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This above all: to thine own self be true. And it must follow,
as the night the day,Thou canst not then be false to any man.
William Shakespeare, Hamlet, Act 2, Scene 2
The problem, however, is how can you be true to yourself when you don’t even know who you are or what you are? The maxim, Know Thyself, was on the inscriptions in the Greek Temple of Apollo at Delphi. Many Greek philosophers such as Aristotle attributed this maxim to Luxor (Thebes) in ancient Egypt, predating the Greek era of philosophy. Socrates and Plato quoted it regularly as did Pythagoras before.
This is a huge topic, far beyond the scope of this posting. So let me say in summary, there is the self we think we are that is based on the identities we acquire by the numerous and various roles we continue to play as we go through life. But that’s just what we do; it’s not what we are. We are infinitely bigger than anything we accomplish in life.
Max Planck (1858-1947), Nobel Prize in Physics (1918) once said, Whence come I and whither go I? That is the great unfathomable question, the same for every one of us. Science has no answer to it.
That’s because this question lies beyond the scope and purview of what empirical science is capable of telling us, now or ever, unless it becomes something much more that it is today by recognizing the spiritual dimension. Rather, the answer to our identity of whither we come and whither we go comes from the quiet assured knowledge of the heart. It tells us that we are divine Selves, created as extensions of God, the Source of all that is. Sometimes we get intimations of this when we encounter someone that is regarded as saintly.
Unfortunately, our separation (fallen-ness) is hardly aware of the god within and so remains deluded by the separated ego-mind imposter that knows only illusions. But it too is an illusion that we give false meaning to by separating our minds from our heart, the portal to our divine Source. We assume it is us but it is not, we are only who we are when we are whole, heart (soul) and mind. But that's another topic for another time.
The truth is just as the proverb states: you are gods; and all of you are all sons of the most High. (Psalms 82:6) Jesus also reaffirmed this when he said: Is it not written in your Law: "I have said you are gods?" (John 10:34)
Our hidden diviinty is referred to with such names as the Self or the Christ in the Christian tradition, or in Hindu, the Atman and the Buddha in Buddhism, etc. Though both Jewish and Christian scriptures say gods, obviously we’re not God the Source, but rather created as God’s children, sons and daughters. We are God’s spiritual progeny existing for a time in human bodies to learn what lessons we have come to earth to learn for a short period.
James, the protagonist/hero of the Elysium's Passage series has a problem understanding this since he is an agnostic, and sometimes atheist who considers himself not to be a spirit but an evolved body of flesh that arose out of the primordial slime billions of years ago (just as many naturalists assume and would have us to believe, based only on their unproven hypothesis of causal time and chance, which is contrary to the Law of Entropy, the Second Law of Thermodynamics).
This topic of who and what we are is one of the major themes in Elysium’s Passage narratives and how James comes to know that. Hint: it's about unifying the heart (the divine soul centre of our being) with our mind. The mind is always lost when not unified as one whole with the heart, which is why the world remains as it is... confused.
I have included one discussion on this topic from Chapter 4 in the book when James is about to descend the mountain to go back home. The second portion is from Chapter 23.
‘Before you go,' Mo said, 'have another scone with jam and tea. I still need you to tell me if you’ve given more thought to that question I put to you.’
‘You mean about understanding who I am?' I didn't want to get into another big epistemological/ontological debate at this time, so I just shrugged and said, 'Sure I thought about it but I didn't get too far. But if you really want to know, I can tell you I'm a male Caucasian of British citizenship, thirty- three years of age, six feet one inch, 198 pounds of lean muscle and bone, with enough brain tissue left over to be a Professor of Philosophy in London. And I might add, a connoisseur of fine wine and women, though not necessarily in that order. Sorry to disappoint you, but as far as I can tell, that's about all I’m prepared to tell about me at this point.’
