(M.J.E. Spirit / Thu., 8 Nov., 1995)

Spirit Dialogues

Explorations of Spirit
by Michael Edwards

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Thursday, 8 November, 1995

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

      Bivalia:[a] I'm very well, thank you, Michael. And you?

      Michael: Oh, I'm surviving, I guess. I feel a little trepidation in coming to you now.

      Bivalia: Really? Would you like to tell my why that is? I would have thought we were on very familiar and easy terms now.

      Michael: Oh, yes, I think so. That isn't quite what I meant. What I meant is that it has been rather more than 5 months since we last did a session such as this.

      Bivalia: Does that matter?

      Michael: Well, it's been a while, and perhaps I may be rusty.

      Bivalia: I don't think you need worry about that. I'm not rusty, and I think you may be able to receive my thoughts. After all, before you started this last year, it was a few years since you did a similar thing, although in 1990 you referred to me as a "Counsellor" instead of as Bivalia or your Higher Self; but that is merely a matter of form, and of very little consequence. And earlier still, you wrote dialogues between the various parts of your personality, in which I made my influence felt; and even before that, you wrote entries in a diary at various times which were not even dialogue, and not ostensibly having any connection whatsoever with me, but there are passages where I think I made my influence felt.
      You see, my friend, it is a fact that during certain portions of your life, you have done writings of various kinds in which my influence came through, separated by periods of time which could be several years sometimes; and yet, after these breaks, when you came back to such writings, you had no trouble in bringing those thoughts through. There was no sense of being rusty; the only problem was writing fast enough to get all the thoughts written down.
      And now the break is only 5 months, which is much less than some previous breaks. It really doesn't matter.

      Michael: Okay. I suppose I should just write spontaneously, and not think of this as a test that is going to be assessed.

      Bivalia: I can assure you that you will be the only one assessing the writing. I am just glad to have your company, whatever you wish to say, and however "well" or "badly" you say it, if "well" or "badly" have any relevance here. Personally, I don't think they do. I mean, when you are with a close friend, does anyone assess the quality of your conversation to see if it meets a certain standard?

      Michael: Well, I have sometimes done so, in my own mind.

      Bivalia: Perhaps. You don't need to; and I am sure no-one else does: neither your friend, nor anyone else who may happen to be present or who may later learn of what you discussed. If they wish to judge your conversation, that is their affair; but I don't think you need to worry about that. I certainly don't worry about it.
      Anyway, is there anything you wish to share with me?

      Michael: Well, sort of. There was something that came to me quite spontaneously - trivial, I suppose, but it had an effect at the time. But then I was talking on the phone with Shirley R. - you know, the lady I've known for many years, who's been my main contact with esoteric things for years.

      Bivalia: Yes, I know her.

      Michael: Well, I asked her a question which seemed to follow on, and she said certain things and thought it might be something I could ask you. So I don't quite know what to go on to now.

      Bivalia: To begin with, I would like to know what first of all induced you to decide to have another chat with me after 5 months, not what someone else thought you should ask me. Perhaps we might get to that later, if, as you say, it followed on. I want to know what comes from your heart now, which I suspect is the former thing of the two you alluded to.

      Michael: I guess you're right. I think Shirley might be right that I should ask you the latter thing, but my feelings about that are more full of doubt, more negative, in a sense.

      Bivalia: Well, perhaps we may get onto that a little later if you wish.

      Michael: All right. Well, a few hours ago, just at dusk, I thought I heard faintly a sound I hadn't heard since perhaps early this year: the chirring sound of cicadas. But I was inside, and my computer was on, making a slight humming sound, you know the way computers do, because of the hard disk spinning, and at first it seemed what I heard might have just been overtones from that or something, or even an auditory illusion of some kind. Sometimes, if you've been hearing the same sound constantly for some time, it can seem to sound subtly different, certain frequencies of sound more accentuated, even though it is really just the same sound.
      But as I went to my front door and opened it, it was clear that indeed I was hearing the first cicadas of the year. I think they're quite late this year, because it seems to have been raining a lot, and they like warm weather: that summery kind of warmth that makes its first fleeting appearance in spring some time. I seem to recall, perhaps mistakenly, that there have been years when they first appear in September, but that must be unusually early, because I haven't observed that for quite a few years. October or November seems to be more usual.
      Anyway, I felt a desire to go outside for a few minutes just to hear them more clearly. There seems to be elusive memories associated with them, for some reason; they can even occasionally conjure up that sense of magic or longing I've talked about on previous occasions.
      I put my thongs on and just wandered out into the street in the dusk, and I could hear them much more clearly. And although it's been raining a lot recently, and although even now it wasn't really hot, there was a certain summery feel about the weather, grey sky and all.
      Anyway, I just noticed the appearance of the sky, and the twilight, some trees behind the house, and lights in windows seen from outside, and the juxtaposition of things just somehow seemed to momentarily evoke that sense of wonder, as if there were wonderful memories associated with that arrangement of things. And I think that is what made me decide to have a session with you, although it is now a few hours later, because there were things I had to do first.

      Bivalia: Well, I am glad you decided to share this with me.

      Michael: It all seems a bit silly now, because all those things are very ordinary indeed. One of the lighted windows I saw was none other than my own kitchen window, and I can assure you there is nothing whatsoever wonderful about my kitchen.

      Bivalia: Well, of course you realize it is not the kitchen itself that gives rise to this. This evanescent feeling you so often speak of may be mediated through ordinary things at times, but does not always originate with them, as is perfectly clear in this instance.

