Monday, January 12, 2009

Speaking of The Path...

Of Whitley’s many successful books over the years, one book, The Path, stands out as a handbook for navigating your own way through this point A to point B escapade called life. Like a trip around a Monopoly board, the shrewd may get the chance to own property on Park Place and collect fabulous amounts of cash from those who dwell there for a time. You may also wind up in jail. Pay tax, utilities, get money from the bank, and in the end all but the few will go bankrupt. Hold on a minute! This is WAY too real for comfort. You roll the dice you make the moves the dice skipping unpleasant spaces, no passing, and no free will as to which spaces you might want to explore a while longer. The guy behind you needs to roll his dice and follow the rules so get in line! It really is a fun game which can bring out the best and the worst in people. Same goes for playing real life too.

This is where The Path takes a different turn than most than most other "let me tell you how to get around the board and end up on top” guidebooks. It points out that it is just a game, more of a stage play, that is. A stage play where we are all merely actors, and all that is illuminated by the lights is carefully crafted to be so believeble, that we are totally swept up in the story unfolding before us, every sensation and thought tied in to the twist and turns of the unfolding plot. You are rising up toward the peak at one  point in life and falling backwards into the valley the next. Someone lands on your property and pays up = glee. You then land on another's little square and hand over a wad of your own hard earned fistful of monopoly Money = resentment.

What Whitley’s book The Path teaches you , much like Echart Tolle's book A New Earth, is to consciously have some part of you stands back and be the observer of your life, see it as the game played out . See it as the Play. The tragedies and triumphs continue and some part of you can remain uncrushed by the crashing in and out tide. A part of you can see the bigger picture and thereby experience the emotions without being consumed by them.

When I describe The Path to people I usually say it is as spiritual as any text you may find. The drawback for many to accepting its truths may be that they are presented by the canvas or the 22 Major Tarot cards. Using the most ancient form of the Tarot - TAROT DE MARSEILLE, accurately restored and reprinted in France. If the cards were use only as metaphor it would be profound enough. The idea that an ancient mystery school teaching is contained within the images on the cards is more difficult to realize. A visual language that your subconscious may very well be able to read but your thinking mind sees as a disjointed array of interesting color patches and quirky figures and animals. Some cards, at first glance, seem easier to understand, like The Lover or the Tower of Destruction. The symbology is not Satanic, but  think of it instead as being composed of archetypes that speak directly to the human soul, bypassing the tendency to label everything as either good or evil. It bypasses our need to label everything, and I do mean EVERYTHING! Look around at all the objects in the space you are in right now and say it is not true. 

Others  cards, such as The Moon or the The Wheel of Fortune, start the mind spinning as it tries to put the images into a recognized file category. What Whitley says happened to him many years ago was that he was given an entire system of the meaning and use of the cards as he moved from one room in his house to the next. It might be comparable an instant download and installation of a program on your computer. So the book sets out to explain the system of gaining access to the information encoded in the cards. He does this methodically one card at a time. There are others that work in groups of three that balance each other.

Does he do a good job at explaining the system with its 22 parts working both individually as well as, all, interacting each with the other at the same time? Yes ...and no. Yes, in that it is clearly written and not clouded with flowery esoteric language to try to wow the reader with his awesome mastery of this powerful wisdom. He does not require that you accept without any proof, that there are some frightful looking deities shaping your actions from the invisible realm. He speaks of my/your own inner life, and how it can, by awareness of the movement of our own game pieces around the board, be made richer. He shows us one of the faces of God if we can bare to look directly at Him.

Now for the "no" part of his transferring this system to us. The simplicity and complexity of this little book could not possibly be known just by reading its relatively few pages. Like any system it must be practiced. To take one sacred text, The Bible, as a comparison, how many get the meanings of its verse without some other interpretation? Tens of thousands of books and articles have been written to try to explain to people what the words actually to apply them to your life. Isn't reading the Bible itself all you need to become a Christian? Forget the narrative stories of The Bible; wouldn't just reading the actual words of Jesus be enough to know? Seem not for most folks.

There are no teams of translators trying to decipher for us the meaning of The Path, or how each passage might be practiced in our everyday to gain eternal life. There is only each of us individually who must take this clearly written teaching and figure out how to put it into practice so we might gain something deeper, something better.

For me, I am not diligent about ritual. I tend to go where each day might lead. I don't tend to make long term plans because I don't believe anyone can mold the future by pure force of will. Those who fail to plan, plan to fail, as the modern Western wisdom would like us to think? Maybe to some extent. That philosophy, is the wisdom of Force..and as Whitley teaches us about the card of Strength/Force; use just enough not to destroy what you are trying to change. How many millions of people have attained the apex of success only to be thrust back to the depths in the blink of an eye?

I had just read the book a few months before my mother lay dying in a Pittsburgh's Mercy Hospital. Seven days after discovering her previous surgery did not get all the cancer cells, she quickly gave in to its draw away from this world, to one I am not familiar with. Everyone had given her the prognosis of many more years of her gentle life. As with anyone in this situation, it is tragic and emotional. We spent the week in the hospital in a room for families in such situations. They were so kind there.

This relates to The Path because the practice of having a part of you watching yourself from outside of yourself, in a compassionate detached way, was helpful to me. I spent long periods in a windowed side room watching the snow falling on the city while I listened to the BBCs radio enactment of Tolkein's The Lord of the Rings on my Walkman. As I tried to get my mind off the loss of my Mother I saw me, sitting there in that little wing trying to cope. I saw me as if I were watching someone else going through what thousands of others across the world were going through on that same day. And it helped. It helped me to know we are ALL in this life in the same way, with the same pitfalls and the same joys..and ultimately , the same end. We are all actors in this play.

I can no more tell you the all the complexities of The Path in this post, anymore than Whitley, or any other person, could in the limited pages of his small humble book. But it is a start. Whitley is the expert - the teacher. Listening to his talks about The Path on his website give even more insight. I don't pretend to be a master of its teachings. I don't practice the layout of The Path as I tell myself I would like to. I wanted to print out a large poster size picture with the cards in their cross formation so I could sit in front of it daily, visually taking in the images, and making the connections between them and  having them speak to me. I haven't done that yet. I can't promise I will. I do know that what I have gained from the teaching so far, is here for good.

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