider view of things, those troubles form a smaller proportion of my totality of awareness than they do yours. Your awareness is gradually growing, though, faster and faster as time goes by, and it will be sooner than you realize that your position will be like mine, and indeed the artificial barrier between us will dissolve and we will be precisely the same, no higher and lower selves. Won't that be great?

      Michael: Yes, I suppose it will; but I will miss being able to have discussions with you, the one person who understands me better than anyone else.

      Bivalia: You won't miss it as much as you may think. Once you (or any being) are fully aware of yourself, your whole outlook changes. You are able to enjoy your own awareness in a way that is even better. In fact conversations such as we have are simply one dimension of the multi-dimensional nature of such awareness. The full awareness is vastly more satisfying than such limited fellowship such as we have in these writings, or in your own thoughts.

      Michael: Perhaps. But isn't there the special enjoyment of communing with other beings, even if it's one's Higher Self (who from an earthly point of view almost seems like another being), which self-communion couldn't quite satisfy?

      Bivalia: Yes, of course. However, by the time you and I are totally unified into the one being we really are anyway, you'll be in a position in the universe to find other company that is wholly congenial, which is outside your reach for now. So your need for fellowship will not be denied at any stage of your evolution.

      Michael: I feel that what I call New-Age people tend to neglect that aspect. They are interested in higher awareness, the spiritual quest, and all that, but they emphasize doing it on your own (or at least some do - perhaps I shouldn't attribute this to all of them). Some people say fellowship with others of like mind, channelling, and other ways of interacting with others are fine for a while, but they are really just a substitute, something to lead up to doing all that with yourself when you have a high enough consciousness. They regard the spiritual quest as essentially a thing you do on your own, and say you don't need anyone else, not even the Masters.

      Bivalia: Yes, some do say that.

      Michael: But I feel that's not quite right. I mean, it is in a sense: there is a deep sense perhaps where it's between you, your Higher Self, and God, and you don't have to depend absolutely on anyone else. But there's another sense in which I deeply feel that fellowship with like-minded people is a real part of spirituality, that it has a deep sense of rightness to it, that it's not merely a temporary step along the way until you have truly found your feet, preparatory to doing it yourself.

      Bivalia: Yes. You will be glad to hear that I agree with you. I agree that some people tend to downplay that a little. Don't take it too much to heart; those people are human, and can make mistakes or have a limited viewpoint.

      Michael: I hope they're wrong about that. Whenever I hear people talk like that, it makes me think the spiritual path sounds insufferably lonely. But of course they would probably think the fact I regard it as lonely is a part of my limited outlook.

      Bivalia: That is their way of interpreting it; there are other ways too, which may be just as correct in their own terms of reference.

      Michael: They say it's not lonely, but instead is quite wonderful, very peaceful.

      Bivalia: Well, that may be right too. Look, in a sense you're both right. There are different ways of growing spiritually; you can do it more with other people, or less with them, whatever suits you. And for those to whom doing it alone is suited, who want to do it that way, it is not as lonely as it may seem; but of course there are other ways of doing it too. And of course, you can be alone sometimes and with others at other times. It's not "either-or". The further you go along the path, the wider your choices as to how to proceed. If anything it's in the earlier stages that your choices are more limited by circumstances, personality, and the like. And you're getting beyond those early stages. In fact, you probably even now have many options available than you are aware of now.

      Michael: If I'm not aware of them, that's only theoretical, and doesn't count for much.

      Bivalia: Perhaps. And perhaps it's time for you to look for those other options; perhaps that's one reason why circumstances have induced you to channel me at this time of your life, to look for those wider options. But I wouldn't want you to get hung up on the idea of doing it alone, if it bothers you that much. Even those who feel doing it alone is the essence of spiritual growth only do so when they are ready.

      Michael: It's almost the opposite of Christianity, of orthodox belief in Western society, where community with fellow believers is very important. Perhaps it's not a complete substitute for fellowship with Christ, but it's still very important all the same. I've even heard Christians say that your faith is empty if you are not part of a community of believers, that you are not really living it, and it's nothing more than ideas in your head.

      Bivalia: Well, yes that is a very different point of view; but some of those people might be in danger of falling into the opposite error of being too dependent on other people, or (even worse) on organizations. You see the extreme of that in groups which say you're damned if you don't follow the teachings of the organization to the letter, and there's to be no debate of the matter, no questioning of any sort.

