[globe] The Ground of Faith
Exploring Science Mysticism and Experience together
August 2004
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1. The Anatomy of Joy
2. The Importance of Being a Failure


Letters to the Editors



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Victor MacGill:
- The Importance of Being a Failure

Donald Stowell:
The Anatomy of Joy

Leo Hobbis Ph.D.:
- Science, Spirit & Reality
- Annex A survey of the field addressed by this Journal

Download Victor Zammit's The Book which gives a summary of modern research clearly demonstrating that the Afterlife is fact.

Letters to the Editors

Anthony Buckley (U.K.)
tells of a personal Near Death Experience: of an appearance of a dead nephew to a Buddhist friend.

Ineke Crawford (Rangiora)
relates a haunting parallel to Matthew Manning's Strangers, below.

Anthony Buckley (U.K.)
responds to the last issue on Grace.

Victor Macgill (editor)
points out why reductionist science ignores other-dimensional phenomena.


(i) *Future Church:
Connecting and celebrating new forms of spiritual community,
Networker: Rosemary Neave
(e-mail Rosemary Neave).
Future Church is a project of the Women's Resource Centre in Auckland with funding received from the Methodist Futures Group.

(ii) The Metanexus Institute:
International web site; magazine and resource material

(iii) The Faith of a Physicist:
Audio, Video lectures and books from *The Polkinghorne Home Page

(iv) GreenSpirit:
Association of Creation Spirituality in the UK.
Spirituality and Science web site of Chris Clarke

(v) Science without Bounds: a synthesis of science, religion and mysticism Free download book, Arthur J.D’Adamo (280 pages)

[ Resources page ]


A very short Editorial, this issue:
  Firstly, our grateful thanks to James Gasson for taking charge of the construction of this web site, and having produced such an attractive page.
  Secondly, we would like to share the following delightful writing by Donald Stowell.

The Anatomy of Joy Donald Stowell

“Joy is endemic in the universe and the purpose of it,” This dogmatic statement is found in the Journals of Søren Kierkegaard. It echoes a similar statement by Confucius in The Analects, “Joy is in everything: it is necessary to know how to extract it”. This opinion expressed by two great intellects is so contrary to the experience of the majority of mankind and to the poets and writers of today that it would be useful to know how they came by that conclusion and if there is any justification for it.

The purpose of the following chapters is to find out how widespread is this discovery or belief, and what are the reasons or experiences which lead men to it.

This little book does not presume to be an exhaustive study of the subject but, as it were, a pilot scheme which anyone may take up and explore further for himself.

The general fear of world cataclysm, the break-up of societies, the change of moral standards, despair and disillusionment - these things have been common throughout history, It may be that never before has there been such good reason for them as now. It is true that it has never before been possible for man to destroy himself, with the rest of life on earth, at the touch or a few buttons.

But if Kierkegaard and Confucius are right then there is no need to be unduly apprehensive of the future. There is a great need for men to know that joy is there to be found by those who look for it, as gold is hidden in the earth waiting to be found. A better analogy might be that of beauty which is endemic in the world of nature - though there are many whom it fails to impress. Our question then is why do they miss “the many splendoured thing” which seers and children discover as one of the facts of life? It must not be thought that the author has not encountered sorrow. He is well aware that the tragic sense of life seems to many to be of the very nature of life itself. Drama and poetry, novels and history itself have nothing to feed on without it. But as hate can be thought of as the frustration of love, so sorrow can be seen as the temporary absence of joy. The statement that sorrow and sighing shall flee away, is, according to the experiences related in the following chapters, more likely to be true than its opposite.


  From many parts of the world and over many centuries there come to our discussion thinkers who have discovered joy as something which lies there at the heart of reality. It is objective - a thing like a musical chord or a frequency of electrical impulses. This can be either tuned into or it can come on its own initiative, quietly possessing one or as a flash of revelation.

