by Colum Hayward
First published 1997
Reviewed by: Lesley Tarrant Belcourt
A slim paperback with a simple white cover, a tiny humming bird hovering on cool aquamarine in the margin, 'Eyes of the Spirit' holds an amazing wealth of knowledge in its eight chapters. It should not surprise us that this book combines wonderfully the spiritual and the intellectual -the heart and the mind- for its author Colum Hayward, who was raised from childhood in the spiritual teachings of White Eagle, is the administrator of the London Centre of the White Eagle Lodge in the UK and also holds a Ph.D in English Literature from Cambridge University.
'Eyes of the Spirit' is a personal account of Colum's own transformative journey through personal problems and difficulties into "absolute happiness." Learning to "live the message" that White Eagle gave humanity through Colum's grandmother, the well-known medium Grace Cooke (Minesta) in the 1930's. Colum acknowledges there is a "subtle counterpoint between what a teaching says, and how it can be lived out."
Reviewed by: Lesley Tarrant Belcourt
White Eagle asks us all to find the truth for ourselves. This knowledge is not something that is delivered or taught to us, rather it is "wisdom which we know deep within ourselves, which the true teacher simply reawakens for us," yet Colum's interpretation of some of White Eagle's words helps us see how to move these teachings into our everyday lives.
Colum sees the Lodge having developed as "a human experiment in living White Eagle's teachings," for the concept of brotherhood central to this philosophy "could only be learned in practice." He is quick to point out, however, that anyone can follow these teachings without being associated with the Lodge, for White Eagle says "the ancient wisdom upon which the teachings are based 'manifests again and again in every great spiritual teaching the world has known from the ancient Egyptians and Zoroaster to the Buddha and Jesus Christ." This wisdom is grounded in love.
"The whole point of human life,"' says White Eagle, "'is to bring love into every possible human situation." White Eagle says that Jesus displayed "'one of the most perfect examples of true brotherhood or divine love"' when he took on Judas Iscariot's karma, "'so that he might return love for hate." Colum reminds us, love by definition includes this capacity for tolerance. In order to become non-judgmental he suggests it may be necessary for us to look with different eyes, to view things from a changed perspective, to see "with the eyes of the spirit." This concept is particularly pertinent today when we are being urged to think and act outside the box, to break away from enculturated rules that attempt to rigidly define us.
"Seeing with eyes of the spirit," writes Colum, "acknowledges that we go of our own choice into a vast array of life-experience (including illness) for growth - and even for a greater cosmic purpose." Colum feels "acceptance" has become a passive word. Instead we need to embrace all that life holds. Applying the spirit vision to everything and everyone brings positive change in our lives. Colum suggests that healing is essentially a process of change from one condition or awareness to another. Refusing to see is the true cause of depression. "If we look with new vision at the concept of time - which White Eagle tells us is not real - and attempt to live in the now, the happier we are likely to be. Spontaneity is akin to living in the present. When we create we are always living in the moment.This is what meditation helps us do, move into the present.Colum offers a practical chapter on meditation for beginners, reminding us that meditation is something most of us do unwittingly when we listen to the sounds of nature, smell a flower or sit and enjoy sunshine. They all have "an appreciation of the present." Meditation enhances the effect of this natural quality and demands we remain focused and uninterrupted.
Central to 'Eyes of the Spirit' is the subject of personal identity: "Being in touch with oneself is the same as living absolutely in the present at any moment," writes Colum. We have become accustomed to associating love with self-sacrifice and putting the needs of others first, yet he reminds us we need to love and be equally tolerant of ourselves. We have to learn to honour self. Quoting White Eagle from Path of the Soul, Colum writes: 'Every time the soul does not live truth from its innermost being, it is sinning. Sin is not of the body only - indeed the bodily sins we would not call sins at all - Sin is the failure of the body to live truly, to express truth in thought and word and deed.' The essential difference between identifying with the all-powerful self and self-absorption is that the former is characterized by its serenity. "True love of the self transforms the self."
Society is not as rigidly clamped to sexual stereotypes as it once was. Parental roles cross boundaries, job descriptions avoid gender-bias. We are more aware of the feminine and masculine within each of us. "In some way a true balancing of the two aspects is something each of us has to find," writes Colum. Historically we find countries, such as Egypt, where siblings have been expected to marry. In some Native American traditions the heyoka, "people who do things backwards," (which includes homosexuals), have been awarded a respectful status. "Love does not exist in conforming to other people's agendas of how we should be," writes Colum, "it actually resides in being completely open to our own spontaneity." Today in Canada we are not only looking at legalising same-sex marriages, but incorporating religious ceremonies to bless those unions. "If we turn to our own spirit vision, not our earthly standards, we cannot help but speak from inner enlightenment, not from prejudice," says White Eagle.
'Eyes of the Spirit' is not just an honest account of one man's journey, it is also an interesting history of the White Eagle Lodge. Chapters six and seven focus on the six principles of the Lodge, while the last chapter offers a profile of the Lodge and its work, illustrating convincingly that this is a worldwide family with interfaith connections, its membership stretching across the world, its books translated into over fifteen languages.
"Despite the basis of White Eagle's teaching in Christianity, it is not closer to one denomination than another and may have as many similarities with non-Christian belief systems such as Buddhism. White Eagle acknowledges the wonderful facets of the truth exemplified by other great world teachers or enshrined in other religions such as Islam and Hinduism, Sikhism and native religions like the American, and speaks of truth as if it were the hub of a wheel, with the many religions as its spokes."Colum sees the Lodge, not as a rigid structure, but as a flexible place of change, "designed for growth and education," as well as healing.
'Eyes of the Spirit' is a book that causes us to think and feel at the same time. For those new to the workings of the Lodge it is a fascinating reference book complete with index; for those attempting to put White Eagle's teachings into practice it provides a practical opportunity for growth. 'Eyes of the Spirit' offers us a new route to clearer vision.
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