‘I'm not disappointed at all,’ Mo said. ‘In fact, the point of me asking you the question was so you would discover how little you know about who you are within and how difficult it is to find a serious answer. But don't despair. There is an answer, and we trust you will know it before you leave.’
‘Well okay, then let’s have it. I've got a few minutes. What's the big ontological secret that has forever eluded mankind? Just the bottom line please, so I can be on my way!’
‘When you are ready to know, you will know,’ he said, ‘not because we gave you an answer, since no one can do that for you. It can't be learned, it can only be discovered. But not by the mind; only the heart knows. Do you remember what the ancient inscription on the Temple of Apollo at Delphi said?’
'Of course, NOSCE TE IPSUM! Pythagoras and Plato, along with many other Greeks were obsessed with this, just like you.’
‘And that, James, is why you are here: To KNOW THYSELF!’
‘That's most excellent, but I know a much quicker way. It’s on my ID tag hanging on the chain around my neck. I had it inscribed on a pendant in case I had an accident or got killed climbing here.’
‘Oh really,’ Eli said. ‘Did you hear that Mo? James has his identity hanging on a chain. So let's see what it looks like.’
Excerpt from Chapter 24
'No one can douse the awakening that occurs after a glance into Elysium,' Mo said. 'Should your antagonist friends confront you when you return home, this may be rather amusing to watch.’
‘Amusing for you maybe,' I said, 'but not so amusing for me. I’m not at all convinced why I should take on this project; I already have enough aggravation, so why would I want more. What's in it for me?’
‘It's not a question of what's in it for you,’ Eli said. ‘It's more a question of what’s in you for it.’
‘What’s that supposed to mean?’
‘What’s in it for you is what’s already in you,’ Mo said, ‘your substance, the quality of your being – that which you are. Now you only need to make it real, by authenticating it in action. James, if only you knew what we see in you, you would then know what’s in it for you. By taking on this assignment, you will come to know your Self and you will fear no more.’
'I’m sorry but I think you lost me with that strange tangle of words.’
‘It’s not a tangle,’ he said, now raising his voice. ‘If you would be honest with yourself, it would be clear! Think about it James! If you knew yourself, you would no longer deny the highest aspirations of your heart. They are far beyond what you thought you wanted, which happens to be everything you said was disgusting in others.’
‘Such as what?’ I asked defensively.
'Such as the big swinging dick that you referred to; although I’m not sure how you would know about that. Remember, the one with money, power and prestige who nicked your lassie? But was it disgust or was it envy for what he had... and I’m not referring to his alleged endowments.’
‘Now there’s a shot across the bow,’ I said.
‘Then be sure to duck,’ Mo continued. ‘Though we may see what you are outwardly, only you can know who you are inwardly. We observe your intellect, but that’s not who you are. In fact, it’s your mind that has sold you short in knowing your Self. Your intellect tells you that you are your ego, but you’re much more than that. It’s only the inward affections of your heart that drew you to this Summit.’
‘Splendid, so if you think you know more about me than I know about myself. Then there’s no need for me to keep second guessing who I am; just tell me and we’ll be done with it.’
‘Are you not listening?’ he said, 'Only you can discover who you are. It’s that way for everyone, though few seem to care. All we can tell you is what we see from without. Only you can see what’s within. But still you don’t wish to see who you are.’
‘Okay then, tell me what I don’t wish to see and I’ll be sure to have a peek.’
‘Are you sure you want to know?’ Mo asked.
‘Why wouldn’t I?’
Eli looked at me as if to say, wrong answer James… you’re about to get nailed!
‘I’ll tell you what I see that you don’t,’ Mo said. ‘I see a man of great love that can’t love; I see a man of great vision who can’t envision; I see a man of purpose who has no purpose; I see a man of great accomplishment who hasn’t accomplished.’
He paused for a moment and then said, ‘But if you wanted, you could change that. Remember, you’re no longer in the Lowlands! But now you’re telling us you don’t want to change because it may inconvenience you; maybe even cause you some aggravation. Well, isn’t that just too bad?’