      Michael: Well, maybe sometimes it does originate with the things that seem to suggest it, or at least partly originates from them. I mean, the thought occurred to me that I might somehow be in touch with what I can only call the spirit of summer, because of the cicadas, and the summery feel I noticed before, even though it wasn't all that strong. And the atmosphere of the dusk, the trees, and so on, somehow made me think of the spirit of evening, if such a thing exists.

      Bivalia: It does indeed exist, my friend, and you did have contact with it for a few minutes there. And, yes, the spirit of summer is starting its most active period round about now, and I can assure you that you did perceive this spirit tonight. You should never dismiss these impulsive feelings as mere imagination or fiction. Dismissing them too often, until it becomes an automatic habit, is the best way I know of closing off the realm of spirit and imagination, something I know you sometimes observe in the society in which you live, and which you don't want to emulate. And I am glad to see that, in spite of your doubts at times, you are in no danger of following your society in that, because I see that there is a fundamental openness to you that cuts deeper than the particular doubts you may have about this or that. This fundamental openness is, in my opinion, much more vital to spiritual growth than whether you have honest doubts about this or that particular matter, whatever those particular matters might be.

      Michael: The spirit of evening and the spirit of summer I was reminded of seems to tie in with our previous session 5 months ago, where we were talking about the spirit of Indian summer, the spirit of evening, and so on. I remember that session, although I haven't read it for a few weeks, because I think it is one of the best we've had.

      Bivalia: I think we discussed some interesting and important ideas there. You see, my friend, at some unidentified time, you seemed to get an insight that doesn't seem much talked about, although I won't claim none of the people you talk with don't have it. That insight was a broadening of the concept of spirit. Just about every religion has some sort of concept of humans having a spirit, or, more properly, of being a spirit. And most religions also have a concept of spirit beings that do not manifest physically, such as angels or devas. Less common seems to be an explicit belief that animals or plants are also spirit in essence, that they survive their physical demise in one form or another, but it is common enough amongst esoterically-inclined people, although it does seem that many Christians explicitly deny this. I see you have no trouble with this, however.

      Michael: No. I don't think it makes any sense to make an arbitrary boundary on what has spirit around humanity, excluding every other living thing, when there is no evidence for doing so.

      Bivalia: No, it doesn't. I think you even embrace the idea that everything in your world exists in some sort of analogous form in higher realms, that the essence of everything in your world indeed resides in higher realms, and if you casually speak of something having a spirit, that, roughly speaking, is what you mean.

      Michael: Yes, I guess so.

      Bivalia: Well, I think you've even gone beyond that. In our sessions together, you have, at various times, referred to the spirit of increasingly intangible things or ideas, such as the spirit of that clearing you walked through with many Masters about a year ago, and which you wrote about so eloquently in one of our dialogues. Not only did specific things have a spiritual dimension, such as the little clump of mushrooms you saw, or the group of pine trees, but that clearing the mushrooms were in seemed to also. And, in a more recent session, you referred to such concepts or phenomena as evening or sunset or Indian summer as having a spirit.
      And now, in our last session, you seem to speak naturally and eloquently of the spirit of Indian summer, which is not even a physical thing at all, but almost an intangible concept, in the sense that it isn't an object you can touch. And similarly with the spirit of evening or of summer or of sunset, and so on. These phenomena do indeed have a spirit, and given that this does not seem often to be mentioned, I think it is of significance that you seem to have reached this insight almost on your own.

      Michael: Well, the first time the idea occurred to me was not recent. The first mention of such an idea that I can recall was in a story I started quite some time ago, perhaps in the late 1970s or maybe early 1980s (I forget exactly when), called The Atoll. I introduced a character called Jim who had visited an atoll, and was telling the central characters, whom he had just met, about the spirit of the atoll he had perceived.
      This character also referred to everything - natural or man-made, it didn't matter - as having a spirit, and made the point that Spirit exists on different hierarchical levels: for instance (to paraphrase rather than quote exactly), that not only does an individual tree have a spirit, but a grove of trees also has a spirit that is more than the sum of the spirits of the individual trees in it, and the forest the grove is in also has a spirit on an even broader scale, and so on. The continent the forest is in would also have a spirit, and all the various things in this world, while having their own spirit, sort of add up to comprise the spirit of the planet, which is more than the sum of the spirits of all the things in the world.
      The character Jim pointed out that this hierarchical arrangement goes upwards, that not only do planets and stars exist in spirit on their own level, but that they make up solar systems which also have a spirit, they make up galaxies, which make up universes, and so on.
      He also pointed that the same applies downwards, that not only do individual plants and animals have spirits, but that as you subdivide to more elementary levels, their bodily systems, organs, tissues, and cells also have spirits, and you can even go down to molecules, atoms, protons, and quarks. Each has a spirit on its own level, while combining to contribute to spirit on a higher level, and also being subdividable into spirits on a more elementary level.
      I was actually just more or less making all that up as I went along, for the sake of the story, not believing it seriously to be true; I just wanted to make Jim seem suitably mystical.

      Bivalia: It doesn't matter. The fact is, you opened up to truth then, whether you realized it or not. The story helped introduce you to the ideas. It seems to me an important insight that Spirit is not confined to entities which are separate from one another in a simplistic sense, but can be found in entities which are a part of each other, which (as computer programmers in your world might say) are subsets or supersets of each other. (And, yes, if you're wondering, I do sometimes borrow ideas from your own mind when they seem to fit what I want to say.)
      And, when it comes to recognizing a more subtle perception of Spirit, a broader view of what does possess Spirit than the usual ideas, would I be mistaken in thinking that, even earlier on still, say round about the mid 1970s, you conceived the idea of writing a symphony which you decided to call The Spirit of the Atoll?

