Built around the extraordinary stories of seven people who have been unwitting visitors to the spiritual world, The BIG Picture examines the themes of reincarnation, the relationship between karma and destiny, the divide between religion and spirituality, humanity's task in creation, and the emergence of a new Western spirituality to lead us into the next stage of the evolution of consciousness.
In The BIG Picture, author Garry Gilfoy discloses his own spiritual experiences and also tells the stories of others, such as Joy, who was sent back from the realm of spirit without her husband after a horrific crash; Trish, who 'died' numerous times before learning to visit her cosmic classroom at will; Helen, who relived a holocaust nightmare before her eyes opened onto ancient Egypt; and Keely, who was miraculously saved by a familiar figure, the Watcher.
Gilfoy helps us contemplate deeper meanings and refocus the lens through which we view the world. The BIG Picture guides us to ponder unusual possibilities that can shift the point of reference for our earthly thoughts and deeds.
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THE BIG PICTUREInsights from the Spiritual World
By Garry Gilfoy
iUniverse, Inc.Copyright © 2012 Garry Gilfoy
All right reserved.
The Way It Is
There is a thread you follow. It goes among things that change. But it doesn't change.... while you hold it you can't get lost.
Questing is an evocative word. Knights in search of the Holy Grail went questing. In our materialistic age the Holy Grail is often taken to mean a chalice—the one that Jesus drank from at the Last Supper, which was soon used to catch his blood from the Cross. There may be such a relic but the search is a symbolic one. The chalice represents the vessel into which divinity is poured. It refers to us.
The quest for the Holy Grail is an invitation to human beings to discover the deepest part of ourselves. On this journey we will encounter much that we haven't known before. On the road to Self we may also find we are blessed with knowledge of the great mysteries of the gods and of humanity. That's where our real power and enlightenment lie—taking our place beside the gods.
Although there is no object to be found, there are great feats to undertake and new worlds to conquer. Yet there's no end. Imagine a journey with no final outcome—your very own never ending story. Even when new territory is discovered and new treasures unearthed, there is still more. Another aspect of the quest which is both alluring and daunting is that there's no roadmap. We need to find our own way. That's central to the journey. The indications we get are through the questions we can ask ourselves. This is how we find our quest. We are led toward the learning we need for this lifetime by connecting with events and people that help us find new understanding. The way is buried in our inner sanctum. By exploring the depths of the people and things we connect to, we'll find the direction in which our quest is intended to unfold for this life's learning. These are the threads we can hold on to.
The reason the quest is never complete is because creation itself it not complete. We still have discoveries to make and new possibilities to unfold. Yet it's not an exhausting journey of unfulfilment. The quest serves to bring us into the hidden flow of life. We become one with the creative powers of the universe of which we are an intrinsic part. Like all the sages, the mystics and the enlightened ones stretching way back through the mists of time, and like many of history's great leaders, we can take our rightful place in the organic, evolving whole—a thread in the fabric. Even as our outer life tends to slow down and take on a posture of elegant simplicity, inwardly we are participating in a dynamic weave that is rich with the wonders that underlie existence.
Not everyone's quest is overtly spiritual in nature. There are as many unique destinies as there are people. Yet if we have an interest in spirituality we can take this as an indication that there are discoveries to be made in this area that will serve to deepen our path.
The search for an understanding of the great mysteries of life is called the perennial philosophy. There are universal laws and truths, independent of time and culture, which are not accessible to us through our normal waking consciousness. The premise of the search is quite simple: just as we can access the physical world through our physical senses, we can also access spiritual realities through our spiritual senses. There are two key considerations.
Firstly, we can work to develop our spiritual senses. Through a disciplined approach to cultivating the inner life, we can develop the faculties to consciously penetrate and explore spiritual worlds. There are many pathways illuminated by those who are already on their journeys. With a little searching most people can find one that suits their unique unfolding. Your challenge will be to make it your own.
Secondly, our progress in the realm of spiritual discovery comes through the gift of grace. It's a religious term, but an elegant one and useful here. Grace is about getting what we need when we need it, regardless of intention. It is possible that without planning it, without doing anything to achieve it, often without even wanting it, through one means or another, our spiritual eyes are opened.
