Wednesday, July 12, 2017


The Bible makes it clear that stillness leads to knowledge of the Divine (that is, the sacred and holy), for it is written, ‘Be still, and know that I am God’ (Ps 46:10). They are wonderful words, especially the first two words—‘Be still.’ You see, there is really nothing to do. Justbe still. Start with the body, and the mind will become still as well.

When conducting retreats or leading group meditations I often take the abovementioned verse and progressively break it up, as follows:

‘Be still, and know that I am God.’

‘Be still, and know that I am.’  

‘Be still, and know.’  

‘Be still.’


Who or what is God, you may ask? Some theological construct, unconnected with reality? Well, if you think that God is a giant man or woman 'up there' or 'out there', that is, some supra-personal, supernatural person or being with a face, body, arms, legs and genitalia, then you are horribly mistaken. Here is an insightful passage from the 3rd chapter of the book of Exodus in the Bible, in which Moses enquires as to who or what God actually is:

13 Then Moses said to God, ‘Indeed, when I come to the children of Israel and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they say to me, ‘What is His name?’ what shall I say to them?’ 14 And God said to Moses, ‘I AM THAT I AM.’ And He said, ‘Thus you shall say to the children of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you.’’

In other words, God, the Great I AM, is saying, ‘I AM pure Be-ing,' 'I AM the Great No-Thing,' 'I AM unformed, undifferentiated consciousness.' That is the name and nature of God. Being the All Being, the Great I AM is the infinite, incorporeal, self-sufficient, self-perpetuating, ever-present Being of all. I AM that which is. I AM that which I AM. The words 'I AM' refer preeminently to the subject of all existence (namely, the unlimited and ineffable, egoistically conscious Omnipresence), although the words also refer to the object. The subject and object are one. The Bible says that I AM is God. In India the I AM is called Om. God – the very essence and be-ing-ness of life itself – becomes, or rather is, what God has said that which God is. ‘I AM THAT [WHICH] I AM.’ I AM = I AM. God is. We are. We are all children of the Great I AM, the Divine Fire, the basic ALL of existence.

Mitre Peak, Milford Sound, New Zealand

I AM THAT I AM. That is the nature of God as revealed in the Hebrew Bible and expounded in metaphysics. The words describe and encapsulate the Omnipresence and Omnipotence of the Divine declaring Itself---to Itself. This is the self-knowingness and self-consciousness of God, the Great I AM. We, too, can be conscious – or rather self-conscious – of that very same I AM-ness, because each one of us is a divine spark, and that same I AM-ness is the very ground of our be-ing-ness. It is the ground of all be-ing-ness. It is the ALL-in-all ... the ALL-ness of all. 

Yes, God – pure Be-ing – is the one formless, sourceless, essenceless, unlimited, unsearchable, self-existent, self-knowing, self-giving, absolute, omnipresent, indestructible, and abundant existence that forever takes form, that is, incarnates, as you, me, and everything else, but which is never even for a moment absorbed by the innumerable objects of its self-expression. What I am trying to say is that the I AM within you, and within all living things, is the only Presence there is. That Presence, which manifests itself as the Eternal Now, is forever creating, by an endless process or renewal of the present moment, an infinite number of centres of its own consciousness. The Great I AM is the creativeness of the universe as well as being the source of own our creativeness.

God – if you choose to use the word at all, for that's up to you to decide – is the life that is the subject of true existence, the very life that lies within, and otherwise manifests itself through and as objects, being all persons and things---the very livingness, or rather self-livingness, of life itself. Put perhaps more simply, you are I AM in expression, as youIn the words of the minister and author Eric Butterworth, you are an 'eachness' within the ALL-ness of God.

Here are some words from Joseph Benner, from his book The Impersonal Life:

I AM You, that part of you who IS and KNOWS;

And always knew, and always was.

Yes, I AM You, Your SELF; that part of you who says I AM and is I AM;

…       …       …

But I AM not your human mind, nor its child, the intellect. They are but the expression of your Being, as you are the expression of My Being; they are but phases of your human personality, as You are a phase of My Divine Impersonality.

…       …       …

… I AM because You Are. You ARE because I AM expressing My SELF.

I AM in You as the oak is in the acorn. You are a phase of Me in expression.

