A Personal Learning
Q: What is the most important aspect of The Numinous Way - the main message that you might wish to get across to people?
To be somewhat pedantic, I have no message, and present only the
results of my personal pathei mathos, which people - if they
are interested - are free to consider, and accept or reject. I expect
few people will be interested, and even fewer to accept my conclusions.
But such matters aside, it is the combination of honour, empathy, and compassion - the understanding of ourselves as but one nexion - which distinguishes The Numinous Way, presenting us, as this particular Way does, with a Cosmic perspective.
My personal learning - the result of my many errors of experience - has shown me that one important thing should be our empathy with all life, leading thus to the message of compassion; of humanity; of honour; of personal love; of the desire for that harmony and that Earthly peace which arises from the personal implementation of what is good, where what is good is that which does not cause any suffering or that honourable action or honourable deed which alleviates suffering.
What, for The Numinous Way, is bad? That which causes suffering. What causes suffering? A lack of compassion; a lack of empathy; a lack of honour, a lack of self-awareness, a lack of self-discipline, a lack of the Cosmic perspective. Where is this lack of such things to be found? In ourselves, in our craving for pleasure and material possessions; in the abstractions and the ideas which we project onto the world and onto individuals; in political ideology; in dogma, be it religious or social or whatever; in prejudice, and in intolerance, towards others.
Thus, and to give one pertinent example, no political ideology, no faith, no religion, no Way of Life, no law, no personal emotion, no judicial decision by any "authority" - whether deemed "legitimate" or not - justifies the taking of another human life, or the taking of the life of any sentient being, or justifies causing any suffering to any life, human, animal or otherwise.
The only possible justifiable action which may involve harm or
injury or the death of another human being is someone honourably acting
in personal self-defence, or coming to the aide of another person, and
that must be only as a last resort when the actions of the attacking
individual or individuals are clearly dishonourable and clearly
life-threatening. The important qualifications here are honourably
acting in a personal way: in a situation involving individuals.
No one - and no Institution, no State, no official, no law - can give anyone else the so-called power or the so-called "authority" to dominate or attack or injure or kill or harm any other human being, or any sentient being. Such so-called "authority" belongs in our barbaric and primitive past, and unless we reject it, and the suffering it causes, we will never eliminate what is bad, within, or external to, ourselves. To achieve what is good, each and every one of us has only to change for the better - to cease to cause suffering. That is, we do not need some ideal, some idea, some dogma, some ideology, some theology, some revelation, some leader, some political Party, some social agenda, some law or laws, some revolution, some nation, some State, some war, to eliminate what is bad and create what is good - we only need an inner personal change. We only need to reform, to change, ourselves: to develope empathy, compassion, and honour. To accept the perspective of the Nature and the Cosmos, and thus have or strive to develope that simple, empathic, letting-be - that tolerance and reason - which presences the numinous, in us, as individuals and which is the true mark of our humanity. Anything other than this just creates, perpetuates, suffering.
One important aspect of the empathy of The Numinous Way is the
knowledge of, the feeling for, the slow natural rhythms of Nature and
the Cosmos: for what could be described as the sacred flow of life, the
numinous flow and presencing of the acausal - and it is this empathy,
this feeling for such slow rhythms, which our modern urbanized,
materialistic, politicized world has almost lost and often destroys or
distances us from. This empathy means a certain letting-be, an
awareness of our limitations, an awareness of our small place in the
Cosmic scheme. That is, we have a certain reverence for certain things,
such as Nature, and the vastness of the Cosmos itself, just as we have
a certain humility: a knowing that we do not know; a knowing that it is
interference, even if based upon so-called good intentions, which often
causes or increases suffering. Certainly, it is interference based upon
abstract ideas, upon abstract, impersonal forms (such as an ideology)
which has caused and is causing great suffering in this world. Here, in
such letting-be, we return to the ethic of honour, which is only and
ever a personal thing, and cannot ever be abstracted out, from the
living individual, into any abstract form, such as some Institution,
and which no one and nothing - no so-called leader, no State, no
ideology - can ever take away. Certainly, honour can never be
abstracted away from the immediacy of the moment - from a living
personal situation involving individuals. One of the most
fundamental of my mistakes, which I persisted in for decades, was to
abstract honour out from this personal context: to consider that honour
meant or could mean being loyal and duty bound to some abstraction,
such as one's idealized people, or nation, or some "cause" or ideology,
or even to some supra-personal deity or some individual no longer alive
and whom one did not personally know.
Q: Would you care to elaborate on your statement that The Numinous Way is apolitical?
A: It needs to be emphasized that The Numinous Way does not depend upon, or even advocate, any political ideology, or any type of politics, or indeed any ideology at all. That is, The Numinous Way with its ethics based upon compassion, tolerance, empathy and honour, represents a new beginning, a new way of thinking, a new way of living and being, and one could argue that politics, that all ideology, that all dogma, should be abandoned altogether as belonging to our barbaric past, to the old world which we must leave if we are to evolve: if we are truely to become enlightened, civilized, human beings, in harmony with ourselves, in harmony with Nature, and in harmony with the Cosmos. In this sense, The Numinous Way is an evolution of our thinking.