      Michael: Yes, that is so.

      Bivalia: I notice that, right from the start, you called it The Spirit of the Atoll, not just The Atoll.

      Michael: Yes. The shorter title just seemed a bit bland somehow, didn't seem somehow to get quite to the heart of what I had in mind.

      Bivalia: Of course not. You had in mind the spirit of the atoll, not just an atoll in its ordinary manifestation as a physical entity.

      Michael: Well, probably not quite the spirit of it. You might be going a bit too fast there. In fact, I hesitated about the title The Spirit of the Atoll, because I thought it made too explicit a reference to a spirit, which I thought could be easily misunderstood; but I kept the title, simply because I couldn't think of anything closer to what I had in mind to express in the music. And I think I feel a bit better about it now. But at the time, I had nothing more spiritual in mind than the essence or specific atmosphere of the atoll. And even people who are not thinking of anything spiritual, who don't even believe in it, often refer to the essence or atmosphere of a place or a thing.

      Bivalia: That is so; but the distinction you make is not as fundamental as you seem to be implying. Those people who are not thinking of anything spiritual (who may even be hard-line atheists) who refer to the atmosphere of a place are, whether they realize it or not, perceiving the spirit of the place. I grant that you were not at that time thinking explicitly of the spirit of the atoll in any esoteric sense, but you were opening up to such ideas, and even then were sufficiently open to use the very word "spirit" in the title, even though you thought it was metaphorical only.
      So I stand by what I said, that for at least 20 years, you have been open, increasingly as those years have gone by, to the idea of places and intangible phenomena having a spirit, not merely what you would refer to as living beings. And given that your culture is not given to attributing Spirit to such intangible phenomena, I think that is an important insight. Just remember that at any time you are tempted to think you are not spiritual. Reaching such insights is much more difficult to do on your own than reading about them or learning about them from an organized religion or a group of people.

      Michael: You may be giving me too much credit there. Although I don't recall hearing about it from any religion or group, or reading explicitly about it, I wouldn't be at all surprised if I had in fact read or heard about it from some source that influenced my thinking, but which wasn't making the point so strongly that I can consciously remember it now.

      Bivalia: Well, maybe. But it doesn't matter. There are people who don't seem to pick up new ideas at all unless the people they associate with make a great song and dance about it, or their society in general believes in it. It is not an easy thing to develop over years an idea that people around you in general don't promote, yet I believe this is one respect in which you have done that.

      Michael: I think it ties in somehow with that sense of wonder. I think the sense of wonder is, if anything at all is, the main guiding force for anything spiritual to me.

      Bivalia: Well, I couldn't wish for a better one myself, if it's any comfort to you.

      Michael: I wish I knew a better phrase for it than those I sometimes use such as "sense of wonder" or "sense of magic" or "unidentified longing". When I use those phrases several times, they seem clichd, and almost seem to cheapen the thing itself; but the problem is that the feeling, while very distinctive, is almost impossible to describe in words at all, certainly not easily wrapped up in a convenient phrase of just a few words. Yet if I want to talk about it, I have to have a name for it.

      Bivalia: I understand what you mean. I wouldn't worry about it. When you use such phrases, I know what you are referring to quite exactly, and I certainly don't cheapen the idea, and don't let your choice of words limit my perception of the thing you are trying to describe.

      Michael: Anyway, the thing is that if I have any inner spiritual guide at all, this feeling is it, and I tend to take notice of it. If an idea fits in with it, it is likely to grow in my mind, however unconventional it is, however little it fits in with the ideas of society or of organized religion or even of the esoteric philosophy I seem to take more notice of than organized religion; and if an idea doesn't fit in with the sense of wonder, I tend to reject it, even if it is standard within society, religion, esoteric philosophy, and so on.

      Bivalia: This is good. This is an example of following your inner wisdom, of "going within", as you have heard many people say. It is me speaking to you; it is the Masters speaking to you; it is even God Himself speaking to you.

      Michael: I hope you're right.

      Bivalia: Of course, I see you have some doubt, and I cannot prove my statement to you.

      Michael: Well, whether it is God, Higher Self, Masters and so on speaking to me or not, it is all I've got. There are people who claim that an important part of their spiritual life is a direct experience of God or of Jesus or of Spirit, who feel that from this they just know something to be true. Well, I don't have anything like that. This feeling of wonder which I get occasional glimpses of for no perceptible reason at all is the closest thing I have to that, and it is all I have, so I have little choice but to go by that, if I don't give up on everything spiritual, that is.

      Bivalia: I can only say that if it is all you have, it is entirely sufficient, and there may be people who have that direct experience of God or Jesus you speak of, but who are full of guilt and fear, who keep berating themselves because they sin and are not worthy of God, who might even think they might be damned if they slip too badly. If there are such, their inner certainty of God, their direct experience, doesn't seem to be serving them too well. I'm not saying their experience is necessarily illusory; they may well have had a direct experience. But I'm saying that if their spiritual life is motivated by fear or guilt or lack of self-worth, they are not using that experience to best advantage. They may have experienced God, but He is not the origin of those feelings of fear or guilt or lack of self-worth. They create that (perhaps being totally unaware of doing so), and project it onto God, in the form of a deep belief that God will condemn them, or at least think poorly of them, if they don't meet certain standards.
      Don't worry about whether you have had such a direct experience of God or of spiritual truth yourself. What you have is quite sufficient for where you are at the moment and for where you're going. If at some time you need more, it will be made available to you.