      Michael: Yes, that's so. I wasn't advocating that opposite point of view. But of course not all Christians by any means go that far; but I do think most have a definite sense of fellowship with other believers, which to an extent seems to me quite a good thing. I would probably be interested in being part of such a group if I could find one I felt a kinship with; but I don't know of one. None of the Christian churches or groups or communities I know of seem right; I suppose I just don't agree with Christianity at a pretty fundamental level. But I don't even know of any other type of belief or spirituality in which there are communities I feel a kinship with; to tell the truth, I don't even feel that with the sort of New-Age ascension groups and people I've been mixing with a bit over the last year and a half. I mean, I might feel a kinship with certain individuals there, but I was talking about the group as a whole, where I don't really feel any special kinship.

      Bivalia: I know. It's the same thing we've talked about before, what seems to be the essential loneliness of your path. It does appear you are following a path that few are following.

      Michael: But I can't help that. I can't make another path seem right for me, just because more people are on it, when in reality it doesn't seem right.

      Bivalia: Of course not. We're not asking you to do that, and wouldn't want you to. It may sound lame, but I suppose all I can say is, stick with it: your day will come. You have a wonderful vision, however muddied it may be by the circumstances of your present life, and you will see it come to pass.
      Some of those other people who are on more heavily trodden paths may find they have to do a bit of backtracking one day, and they might then have hard times. I'm not saying you're right in all respects, and everyone else is wrong, but you are at least avoiding some of the mistakes that many others are making (such as the sort of path which is dependent on following outside religious authorities, for example). And I'm not criticizing other people when I say they may have to do some backtracking one day; everyone has to at times, and you probably did the same backtracking that many today are doing, but you did it in some previous life-time.
      In spiritual matters, it is not of much account whether a path is followed by many people or only a few. Either kind of path could have truth in it; it must simply be evaluated on its own merits, and according to the experience of the person doing the evaluating.

      Michael: I guess so. I wasn't saying I was thinking of changing my outlook; I don't think I could, anyway. If a certain path doesn't seem right, I couldn't follow it, anyway. I mean, perhaps I could go through the motions, put on an act, but who would I be fooling? I might be clever enough to fool other humans, but would I be fooling myself, or you, or God? I hardly think so. Spiritual matters seem to me to be one area where appearances don't count, so forcing myself to follow some path doesn't make any sense to me.

      Bivalia: It doesn't. Atheism would make better sense than that, because at least there you aren't wasting your time and energy on things that are meaningless to you.

      Michael: So, because of the loneliness of my path, I seem to be without a community of like-minded people, which makes life difficult at times. I really do find life a grey and lonely sort of business at times.

      Bivalia: Well, I'm sorry that that is so; but you might be surprised, if you could peer into the innermost souls of many people around you, who seem to be happily involved in activities (religious or otherwise), who seem to have a rich set of relationships with other people, with various groups, to find how desperately lonely and empty many of them feel. It is perfectly possible, and only too common in your society, to be horribly lonely and tormented even whilst in the thick of involvement with this and that. I can assure you that that is as terrible a prison to them as your loneliness is to you, perhaps even worse in some cases.
      Sometimes, the loneliness doesn't merely coexist in their lives with their involvement; sometimes the involvement is the cause of it: it can be a millstone around their necks because they don't feel committed to it deep inside, but they feel obliged in a hundred different ways to continue being involved, or simply continue because they wouldn't know what else to do with their time. But they don't always show it. Some people are better than you at putting on an act, and seem to feel negative feelings should be hidden from others, and they may even appear quite cheerful outwardly at the same time as they feel grey and dismal inside.

      Michael: Yes, I must say that on the rare occasions when I have been involved in a group in some way, I have occasionally met people who seem outwardly cheerful and friendly enough in a fashion, but who just somehow seem a bit grey to me, in a way I can't identify, but which I just somehow feel.

      Bivalia: That's your intuition working, and very likely some of those people may be in the position I just described. They certainly don't need to appear outwardly depressed or anything, but there's something about their inner state you pick up indirectly, even though you may not be able to pin down why you think what way.

      Michael: I got that feeling with certain people who used to come to St. Raphael's Church when I was the organist there, and they seemed friendly enough, but I just somehow didn't want to talk with them if I could avoid it.

      Bivalia: I see that you see what I mean.

      Michael: I felt a bit uncharitable not wanting to talk with them, but I'm afraid that's just how I felt. Talking with other people I feel little in common with is not my strong point, so perhaps I excused myself for not pulling my weight there, given that especially in a church everyone who comes should be welcomed and treated warmly. But my own emotional state at times is rather insecure, and I suppose I don't much like subjecting it to the effects of certain people who might have a depressing effect on me. Why, I often feel the need for help myself, emotionally speaking, never mind offering help to others. It would be a case of the blind leading the blind.