…       …       …

I AM the Tree of Life within you.

Each one of us is both an inlet and an outlet of life's self-expression. The ‘us’ in us – the ‘AM-ness’ of us – is not separate from life, rather it is life, or being-ness, itself unfolding from one moment to the next. Whenever we affirm ‘I am …’ we are affirming our being-ness, our I AM-ness, our true spiritual identity. We are saying, 'I AM alive. I AM here. I AM aware that I AM alive and that I AM here. I exist.' You see, the 'I AM' is both universal and individual, for whatever we attach to our I AM-ness, we become. Yes, what we put after those two words 'I am ... ' shapes our reality for better or for worse.

Now, trained as I was as a lawyer and scholar (ugh), I used to think that one could come to know God through academic study and the use of reason and the intellect. Well, that will take you some of the way, like to the end of the proverbial runway but not up into the air. After many years of suffering and self-defeat, I have learned this — the best way to know God is to be … still! 

Meditate. Get really still. Be silent. Say nothing. Let the mind go into neutral, so to speak. Let composure creep all over you. Feel your AM-ness pulsate through your arteries and veins. Breathe in more of that AM-ness. In time, you will come to know your very AM-ness as the ALL-ness of existence individualized in and as you. God is pure Be-ing, and we have our be-ing-ness in God, as the Christian mystics say. 'For in him we live and move and have our being' (Acts 17:28). There is only one way of be-ing. Call it the ALL-ness of God, if you like. Your AM-ness, which is a small part of that immense, boundless and infinite ALL-ness, enables you to say, ‘I am …’, and ‘I know … .’ 

Know this, 'I AM come that you might have life, and have it more abundantly' (Jn 10:10). What's more, this I AM-Presence within you and as you is with you always, even to the very end of the age (cf Mt 28:20). 

I AM is the Eternal Now, unbound by time and space. 'Before Abraham was, I AM' (Jn 8:58).

Be still! — and know — I AM — God.

The photographs of Mitre Peak, the lotus flower
and the cactus flower were taken by the author.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017


Coventry University’s Brain, Belief and Behaviour lab works at the cutting-edge of mind-body integration by developing innovative models and interventions to modify or enhance neuro-cognitive functions, beliefs and behavior.

The lab recently conducted the first systematic review of studies of gene activity inside cells and how meditation (including mindfulness meditation) and other mind-body practices might influence the immune system and disease risk.

The research team analysed 18 trials including 846 participants, ranging from a 2005 study of Qigong to a 2014 trial that tested whether tai chi influenced gene activity in people with insomnia.

Although the quality of studies was mixed and the results were complex, an overall pattern emerged. Genes related to inflammation became less active in people practicing mind-body interventions. Genes controlled by a key protein that acts as an inflammation ‘on-switch’, NF-ĸB, seem to be particularly affected.

Microscopic gene. Source: Cardiff University.

Chronic inflammation is associated with increased risk for psychiatric disorders, autoimmune conditions such as asthma and arthritis, cardiovascular disease, neurodegenerative disease and some types of cancer. Some 5 years ago researchers at NYU School of Medicine for the first time identified a single gene that simultaneously controls inflammation, accelerated aging and cancer and researchers at Cardiff University recently discovered that genetic variation is the reason why some immune systems overreact to viruses.

The results of the analysis suggest mind-body interventions might help reduce the risk for inflammation-related disorders, both psychological and physical. However, some rigorous clinical trials are still needed to show whether the changes in gene expression really do result in improved physical health.

Acknowledgement. Some of the material in this post first appeared online in New Scientist on 16 June 2017 and was authored by Jo Marchant. All rights reserved.

Journal reference: Buric I, Farias M, Jong J, Mee C and Brazil I A. ‘What Is the Molecular Signature of Mind–Body Interventions? A Systematic Review of Gene Expression Changes Induced by Meditation and Related Practices.’ Frontiers in Immunology, 16 June 2017 |

IMPORTANT NOTICE: See the Terms of Use and Disclaimer. The information provided on this blog is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never delay or disregard seeking professional medical advice from your medical practitioner or other qualified health provider because of something you have read on this blog. For immediate advice or support call Lifeline on 13 1 1 14 or Kids Helpline on 1800 55 1800. For information, advice and referral on mental illness contact the SANE Helpline on 1800 18 SANE (7263) go online via

Tuesday, June 6, 2017


Teaching mindfulness to pregnant women can reduce the fear of labour, the risks of postnatal depression and the need for opiates during labour, according to a recent randomized controlled trial (RCT).

