Wednesday, 28 August 2013

Barry Long's autobiography

A decade after Barry Long's death, his posthumous autobiography has finally been published.  The manuscript had purportedly been sitting for years in unpublished limbo.  I know that the foundation had asked for donations in recent years to keep its activities alive, and the publishing project would have been one of their key initiatives.  Barry himself never sought or asked for bequests or donations so it's a case of whenever is to be, is to be.  Ultimately, it's about 'I' in this body.  I bought the autobiography when it became available, reading it the time that was right in my life.

For all of Barry's profundity of knowledge, Barry doesn't come across as a spiritual "type".  As the spirit started to enter his body around the age of thirty-something, Barry was climbing his way up the boozy, blokey, beery world of tabloid journalism.  He was talented enough, intelligent enough and gifted enough to become editor of a Sunday newspaper by his mid-thirties.  These same gifts would serve him (and those who came to him) so well in later years, that ability to write and to speak with amazing directness, truth, and conviction.

Despite his involvement with India during his late thirties, Barry didn't fall into living as an Eastern aesthetic.  After a major shift in consciousness, circumstances brought him over to London and he started over by picking up sub-editing work for a daily newspaper.  In a similar vein to Krishnamurti, Barry dispensed with the need to use Eastern words to convey his teaching.  The word 'Karma' was one notable exception for, as Barry once said, "we [in the west] don't have a word for it".  Barry's experience also differed to the perceived Eastern notion of enlightenment.  Barry always lived in the world, bringing the truth of his perception to his immediate living life, influencing all those who were involved with his life, and attracting the appropriate circumstances at any given time to reflect or challenge his level of truth, just as we all do, whether we know it or not.

Barry was a Leo - a double-Leo I'd been told by another teacher up near Byron Bay - and he projected all the traits of a Leo.  He had strong eyes.  He was a driven communicator.  He was not superficially "nice".  He never gave up meat-eating except for brief interludes as described in his book.  He only gave up cigarettes at 34 and alcohol, very surprisingly, much later in 1980, when these were "taken from him"; he lost the taste and simply stopped.  As Clive Tempest noted in his introduction to 'Wisdom and where to find it' - a transcript of early teachings of Barry dating back to 1968 - "...Barry's was a new voice, Australian, brash, and unencumbered by the politeness of the European intellectual ..."

Barry's autobiography ends in 1982 at around the time when Barry had just turned 56.  This was the year of the passing of his beloved partner Julie, and demarcates the period when his teaching passed into the public domain from beyond his smaller teaching groups.  The value of such a biography is that it allows us as readers to find mirrors in our own lives.  How every circumstance has shaped us to this moment, where we are now.  And how the process of cause and effect (karma) may or may not have manifested in our lives, that everything seems to happen for a reason...but we need to perceive these subjective manifestations within ourselves.

Barry himself hasn't used those words in his autobiography, that "everything happens for a reason".  But it becomes clear that one can see demonstrations of this through historical events - one coming to mind is the forming of the Beatles.  From the moment John met Paul through to the cover shot of Abbey Road - a twelve-year span - every event and circumstance that brought them to that incredible level of fame and prodigy was favourable, was meant to be.  And on a smaller scale, this could apply within our own lives, too.

From a spiritual or "conscious awareness" point of view, life is Now.  But I think there is value in looking back and reflecting on the past, for it's in examining the past that we discern definite patterns of circumstance, those cause and effect frameworks of periods of events, people, circumstances and so forth.   For myself, I can look to the 16-year span of 1996-2012 in its entirety now, and I can see all the patterns, the circumstances, every person who came into my life, and when, as being my life, my karma, my circumstances, I come to accept the reasons behind all within this context.

I see my noughties years as resembling a graph similar to a southern hemisphere yearly climate averages map.  Hot at the beginning and end, with a cooler middle.  I was in a very cool space around 2003-2005, but circumstances were to come to my life to blow these out of me, to grow me up, which has brought me to the place I am now.  By late-2007 my life started to speed up.  By 2009, circumstances blew up in all different directions.  I realise now I had to go through everything I went through.  The finer awareness (although awareness never ceases - it's an endless stellar universe) in me I've worked for, and have earned it through trevailling difficult circumstances.  Sometimes one needs to go through hell to advance to a higher plateau, and I've found this to be the case in my experience.

Barry's book is full of amazing coincidences and 'chance' encounters - each one moving him along bit-by-bit through his life journey.  Some of the psychic stuff he and Julie went through was actually downright freaky - the sort of happenstances which he eschewed from discussing in meetings, endeavoring to keep his listeners firmly grounded in 'truth' and not in their imaginations.  For myself, I can say I've experienced amazing coincidences (often good, some bad) and freak, chance encounters.   I can definitely see the patterns of people coming into my life as signifying something and giving me to the opportunity to learn from - they are mirrors of I.  We are taught too, either by books or most particularly in ourselves, to maintain conscious awareness as much as possible, and to allow life to happen.  One example I can give is in purchasing my apartment: I was in the market to buy but only bought where the apartment and circumstances just came to me - it was all right, and meant to be.  And funnily enough the number 3 follows me around everywhere, but that's another story..

The greatest value of Barry's teaching is that he made it his primary premise to tell those who were with him to never believe him, and to always test the truth in their own experience at all times.  Barry never had disciples, students or any of the like.  He held meetings world-wide and where large groups would come and sit with him.  But everyone in the group was an individual, in direct communication with Barry.  There were no subsets or cults or other teachers speaking for Barry - there was only ever 'I', the individual, and the teacher and mirror, Barry.

Barry had an extraordinary gift of answering any question relating to emotion and the spirit, to get to the heart of the matter with directness and clarity.  That Barry didn't reflect off his "self" - ie, the conditioned 'self' of past pains and hurts that is endemic in almost everyone and of which Barry was teaching his listeners to overcome by focussing on 'Life', or "me" in that body - was proven to me one day when a man in the audience was quite ofay with him, quite rude.  It amazed me that Barry did not react in any way, not one bit; not only was there no reaction but there was no flipside reaction either, ie, being obsequiously nice to placate the rude person.  I'd never encountered that before, and it was nice to know that the teacher was demonstrating right response that negated the need to react from a position, a "self"...all that matters in this instance anyway is "I", not Barry, for Barry is only a reflection, as he always strove to tell the audience.

Barry was a great genius.  He brought to the West a comprehensive spiritual teaching that was at once profound and deep, and yet absolutely bone-dry straight and direct, and spoken and written with an amazing freshness and candour.  His was a powerful, life-changing teaching.  He brought his meditation, his cosmic insights, his teaching on physical love-making, his imperatives to listeners to be practical and to get their external lives right, and to remind listeners to give up their right to be unhappy.

But perhaps the greatest value of Barry's teaching remains in reminding his listeners that his teaching must not be believed in.  Barry did not want believers.  He wanted all who came to him or listened to him to discover the truth in their own experience.  This of course, empowered "I" who am in every body.  As Barry said in an introduction to his book 'Meditation: a foundation course', the truth can be taught or presented to you by a spiritual teacher, but life, Life, remains our greatest teacher.  For that somewhat freeing insight I am forever grateful, and I do find that indeed, in my very own experience of my life so far, yes, 'life' is my greatest teacher.

Paul Hewson shooting star

i'm in the sunshine A mate of mine produces a monthly songwriter newsletter which goes out to a hundred or so mainly Sydney-based...