      Bivalia: Well, never mind. Perhaps you might at times like to try being a bit more outgoing with such people, but that is not a skill everyone has in equal measure, and it's obviously not your strong suit. I wouldn't feel too bad about it. If you feel strained about talking with such people too much, it might well show, and might not have the beneficial effect on them that you might hope for. Hardly anyone, except perhaps the most exploitative kind of people, really feel comfortable when someone is helping them, but they can sense that the helpers are doing it because of a sense of duty rather than because of a genuine desire to be kind or friendly or helpful. Doing good deeds out of a sense of obligation doesn't do quite as much good in the world as many imagine.
      As for your feeling that you can't really be all that much help to people you meet because you think your need for help (in an emotional sense) may be greater. It may be true that you are in greater need of moral support than some of the people you meet, but it's worth remembering that it's not a case of a linear scale of need for help, where A needs help more than B, so B can offer A help, but A can't help B in any way, because B is better off. Regardless of the relative positions of A and B, both might be in a position to help each other enormously, perhaps in quite different but mutually complementing ways.

      Michael: Well, I'll remember that next time I find myself interacting with other people; but I wouldn't hold my breath waiting for it to transform my life.

      Bivalia: Don't worry; I'm not holding my breath.

      Michael: Well, I've spent over three pages talking about nothing very much in particular. I'm not even sure what I wanted to talk about, but just somehow felt like a session, although it was with only lukewarm enthusiasm. I do have a few things on my agenda, continuing themes I've brought up before, but I don't somehow feel like going into anything complicated at the moment.

      Bivalia: That's all right; you don't have to go into something complicated every time. Just a bit of chitchat by the fireside is fine with me.

      Michael: You must be joking if you think I have a fireside. I don't even have any sort of heating even in the depths of winter.

      Bivalia: I was not talking physically. But spiritually, I think we have quite a nice little fireside, and it is getting warmer all the time. We are developing quite a nice cosy little relationship, don't you think?

      Michael: Yes, and you seem to be going all cute and twee for some reason.

      Bivalia: I think I am allowed to do that once in a while, just as you are.

      Michael: I suppose I wouldn't dispute that.


      Michael: Well, I left things off there for a while, but I'm back. But I suspect this session is fizzling out, after going nowhere very much.

      Bivalia: That's quite all right. You are allowed to fizzle out every now and then; in fact, you are allowed to do it every time, if you like, but I think you prefer not to fizzle out too often.

      Michael: I think I'm still feeling a bit grey with life, even if not quite as black as before, and that may be reflected in the quality of channelling. Even this channelling seems almost pointless, not quite real somehow. I'm not even sure I believe you exist, or that anything spiritual exists. But I hope it does, and I suppose I'm trying to cultivate it just on the off-chance that there is something to it; but I often have a sinking feeling of certainty that it doesn't, that I'm deluding myself and not quite succeeding.

      Bivalia: I'm sorry you feel that way, and I can only urge you not to give up completely, even if you do sometimes or even often, temporarily. I don't suppose I can offer any easy answer to that.
      The state of your world makes it obvious that easy answers are not (at this present time, at least) to be found to many problems. That doesn't mean that we in spirit don't care, but simply that things are not always easy even for us to cope with; but we in spirit are helping your planet all we can, and we think things may get better in the reasonably near future, possibly (unfortunately) after a relatively brief turn for the worse which could cause a great deal of suffering over a period of some years or decades. We hope to avoid that, but that largely depends on the course humanity as a whole takes over the next couple of decades, which could well be crucial to the future of civilization on your planet.
      If humanity does the right things, the best of your civilization will survive for a long time to come, potentially forever; if humanity doesn't do the right things, substantial or even total destruction of everything humanity has achieved on your planet could take place, which would sadden us as much as you. But even there, you can at least be assured (if it's of any comfort) that in levels higher than the physical, everything good that has been achieved on your planet will still be preserved, no matter how bad the destruction on the physical level; but it would then be some years, at least, before those things could be reconstructed on the physical level. Needless to say, it would be better all round if such destruction could be avoided, but that largely rests in the hands of humanity as a whole, in the next couple of decades. I can make no definite predictions on that.
      But before I went onto that, the point I was making is that at present there is no easy solution to the ills of your earth, or else someone would have already long since fixed them as soon as they began to show. I'm sorry, but that's how it seems to be. We hope such a hard truth doesn't have to be true for much longer, and long for a time just as much as I know you do for a time when suffering, difficulty and pain can be abolished forever from the entire universe.