      Michael: Well, I don't know about that. I'm just thinking of the fact that there are lots of people in this world going through awful tragedy, spiritual darkness, and so on, who don't get what they need, either spiritually or physically.

      Bivalia: Well, I didn't say that spiritual insight would always protect you from everything that can possibly go wrong, although I believe it can often do so. I only wish I could give such a guarantee that it will always protect you against misfortune, but it is obvious that, for whatever reasons, your planet does not work like that at present. The most I can truthfully say of your planet at this time is that once you reach a certain level of awareness, your spiritual insight will often help you avoid the things you would rather not experience.
      What I meant is that, having latched onto Spirit in some way, however weak, you will not lose that thread of truth simply for lack of knowledge or experience or insight. You, or anyone for that matter, will not lose whatever you already have spiritually unless you decide to reject it, or you recklessly and knowingly act repeatedly against the promptings of Spirit.

      Michael: Yes, well, I wasn't intending to get into a deep discussion of the problem of evil. I think we've alluded to this before, and have an idea of each other's thoughts on this.
      But it does seem to lead into the thing Shirley thought I should ask you, and that is the purpose of pain and tragedy in this world. The usual teachings of karma do seem to say that these things are intended to teach us our spiritual lessons, that although each individual tragedy may not be ordained by Spirit, the world itself is ordered in such a way that tragedy is the inevitable and natural result of making mistakes. That itself does seem to legitimize it on a spiritual level. As you know, I have trouble accepting this view. And there are people I know who believe that individual instances of extreme suffering are planned by Spirit: by God, the Lords of Karma, by a person's Higher Self, or whatever, and I find this even more difficult.
      Shirley thought I must have a block about this, because in all the years I've known about esoteric teachings, and discussed them with her, and read about them, and so on, my view on this has not changed. She seemed to be implying (although she didn't say it in so many words) that if there weren't a block, I would have come gradually to accept such an idea. I told her that you seemed to back up these ideas yourself, but she thought it was possible that I simply hadn't asked you directly enough. She really seemed to think that if my ideas were really guided by Spirit, by you, in fact, that they would conform more to the usual idea of karma, acknowledging that suffering is in a sense legitimate, that it can be proper and appropriate for certain people in certain situations.

      Bivalia: Well, I don't know if I'm going to disappoint Shirley or not, but I don't think one can answer these questions in a neat way like that, at least not at this time in your world. The problem of pain and suffering is probably the deepest and oldest problem in theology, in any tradition, and it is still debated. There are various views about it, each of them being accepted within certain religions or traditions of thought, but none of them being able to get general ascendency over any others outside the groups where they are accepted. Humanity as a whole does not seem any closer to solving it than it was thousands of years ago.

      Michael: Well, I might again refer to Rabbi Harold Kushner's book When Bad Things Happen to Good People. I don't think this book offers a real answer to it as much as I did when I first read the book, but I think it is at least as starkly clear an exposition of the problem as anything I've ever heard or read. In a sentence or two, it comes down to a choice of two things: either God can't prevent tragedy, or remedy the damage once it has happened, in which case he's not omnipotent; or else God can prevent or remedy it, but chooses not to, in which case he is not very loving. Neither seems to be the answer, somehow, yet no other alternative is logically possible. And Kushner deals with the objection people sometimes make that God (or we could extend the argument to fate, or karma, or one's Higher Self, or Spirit in general) might be totally loving but use tragedy to discipline people, like a loving parent might do; he points out that a parent might verbally rebuke a misbehaving child, or perhaps even smack the child, but he wouldn't cut the child's arms and legs off, or break his bones, or otherwise torture him. And Kushner thinks (and so do I) that many of the things that happen to people in this world, viewed as a method of correcting people's actions, or as spiritual lessons, are more akin to torturing a child rather than applying reasonable discipline.