For many, being granted access to the mysteries is usually a combination of these—effort and grace. But we have conscious control over only one. There's a great Jewish saying that goes, pray like there is a God, and work like you're on your own. As we strive to deepen our inner life, we won't be denied the fruits of our labour. It is helpful to have the perspective, however, that the harvest comes in the course of the journey—as the journey itself. It's not about the destination. As we become perennial philosophers we will eventually gain a big picture perspective of ourselves and the world. If, however, we expect enlightenment as the outcome of our efforts, we might become disappointed, frustrated and eventually cynical. Don't. The universe is endless. We get what we need in our time. Growth is its own reward. When we are on a path of learning, many things will come to meet us. Grace happens.
* * *
We are given gifts. Often they are not seen for what they are, so we put them away in cupboards, perhaps to be taken out and valued one day, but often just left, soon to be forgotten. Or we may welcome and cherish our gifts as intended. We'll keep them polished through use, and have them set out just so in relation to other gifts that we've received, so that together our gifts can shine. Their gleam will inspire us to stay attuned to them. We will live with the continual awareness of the beauty of our gifts, which warm the soul and inspire us to live a life in gratitude. We'll keep our mind's eye set on the place of beauty and harmony, those close relations to truth and enlightenment.
Ken Wilber is a man who uses his gifts well. He can be seen as one of the great living perennial philosophers. His exceedingly impressive credentials, coupled with extensive spiritual experiences, have yielded an astounding richness of teachings. These have spread worldwide and become a key pillar in the emerging field of Spiritual Psychology.
Ken's many books provide valuable insights to those on their quests. In Grace and Grit, a deeply personal odyssey, he weaves together his accumulated spiritual wisdom with his beloved wife's journey toward death. He points out the universality of the mystical experience. "When you can find a truth that the Hindus and Christians and Buddhists and Taoists and Sufis all agree on, then you have probably found something that is profoundly important, something that tells you about universal truths and ultimate meanings, something that touches the very core of the human condition." (1991,17)
The following, according to Wilber, is the essence of what all these traditions agree upon:
One, Spirit exists, and Two, Spirit is found within. Three, most of us don't realize this Spirit within, however, because we are living in a world of sin, separation and duality—that is, we are living in a fallen or illusory state. Four, there is a way out of this fallen state of sin and illusion; there is a Path to our liberation. Five, if we follow this Pathtoits conclusion, the result is a rebirth or Enlightenment, a direct experience of the Spirit within, a Supreme Liberation, which— Six, marks the end of sin and suffering, and which, Seven—issues in social action of mercy and compassion on behalf of all sentient beings. (1991,17)
In terms of the scientific credentials of the mystical experience, Ken Wilber argues that when inadequate evidence exists to make plausible claims, then science checks for further evidence, which is exactly what the mystics have done over the centuries and even millennia.
Open-mindedness, one of the characteristics of people who have had spiritual experiences, allows for the possible realisation that, as Shakespeare has Hamlet tell us, "There are more things in Heaven and Earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy."
It keeps us questing.
Chapter TwoChoosing A Life Garry's Story
I grew up as the middle of three children in a very poor family in what was then a fairly isolated coastal village near the capital city of Nova Scotia. Generations of my father's family lived here, but my mother came from another rural area not far away. My father was a good man, quiet and humble, with little education. My mother, too, was a good person—honest and nurturing and very religious. She was also clairvoyant. Throughout the whole of her life, people who had died would make themselves known to her. She would also know when people were going to die, or of other events to come. This happened through dreams and also through clairaudience and clairvoyance while awake. As a child she would sometimes awaken at night with an unknown figure standing at the foot of her bed, silently watching over her.
She accepted her 'gift' as a matter of fact, but certainly didn't advertise it. She remained a devoted Anglican all her life. It was only recently that I realised I was the only one in the family she told her experiences to. I suspect this was no coincidence. We had a strong spiritual connection, though it's hard to say exactly what I mean by this. I have had insights of past lives we shared, but this wasn't clear to me during my growing up years. Our farewell scene perhaps captures an aspect of our connection. By the age of fifty-eight my mother had already been battling cancer for some years. I was living on the other side of the world. One night in a dream I walked into a large room. In the center of the room my mother was sprawled regally along the length of a beautiful chaise longue. We had a great and happy conversation. When I was leaving I said, "See you later mum". She turned and with absolute clarity and love looked me in the eye and said, "No you won't". I returned to her and gave her a big hug. I understood she was letting me know she'd soon be gone for good. The next day when I got a letter from her I knew we'd had our final communication. Sure enough, I soon received a call that her kidneys had failed and she died shortly thereafter. In my dream she had come to say farewell.
