Extract from: Beyond the Stage of Time, Volume I Realised Realms. The Master of the Water, Pine and Stone Retreat

50 51 Stone, Paper, Scissors Peter Suart games ‘Stone, paper, scissors’ is a game played around the world, by children and adults. Its origins are thought to lie in China or Egypt. Adults generally play in order to take a decision: who gets cake fi rst, who washes up, who goes on a life-threatening mission. Children play to decide, but they also play for fun, they play to win. Sport and games represent an advance in the evolution of consciousness, a translation of aggression, cunning and competition (not to say bloodlust), qualities useful in war and hunting, into formal patterns. Th e playing of games may be considered a pastime, a mechanism of socialisation, an arena for the training of those manoeuvring skills necessary to survival. And it may be considered to be one of the highest fi elds of endeavour available to humans. Enter Art, the greatest game of all time. One of the most intriguing metaphors of art as game is Hermann Hesse’s Th e Glass Bead Game . Each bead (these becoming re- dundant in the game’s later evolution) represents an idea, an intellectual or aesthetic object, the sequence and relationship of beads encoding a symphony or illustrated book of many parts, related in rhythm, structure, texture, line, allusion, connection and implication. In short, the game is a language and playground of thought and feeling. Th ere is no opponent, only appreciative judges who weigh subtlety, depth, breadth, surprise, complexity, clarity, transcendence. Assuming that humans are clothed, fed, sheltered and at peace, how better to spend one’s time? Th e discussion of literature may take such a form. You play Lord of the Flies , I play Moby-Dick , you play Th e Scarlet Letter , I play Roger’s Version . Th e game may be played with authors, works, characters, scenes, quotes. In Italo Calvino’s Th e Castle of Crossed Destinies , forest travellers resting for the night in a castle, having eaten their fi ll at table and fi nding themselves unable to speak, tell their stories one by one, mutely, through the laying out of tarot cards (the fift eenth-century Visconti-Sforza deck designed by Bonifacio Bembo). Each card, and sequence of cards, has many possible interpreta- tions, the only clues being the dealer’s facial expression upon placing each card on the table. ‘One card, di ff erent meanings’ is an instance of the visual pun, a verbal pun being ‘one word or sound, di ff erent meanings’. One of the wittiest of visual puns is the fl ying of the Japanese fl ag by female sex workers when monthly inconvenienced, a wry gesture of national solidarity seen across the moonlit valley through the soundless falling of snow by a soldier with a one-night pass, breathless from his climb. at a time when that void needed fi lling. I recognise the human need for religion, but I think it’s wise to make a very big distinction between God as de fi ned by monothe- ism and any kind of transcendent meaning in the universe. I prefer to leave the latter unde fi ned and unde fi nable. I much prefer the supreme-state religions, as opposed to the supreme-being reli- gions. And I prefer to leave this transcendent state as being unde fi nable, but attain- able through the Enlightenment experience, unifying self and Source. I believe this is a prerequisite for the ultimate goal of the evolution of consciousness. So for me, religions of all sorts are just a phase we are going through; a necessary if painful one, on a path to transcendent wisdom and its integration with self-consciousness. I am convinced the time is coming when we won’t take the gods that we humans imagine to exist quite so seriously. If we look at religion as a river, arising from an unknown source, the moment it fl ows down from the heights we can name it, de fi ne it, and make use of it. But these names are imposed by human intellect. Th ey’re temporal and fragmentary. Th ese rivers might change dramatically as these human interpretations are reconsidered. Th ey may break apart from each other, evolve; until they reach the delta, of, say, Christianity and its many di ff erent interpretations, or the complexity of Daoist or Buddhist religious branches with their myriad minor deities. It is with the diversity of these human interpretations of the ine ff able that the trouble starts. For more than a thousand years, followers of the same God have been killing each other for mutually perceived apostasy. In Northern Ireland alone, the followers of the same god and the same prophet have been killing and maiming each other for the past four centuries, along with a host of innocent bystanders. Either humanity has got it badly wrong, or God is seriously incompetent at getting his message across. And if you’re willing to buy the old chestnut about ‘working in mysterious ways’, what’s the di ff erence between bowing to such a sadistic, whimsically irrational and violent being in the Abrahamic monotheist tradition, and doing the same to a cruel and vindictive local dictator? G So that prompts perhaps the biggest question of all. What do you think we should do about something that’s so deeply entrenched in our cultures and societies, in order to progress along our path to wisdom? M Paint. Write. Communicate alternatives. Expose ignorance as one sees it ex- pressed. Reject prejudice and embrace freedom of investigation and expression. Read the Declaration of Independence as an ideal, rather than as a tool of political expedience. Let myriad ideas be heard equally and without fear or favour; give every individual the right and the opportunity to form his or her own opinions, based upon open access to collective experience and freedom of perception and expression. Th at’s all. G Amen. M Th ank you for your time. I hope I haven’t overly confused you. But, as a friend once stood up and said a ft er one of my lectures, ‘Anyone who isn’t thoroughly con- fused by now, hasn’t been paying attention.’ bonifacio bembo The Sun , Visconti-Sforza tarot Italy, fift eenth century