suspended disbelief

StACaPOSTCARD #04: St Andrews, Scotland: It’s a sharp bright light, different from the sunshine of South East Asia, comes at a lower angle; the sunbeam seems to shine straight into my eyes. Quite blinding in the early morning, I’m dazzled and have to shade my eyes to look up at the ruins of the nave of St. Andrews Cathedral, against the Northern sky. A great emptiness, 12th century mediaeval folk saw it as the ‘Glory of God’, projecting a ‘self’ onto empty space and if there was an intuitive sense – a normal inquiring mind – that something about this is not quite right; the sense of lack, unconvinced, doubting – could it really be God? If it was like this, they were living in fear of their own natural thinking processes and reasoned that it must be because ‘we are all sinners’ and the Church is there to ‘save’ us. Religion was/is power; the Church of Rome, then the Scottish Reformation claimed all the wealth of the Cathedral of St Andrews. Not much in history about the spiritual life of those who lived in that place, studied, prayed, meditated; their compassion, or loving kindness…

I see the door arches and passageways, people walked through here and lived their lives, breathed this air. How was it then; the existential reality of these 12th Century Britains? Conscious experience was the same in mediaeval times as it is today: outer object triggers inner recognition/desire. Example found in the Old Testament: Adam sees the apple: I want that… Dependent origination (paticcisammupadda) in an Old Testament format: there’s an apple out there and I want it but there’s conflict in the mind, associating a fictional self with a normal response; sorry this apple belongs to someone else and you can’t have it. How to resolve this? The response to the apple is normal, the process of human consciousness must be universal – there was never any time when people didn’t react/respond like this. Today we can apply understanding; how does the process work? In those days, no other way to understand it, you have desire for the apple, you are a born sinner, believe in God, and have your sins forgiven… and that was it – no other instruction. Thank goodness I discovered Buddhism.

It’s daylight until very late at night here, a long twilight going through to dawn the next day – really no darkness at all. The morning gathers momentum and we’re flooded with sunshine, day after day, everybody stumbling around in a state of astonishment, suspended disbelief. The sense of being on an island doesn’t seem to be here in Scotland, we are not held, contained, more like we are dispersed, all the way to the Northern region; Orkney, Shetland, Faroe Islands, the Arctic Circle and beyond…


Ignorant of their ignorance, yet wise in their own esteem, these deluded men, proud of their vain learning, go round and round like the blind led by the blind [Mundaka Upanishad 18]

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