Welcome to my blog---an eyes-open, no-holds-barred exploration of Western and Eastern spirituality, mindfulness, philosophy and literature. A member of the Australian and New Zealand Mental Health Association, I lectured at the NSW Institute of Psychiatry to mental health workers for 14 years and at the University of Technology, Sydney to law students for 16 years. My interests include metaphysics, the psychology of religion, transformative ritual, mythology and addiction recovery.
are some who would question whether any man can truly be said to be wise. I
have an interest-based opinion on that matter, so I will express no view,
except to say that although the Biblical account of the story refers to the
persons as ‘men’, there may well have been at least one woman among them. But does
it really matter? No.
Bible does not say there were three of them. That is simply an assumption, in
light of the three gifts presented to the Christ child—namely, gold,
frankincense and myrrh. I will have more to say about those gifts shortly, but
even if there were three wise (wo)men, one of them may well have presented two
gifts with one of the others presenting the third gift. Who knows? It doesn’t
are not told the names of the wise persons, although church tradition tells us
that their names supposedly were Melchior, Balthasar and Gaspar. Although
at least one church tradition says that the wise persons were kings (Melchior being a king of Persia, Balthasar a king of Arabia, and Gaspar a king of India), the Biblical
narrative does not say so. They may have been rulers of Arabian states but it’s
more likely that they were magi, wizards or astrologers and, so it is said,
members of the priestly caste of Zoroastrianism. Suffice to say that these people were on
a journey—a journey in search of truth and wisdom. They were following a star—and
no ordinary star at that.
So, we have the image of wise men following a star, attending upon the birth of someone famous, and
presenting gifts to the baby. This, my friends, is the stuff of myth and
legend, but that does not mean that the story is not true. Myths are not not true. Myths have their own level
of truth and meaning, and this story is no different in that regard. The births
of other famous persons—real or imagined—were hailed by wise men or aged saints
who presented gifts to the newly born. I am thinking of the Buddha, Krishna,
Rama and Mithra, for starters.
star was, of course, the Star in the East. Esoterically, a star symbolizes some
spiritual truth, at first dimly perceived. The East is where God is. The source
of all life, truth, power and love. The Star in the East is the morning star,
the first gleam or dawning of truth. For some, for example, scientists, the star is the light of reason. We need such people in our world, now more than ever. There should be no place for superstition. For others, the star represents hope and aspirations. They are important as well. Others consult the stars for guidance in their lives. I see no evidence or good reasons for doing that, but that is just my view.
wise persons were in search of something greater than themselves. Relying
perhaps on a combination of intuition, insight, reason, knowledge and wisdom –
the last two things are not one and
the same – they knew that a great event was taking place in Judea. Furthermore,
they were prepared to follow their star wherever it led them. Are you prepared
to do likewise?
what of those gifts—gold, frankincense and myrrh? Gold symbolizes that the Christ
child was a king; on a deeper level, gold represents the light of truth as well
as the gift of wisdom. Frankincense denotes Christ’s divinity; on a deeper
level, it symbolizes the sweet fragrance of sympathy, empathy, compassion,
self-giving, understanding and healing. Myrrh is one of the spices used for
burial and thus is a kind of prophecy of Christ’s death; more esoterically,
myrrh symbolizes the love that sustains and heals.
Some have interpreted the
three gifts a little differently. For example, some commentators see the gifts
as representing our three-fold human nature, with gold denoting our material (i.e.
physical) nature, frankincense our emotional nature (i.e. our hopes, wishes and
aspirations), and myrrh our mental nature (i.e. mind or intellect). However the
gifts are interpreted, the really important thing is this—it is incumbent upon
us to give of ourselves to others. We find ourselves to the extent to which we
give ourselves away, in self-giving to others and to a cause or power greater
than ourselves. Millions of people have found that to be true in their lives.