      Michael: It is a rather grim prospect you describe there.

      Bivalia: I know. I don't like it any more than you do. But it has to be faced. But I pointed out the fact that some problems can't be fixed easily at the present time, and some can't be fixed at all (for the present), in answer to your reference to your grey feelings about life, which seem at least partially bound up with your spiritual uncertainty, your fears that everything spiritual may be a delusion; I detect that you feel I should somehow offer some relief from that, but it's not as easy as that. I can help (if you let me), but it takes time. You must see that if Higher Selves generally could solve spiritual doubts with a snap of the fingers, such doubts would be totally unknown in your world, because everyone's Higher Self would solve the problem for them.

      Michael: But there are people with no doubts, or very few at least, who do feel a great sense of the reality of spirit and of their spiritual growth.

      Bivalia: Yes, that is so, although the number who are really like that is probably considerably smaller than the number who appear that way to others. Perhaps those fortunate people are like that because of some genetic quirk in their personality, or something of that sort. I know it sounds almost absurd to attribute spiritual qualities to things like genes, and I know you both resent so much in your life being dependent on mere physical things like that, and yet believe (with a sinking feeling) that it is probably so, that it is horribly true that such things play such a determining role; but to deny this would seem to me to be denying reality, and that doesn't seem to me to achieve very much. Unfortunately, purely physical things do count in your world, sometimes for a great deal.
      You can take this further. Imagine a person who is doing great things in life, things which relate to some spiritual life and which do good things for the world and for themselves and those they love. Maybe he (or she, of course) is a great writer or artist or composer, hoping to inspire people with his work, or perhaps he is a scientist or some sort of leader in public life who hopes to use his power to oppose corruption; or perhaps he's a more ordinary person who is just doing good things in their own locality, and being like a ray of sunshine in that corner of the world.
      Imagine such a person is hit by a drunk driver, or has a diving accident, both things which are notorious for causing horrible injuries. Or perhaps they have a stroke, or catch some horrible disease. Now the person is a quadriplegic, unable to move anything other than their eyeballs. If they're unlucky enough, perhaps they can't move anything at all; it's too terrible to contemplate, but there are people who have suffered this fate.
      Their plans, wonderful as they are, are blown to pieces, and they rot for decades in a nursing home, wearing nappies and dribbling at the mouth, developing bed-sores, their muscles wasting away, unable to do more than grunt, needing to be spoon-fed at meal-times, even needing a nurse to wipe their bottoms after using the toilet (that is, if they don't do it gradually all day into their nappies). How humiliating, how frustrating it all must be. It seems wrong that such wonderful plans, so spiritual in impulse, should be shot to pieces by such a physical thing as the accident or disease which happened to them. The very physicality of it all is utterly horrifying, somehow.
      I'm describing an extreme case just to point things up all the more. It seems so unfair that such a thing should happen, that matter should prevail over mind, as it does thousands of times every year in your world. It seems a loss to the universe as well as to the person himself, and everyone he is close to; it is an affront to the whole world of spirit, and to God Himself.
      I don't know what answer I (or the Higher Selves of such people) could offer. They could try to philosophize about it as best they could, rather like I do about your less intense problems; but really nothing solves the problem. Nothing would solve it except for the quadriplegia to be undone; and that, in most cases, is not possible. It has to be faced that the rest of that life, however long that might be, is going to be spent in that condition. Denying reality, however distasteful, does not seem to achieve anything, with the possible exception that a person in the extreme state I described, who has (or can develop) the ability to astrally project might find it worthwhile to deny the terrible reality (for fear their mind can't cope with the terrible truth, and the terrible prospect of living like that for decades), and live entirely in the astral world.

      Michael: Golly, you really are trying to depress me, aren't you? I don't like this sort of conversation much.