By telling me of her clairvoyant experiences, she helped me to lay the foundation of my own destiny—a significant thread of my quest. From a very early age I accepted it as a fact that we have an existence that is not wholly tied to our physical bodies. Unlike my mother, I was driven to understand what this meant about the lives we all lead. Why do we even have a life if we are essentially spiritual beings? This was a major question in my adolescent years, when the search for truth seems so urgent. It became even more poignant after my first out-of-body experience around the age of sixteen.
I was outside in nature, lying down on a huge granite boulder in the summer sun, staring up into the skies. Suddenly I found myself staring down at my body far below. Before the awareness set in that drove me back into my body, my world was changed irrevocably by the overwhelming feeling of oneness with the universe and the pure bliss that accompanied this. It was as if I breathed divinity through every atom of my body. It was glorious, capturing the essence of what all mystics claim—that we are one with all things. As soon as I realised what was happening in my out-of-body mind, I was suddenly again in my body. I sat up startled. My friend who was there asked what happened and I told him. He said I looked like I was dead. Although time was elusive, obviously I had been 'away' long enough for my friend to see that I was gone.
It was a short-lived foray into the world of the spirit, but a very powerful one. It was the first experience of my own that confirmed what I already believed to be true. Our consciousness is not tied to our physical body.
Prior to this experience, following the thread, I was reading a great deal about paranormal phenomena—stories from psychics like the great American medium Edgar Cayce, Jane Roberts's Seth Materials, about reincarnation and karma, astral travel, the lost continent of Atlantis, and so on. So although I was awestruck by my experience, I had built up a coherent enough worldview to provide a context for it. I knew the nature of what I tasted on that fine summer day.
With this experience, a foundation was laid for deeper insights. This would come through meditation when I was twenty-one, when I would have a direct encounter with the spiritual world including knowledge about my own life and a sense for my destiny.
* * *
I left home after completing a degree in commerce from a local University. It was a prestigious university, and big business sought graduates on campus. At this age I wasn't driven to secure a financial future. It was the 1970s and I was primarily a social being who wanted to have fun. I was astonished that my good friends took this school-to-work fervour so seriously and joined banks and insurance firms right after graduation.
My first post-graduation project wasn't much fun, but it did set my nose in the right direction, both literally and metaphorically. Straightening a deviated septum is a gruesome task, which kept me lying in a hospital bed for a few days. On my last day before release I heard an interview on the radio with two young women from a spiritual program called The Inner Peace Movement. They were giving a talk in the city that evening and I was going, regardless of a bruised face. The two women who spoke, Bonnie and Joanne, would become close friends of mine. Following their presentation we shared a drink and conversation, and that sealed the next step of my journey. I joined The Inner Peace Movement. Given that I hadn't talked much about my inner life or my deepest interests, my friends were stunned by my direction. When I moved into the big world it was to join a spiritual movement.
I have heard people describe Nova Scotia as a place of high spiritual energy. Today it is the home of Shambhala, founded by Tibetan Buddhist Chogyam Trungpa. Likewise, of the few centers for the Inner Peace Movement, an American organization, one of them was also in Nova Scotia, just a couple of hours from where I grew up. I moved there, joining a group of young people who offered courses in self-development. To make ends meet we ran a restaurant and motel.
Throughout this program I had opportunities for self-development. One of these was called a 'blockage profile'. It took the form of a one-on-one guided meditation with Bonnie as my guide. The task was to discover what stood in the way of fulfilling my potential. Although self-awareness was not an attribute I would have claimed at that time, I look back and wonder about how easily I articulated this. Without a moment's reflection I said that my greatest block was the fear of making a mistake and disappointing others. That nailed it. Once said, the truth of it was really clear, even though I hadn't thought about it before. So that's what we set out to work on. In this guided session, Bonnie meditated and came up with about seven dates corresponding to events in my life that would shed light on this fear of making a mistake and disappointing others. Then I meditated on these dates to see how this fear showed itself.