what of the Christ child? Literal-minded Christians see that child as
synonymous with Jesus—and he alone. However, I see the Christ child as denoting
more than just Jesus. A ‘child’, in sacred language and literature, represents
a spiritual idea or truth as well as indwelling power, potentiality and inner
light. The Christ child, of course, is no ordinary child but represents our
inner potential, our real self—what the Apostle Paul refers to as the ‘Christ in you, the hope of
glory’ (Col 1:27). The Christ child represents the person, as yet unborn, that you
are nevertheless capable of becoming and being. When the Christ child is born
in us, we awaken to our real self.
birth of the Christ child takes place, not in the crowded inn of materialism
and worldly values and opinions, but in a humble, receptive and childlike
manger. There is so much meaning in that alone.
the wise persons had attended the birth of the Christ child, they returned to
their country ‘by another way’. When a person has experienced a truly
life-changing experience, in which they discover their real self, they are
never the same again. He or she is permanently changed—for the better.
summary, here are five important ‘lessons’ from the story. First, the wise
(wo)men were wise because they were following a star, wherever it may have led
them. Secondly, there is no limit to the number of people—men and women—who are
capable of becoming and being wise. (In my view, that’s partly why the Bible
doesn’t tell us how many there were of them.) Thirdly, those who are wise bring
forth gifts—parts of their own human nature offered in sacrifice and love to a
cause or power greater than themselves. Fourthly, wise men and women are on a
journey—a journey of self-discovery. Fifthly, once a person finds the ‘Christ
child’, they always embark upon another way of living—a new and better way of living characterised by sacrificial self-giving, love, compassion and service to others.
you have the spirit of Christmas which is peace, the gladness of Christmas
which is hope, and the heart of Christmas which is love.
The research involved 150 California law students who had taken the bar
exam and who were awaiting their results. There was a period of some four months
between the exam and the date on which the results were posted online. The
students completed a series of questionnaires in that four-month waiting
that waiting period the students were asked to participate in a 15-minute
audio-guided meditation session at least once a week.
It was found that the practice of mindfulness meditation helped to postpone the
phenomenon of ‘bracing’, which we do when we prepare ourselves for the worst.
You may well ask, ‘What’s wrong with bracing? Surely, it’s a good thing to hope
for the best while preparing yourself for the worst.’ I’m not so sure of that. If
bracing sets in too early in the waiting period, most of us will start to worry
… and worry … and worry.
Now, here's something especially interesting. The study shows that even 15 minutes of
mindfulness meditation once a week, which was the average amount of meditation
practised by the participants, was found to be enough to ease the stress of
We all worry, some of
us more than others. The English word ‘worry’ comes from the OldEnglish wordwyrganand Old High German word wurgen,
both meaning ‘to strangle, to choke’. When we worry, we strangle
ourselves, so to speak. Actually, not so to speak, but well-nigh literally.
Worry is very bad for the body, the mind and the spirit. People say, 'I'm sick with
worry,' or 'I'm worried to death.' Do they really know the truth of what
they're saying? People can literally worry themselves sick--and in some cases
even to death. Corrie ten Boom wrote, ‘Worry does not empty tomorrow of its
sorrow. It empties today of its strength.’ That’s so true, my friends.
The regular practice
of mindfulness, as well as mindfulness meditation, helps one to accept, and not
resist or fight against, our thoughts, feelings and bodily sensations and, as J Krishnamurti [pictured right] used to say, ‘On the acknowledgement [that is,
acceptance] of what is, there is the cessation of all conflict.’ Got that? All conflict—whether physical, mental or
I used to think that whenever
a negative thought—say, a thought of anticipated or feared failure—entered the
mind that it was necessary to substitute for that negative thought a positive
thought. That works for some people but it is not necessary to do it. Simply
observe the negative thought. Give it no power. Don’t resist it. Just watch it
arise and vanish, for it will not last long. Bracing yourself for the worst is generally
advocated by Stoics—and it definitely has its place. When? Later. Don’t brace
yourself too early, lest worry set in.
Sweeny K and Howell J L. ‘Bracing Later and Coping Better: Benefits of
Mindfulness During a Stressful Waiting Period.’ Personality and
Social Psychology Bulletin, 2017; 43 (10): 1399 DOI: 10.1177/0146167217713490