      Bivalia: No, I wasn't trying to depress you, and I don't like all that stuff either; but it's there, whether we like it or not, whether God Himself likes it or not.
      Perhaps I've overdone things a bit; but the point is, bad things do happen in your world (occasionally as bad as I described), and there's no really satisfying answer, except to undo the harm, which is not always possible. Philosophers and mystics and theologians try to give answers, but I wonder how much they really satisfy the people afflicted with severe trouble or pain. I suspect such answers are more likely to satisfy certain people who don't have any unusual degree of trouble, just the usual amount, who are trying to explain the trouble other people have, not their own trouble.
      Most of the answers given by the mystics and theologians seem somehow to be justifying the pain, sometimes even directly attributing it to God, who is doing it to test the person's faith, or to push them into turning to spiritual things rather than being exclusively concerned with the things of this world, or to punish them for their sins, or whatever. Some of the more eastern-influenced mystics say it is the result of karma, and that it is the consequence of previous deeds you've done, perhaps in a past life.
      The problem with all of these answers is that they attribute terrible atrocities to God or one's Higher Self, or other spiritual beings or powers; and I would doubt if this is a very satisfactory view of the world of spirit; it would certainly cause difficulty for a person who sees spirit as the essential source of all that is good, which your fleeting moments of wonder or magic would seem to point to.
      Other views see the terrible misfortunes of your world simply as the outcome of free will, which God cannot or will not interfere with. But this view creates problems too. Is God that incompetent that he can't create a world which is not so easily prey to trouble of all sorts, both human-caused and not? If this is the price of free will, is free will obtained at too high a price? Could not God have allowed a degree of free will, but not to an absolute degree, perhaps to a lesser degree than now exists? It's not as absurd an idea as it may sound on the surface. I mean free will as it now stands (in your world, at least) is not absolute anyway - it is limited by all sorts of things ranging from the laws of physics and chemistry, personal limitations, the actions of other people, and so on - so we're only talking about a difference of degree when we talk about limiting free will further to reduce suffering; we're not talking about a fundamental difference in the very way the universe operates. So you see that the free-will way of explaining suffering has its problems, too.

      Michael: I know. I know all these things you say, and agree that all those things are problems. I have given up trying to explain suffering, and think it probably can't be explained. Rabbi Harold Kushner's book When Bad Things Happen to Good People (which I have discussed with you I think twice before) perhaps goes a bit further than many other explanations, and (from a Jewish perspective) follows a somewhat similar line of not trying to explain it (beyond a certain level), but suggesting that God is on your side and will help you if you let him. I suppose Kushner's explanation is probably the best that can be done. Actually I think Kushner hasn't got it quite right in quite a few details, but perhaps he is at least pointing in the right direction, if nothing more, which is more than I can say for all the other explanations. Perhaps we can hope for the tragedies to be undone in the after-life, to be somehow made up for, for you to get another go at doing the things you would have done in this life-time, but Kushner refrains from speculating on that, because he says we don't know whether that is possible or not.

      Bivalia: Well, I can tell you that the way I see things is that it definitely is possible, and happens, and that it's more wonderful than you can imagine; but I concede the point that you must either take that on faith, or reject it, or perhaps just wait until after death to see if it's so. If you can't believe it positively, I hope you will, throughout your life, at least be open-minded to the possibility. If you do that, it will make it easier for you at some future time to be receptive to learning new truth in the inner sense that you know is right.

      Michael: Well, we got onto a heavy topic there, which I wasn't really intending to. In these sessions we often get onto distant topics in the middle of something else, and I don't want to stop that; but I do sometimes (when the new topic is finished) feel a desire to backtrack and finish the thing we originally started on, but sometimes it can be difficult to work out which track we were originally on, which is still unfinished. But I think we went astray when I said life was still grey and I still felt spiritual uncertainty. I was going to go on to say why my spiritual life doesn't seem to look very good, looking into the future.

      Bivalia: Please proceed.

      Michael: Well, for one thing, Ra's channellings have finished, permanently, it seems. She's fallen in love with a man who lives rather distant (well, out of the range of public transport, anyway) and is moving in with him, so that rules out my visiting them (if he would agree to that, that is). And it looks like her landlord wants to renovate the place where she lived, so she's moving out entirely, not simply subletting like she thought at one stage. And that little group on Friday evenings was my only contact with anything spiritual, in this line at least. (There is the Church of Antioch, but despite rather similar views on some things, their whole approach doesn't seem right to me, and I see little future for me in that spirituality, which seems a rather hard and cold view of the universe.)

      Bivalia: Well, I'm sure there are other groups around of similar people. I'm sure some of the people you know from Ra's group would know of such groups, and may be thinking of joining them.

      Michael: Well, of course I've thought of that, but there are a couple of objections. Most of the places where such groups meet are in outer suburbs with no public transport nearby, which itself rules me out, unless I cadge lifts from people regularly. It's easier for me if people offer lifts, but I don't feel all that comfortable about begging them regularly.

      Bivalia: I'm sure some people wouldn't mind in the least; you may be worrying unnecessarily about that.

      Michael: Well, I think very few of the people I know even live near me; the only one I know is Elanarah, and she's not one of the more regular attenders, for family reasons that needn't concern us.