      Bivalia: I must say I agree with you. In that letter from me, from the future, which you wrote with my help, about a year and a half ago, before you began these dialogues with me, I think we spent several pages covering this topic in detail.
      In answering this, I must first of all point out that I cannot give an absolute omniscient answer, but, like you, I can only give my view of it. Like you, I tend to think the only alternatives that are logically possible are all pretty unsatisfying; none of them seem to cause in me the reaction of saying, "Of course, that's it; that must be the answer. Why didn't I think of it before? Now that I look at it like that, that of course is the only answer." I don't seem to get that kind of reaction to any of the standard answers, at least those that can easily put into physical language (which, due to the medium our discussion is taking place in, are the only ones we can talk about). I do have certain ideas which are not easily expressed in language as you understand it, and I made an attempt to give you the feel of those ideas in that letter, albeit indirectly, insofar as these ideas are better approached indirectly. That may seem evasive, but I have nothing to hide, no pretence to defend; it is simply one of the limitations your world is presently subject to, that certain ideas can only be hinted at, not expressed directly.
      I also made it plain in that letter that I would like to wipe suffering from the universe, that I am not interested in defending its use by Spirit as a way of teaching beings the spiritual lessons they need to learn. If God or Spirit (whatever you want to call the highest levels of being) do deliberately use suffering for such purposes, I tend to share your feeling that I would not be very interested in dealing with them.
      I'm not quite saying that Shirley is wrong in her view of the role of suffering, or any of the many other people who have expressed similar views. I'm not presuming to say what the final answer is on this, as I think any final answers which seem to be so far available are limited. I think I would prefer to bide my time on this until matters become clearer, rather than adopt a dogmatic view on this, just as I can see you would prefer too.
      Shirley may be right that you have a block on this. It may even be possible that at some deeper my view is closer to the orthodoxy than it seems, but that I am not able to get it through to you because of that alleged block. Naturally, I don't think this is so, at the level of thought I am able to convey to you, because I am not trying to be evasive, although I do perhaps sound a bit duplicitous there. But as I have pointed out to you before, the ideas which I am able to convey to you, which you are ready to receive, and for which the words exist to express clearly, are only a small portion of the totality of my awareness, and this may - only may - be the reason why my view doesn't seem to follow the orthodox one. In other words, at the deepest level, I may believe in the more orthodox view of the role of suffering, but be unable to convey that, or the reasons for it, to you within the limitations of your language, and within the context of your present level of awareness. I say only "may" (I may believe the orthodox view at the deepest level, that is), because another interpretation would be that the orthodoxy could be wrong, that the whole karmic tradition of thought may have a mistaken or limited view of the proper purpose of suffering.
      But I am a little wary of the underlying implication of Shirley's statement, that, because you are expressing a view that is unorthodox within the circle of people you talk with about these matters, it must mean that you have a block that is preventing truth from coming through, or that you are at a lower level of awareness about that truth, and so on.
      The whole point is that I'm not definitively saying the standard view is either correct or incorrect, or anywhere in between (although I am not inclined to think it is correct in entirety); rather, I'm saying that you can't assume something to be true simply because enough people, however learned or mystical they might be, say it is so. They are human and can be mistaken.
      Until your own experience leads you to see the truth in some idea, I don't think you can make any assumptions at all about its truth or falseness. I may be doing Shirley an injustice, but I am inclined to think that she's doing more than putting due weight on that view because her own path has led her to that as a truth. If that were all it was, it would be legitimate to say, "I believe this is true, and it works for me", but it would be going too far to propound that belief as a universal truth that everyone should ultimately be able to see, and to regard a person as blocked in some way if after more than 20 years of thinking and talking about such ideas they still don't see it as true (as is the case with you). The fact that many people do have this interpretation (that a person who persistently doesn't see the standard view of an idea must be blocked, or less aware) leads me to wonder if they are putting yet more weight on the idea simply because it has become the standard view (within esoteric circles, that is), and the orthodox view must be correct.
      I am wary of trying to read Shirley's mind, but I am wondering if she's stating her view a little too strongly, at least insofar as she tries to apply it to the situation of other people. I'm saying that her belief could in the end turn out either to be true, or not to, and that you either may be blocked on the subject of suffering, or you may not be. Until you get enlightenment on that in a way that strikes you as real, I would not make assumptions either way about such matters. And even when you get enlightenment, I would still want to be very careful about expressing it dogmatically as something that must be universal truth that applies to everyone. True enlightenment will produce insights that will work for you, but it is another matter to regard them as the last word on the subject. Enlightenment doesn't work that way: it doesn't give authoritative answers on any question, not even the final answers as they apply to your experience; rather, it gives you what you need at that time, and may be later modified as your needs change. In a sense, ultimate truth only comes at higher dimensions than yours now; the kind of truth that comes in your world is incremental: that is, it builds on what you already have, and is designed to fit your situation, and help you where you are now. Even if it were true that the role of suffering is as Shirley indicated, that insight would not be given to you now if it was not going to help you where you are now. You might even be given a contrary insight if it would help you, and you would do best not to regard such insights as lies, but as an aspect of ultimate truth which will help you now. Because ultimate truth can come in different forms, to help people with different needs, and at a certain level of thinking, what comes may be at odds with what will transpire one day to be ultimate truth, but at a higher level it has its place in the overall scheme of truth, and can be justified if it helps you in a given situation.

      Michael: I suppose you're saying, are you, that truth at its most ultimate level is not simply a crude matter of true or false, that it is malleable and relative to given situations.

      Bivalia: I suppose that is one way of putting it. As is obvious from the preceding monologue, it is not easy to express in words, but truth as it manifests in your world does tend to fit a person's situation, and is true if it helps a person in a given situation, and if it leads them further along a path that will one day lead to ultimate enlightenment. But it would be very misleading to regard any teachings or doctrines or even personal experiences as ultimate truth themselves, and it would lead you to dismiss as false teachings concepts that would otherwise be a real help to you. Rather, these teachings and experiences should be regarded as signposts that ultimately will lead you to Truth with a capital "T". And, just as the signposts dotted all around the countryside will give different directions and distances for reaching the city of Melbourne, for instances, so-called "truths" (a rather misleading word to use, actually) which people get in this world may say different, even mutually contradictory things, to different people, depending on their situation, yet all of them might be true in a different sense, in that each one will help guide the person, in his given situation, to ultimate Truth, just as all the different signposts will guide travellers on different roads to the city of Melbourne.
      With regard to the question about the role of suffering, obviously the usual teaching would not (for you) guide you accurately to ultimate Truth. I make no judgement about whether it will do so for anyone else. And I would not attach the slightest additional weight to the idea merely because of the huge numbers of people in your circle who believe it.
      The way you described your conversation with Shirley to me, I got the feeling she half-expected my views to back up hers on the role of suffering. With all due respect to her as a dear friend who has had much experience in esoteric matters, I have to differ with her on this.

      Michael: You seem to be backing up the view I have.

      Bivalia: So be it. I have no respect whatsoever for dogma or doctrine as such; I judge it solely by its own merits, not the number of people who believe it, or the strength of ancient tradition that lies behind it.

