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I am fortunate to live by one of the beautiful bodies of water in the system called the Great Lakes here in North America. They are a geographical feature and a spiritual presence that Canadians and Americans are more than happy to share. I often park my vehicle by the waters’ edge and listen to the waves crash and breezes blow as the gulls and others glide and swoop to a backdrop of ever changing light and cloud pattern. With the cd player right there, sometimes I add beautiful music to this mix as the wind fluffs my hair and I begin to feel at one with the world about me. It is one version of paradise on this plane, and I am pleased to share in it.

In the last three days I have also been reading from a newly released book called “Syrian Notebooks: inside the Homs uprising” by Jonathan Littell. It comprises a journal kept by Jonathan in the three weeks he spent inside the besieged city of Homs in 2012, having been smuggled in by the Free Syrian Army rebels fighting the Assad regime. The journal was originally published in a French newspaper and only now (2015) translated into English.

It is brutally but unsensationally frank in its portrayal of the grim horrors of civil war. The lies and depredations of the Assad regime are nothing new at this point, nor is the notion, promulgated by Littell, that not only was ISIS born out of this internecine conflict, but in some way was set free by the Assad regime in order to weaken the moderate, democracy striving forces of the original Syrian rebels, a move perhaps modeled of the previous decade’s ruthless maneuvering in the Russian/Chechen conflict. Little perhaps sees himself as one more journalist, like Chris Hedges et. all, ‘speaking truth to power’, as the modern notion goes.

As I witnessed the hell of civil war through his words and perceptions I knew how pleased I was not to actually be there. Unlike social and political activists, aid workers or mercenaries, I felt no pressing need or duty to intervene or contribute. As we have noted in these essays, some souls feel bound and determined to participate in such conflicts. In one of several invisible ways their energy bodies are excited to the point of no return and they are impelled to what they perceive as the important center of action, despite the many dangers besetting such a venture.
I am not that kind of soul, and neither I suspect, are you. On our incarnational journeys we have passed the need for such entanglement. Our individual reactions to these horrific turmoils can determine just how far past we each are from the need to, (a) participate, (b) report, (c) materially aid, (d) pray or meditate with compassion and love, or (e) inform ourselves as to the truth of the matter.
Note the level to which you are drawn. If you are honest with yourself, you will see just where you’re at on the scale of attachment. And I mean attachment in the way we have come to understand it on the inner path: why are you latching on and how great is your personal need to do so? As we all move, quickly or slowly, to the inner freedom we profess to achieve, processing these needs in the light of cool contemplation is a necessary part of the program.

My own level is perhaps obvious: (e) with some shades of (d). I view the turmoil of hell of the comforts of paradise. I know I have earned my position, not just by previous efforts in the conventional view, but by my conscious relinquishing of certain attachments.

I’ve done the reformer priest, I’ve done the passionate freedom fighter, I’ve done the enlightened despot, I’ve done the rationalist philosopher, I’ve done the cunning peasant and sharp eyed trader.  And as with many other roles, I’ve finished with their strivings , and have moved on, or up, or out, depending on the mood of the moment.  I now know, without any intervention of doubt or guilt, that I am where I need to be to fulfill the potentials I set in motion not only before my present birth, but also certain strands of desire and karma stretching back at least to Ancient Egypt, if not farther. While some might call me lucky, privileged or spoilt, I call myself self-directed, for I am willing to shoulder all the responsibilities which that implies by leaping out of the box which barks family, religion, society and government, and into the meadow of infinity where I can play with the wild flowers.

This position on Jacob’s ladder, this metaphor out of many possible metaphors, that of viewing hell from paradise, can be accomplished as easily in the spirit planes as the earth. Once settled into the comfort zone heaven of your choice, urban, rural, or some magical mixture of both, the sort of whimsical delight the astral planes specialize in, you can view and/or visit the lower realms where the madness of bitter rivalry and conflict continues ad absurdum: the dead strangling the dead, the ravenous screeching as they steal from the deprived, the angry berating the timid, the victims bashing their former torturers, the hateful hiding from the hated. You can watch it like a movie or visit it like the saintly do-gooders we have here on earth, hoping to make some converts for peace and sanity. You don’t have to, but you can volunteer, and with a bit of training from someone like me, go forth and multiply your good intentions. Many of you so indulge part-time when asleep, and some of you recall the efforts.  It can be frustrating, tiring work, as I know, and you will find out, when you awaken all crabby and grumpy the next morning before breakfast.  Not dangerous like here, merely depleting.

So while others may righteously hector whatever audience they can drum up on the injustice of these internecine calamities, we are coming to know, as we increase our depth of perception to the dimensions others ignore, that each soul has goals and ambitions which can easily morph into punishing attachments, posing quite convincingly as convictions and principles, and that each of those souls is eventually bound to follow the threads of their maze to its core, where they will find themselves in the kind of blissful exhaustion which accompanies the emptying of desire and ambition.