In a demographically diverse sample, this small RCT demonstrated mindfulness-based childbirth education improved women’s childbirth-related appraisals and psychological functioning in comparison to standard childbirth education.

Participants showed greater childbirth self-efficacy and mindful body awareness, lower post-course depression symptoms that were maintained through postpartum follow-up, and a trend toward a lower rate of opioid analgesia use in labor. They did not, however, retrospectively report lower perceived labor pain or use epidural less frequently than controls.

Study: Duncan, L G et al. ‘Benefits of preparing for childbirth with mindfulness training: a randomized controlled trial with active comparison.’ MC Pregnancy and Childbirth. BMC series – open, inclusive and trusted 2017 17:140 DOI: 10.1186/s12884-017-1319-3.



IMPORTANT NOTICE: See the Terms of Use and Disclaimer. The information provided on this blog is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never delay or disregard seeking professional medical advice from your medical practitioner or other qualified health provider because of something you have read on this blog. For immediate advice or support call Lifeline on 13 1 1 14 or Kids Helpline on 1800 55 1800. For information, advice and referral on mental illness contact the SANE Helpline on 1800 18 SANE (7263) go online via

Tuesday, May 9, 2017


'I wonder as I wander.' For some people, it's more a case of, 'I wander as I wonder.' For others -- far too many, in fact -- it's simply, 'I wander as I wander.'

A new study from the University of Waterloo set out to see whether a short bout of mindfulness training might help focus the minds of people who are clinically anxious.

‘Our results indicate that mindfulness training may have protective effects on mind wandering for anxious individuals,’ said study author Mengran Xu, pictured right, in a statement. ‘We also found that meditation practice appears to help anxious people to shift their attention from their own internal worries to the present-moment external world, which enables better focus on a task at hand.’

Previous studies have found that mindfulness meditation can quell the mind’s tendency to wander, by quieting a region of the brain known as the default mode network (DMN)the part of the brain that’s ‘on’ when our minds are just wandering about. Other studies have shown its physical effects on the brain over time, not the least of which is its connection to greater volume in areas like the hippocampus, which in part governs emotion regulation (and is smaller in depressed people) and reduced volume in the amygdala, which plays a central role in stress and fear. And a study last month found that the two classic forms of meditation, focused attention and open monitoring, have the capacity to reduce the number of ‘intrusive’ thoughts people had when they were asked to conjure up a personal fear.

Study: Xu M, Purdon C, Seli P and Smilek D. Mindfulness and mind wandering: The protective effects of brief meditation in anxious individuals.’ Consciousness and Cognition. Volume 51, May 2017, pp 157-165.


IMPORTANT NOTICE: See the Terms of Use and Disclaimer. The information provided on this blog is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never delay or disregard seeking professional medical advice from your medical practitioner or other qualified health provider because of something you have read on this blog. For immediate advice or support call Lifeline on 13 1 1 14 or Kids Helpline on 1800 55 1800. For information, advice and referral on mental illness contact the SANE Helpline on 1800 18 SANE (7263) go online via

Monday, April 17, 2017


Mindfulness group therapy has an equally positive effect as individual cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) for the treatment of a wide range of psychiatric symptoms in patients with depression, anxiety and stress-related disorders, according to new research from the Center for Primary Healthcare Research in Malmö, Sweden, which is a collaboration between Lund University and Region Skåne.

‘Our new research shows that mindfulness group therapy has the equivalent effect as individual CBT for a wide range of psychiatric symptoms that are common among this patient group,’ says Professor Jan Sundquist [pictured left], who led the research group in the study which has been published in European Psychiatry.

Professor Sundquist adds, ‘We have shown in a previous study that mindfulness group therapy is just as effective as individual CBT for the treatment of typical depression and anxiety symptoms; something we also observed in the new study.’

A study released by the University of Oxford in 2015 found that mindfulness-based cognitive therapy could also be just as helpful as the use of antidepressants when it came to depression relapse prevention. 