      Michael: There's also this. I referred before to the glimpses of a magic that occasionally break through into everyday life, saying this seemed to me to be the only glimpses of the spiritual I ever got. Well, if (as you said earlier) that is (for me at least) a reliable guide I should trust, it does not in the slightest lead me to the usual karmic view of the role of suffering. In fact, that karmic view if anything induces negative feelings in me that are against that sense of wonder: feelings of fear, of injustice, of outrage even that the world should be ordained thus.

      Bivalia: I think you should not dogmatically reject this whole view; that would be just as narrow, but in the other direction. I think you should consider such ideas as openly as you can, when they come up, either in discussion, or in reading, or just in your own thoughts. But if, after such open consideration, you in all honesty can't accept the ideas, they continue to seem just as deeply and fundamentally wrong, then I think you should (at least until the next time they come up for consideration) just leave them alone, and try not to pay any further attention to them (for the time being).
      If such ideas turn out to be true ultimately, then in the very longest term it would be good to see the truth in them, and if they are true, this will happen eventually, in a natural way when the time is right; but it is even more important not to let yourself be dragged down by ideas that do not (from where you are situated) seem to come from Spirit.
      If after 20 years, you are still unable to accept an idea, and spirit, to the best of your ability to sense it, seems directly to lead you away from that idea, I think there might be a pretty plain message there: this idea is not for you. I think it would be best (for the time being) to leave it at that, and not to get hung up on saying dogmatically that it is wrong. (Denying a statement absolutely is just as dogmatic as asserting it absolutely.)
      You have said at various times that even if you became convinced of the truth of the karmic view of the role of suffering, that even so you would be outraged that the universe should work this way, that it doesn't say much for God, or Spirit, or whatever you want to term it, and you are incredulous at the way so many people in esoteric or New-Age traditions accept this view without a murmur of protest at the outrageousness of it. When we consider the extremes of suffering, we are talking about things that, if humans were to do it to someone, would be condemned as wicked, sadistic, callous, and a hundred other things. But it seems that if one can view God or karma or Higher Self as doing it, then it's all right and the person who is experiencing the suffering must have done something to bring this as a consequence, or made some mistake in the way they lived their life (either this life, or a previous one). It's almost as if there are two rules for what is acceptable: one for humans in your world, and one for Spirit in higher realms. This is often implied in the views of people who nevertheless say that all is One, there are no divisions, "As above, so below", and so on. I'm not saying that these things are either true or not; but I am saying that other views of people who believe in these principles of oneness nevertheless do set up distinctions that contradict the idea of oneness. I just don't think the views of such people are always as monolithic and seamless as they sometimes sound. Life is complex; truth is complex, with no easy answers (at your physical level, at least). It can hardly be otherwise, otherwise the answers would be well-known now, and practically beyond debate.
      I think it is more important for you to remain as much in touch with Spirit as you can, than for you to get answers to deep philosophical problems that are true in some absolute but simplistic "true-or-false" sense. If pursuing (and perhaps even finally getting) the answer to this question of suffering that you are presently unable to accept causes you to lose a sense of Spirit, and instead fills you with a kind of pessimistic spiritual despair about the purpose of life, then I would say you would be the poorer for it.
      Here's another thought on this: if the existence of suffering disturbs you, it is either in connection with your own personal suffering, or with suffering as it afflicts the world in general. If you were to accept the standard view on this, it would not enable you to do anything about suffering in the general sense. And I doubt that it would give you practical ways of preventing suffering from afflicting you personally, nor would it make you accept it any more easily. I think Harold Kushner had a point when he said that when people say "Why me? Why has this happened to me?" (as if they would be satisfied if they got a literal answer to such questions), they are not really wanting literal answers; it is a cry for help, for understanding. They want compassion and understanding, perhaps even sympathy; they probably don't want a theological answer to the question of why it happened, and if they got that, almost certainly they wouldn't feel any better about it; above all, they want what might be unattainable, and that is for the suffering to end, for it never to have happened in the first place.
      There would be those who would tell you that a proper karmic understanding of the role of suffering, and an acceptance of the validity of it, would help you so live your life as to reduce your own suffering to a minimum. Frankly, I doubt this. The teachings do say (and I am not at the present moment passing judgement on whether this is true or not) that if you do harm, harm will come hack to you, that this is the basic cause of suffering. You are simply reaping what you have sown. But this is just a distillation of what common sense tells you: that is, don't do things to other people that you wouldn't want done to you, which I think is already something you accept. I doubt that in your situation, somehow accepting the orthodox view here would add any more to this than you already have. (I am making no judgement about whether it would help others or not.)
      In short, I am saying that you should be open-minded to this idea (as to any idea at all), but if after careful consideration it does not commend itself to you, don't worry about it. Such things can't be proven in what you think of as an objective sense, so your inner guidance is all you have to go by; your inner guidance, not anybody else's, not any sort of doctrine that originates with other people, be they personal acquaintances or great spiritual teachers.

      Michael: I'm sure some would say that what you have said is not really from you, but simply me projecting my own ideas deriving from ego onto my Higher Self.

      Bivalia: I dare say they will. This is something you have to accept. You have no responsibility for what other people think or say. If you are sincerely trying to follow Spirit, then it shouldn't worry you what other people think, nor should it influence the way you live, apart from the instances where considering another person's ideas leads you, in a spirit of open-mindedness, to try what they suggest, because you think there is a possibility they may be right. That is an act of free-will, but aside from that, it shouldn't worry you what other people think. It certainly doesn't worry me what they think.
      They may in the end turn out to be right, and you may be merely projecting your ideas onto me; but equally, you may be right, and some of those other people may be following doctrines and projecting that onto their own concept of Spirit.
      It strikes me that there is a bit of a double standard in certain esoteric and New-Age people. They often advocate that one not follow doctrines and dogmas, and are all for total freedom (often citing Christian doctrine as an example); they are always speaking against the idea of following orthodox ideas simply because they are orthodox; yet, their philosophy itself so often (however much it may originate in Spirit) develops into a doctrine itself, and it becomes the orthodoxy (within their own circle).
      How many New-Age people do you know who have substantial doubts about the very question we've been discussing, for example - the karmic role of suffering?

