There is a modern spiritual meme that avers that life itself, and even acquaintances and friends, are the real spiritual teachers not gurus or workshop leaders. I suspect this is more the case for some than others, and I feel it was certainly the case for Barry Sherman, a wise mystic from Melbourne who died suddenly, aged 48 on Sunday evening.
Though we only met a few times, I am feeling grief. As I read the hundreds of messages of shock, love and grief on Facebook, I am realising just how special Barry was. I will admit sometimes I could just not ‘get’ Barry, or what exactly he was on about. However, he was unfailingly kind and generous; shortly before his death he messaged me with links and advice regarding a post of mine.
I first met Barry when I travelled over to Canberra for a Church of All Worlds gathering in 1991 or 1992. I came to the home of Anthorr and Fiona Nomchong and, CAW being the hippy inspired thing it is, I went through the lounge and hugged everyone ‘hello’. I did the same with Barry, who I had corresponded with a bit in newsletters and he took it very well. However, he then stood back, and said, ‘now we’ll do it my way’, and extended his hand in a handshake. It was a polite and compassionate lesson in boundaries and one I took in deeply and remains with me.
Later that same trip (or another) we were sitting in the home of one of his close friends, Caroline Tully, talking late into the night about magic. The topic drifted to Christianity and Barry asked me what difference I saw between church and magical ritual. I came up with the standard naff reply about there was more ‘energy’ in magical rituals. He mused that this was what everyone said, but asked ‘what did that actually mean?’ And I thought … ‘what did it actually mean?’ That little exchange eventually became the seed for my critique of magical-astral intoxication and ‘energy’ as opposed to real, depth spiritual presences, which I discuss in my book.
So, if regular people and everyday conversations are our spiritual teachers, we have just lost one of the finest. Vale, Barry – may your Name live forever in the light of the Shining Ones.