Hence, given the completeness and ethical nature of The Numinous Way, we should be reforming ourselves, living according to the Cosmic Ethic, and seeking in an honourable and personal way to begin the social process of creating new, small, rural, cultural communities. That is, we should be thinking in terms of small communities, and not in terms of nations, or States, and certainly not in terms of some dogma, some doctrine or some ideology, political, religious, or otherwise.
Thus, we need to stop talking and writing about these old forms, stop thinking in their terms, in terms of their obsolete often immoral abstractions - and move beyond them, to The Numinous Way with its Cosmic Ethics, its Cosmic perspective, its emphasis on the cessation of suffering. That is, we need to concentrate on reforming, on evolving, ourselves - we need to become honourable, empathic, compassionate, fair, individuals who seek to do what is good in a natural, individual, tolerant, harmonious, and personal way. We should lead ethical lives, and thus be, in a very natural and humble way, an example to others. The great change toward the cessation of suffering - toward a better world - begins with this reformation of ourselves, this evolution of ourselves, this inner development, this ceasing to interfere in things which are beyond the locality where we dwell and have our being. This is the essence of the social change, the social process, that is necessary.
Q: Do you think it will take time for this, as you call it,
"evolution of our thinking" to be recognized, and acted upon, and
become something which many people admire and seek to put into
practice? Certainly, The Numinous Way does not appear to have many
A: Yes, it will most certainly take some time - and we are talking a century, here, many centuries, or even longer, which in some ways is unfortunate, and in some other ways is how such things as real individual change work. The appeal - the message, the philosophy - of The Numinous Way is for everyone, for it is a complete and ethical Way of Life, a rational answer to the meaning and purpose of our lives.
Q: Are you then saying it is a religion?
A: No, at least not as religion is currently understood. It is a guide to living in an ethical way; a guide to understanding our place in the Cosmic scheme; one rational answer to the question "what is the meaning, the purpose, of our life?"
As such, I believe it to be one means to slowly create a better world, one means to presence the good - one means to move toward the cessation of suffering.
Q: This does appear to move us - you - far away from the political and religious rhetoric of your past. Would you agree?
A: Certainly, there has been a great learning, for me, in the past few years, and thus a further development of The Numinous Way, a following of where the Cosmic Ethic led me. So I have gone far beyond the rhetoric, and the politics, of my past, as I have gone beyond what I now perceive as the abstractions of some religions. In the past I committed some fundamental mistakes, one of which was striving to change the world through some ideology, some abstraction, some dogma, or what I regarded as some perfect "idea", or what I considered in my arrogance was some collective, "better", way, and all this always involved trying to get people, individuals, to conform to some ideal, some abstraction, some system, some ideology - some "thing" - and this always caused, and causes, suffering. It is the fundamental difference between the Western concept of some "ideal", and the simplicity, the naturalness, of wu-wei. In many ways, we, in the West, have inflicted so much suffering upon this world through ideas, through the pursuit of the perfection of some ideal, through the goal of some abstract purity, and through the unethical notion of "Destiny". Our politics, our States, our nations, our ideologies, are but a reflexion of this fundamental mistake, this following of such things, this attempt to mould the world, and people, to abstractions. The simple truth is that peace, harmony, honour, goodness - and the fundamental causes of suffering - lie within each one of us, and to feel this truth, to live this truth, we need only to develope empathy, compassion, and honour, and so know ourselves for the simple, finite, nexion that we are: one connexion to Nature, to other human beings, to all life itself, here, on this planet, and elsewhere, in the Cosmos.
Q: In this respect, would you care to comment about Islam?
A: As I have mentioned several times before, Islam certainly does
does presence - something of the numinous in the modern world,
such things as Adab Al-Islam, and through Namaz, much as the
Latin Liturgy, the Opus Dei, of
Catholic monasticism, and the Tridentine Mass, did before the reforms
Vatican II. But if we apply the criteria of The Numinous Way to Islam -
if we judge it by the ethical standards of The Numinous Way - then are
we compelled to view it as a possible cause of suffering, or as an
actual cause of suffering, even though Islam does work, in a practical
way, and has created, and can create, stable
communities composed of noble individuals, since Shariah does work as a
deterrent, and al-Adab al-Islam does create a person aware of the
numinous: someone modest, well-mannered, dignified and noble.