      Michael: Only two: myself, and one other person who seems to feel a bit the same way.

      Bivalia: Well, a very small number, anyway. This is simply not the orthodox view in those circles. They are much more tolerant of people like you than are some Christian churches, of course, but that doesn't change the principle of it. I see no distinction between esoterically-inclined people believing in karma or reincarnation (or whatever) because it has become an orthodoxy in that circle, and church-goers believing in a certain concept of the role of Jesus, that of paying a penalty for human sin, without which one is eternally lost. The esoteric people are willing enough to criticize (in a fairly non-judgemental way, of course) the tendency for Christianity to impose (by subtle pressure) a certain doctrine on believers, and to discourage dissent from that; but the esoteric groups and traditions have their own orthodoxy, and dissent from it within those circles is just as rare. I really don't see any difference between the two. The methods by which the pressure is applied are different, and considerably softer and less authoritarian in the esoteric area, but that is a side-issue, and does not in my view change the basic fact that in both areas an orthodoxy establishes itself and gains yet further believers simply because it is the orthodoxy. And it makes no difference that the esoteric people will say they are guided by spirit, however; there are many Christians who will make a similar claim, although they will be more likely to refer to the guiding influence as God or Jesus than Spirit. But in both groups it is obvious that some of them are really not open to considering ideas that go strongly against that orthodoxy which they have adopted so completely.
      One of the things I like about you, my friend, is that you do not seem to have adopted any orthodoxy in this automatic way to any great extent. And I think that even if enlightenment does come to you so that you do form firm beliefs about matters, you will probably not express those ideas in a dogmatic way, even if they do happen to conform to an orthodoxy. This is one of the things I like about you, and I don't want you ever to think that, because enough people say something is true, therefore it must be true. And I don't care if it's karma, or reincarnation, or the role of suffering, or anything else. All I am interested in is that you should accept views on these things because Spirit leads you to that, not because you have by a process of osmosis simply taken on the views of other people.

      Michael: But supposing the majority happens to be right? I don't want to swing to the opposite view and say the orthodox view (meaning the one the majority in a certain group believe) must automatically be wrong.

      Bivalia: It doesn't matter. If they are right on a given matter, you will be guided to it at a time that is right. There is no hurry. If the view of suffering we've been discussing were something you needed to understand now, you would be guided to it, just as you have been guided to other ideas. The question wouldn't ever arise of having to decide it simply because you heard everyone else express the idea.

      Michael: Well, I think you've answered the question fairly fully, and it was more or less along the lines I expected. I'm sure some would say that the mere fact that I expected you to say this is evidence that I have just projected my ideas onto you to lend them strength.

      Bivalia: I dare say they would. If you have a clear conscience about the honesty and sincerity with which you've handled our dialogue, it shouldn't worry you.

      Michael: It doesn't really. But I do feel a spiritual loneliness because I do seem to be at odds with most other spiritual people.

      Bivalia: I'm afraid that is an occupational hazard of pursuing truth. I'm sure you could reduce that if you were able to accept the doctrines of some group or church, but you could easily end up being stuck in those doctrines for a life-time, making no progress towards further insight. I don't think you'd prefer that if you were to try it. Would I be right in supposing that exposure to such doctrine can give you that heavy dull feeling you speak of when something profoundly bores you or drags you down?

      Michael: Yes, that is one of the situations that gives me that feeling.

      Bivalia: How would you like a life-time of that?

      Michael: No thanks. Perhaps it might be worse than my loneliness.

      Bivalia: I think it would.

      Michael: But wait a moment; I'm sure that most of the people who do follow orthodoxies don't go through life with a heavy dull sort of feeling. Surely they would stick with it if that were so?

      Bivalia: I was only talking about you, not other people. No, I suppose a lot of them don't feel heavy and dull at their services or meetings, and may indeed get a lot of satisfaction and comfort from them. But I don't think you would. I feel you have already gone beyond the need for a conformist approach to adopting faith, that you don't need doctrines and dogmas any more.

      Michael: In other words, I'm more spiritually evolved than those who follow orthodoxies?

      Bivalia: That's a bit tricky. In many cases, I would be inclined to think so. Perhaps not all. Or maybe you might need the experience of following orthodoxies in some other life in the future, but have not been led to such an experience this time. That might make you less evolved than them, at least with respect to that kind of experience.
      Who knows? I wouldn't advise you to go around thinking you're more developed than the multitudes who do follow orthodoxies, who do conform to a group. Such feelings come from ego, and won't help you; although I don't think that's a serious problem for you anyway. I haven't observed any tendency in you to set yourself higher in the spiritual hierarchy than those who follow dogmas unquestioningly. But when you ask directly whether you think you're evolved than certain other people, and I personally feel you might be more evolved than at least some of them, I almost feel obliged to add that caveat against feeling too superior.

      Michael: I understand what you mean, but I'm almost inclined to think my problem is the opposite, that I think too little of my own sense of spirit.

      Bivalia: I would be inclined to agree with that.