  The Brahmin considers ultimate reality as Sat Chit Ananda, which may be translated as Eternal-Intelligence-Bliss. In the Awakening of Faith from the Asvagosha it is written:-

  The body has infinite form. The form infinite attributes. The attribute has infinite excellencies, and the accompanying rewards of Bodhisattvas - that is the region where they are predestined to be born by their previous Karma - also has infinite merits. Manifesting itself the Body of Bliss is infinite, boundless, limitless, unintermittent in its action, directly coming forth from the mind.

  Without accepting all the above, the main contention is clear - the milieu of our existence is joy or bliss. Another from India is by Sir J.C.W. Bahadur taken from an article in Hibbert Journal:-

  It is argued in texts of criticism that the end of aesthetic experience is the creation of joy which is called Ananda or Rasa. These terms, which are employed to describe aesthetic experience are indeed taken from the Indian Upanishads - texts which describe the ultimate reality by using the same expressions. Thus the Atria Upanishad uses the word Ananda declaring that bliss is the Ultimate Reality. The Indian standpoint on this issue may be summed up thus: that joy from the empirical artistic creations is momentary, therefore it is that Man's endeavour should be directed towards the achievement of transcendental bliss. Worldly joy thus becomes only an aid in the realization of the real joy - viz the experience of ultimate reality.

  It is interesting here to compare Plato's exposition of an understanding of earthly beauty leading to the enjoyment of intellectual and spiritual beauty. Beauty is a joy-bringer. What contact there may have been between Plato and the Upanishads we do not know, even less likely, except through the noosphere than a connection between them and The Book of Changes, among the most ancient of the world's writings. Yet under the sign TUI – The Joyous Lake we find:

  The joyous mood is infectious and therefore brings success. But joy must be based on steadfastness if it is not to degenerate into uncontrolled mirth …a quiet, wordless, self-contained joy, desiring nothing from without, and resting content with everything, remains free from egoistic likes and dislikes. In this freedom lies good fortune because it harbours the quiet security of a heart fortified within itself.

  From India and China let us go to America. Henry Miller has a passage about clowns in an article called The smile at the foot of the ladder:

  Joy is like a river, it flows ceaselessly. It seems to me that this is the message which the clown is trying to convey to us: that we should participate through ceaseless flow and movement, that we should not stop to reflect, compare, analyse, possess, but flow on through endlessly like music. This is the gift of surrender and the clown makes it symbolically. It is for us to make it real. At no time in the history of man has the world been so full of pain and anguish. Here and there however we meet with individuals who are untouched, unsullied by the common grief. They are not heartless individuals - far from it. They are emancipated beings. For them the world is not what it seems to us. They see with other eyes. We say of them that they have died to the world. They live in the moment fully, and the radiance which emanates from them is perpetual song of Joy.

  Now let us ask an agnostic classical scholar of Oxford about her experience of joy. Eileen Harrison wrote:

… the desire to be good, or rather to be better, is a much bigger thing than the desire to be helped, and it is much more mysterious, indeed is probably un-understood to the end. It is very closely linked to the physical life, food supply and the rest, but it always beckons to the non-animal in us and makes the mere animal difficult to live with. It explains why thinking is no good at all, unless one feels and is excited. It lives on the psychology of ecstasy and beauty… man comes into the world with a memory of beauty otherwise unimaginable. If he keeps his soul fresh and undefiled his passionate desire issues in the creation of an image of this heavenly beauty informed by the breath of the artist's passion ... last night with misery and utter loneliness … it was worse then anything I had ever felt like a blank despair. I fell asleep at last and woke about six bathed in a most amazing bliss and feeling that all the world was new and in perfect peace. I can't describe it - the new birth is the best. It was what they all try to describe and it was what they mean by communion with God.

  She was not looking for joy. It revealed itself to her without any effort or desire on her part. How can such an experience be explained except by saying that some wave-length of reality - a pulsation from Sat Chit Ananda penetrates consciousness during sleep.

The rest of this book, together with an introduction and a Life of the author, is available on a seperate page (The Anatomy of Joy). The book is also available as a PDF file (The Anatomy of Joy PDF).