      Bivalia: Well I'm sure if you want to go, something can be worked out.

      Michael: There's another objection, much more serious (from my point of view). The first thing could be overcome by getting a bike (my present one is rather old and almost unusable now), going part of the way by train, and riding the last few miles, even though that would be a bit of a pain.

      Bivalia: What is your other objection then? Well, I know, but I want to let you explain it in your own way.

      Michael: You read me like a book.

      Bivalia: Well, I'd be a pretty useless Higher Self if I didn't. That's my job.

      Michael: The other objection is music - New-Age music. At almost all such meetings, the horrible stuff is played, usually on radio-cassettes, which seem to be the standard piece of New-Age equipment, things which in themselves I rather hate. The music is playing before the meeting, after it, and in the interval if there is one, and sometimes even during the talking, if it's intended to be like a meditation. I can't stomach it, and really don't want to attend such meetings on any regular basis. I've told you before how I feel about this, and I'm sure you know what I mean.
      Even if it's not playing during the actual meeting (which is presumably one of the main reasons for attending), if you have to either put up with the horrible noise at the other times, or walk out of the room, it spoils things somehow, either way. Besides, one of the other reasons for going to such meetings, which may be almost as important as the meeting itself, or maybe even fully as important, is the opportunity to talk with other people before and after - precisely the time the so-called music is playing. (I don't think it's worthy of the name "music" - auditory cancer might be a more appropriate description.)

      Bivalia: I presume Ra did not play such music at her meetings.

      Michael: Well, not like this. Sometimes it was playing when I arrived, but she turned it off. I actually suspect (but don't know for sure) that she did that for my benefit, and that otherwise she might have had the background music, too. I never asked her not to play it when I was present, but I think she somehow found out anyway that I didn't like it, and was considerate enough not to have it whilst I was there; and if she didn't find out accidentally, she read about it in some of these sessions where I discussed it before.

      Bivalia: I see; so you think it at least possible her meetings would have had much more music if it weren't for you.

      Michael: Maybe. The point is that not having it is strongly atypical of New-Age events generally, and I was lucky enough to have things the way I did at Ra's, and would be very unlikely to find things that way at any other group.

      Bivalia: You might have to ask if they don't mind having the music on while you're there.

      Michael: Well, that's difficult; it might appear rude when you're a guest in someone else's home.

      Bivalia: I think with people who are interested in spiritual things you can relate a little more straightforwardly than with people at large, and be more honest and communicative about your real desires, not so concerned with putting on a polite front.

      Michael: Well, perhaps; but it's difficult all the same.

      Bivalia: Being self-assertive can be difficult at times, but you might have to learn to do it.

      Michael: Well, hang on, that's not all. I might make the request (and feel uncomfortable about it), but if the person in charge of things thought the music appropriate, and/or thought everyone else wanted it (which may not be the same thing), then they might ignore my request.

      Bivalia: That is a possibility.

      Michael: That would make me feel embarrassed, and if I'm trying to get into a new group, I think it would pour ice on the whole thing 5 minutes into the first gathering, before I've even got started.

      Bivalia: I see what you mean; it could be a problem.

      Michael: For God's sake, all you seem to be saying tonight is that this is a problem, that is a problem. I'm already only too aware of that; I don't need to be told that.

      Bivalia: You seem to be a bit touchy all of a sudden; perhaps music, especially unwanted music, is a sensitive topic to you.

      Michael: Yes, it is. No secret about that; I don't need to be told that, either: everyone who knows me more than superficially knows my feelings about that in some detail; I make no secret of that.

      Bivalia: I see.

      Michael: This is the thing I most dislike about the New-Age arena in general. They're all in favour of expressing your individuality, being yourself, and so on; yet in musical tastes, and ways of using music, they're as alike as sheep, it seems to me. I consider it every bit as conformist as teenagers bopping to the latest pop hits, or like any other member of a subculture deliberately conforming to the image of that culture as against the substance; it is one of the least attractive facets of human nature in my opinion. It seems to me that, free from this conformity, human tastes in music, or in anything else, are just incredibly diverse, not uniform, even within a certain group.

      Bivalia: I think you are right. But the conformity factor is nevertheless there in most human groups, and must be taken account of. Could you learn to accept the music, if not enjoy it?

      Michael: I think you know the answer to that; but I will go through the motions of answering. No, I don't think I could, and if I could, I don't want to, and don't intend to.