Mo wasn’t about to let up. He stood up and continued talking down to me with his finger pointing at me repeatedly as I remained slouched in my seat by the fire. His voice rose again, ‘So why in bloody hell would you all of a sudden care what others think? That’s hardly what we would expect from a man that’s not afraid to go to the edge and stare into the abyss. Are you not the hero who left the safety of the Lowlands to struggle up this Mountain so you might see and know what others could never see or know? And now, after all that, will you be the same man going down as the courageous man that went up?’
I was speechless; it felt like I had just been slammed in the face by a gangplank. Never before had Mo come down on me so harshly. Yet I knew that what he said had a sting of truth. Despite of all the university degrees I acquired and all the beautiful women I slept with, I knew there was something missing that prevented me from finding what I was looking for.
After a few moments of dead silence, Eli finally spoke up. ‘The impression Mo and I are getting from you,’ he said, ‘is that you’re concerned what the critics may say about your story. But really, when has that ever held you back before? When did you ever back down in a seaport brawl; even when you were too sloshed to defend yourself, you weren’t down for long before you threw yourself back into the fray. And how about all the times you stood up to the administration for your rights?’
‘Yes, but hopefully my brawling days are over,’ I said, ‘especially after that last night at the pub. I’m wiser now so there’s no need for me to mindlessly confront my opponents by charging after them.’
‘I’m sure we both agree,’ he said, ‘but there’s another type of charge that would be far more effective in confronting the dark forces. I would it call the Charge of the Light Brigade, where you fearlessly extinguish ignorance with the light of knowledge and understanding.’
At the moment I couldn’t think of what to say, except to tell Eli he had taken the word light out of context in Tennyson’s poem, which was about cavalry carrying weapons of light weight on horses, although I’m sure he already knew that.
More daunting, however, was Mo, who it appeared was about to land a few more blows as I braced myself for another onslaught. This time, however, I would stand firm and not allow myself to be taken down.
‘If I seem hard on you at times,’ Mo said, ‘it’s only to help you see what you can’t see for yourself. Don’t misunderstand me; I’m not saying you don’t have great capacity for love, vision, purpose and accomplishment. To the contrary, I’m saying you most certainly do; the problem is you still don’t know yourself well enough to understand what any of that means, and so you can’t experience what you don’t know.
‘In the Lowlands, you could only experience love as outward gratification, rather than inward union. Your vision was obstructed by the dull haze of things outside rather than seeing by the brilliant light within. Purpose was driven by career rather than conviction. Accomplishment was about transition rather than transformation. Yet, in spite of all that, you had sufficient vision to ascend this Mountain so that you might find your love, vision and purpose to accomplish what has already been accomplished within, albeit provisionally. If only you knew you the way I know you, you would know you have what it takes, but you have not understood any of this.’
Again, I didn’t know what to say. If only he had stopped there, all would have been forgiven, but then he circled around once more for the kill.
‘But when I see you slithering off this Summit, concerned only about career, money and reputation, I get concerned… very concerned. Of course, you can do whatever you want, it’s your life; live it any way you like. But you’ll live it knowing you slipped back down to the land of fear and darkness, having denied Elysium’s call.
‘So tell me, who is the real James? And tell me where he is going; further up and further in, or is he retreating further down and further out? And does he even know the difference?’
With that, he glared at me for a moment and then walked out the door without saying another word. It would be days before I saw him again.
I looked at Eli and he looked back at me. I couldn’t tell if he was embarrassed by Mo’s diatribe, or just curious to see my reaction. He then got up and went down into the cellar, soon returning with a couple pints of bitter.
‘So where in the bloody hell did that come from,’ I asked?
‘The cellar,’ he said ingenuously, as he handed me a bottle.
‘No you lunkhead. The outburst; what’s Mo’s problem?’
‘Oh that?’ Eli said. ‘I won’t really say an outburst; he just wants to make sure you didn’t come all this way for nothing after you return.’