  The Importance of Being a Failure, by Editor Victor Macgill

  [My talk for tonight is inspired by the book, The way of Failure: Winning through Losing by Mariana Caplan, and my reading is taken from that book.]

  We human beings need to feel good about ourselves. We need to feel safe, we need to feel important, we need to feel loved, and we need to feel in control of our lives and the situations we find ourselves in. Not feeling good about ourselves causes anxiety, which we generally try to avoid.

  Often these bad feelings drives us to find solutions that are more about reducing the level of our anxiety than they are about finding the best solution to our problems. We often go for the quick fix rather than the true solution. We take on addictions such as alcohol, drugs, gambling, sex, fame and status, work, chocolate, coffee, and perhaps more pertinently for those of us here tonight, even spiritual development can be an addiction.

  We feel good when we succeed. I recently listened again to a tape set I have had for many years on how to succeed in life. It was very good and had important lessons we do need to remember. It talked about stopping negative emotions and using positive affirmations to keep focused on our goals. The problem is though, that the more important success becomes in our lives, the more failure becomes unacceptable.

  We will not grow and learn unless our false solutions fail us. Until drinking alcohol or taking drugs fail to take away our anxiety or fail to create negative consequences in our lives, we will just keep continuing to do it. As long as the lure of fame is greater than the insecurity we try to hide, we will stay in the dream and not progress.

  So, a vital truth about life is that everything that is important to us will fail. Sooner or later, we will get sick, we will be parted from those we love, we will be parted from our money and possessions, we will fail to live up to our dreams and expectations of ourselves and others, we will get old, and of course we will die. It does not matter how many tricks we try to play on ourselves to pretend that we are in control of ours lives, the truth remains that everything that is important to us will fail.

  Our physical bodies will fail us. It might be a nice idea if we were to live forever in our physical bodies, but think about it. They would have to be constructed to be that much stronger, and be that much more complex and would requiring far more energy to run than the bodies we have. Elephants have much stronger bodies than us because of their size. They are the biggest land based animal, but us for all their size they do not live that much longer than. They also eat enormous amounts of food. Land animals don’t get bigger than elephants because they just become too cumbersome and inefficient.

  In short, our physical bodies can not live forever, they are built to wear out. The only way we can achieve physical immortality is through death and procreation, because that gives us a new generation, who can live beyond us. It is only through failure by dying that the next generation can grow and improve.

  Through procreation, we can evolve into even more complex beings, but evolution only works when those who fail to be effective in their environment do not get to procreate allowing the most efficient to survive. Again it is by failure that we grow and learn.

  Now, of course, as spiritualists, we believe that life continues after death. Even then, it does not change the underlying principle of that through failure we grow and learn, it just makes it happen over a series of lifetimes instead of just one.

  We all need to have a sense of meaning in our lives. Without it, we feel anxious. So, if we find we lack of a sense of meaning in ourselves, what do we do? We just make up a new one to reduce our anxiety back to something we can cope with. We do the best we can with what we’ve got to create a picture, a map of the outside world that enables us to explain our experiences and maintain a positive sense of who we are. So long as it works well enough, we will continue to use it. Unless it fails, we will rarely seek out a new way to find a sense of meaning that will work better for us.

  And what about our ego? We often hear people saying we need to get rid of our ego, but that is simplifying things bit. The ego is often used to describe that part of ourselves that is self-centred and leads us to negative actions. That is not what it is. The ego is formed by our beliefs and values, which are shaped by our past experiences. It forms itself into a map of ourselves and how we see the world. Whenever we have a decision to make, we take out the map and use this map to make sense of what is happening around us and guides us in our decisions. If we have a good map, we make good decisions, and if we have a bad map, we make bad decisions.

  As our lives change and we have new experiences, our ego must change to keep up, but, as I said before, the ego is formed from our past so it doesn’t like to change. It tends to likes to keep things as they, because that is what is familiar. The ego struggles to avoid change. How do we then deal with it?