Journal reference:
J Sundquist, K Palmér, L M Johansson, K Sundquist. ‘The effect of mindfulness group therapy on a broad range of psychiatric symptoms: A randomised controlled trial in primary health care.’ European Psychiatry, 2017; 43: 19 DOI: 10.1016/j.eurpsy.2017.01.328



IMPORTANT NOTICE: See the Terms of Use and Disclaimer. The information provided on this blog is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never delay or disregard seeking professional medical advice from your medical practitioner or other qualified health provider because of something you have read on this blog. For immediate advice or support call Lifeline on 13 1 1 14 or Kids Helpline on 1800 55 1800. For information, advice and referral on mental illness contact the SANE Helpline on 1800 18 SANE (7263) go online via

Monday, April 3, 2017


‘See, your king comes to you, righteous and victorious, lowly and
riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.’ Zechariah 9:9.

These days everyone is a star—or so they think.

One of the negative things about social media is that every nonentity around can have their moment of glory—their 15 minutes (usually 15 seconds or less) of fame—many times a day. Here’s a photo of the meal I’m about to eat. Yummy. (Really? It looks disgusting.) This is the view from my kitchen. Magnificent, isn’t it? (Hmm. It's so-so.) Here’s my latest hat. (Does she really think that’s nice? It's awful!) Here’s a photo of me on the airplane, about to head off on my trip to London—first class, no less. Aren’t I doing well? Hashtag this, hashtag that. (Sure, you're a legend in your own lunchbox, as we Aussies like to say.) And, yes, I am also guilty of this.

One of my favourite Bible verses is this: ‘For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted’ (Mt 23:12). That’s one of the Zen-like sayings of Jesus. The multi-talented musician, bandleader, singer, actor, producer, director, writer and university lecturer Desi Arnaz, pictured above, once said that it was his favourite Bible verse. The verse, he said, was ‘one of the greatest quotes from the Bible as applied to show business’.

In a few days time, namely, on Sunday, April 9, it will be Palm Sunday, a day on which Christians recall the triumphal entry of Jesus into the walled city of Jerusalem. The people laid down their cloaks and small branches of trees in front of him. The image of Jesus riding on a donkey is an object lesson in humility—and much, much more. The donkey may be an image of proverbial stubbornness but it is also one of peace as opposed to war, Jesus being the Prince of Peace (cf Is 9:6). The donkey is also an image of meekness, persistency and endurance. There is the intellect, the emotions and the will—plus the physical body. When all of four of those things are ‘tamed’ – the image of Jesus riding on the donkey – they become obedient to the spiritual impulse within, the ‘Christ in you, the hope of glory’ (Col 1:27).

There is more to life than so-called fame and worldly success. There is an exalted state of consciousness and inner spiritual richness that those who seek the things of this material world will never know—that is, unless and until they humble themselves. Let go of willfulness and personal exertion of the selfish and superficial kind.

Whether Christian or not, Easter is a time to reflect upon what is truly important in life.


Friday, March 10, 2017


'There are only facts, i.e., occurrences in space and time.'
- John Anderson, 'Empiricism,' Australasian Journal of Psychology
and Philosophy
, December 1927, p 14.

On March 3, 2017, which just happened to be my 62nd birthday, an Australian philosopher and university lecturer of some renown passed away at the age of 94. Sadly, his death appears to have gone completely unnoticed in the mainstream media, apart from a death notice placed in The Sydney Morning Herald by his family. Of course, that was to be expected because the mass media caters for the tastes and interests of the hoi polloi, so the media takes the view that talking about philosophy and academics is a complete waste of time except perhaps when some eccentric university lecturer says or do something grossly politically incorrect or otherwise sensationalistic.

The man of whom I speak is Jim Baker, pictured. Allan James Baker was his full name. He was born on July 22, 1922 and he studied philosophy under the Scottish-born Australian philosopher John Anderson who was arguably Australia’s most original thinker and whose philosophy has had a very important influence in my own life.