As an example, one of these dates took me to an event that occurred at the age of eleven. One evening at a summer camp for cub scouts, we were divided into teams for baseball. I remember watching from the outfield, trying to remain invisible, as the players on our team were ordered one-by-one onto the pitcher's mound, then promptly off again because they couldn't pitch a ball as far as home plate. Then it was my turn. I was big. It was easy to do. But suddenly my team was utterly reliant on me for a positive outcome. I remember the adult coach of the other team shouting out, 'He has to pitch. He's the only chance you've got!" The pressure was too great and I had what must have been an anxiety attack. I collapsed in a heap and was blessedly relieved of my responsibilities. Team sport is not an enjoyable activity if you're worried about how your mistakes might affect other people.
Excerpted from THE BIG PICTURE by Garry Gilfoy Copyright © 2012 by Garry Gilfoy. Excerpted by permission of iUniverse, Inc.. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
Ch. 1 Questing....................1
Ch. 2 Choosing A Life—Garry's Story....................7
Ch. 3 The Getting of Wisdom & the gift of foresight....................29
Ch. 4 Karmic Groups: we meet again—Helen's Story....................34
Ch. 5 The Long View—Spiritual evolution at work....................46
The Pre-Christian Mysteries....................48
Inside The Birth of Christianity....................54
The Spirit Within....................63
Ch. 6 A Spirit in the World of Spirit—Joy's Story....................71
Ch. 7 Who am I? The forging of the self....................79
Ch. 8 A Stirring in the West—The rise of a new spirituality....................86
Ch. 9 The Watcher's Intervention—Keely's story....................100
Ch. 10 Filling In The Big Picture—The task of humanity....................110
Ch. 11 A Healing Angel—Caren's story....................119
Ch. 12 Body Soul & Spirit—Re-membering our form....................133
Ch. 13 The Day I Died—Trish's Story....................139
Ch. 14 The Bigger Picture—From death to rebirth....................150
Ch. 15 Karma Made Visible—Lukas's story....................157
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Participants in an Evolving Universe Garry Gilfoy has created a book that could not be more timely. From all indicators that surround us at present life is chaotic and random and without meaning. But Gilfoy, in a gentle, loving and supportive manner in this immensely readable book, invites us to the noetic experience. His technique is to share his own story of how he became aware of his true part in being at oneness with the universe, a series of experiences that are credible, ones from which we can learn more about the importance of the spiritual world too few appreciate, and then proceeds to share the stories of seven warmly accessible people who have experienced those vague, gauzely defined concepts of reincarnation - following the path of karma, destiny, participation in creation that will lead us to an evolution of consciousness that we are all at one with the ever changing and evolving universe. In Gilfoy's words, "People who embrace the reality that we are spiritual beings on an evolutionary path, and who reflect on what this means about the life we live, are considerably happier and more resilient than those who do not. I don't mean 'happy' in the usual transient, fragile sense of something that might be gone tomorrow if our circumstances should change. I refer to a deep and abiding sense that all is well, which in turn provides a firm foundation for living in good faith." He visits people who have had near-death experiences, finding 'they become more open-minded, have less or no fear of death, feel emotionally stronger and less fearful of life, have greater compassion and understanding for others and can develop intuitive abilities and a sense of being guided by higher powers.' In short, Gilfoy leads us to the level of acknowledging that life is purposeful. Gilfoy is a spiritual psychologist and his life and thoughts and words and instructions encourage us to meditate about those episodes in each of our lives when we came into the knowledge that there is something beyond where we now exist, opening our minds to the concepts of reincarnation, choosing our next life, understanding and appreciating our present life, and finding that place at the table of cosmic understanding - the Big Picture. Originally from Nova Scotia, his credentials are sterling - degrees in psychology, theology and education - and from his practice in South Australia he assists his patients in mid-life transitions and past-life regression. Some may think this is another self-help book that delves into clairvoyance, isolated meditational routines, etc. Those are the people who should read Garry Gilfoy. Without touting superior intelligence he simply opens avenues of thought that invite us all to a higher level of purposeful living. Grady Harp