  We do not want to get rid of the ego, since that would leave us without any map to guide us at all. Without an ego we cannot live, because we lose the link between ourselves and the world outside. Rather than getting rid of the ego, we should work to make the ego stronger and more adaptable, so it can accept change and accept the failure of the old map rather than see it as a threat. The ego can then become a means to form a new and more efficient map that will help our spiritual development.

  We each have a set of internal standards we live by. Those standards give us a guideline of what we see as being all right to do, and those things that are not right to do. Being human however, we find that at times our actions do not meet our internal standards and we feel a failure. Bill Clinton comes to mind as a person who achieved great success, only to let himself down by his actions. How does he still manage to feel OK about himself after what he did? Before we race to judge him, we need to acknowledge that we will all have a time in our past when we did not meet our expectations of ourselves and we must find a way of still being comfortable with ourselves and living with the anxiety caused by our failure. We can’t do it by more succeeding, we must do it by truly forgiving ourselves and accepting our failure.

  We often avoid accepting failure by distorting our perception of the world outside. We blame others for our failings, we minimise our errors, we deny things that are actually true, and we justify and find reasons why we had no choice but to do what we did. Each time we avoid our failings, we miss opportunities for growth.

  Even our God must fail us if we are to truly grow. Have you, like me, had an underlying belief, that if I live a good, true spiritual life, I will get good karma and nothing bad will happen to me. That’s OK, but it’s a pretty limited view of God, seeing God only as a good daddy who will look after me and make everything all right, rather than taking on our responsibility as vibrant co-creators of this unfolding universe. In order to gain a greater understanding of the depth of God, that good daddy God has to fail, that God has to die.

  The Buddhists say, “If you see the Buddha on the road, kill him”. If you see what appears to be spiritual perfection while still on the path, you are just deluding yourself, you have made a shallow image of God to meet your own needs, rather than embracing the true reality of what God is. Your God must die, before you can meet the true God. That’s why Friedrich Nietzsche said, “God is dead, Long live God”

  Spiritual development is a necessary part of finding and living our true potential as human beings, but we need to examine what drives our search, because it can become an addiction, just another quick fix. We can use spiritual development as an excuse to not make change. The feel-good atmosphere can be alluring and even addictive taking us further from the path of real growth. We can become too comfortable with ideas to challenge them. True spiritual development is always prepared to fail, because it is in failing that we grow and move further along the path.

  We do not like to face the fact that sometime life is like the movie title, As good as it gets. It is a brilliant movie I highly recommend. It showed the struggle of a man burden by Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. It was in accepting who he was and his limitations and those of the people around him, that freed him to find love and come alive to life.

  To sum up, we feel anxious when we are confronted by our failings and would prefer to avoid them and just keep on living as we have. However, when we understand the importance of being a failure, of accepting ourselves as we are, but also learning the lessons from our failures that we can win by losing and gain spiritual advancement that will never be possible to the person, who must always succeed.



Jun. '03: One and the Many
Aug. '03: The Holy Spirit
Oct. '03: Meaningful Coincidence
Dec. '03: After Damascus
Feb. '04: The Afterlife
Apr. '04: What's so Amazing about Grace?
Jun. '04: Thin Ice?


To subscribe/unsubscribe or to write to the editors, email:


[Rev Michael Cocks]
Rev Michael Cocks
(Michael Cocks' web page)

[Rev Victor MacGill]
Rev Victor MacGill
(Victor MacGill's web page)

Production Team


*The Rev. Michael Cocks, M.A. NZ Philosophy, M.A. Oxon. Theology
(Michael Cocks' web page)

The Rev. Victor MacGill B.A. (Canterbury), Dip. Social & Community Work (Otago), M.A. Complexity, Chaos and Creativity (Uni. Western Sydney)
(Victor MacGill's web page)


*The Rev. Dr David.S. Bell, BD MTh Ph.D. Ed. Methodist Theological Review

*Dr. Leo C.W. Hobbis MSc (Physics) Ph.D., CPhys., F.Inst.P


James Gasson B.Sc.
(e-mail James Gasson)

Writers and contributors to this journal will largely be in sympathy with those producing the resources in the left hand column, with the Templeton Foundation, and with the Scientific and Medical Network, the academic members of which combine Holism with Reductionism. Those with a '*' in front of their names are members of this network.