      Bivalia: Look, I'm not meaning to play the Inquisitor with you; if it's of any comfort, I understand your point of view and in fact agree with it. But the facts of the situation are what they are, rightly or wrongly, and if, just maybe, we're to work out a constructive solution to this, we have to discuss it, ask questions about it, and so on.

      Michael: Well, I'm not sure there's much more to say about it, no real way of solving it, and I'm not sure I want to continue this session much longer, as I'm getting a bit cold, and just losing enthusiasm for this conversation; but let's continue a little longer anyway.
      You may think I'm simply digging my heels in like a recalcitrant child, but it's more important to me than appears on the surface. Quite apart from the fact that unwanted music just generally is an unpleasant distraction, and totally spoils the general atmosphere of any place, which might otherwise be very pleasant, and quite apart from the fact that I don't need it to blot out my own thoughts, even if some people do, there's also this.
      I am a composer, at least potentially if not very active for the time being, and to compose music means you must spend much time thinking about musical ideas, ruminating on them, mentally trying them out in various ways, quite apart from trying them on the piano. For all that, you need quiet. It needn't be absolute, and ordinary background noises don't matter; but where you are must be absolutely free of music of any kind, no matter how soft, even if only barely audible in the distance. (Percy Grainger said he could compose with radios playing loudly, but I think that's highly exceptional, not at all the usual way of things, and Percy Grainger was a very unusual human being. In general, I think what I say is binding, certainly for me, and I think most composers.)
      The slightest music anywhere completely kills any musical thoughts, and if the music goes on for long enough and I can't get away from it, the effects may last hours after it does stop (or I thankfully escape). You may be able to stop it physically (or escape), but you can't turn it off in your brain instantly; it takes time to wear off. That time can range from minutes to days, depending on a whole lot of variables such as the duration, loudness, style of music, your own mood, and so on. This is why I sometimes describe music as mental rape, especially in places or at times where it is inflicted on people against their will.
      And when a tune runs round in your head against your will for hours or even days, the person who has inflicted it on you is effectively invading your privacy, even controlling your mind in a fashion. (And the fact of a tune running round your head needn't mean it's a tune you like - you may absolutely loathe it, such as some of the horrible little jingles the A.B.C. play ad nauseam on the radio these days.) I think there ought to be laws to protect people from this against their will; and I'm sure it's not just me: the phenomenon of a tune running round in circles in your mind is a very well-known phenomenon.
      Now I know you might be thinking that this is not vitally important, even if it is unpleasant, because (to come back to the topic) I'm not likely to be composing at New-Age groups anyway, and therefore the music shouldn't matter. Well, it's not as simple as that (life rarely is simple in my experience, not once you scratch beneath the surface). I may not be composing at the time, but in general, even when I'm not composing, I feel that my mind must still be free a good proportion of the time to think musical ideas when it wants to. I very much doubt if a composer could write much good music if he confined his musical thinking to his actual composing sessions; I think it is almost certain that he thinks musical thoughts most of the time (not necessarily in an organized, left-brain kind of way, but perhaps quite ruminatively, in an intuitive right-brain way; and perhaps only intermittently, in between other activities or even during them), and the composing sessions are simply the times when he pulls these various thoughts together and puts them on paper.
      What I'm saying is that the ability to think your own musical thoughts a high proportion of the time is not merely an optional extra for a composer, a luxury; it is absolutely essential. Considering how difficult it is to escape recorded music these days (99% of it of appalling quality), I'm not at all surprised that there are fewer truly great composers alive now than even 40 years ago. They're all either dead or very old men now and gradually dying off, and very few of the younger ones are of their calibre in my opinion. A few might be, but that's all. Modern culture is diluting or corrupting the talent many of them might have.
      In a way, I would regard reasonable quietness as the usual background to my life as the soil in which my musical ideas grow; if it is invaded too often by unwanted music, it has a similar effect on me as Agent Orange would have on a luxuriant forest. That is the main reason I strenuously avoid most music I would encounter (if I didn't do the avoiding), even at great personal inconvenience at times. And even so, it is unavoidable a distressingly frequent number of times, and it takes its toll even so, even given that I am exposed to it much less than almost everyone in our society.

      Bivalia: I see what you mean. You make a persuasive case.

      Michael: Of course I do. I haven't developed such ideas over several years to no purpose. I'm not silly; if I didn't have a good case, I would have seen the flaws in it by now. But because composers are not common, and society doesn't care about them unless they make lots of money, no-one gives a stuff about such points of view, however valid they may be. I have been abused, and even nearly physically assaulted, for turning off intrusive radios or expressing distaste for music playing in certain situations, in all cases being essentially public situations where it was being inflicted against my will, not where I was a guest in someone's home, where objecting can be difficult. Our society's attitude to music stinks, in my opinion, and our society just wallows in its own cultural shit. It's no wonder things are the way they are with our values and culture.

