Letter from Roger Tarbuck, August-September 2016

This is an extension of my letter in the April- May 2016 Calendar. Long ago, I could speak Spanish fairly well. Then I stopped and drifted away from it, but now that  the little grey cells are shrinking, I want to study Spanish again and listen to Radio Spain on my short-wave radio.

Like so many electronic things, this radio is very clever. I can find stations by punching in their wavelength like a telephone number, instead of searching up and down like we used to in the old days, also, as with most modern radios, I can preset any station I want against the numbers, 1, 2, 3, etc., so that all I need to do to get Radio Spain is to press one button.

This is simple, but it is born of much preparation. All the research, all the thinking and inventing of over a hundred years went into making it possible to press one button and receive a particular station. The preparation was long and complex; the result is simple. But I had to do some work myself. I had to learn to use the radio. I had to study the book that came with it (!) Anyway, I always study such books on a need-to-know basis, and the result is that I press one button, and the station is magically there for me.

This applies in religion. We need to work on our faith, sometimes for a long time, but it is possible to programme the spirit as I programmed Radio Spain on to one button. This isn’t “instant religion”, because it involves preparation. First there is all the experience of our lifetime. Then there is the preparation of tuning our spiritual radio set.

To do this, it helps to have a “button of faith”. This may be a little memory of music, or a picture, or a poem, or a few words, or just one word, or anything else that suits us. For instance it might be a small object that we treasure. Perhaps it was given to us by someone we love, or it might be some little thing that we bought in a strange land many years ago, but it must be filled with meaning, like religious words, music and imagery, but preferably small enough to fit easily into our hand, or, as words or a picture, to slip into our minds with ease. It must be very special to us to begin with, because we are going to strengthen the button of faith until it is well and truly charged with psychic meaning – with power, as Jung would say.

Only we ourselves can find our button of faith. What suits others may not suit us. Moreover – and this is crucially important – we don’t tell a soul what our button of faith is. If we do, that will weaken it. This is a spiritual gem – a pearl of great price – and it comes from some great spiritual teachers: we keep our button of faith a secret between ourselves and God. This even works for atheists. From a psychological and a spiritual point of view, this gives it great power – not for other people, but for us.

If we choose words, they gain more power if we think of them in our moments of quiet – even our moments of not-so-quiet. If we choose an object we may hold it in our hand, in or out of our pocket, or study it closely it when we are alone. And like all worthwhile preparation, if we do this, the words or object become loaded with power. Before, it was just a few words, or notes of music, or some common little thing. Now, it is something much greater, because, through it, we have opened up a channel within which leads to strength, comfort, peace and joy.

It sometimes helps if we combine two things to make a button. For example, as we think of the thing that inspires us – music, an object, words, a beautiful scene – we may make an O with the finger and thumb of one hand. This can be a powerful connection. It is used in some forms of meditation: think some of those pictures and statues of the Buddha.

Or we may gently close our hand, or slightly move our foot into a certain position – all things that may be done at any time and in any company. Such a habit is very useful when we feel threatened by unpleasantness – or the badness of our own thoughts.

As I have said, this exercise is a spiritual gem. It becomes a habit, a source of comfort and strength. We find a button that has great meaning for us. Then we strengthen it, using it as often as we like. But we keep it secret. We may reveal our secret only when we have moved on to something else.

Roger Tarbuck