The Anglican scientist

*Sir John Polkinghorne
Dr. Polkinghorne is an Anglican priest, the President of Queens' College, Cambridge University, and former Professor of Mathematical Physics at Cambridge. Polkinghorne resigned his chair in physics to study for the Anglican priesthood. After completing his theological studies and serving at parishes, he returned to Cambridge. During the same time period, he wrote a series of books on the compatibility of religion and science. These include Science and Creation, and most recently, Science and Providence, and his Gifford Lectures, The Faith of a Physicist. Dr. Polkinghorne was the recipient of the 2002 Templeton Prize.


Diarmuid O’Murchu is a member of the Sacred Heart Missionaries, and works as counselor and social psychologist in London, England. He is widely sought after internationally as a speaker and lecturer and has written extensively on spiritual issues of our time. Amongst the books that he has authored are Quantum Theology, Our World in Transition, Reclaiming Spirituality, Religion in Exile.

Other well known writers

Paul Davies, Professor of Theoretical Physics at the University of Newcastle on Tyne: God and the New Physics

Gary Zukav, The Dancing Wu Li Masters, an overview of the new physics.


The authors supporting The Ground of Faith are trained observers, and include accounts of their personal experiences of the other-dimensional. They are doubtless trustworthy, their interpretations are their own, and as is always the case, readers will have their own opinions.

Michael Cocks
(Michael Cocks' web page)
offers the words of St. Stephen the Martyr, received in trance. Stephen provides strong evidence that it is authentically he who speaks The view of reality presented by his mysticism, is plainly similar to that of some of the theoretical QM physicists, and of the great human being we study in the June issue. Email us to request The Stephen Experience as a Word document, or pdf file.

Victor MacGill
(Victor MacGill's web page)
says of his book
"Welcome to a journey through an enchanted land of dragons and princesses, warriors and wise people.
You will find that they exist as a part of our inner world. When we face the dragon, we face our inner fears. When we are the warrior, we find our courage and when we find the wise person, we meet our inner wisdom that lead us on a journey to heal our wounded lives."
On his home page:
"We journey through enchanted lands of Chaos Theory Complexity Theory, Spiral Dynamics and much more."

Phil Dyer
(Phil Dyer's web page)
in his book, offers us the treasures of ancient and modern wisdom about Christian contemplative prayer in a compact, accessible and comprehensive resource. This resource introduces us simply and clearly to the hospitality of Abraham, St. Hildegard of Bingen, St. Francis and Christ Pantocrator, as well as most of the well trodden paths of interior Christian spirituality. The reader is invited to be aware of the theology of body prayer because our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit.

Dr. John Moss
author of
What do You Think of Christ?
This fundamental question, pondered in 1 Cor 12.3 and 1 John 4.2 has been rigorously applied to some of the best of modern largely twentieth spirit and mystic sources. Thus Stainton Moses and Silver Birch, Rudolf Steiner and Wellesley Tudor Pole, St. Stephen and St. Francis have all been drawn into Dr. Moss's masterly treatise as he enquires into their attitudes to Christ.

Roberta Tatom
author of The Last Taboo 600 case histories of life after death. Tatom, a psychologist, was part of a Rescue group, compiled the case histories, and writes a critical review.

George E. Moss
A Smudge in Time (416 pp.)
A well-written book addressed to the general reader, by a careful and responsible British writer. It has a large and impressive bibliography, which Moss summarises as dealing with
"history, prehistory, anthropology, palaeontology, science, religion, spiritualism, mysticism, new age, crop circles, psychiatry, aural field energy, healing, philosophy, prophecy, art, travel, poetry, and include a number of biographies."
He quotes Gerard Manley Hopkins:
The world is charged with the grandeur of God... And all is seared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil; and wears man's smudge, and shares man's smell...

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