      Michael: Actually, that question of suffering came up between Shirley and me only because I initially asked her a more general question, then cited that as an example. I didn't want to get bogged down in debating the example itself with Shirley, but ended up doing so a little.
      The question I asked Shirley was this. We are often exhorted to go within, to follow our own inner guidance, and I asked her how far this advice can be taken. I mean, some religious or political fanatics might justify violence or racism because they think it comes from Spirit, yet it would seem unsatisfactory to say to them, "That is what you must do if it comes from Spirit as you see it." And I said to Shirley that Spirit seemed to guide me to ideas that were at odds with commonly accepted ideas within esoteric groups, and that's when I cited my differing views about the role of suffering, saying that this is where Spirit seemed to lead me.
      I think her view is that Spirit (as one perceives it at a given moment) may indeed lead you to wrong ideas, but that nevertheless that may be the best that's available at the time. She cited the instance of the fanatic who recently assassinated Itzhak Rabin, the Israeli Prime Minister, who claimed that God guided him to do it. I would be very hesitant to say to the person, "Just go within; follow your spiritual guidance, just as you have already been doing", because it is plain to me there is something wrong with his sense of Spirit. Shirley thought it was at least possible that Spirit planned the killing as a way of uniting Arabs and Jews, as some commentators seem to be saying could be a by-product of the assassination. Well, I have difficulty with that, and perhaps that led to me citing the role of suffering as an example of the way Spirit led me away from the usual idea. Because of that, I didn't pursue the original question with Shirley (about how far one should follow inner guidance) as much as I would have liked to. Perhaps I might have to bring it up with her later.

      Bivalia: If you feel you should. It may not be quite as essential as you think. It is obvious that she and you have strongly differing views on certain subjects, which you have discussed for 20 years without getting any closer to resolution, so it may not be as helpful as you think.

      Michael: I'd be silent my whole life long if I used irreconcilable differences with someone as a reason for not discussing something with them.

      Bivalia: Of course. I wasn't saying you shouldn't. If it is less helpful than you imagine, it won't do any real harm, either. And I understand your need to discuss things with people of at least somewhat similar thinking; it is a fundamental human need, the need to have fellowship with others.
      I won't try to give a general rule about how far to follow Spirit; for instance, I agree with your views about the Israeli assassin, and I would give him (if he were to ask me) quite different advice about following Spirit than I would give you. I might advise him to find a group of people who seem to follow Spirit, because he doesn't seem ready yet to follow his own inner guidance exclusively, or I might advise a course of reading, or maybe other thoughts might occur to me if he were to ask me.
      But with regard to your situation, I would say that you are not, on the strength of what you have told me, both tonight and on previous occasions, following Spirit too much, not trusting your own intuition too much. Perhaps you are not doing so enough, although I don't think you are seriously deficient there.

      Michael: Well, I guess that's the answer I expected, too. In all the pages of preceding discussion, I seem to have the uneasy feeling that in saying my own ideas, and in finding the words for yours too, I've glossed over a few things too much, that some passages don't properly represent what I intended to write. But I'm running out of time, because it's getting very late and I must get to sleep soon. If I reread this in a few days' time and certain passages seem inadequate, I might have to edit them, and perhaps even add passages to better represent those ideas.

      Bivalia: My friend, I absolutely trust you to do that with complete integrity to the ideas we've both been expressing, and without putting your own ego's ideas into my mouth.

      Michael: I think I've almost had enough now. A page or two back, the word "Spirit" appeared so much that it began to look unreal. You know how, if you stare at a word long enough, or write it often enough, or repeat it vocally often enough (any word at all, such as "rabbit" or "the" or "transmogrification" or "Spirit"), it comes to seem unreal and dream-like for several minutes, and you become almost convinced that you've misspelled it, or mispronounced it. Well, intellectually you know you haven't, but you have that feeling, anyway.

      Bivalia: Yes, I know what you mean.

      Michael: Well, that happened with "Spirit". The effect has gone now, and the word "Spirit" has gone back to normal; but all the same I think I've had enough of Spirit for the time being.

      Bivalia: I'm sure Spirit will forgive you.

      Michael: I wasn't even sure I wanted to get onto the question Shirley raised; I recognized with my mind that it would be a good idea to, but I didn't really want to in my heart like I wanted to share that moment with you when I heard the first cicadas of this summer.

      Bivalia: Well, I dare say such moments are (for you) more from Spirit than any amount of intellectualizing about the role of suffering. You've done years of intellectualizing about that, and it doesn't seem to have got you anywhere you want to get, so perhaps it's time for a rest from that. In general, I would say that an ounce of experience of Spirit is worth a ton of intellectualizing about it. These moments when something quite ordinary seems to hint at hidden memories, hidden realms of wonder, are Spirit speaking to you. You can't put it into words, but you know what that means.

      Michael: Occasionally when such moments happen, I almost get the feeling the meaning of it has almost come to me, but not quite. Sometimes such moments can tie in with earlier memories that for some reason seem to have that same feeling. Somehow the sight of those trees at dusk and the lighted windows reminded me of aspects of my childhood, and also of some of those pictures in an old astronomy book I still have, which I think I mentioned before in a previous session. In turn that suggests various ideas I could take up with you (and have wanted to for months, but haven't got around to it), but I think it will have to wait till another time, as I haven't got it in me to start a major new topic now.

      Bivalia: I will look forward to that at a future time, beloved one. And I thank you for spending time with me now. Please do so again some time not too far away.

      Michael: Anyway, I'll say good night now.

      Bivalia: Farewell for the time being, my friend.


[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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