Jim obtained a Bachelor of Arts (BA) degree with double firsts in Philosophy and History from the University of Sydney and, awarded the Wentworth Travelling Fellowship, which is designed to assist graduates of Arts and Social Sciences at the University of Sydney to undertake research work in Europe, Jim went on to obtain the intellectually demanding two-year taught graduate degree Bachelor of Philosophy (BPhil) in Philosophy degree at the University of Oxford

In the 1950s he lectured in philosophy, and was a colleague of Professor Anderson’s, at the University of Sydney. He also taught at Macquarie University in metropolitan Sydney as well as in Scotland, New Zealand and the United States of America. For many years he was a prominent member of the University of Sydney’s Libertarian Society (the 'Sydney Libertarians') and the Sydney Push. In fact, Jim was a founding Libertarian. The Libertarians were the philosophic core of what became known as the Sydney Push. While a student at the University of Sydney, he had been an active member of two famous Andersonian societies of the era, namely, the Sydney University Freethought Society and the Sydney University Literary Society.

Jim is perhaps most famous – and rightly so – for having written two scholarly books on the realist philosophy of John Anderson, namely, Anderson’s Social Philosophy (Angus & Robertson, 1979) and Australian Realism: The Systematic Philosophy of John Anderson (Cambridge University Press, 1986). In his lifetime John Anderson never actually fully systematized his philosophy in book form. At the time of his death he was working on the index for a collection of his philosophical essays, the posthumously published Studies in Empirical Philosophy (Angus and Robertson, 1962). It was Jim Baker who subsequently systematized Anderson’s philosophy and he deserves enormous credit for that achievement. 

Jim acknowledged that there were 'difficulties' with certain aspects of Anderson's philosophy and he openly admitted to having 'criticisms here and there' with Anderson's presentation of realism. I do, too. I now think there are some fundamental weaknesses with Anderson's philosophy that prevent it from being fully coherent and internally consistent as a systematic realism (eg a certain undisclosed idealism, problems with Anderson's treatment of negative propositions, the essential unspeakability of the categories, etc). However, that is not important for present purposes. Jim always ackowledged the greatness of Anderson, and the depth of his thinking, without ever treating him as if he were a God ('the Master') and his teaching some sort of sacred doctrine. In short, Jim was very much his own man and not a sycophantic follower of his former teacher.

In his two books on Anderson’s philosophy, especially Australian Realism, Jim sought to demonstrate that the Australian (or Sydney) realism of Professor Anderson is a systematic and coherent philosophical position. Jim also penned the article on Anderson in the Concise Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, ed E Craig (Routledge, 1999), vol 1. He was also the author of Social Pluralism: A Realistic Analysis (A J Baker/Fast Books, 1997) as well as many articles on philosophy and social theory appearing in journals such as the Australasian Journal of Philosophy, Mind, Notre Dame Journal of Formal Logic, Philosophical Magazine, Dialogue, Australian Journal of Politics and History, Australian Quarterly, Arna, Heraclitus (being his own private circulation journal and newsletter) and Broadsheet.

I met Jim several times at the Sydney Realist Group where he would occasionally speak, as have I once or twice. Jim also penned articles for the group’s journal The Sydney Realist, as have I. I remember once asking Jim if he would autograph my copy of his book Australian Realism. He looked at the book for some time, then looked at me rather oddly, before finally saying, ‘Where do you want me to sign it?’ (I think he must have been accustomed to more difficult problems.) I said, ‘Anywhere.’ He thought for a moment, and then signed the book at the very top of the inside front cover. So much for literalism and realism. No, Jim was a giant of a man and a deep thinker and he deserved to be much better remembered than he was when he left us a week ago. His funeral was held at Sydney’s Northern Suburbs Crematorium on March 9, 2017.

Opposite the title-page of Jim’s book Australian Realism there stand two epigraphs. Both are from the pre-Socratic Greek philosopher Heraclitus or, more precisely, from the Scottish classicist John Burnet’s translation of Heraclitus’s Fragments in his book Early Greek Philosophy. The first of the epigraphs is this:

‘The world, which is the same for all, no one of gods or men has made; but it was ever, is now, and ever shall be an ever-living Fire, with measures kindling and measures going out.’ 

John Anderson loved and often quoted those words. Jim Baker must have liked them, too. So do I.

Thank you, Jim.

Note. Since writing this post, a well-written obituary for Jim Baker, penned by the Australian businessman and former trade union official Dr Michael Easson AM, who is also a member of the Sydney Realists, has appeared in The Sydney Morning Herald. IEJ. March 25, 2017.