‘Why should that be a problem; obviously I have to go down sooner or later?’
‘Actually you don’t, even when you do,’ he said. ‘What he’s saying is if you are true to your Self, you will always be ascending this Summit and perhaps others that are even higher. And so, even while you dwell in the Lowlands, your heart will continue to soar here. You don’t have to remain down there, even when it seems you do… if you know what I mean.’
‘I’m not sure I do, but to be honest, I need to think ahead about what’s going to happen to me wherever I end up.’
‘I think what really got Mo worked up,’ he said, ‘was the way you sometimes appear to be slipping back into the Lowlands, especially when you talk about your mushy worries and concerns, rather than standing firm on this solid rock Summit for what you know to be true. He detests fear, but admires courage, and so he’s saying, in his own inimitable way, that’s what he expects you to aver. Indeed, it was a shot across the bow, but he has no intent to sink your ship.’
‘It hardly seemed that way,’ I said.
‘And yet he’s right;’ Eli said, ‘whether you are conscious of it or not, you came here for a reason. He just wants to make sure you know what you’re doing because he’s not so sure you do.’
‘He could have tried a little diplomacy.’
‘And how well would that have worked? Mo understands you well enough to know what’s required to get your attention when nothing else will. If it seemed he was calling you a slithering coward, try not to be offended, unless of course, you are,’ he smiled wryly.
‘No, of course I’m not offended, just misunderstood. But why shouldn’t I be concerned about my future security, especially after all I’ve been through?’
‘Because James, your purpose has more to do with being true to yourself than being concerned with the approval of those who care more about beliefs than truth. Why do you think you came here; was it only for exercise? Or was there something else less obvious, and yet of inestimable significance?’
‘I suppose there could have been more going on, such as what was prefigured in my dream, though I wasn’t aware of anything significant while making my travel arrangements.’
‘Indeed, there was much more going on below the surface, as you should know by now, rather than just suppose. Your struggles to climb up here were only the outward expression of your soul’s enduring quest to ascend to a higher ground to find who you are, rather than just accept what the Lowlanders told you. And so, now that you are here it’s time for you to discover who you really are.
‘But in as much as you become more concerned about your reputation and job security, you put your confidence in what they have to offer rather than what you have to offer. That’s how you could easily slide down these slippery slopes into the muck and mire of the Lowlands. Mo sees this as a betrayal of your true Self.'
 Eli obviously was making reference to Tennyson’s poem, Charge of the Light Brigade (1854).
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SUMMARY OF ELYSIUM'S PASSAGE: THE SUMMIT
This the first in a series of five Elysium narrations regarding a young British philosopher named James Phillips who finds himself living in an altered state of reality while still remaining on earth.
After experiencing a near fatal fall while climbing to the summit of a remote mountain in the Andes, James awakens in a new dimension. He soon encounters two mysterious beings who provide him with a very different perspective on the nature of his existence. Over the next year, before his body recovers from the coma, he is challenged to re-examine his understanding about life’s meaning and purpose far beyond anything he previously believed, or could believe.
An engaging and sometime surreal adventure with intimations of impending romance, the narrative explores the most important questions about life, death, reality and our ultimate destiny.
The Plains of Elysium (Champs-Élysées) was described by Homer, Hesiod, Virgil and many other poets as the paradisiac afterlife realm reserved for heroes. As the title suggests, this is about a journey through a passage that leads towards Elysium’s exciting realm of existence.
PENDING PUBLICATIONS IN THE ELYSIUM PASSAGE SERIES
The Summit, is now available for purchase on www.Amazon.com and www.Amazon.ca
With the exception of the last novel, the other three have been written but still require more editing before publication.
The following titles in the Elysium's Passage series are projected to be released as follows:
THE SUMMIT now available
SURREAL ADVENTURES fall 2018
MYSTICAL ROMANCE spring 2019
HE ELIXIR fall 2019
THE RETURN sometime in 2020