      Bivalia: I think that brooks no disagreement, although I don't want to disagree anyway. But what about the New-Age music it is almost impossible to completely avoid if you want to join New-Age groups?

      Michael: Well, that's the problem. New-Age music doesn't have quite as bad an effect on me as pop music, but it's pretty bad all the same. I have a certain, shall we call it an allergy, to it, and if I heard it even once a week it would take its toll on my composing. Some of those New-Age chants that people actually sing to recordings of in gatherings (supposedly to "raise the vibrations") can make you feel like you've heard them hundreds of times even after just one hearing of a mere 2 or 3 minutes (which seems like 20 or 30 minutes at the time, not 2 or 3); it can continue to run through your head for days afterwards. I just don't need it. I don't think much of a spiritual philosophy that rapes my mind like this.
      I consider that exposing myself to this sort of music for the sake of belonging to some group would be at the cost of my composing life, and I'm not prepared to pay that price. If New-Age music is really as central to New-Age philosophy as it appears to be, then perhaps that is a sign that it is not my path, as what I'm saying about composing is pretty central to me. It might be that music (if kept free of the sort of corruption I've been talking about) is, for me, a window into the spiritual, and it seems rather counterproductive for one's spiritual life to close those windows instead of open them as it should. And there's no doubt that New-Age music would have that effect on me if I were to hear it regularly. That sense of wonder I've talked of at various times which you get an occasional glimpse of seems to me to be a little bit of the spiritual come into ordinary life, and I want to encourage it, not kill it stone-dead.
      I'm sure you get the drift of what I'm saying.

      Bivalia: I do indeed; how could I not?

      Michael: It would appear that further groups are not a very likely prospect for me. I could perhaps go to one or two and sound them out, maybe even ask them how they feel about the use of music; but unless I'm very lucky and things fall the right way, it doesn't seem to have much potential.

      Bivalia: Well, if so, you should remember that your spiritual growth is not dependent on these groups. They are a help, and presumably they do help some people; but they are not the be-all and end-all. Perhaps that's one sense in which you can see merit in the idea of relying only on yourself; if things go against you and everything outside yourself lets you down, at least you don't need to let yourself down.

      Michael: Maybe, but that's probably a very difficult way of doing things.

      Bivalia: It's much easier than doggedly using methods that don't work for you, regardless of how they might help others. There's no point in banging your head against a brick wall. If something doesn't work, get out of it and try something else.

      Michael: I think the chances are, let's say, 90% that that's how it'll come out with any other groups. Basically I'm out of things, I suppose. And experience has already shown me that without the benefit of regular attendance at Ra's channelling of the Masters, it's much more difficult to maintain any sort of relationship with them. I talk to them much much less now, and they feel much less real. Even you feel much less real, and I've written this session with less feeling of conviction than I've done most of the previous ones. I would even consider it possible that these sessions altogether might gradually fizzle out into nothing, just as did the sessions I had years ago with the various parts of my personality. I had no organized spiritual life or activities then, but I did have the feedback of a friend called V. who was what you might call a New-Age sort of person, with that philosophical outlook. You know, the one I rode in the paddy wagon with after being accused of car theft. But for various reasons that would take too long to go into now, that friendship gradually dissolved, and I've had no contact with him for several years now, and unlikely to renew contact either.

      Bivalia: Well, I don't know. Or perhaps you're getting rather cold and eager to finish fairly soon, and perhaps aren't fully receptive to ideas I might have. But I can't seem to get anything very constructive into your mind now, for you to type out. Just try the groups once or twice, anyway. Things may work out better than you think. Keep in contact with the people you already know, even if only by phone. That's something anyway; I'm sure they wouldn't mind. They probably want someone to talk with, as well.

      Michael: I don't know if I was leading up to anything else or not. I'd have to reread this entire session to check on that, and I don't feel like that now. I think I'll leave it for now, if you don't mind.

      Bivalia: Not at all. Considering how less real things feel, I suppose I'm lucky to get 11 pages out of you. Thank you for spending time with me, Michael. And I'll say good night.

      Michael: Yeah. Good night.


[a] Tuesday, 26 March, 2002 - "Bivalia:":
      See the first
note at the end of the dialogue for Monday, 13 June, 1994, for the meaning of the name "Bivalia", and why I adopted it in these dialogues as the name for my Higher Self. [Back]

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