That is, one fundamental question here - and a very important,
one - is whether we consider the deaths, the suffering, of some
individuals as an acceptable price for the creation of a stable
community, or society, for a majority. Another question is
whether we accept the fundamental basis of Islam itself - of Allah as
the one and only God; of the Quran as the literal word of Allah; and of
Muhammad as the Messenger of Allah. If we accept the fundamental basis
of Islam, then there is no ethical question, because Allah, Who is The
Compassionate, The Most Merciful, has decreed
that such suffering as does or may occur through Shariah, through
Jihad, through the pursuit of implementing the word of Allah, is
natural and acceptable, and that what is important is not so much the
suffering of people, of beings, in this world, but the gaining of
eternal life in Jannah. That is, all individual responsibility for
ethical decisions is taken from us - if we correctly follow the Quran
and Sunnah, we are, or should be, acting in an ethical way, according
However, if the fundamental basis of Islam itself is not accepted,
then should we judge it, and if so, how? The Numinous Way provides one
answer - to judge according to whether suffering is caused; whether
there is cessation of suffering. According to whether empathy,
compassion, and honour exist. As I have mentioned previously, the
ethics of The Numinous Way mean that individuals who follow it should
cease to cause
suffering; that they should not intentionally cause suffering to any
living-being; that there is never an excuse for causing suffering. (The
only possible exception, as I recounted earlier, involves personal
honour in a personal situation.) According to The
Numinous Way, no "revelation" is an excuse; no
ideology is an excuse, no religion is an excuse: we cannot, should not,
use "God" as an excuse. We individuals are responsible for ourselves -
suffering we cause. We, as individuals, are the cause of suffering, or
the potential cause of suffering. Thus, those who follow The Numinous
Way might well
say that Islam is incompatible with
the ethics of The Numinous Way, just as Islam does not consider Nature,
the Cosmos, as living-beings, and does not view us, as
individuals, as a nexion, as part of the matrix of the living Cosmos.
Thus, answers depend on the initial assumptions made, on the
perspective which the individual accepts or believes in, on a
particular ontology and theory of ethics. Hence, if one begins with -
and accepts - The Numinous Way, with its particular ethics and ontology
and epistemology, then one finds such religions as Islam and
Christianity, and all political ideology, and indeed all politics and
the abstractions of the State and the nation, as a cause of suffering
or as contributing to suffering by their very nature, by the fact of
them being abstractions and imposed upon human beings.
One of my mistakes - during both my political activism and my later involvement with a certain Way of Life which many perceive as religious - was to hope that some ideal might offset the lack of numinosity so evident in the modern, urbanized, West, and that it might undermine the materialism, the abstractions, of the West in a quite practical way and so enable the world, people, to be free of these abstractions, and free of the physical tyranny, the world order, the world-government, the supporters of such abstractions were creating. But this just encouraged suffering; it created more suffering. It distanced me - and others - from the numen; from what is ethical, right, honourable, compassionate. My intentions may have seemed, to me, to be good, and noble, but that was no excuse. Yet I made it an excuse for some time, unwilling to rigorously apply the ethics of The Numinous Way - my own answers born from the alchemy of my experiences - to what I was supporting and encouraging. In the end, I had to make some fundamental decisions, some choices - and my decision was to reform myself; to apply the ethics of The Numinous Way to everything. That is, I realized that the cessation of suffering - and everything that goes with it, such as empathy, honour, and personal love - is the most important thing: not some short or long term strategy; not some tactics to bring about some change; not some future vision, not some causal form which one might use, in the present, to bring about some allegedly "good" changes in the future. The cessation of suffering has to start in the moment; it had to be part of me, part of every individual, and that, as I tried to explain earlier, is the simple answer.
Intuitively, I have felt - discovered - this simple, beautiful,
answer several times in my life. For a short while, I even lived it,
occasionally, as when decades ago I wandered as a homeless wanderer; or
when I lived on the edge of the Long Mynd as a recluse, following the
death of a loved one from cancer; or when, six or so years ago now, I
was again homeless and wandering in the Lake District, for a while. But
I, quite simply, forgot, or made excuses for returning to the pursuit
of abstract ideas, the pursuit of ideologies, the implementation of
some "strategy" or other - and, in the process, continued to inflict
suffering on the world, on people. But slowly, very slowly, I have
learnt, particularly through another tragic personal event and through
questioning everything, doubting everything, especially myself and what
I, for decades, understood as the basis of honour. In fact,
this learning of mine has been so slow, I am often amazed at how stupid
I have been sometimes, how caught up I was in what I can only describe
as the charisma of combat; as the exhilaration of "the struggle"; how
mesmerized I was by some abstraction or other, the pursuit of which I
stupidly regarded as a means of creating some idealistic, and "better",
has taken me nearly forty years to learn these things; to reform
myself; to return to be the person I was as an enthusiastic youth
interested in astronomy and Physics who felt the numen of personal,
youthful, love; who found in some classical music an intimation of the
divine, and who intuitively felt such an empathy with life, with human
beings, that their pain, their suffering, was often mine in a quite
Thus, I return, here, now, to where we began in this particular
dialogue, with the insight that, for The
Numinous Way, a simple
but profound truth is the truth of empathy with all life: the cessation
of suffering through reforming ourselves, through us actively ceasing
to cause harm.