Voices from the past

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Rudston Church, East Yorkshire, England

It is both surprising and stunning. As you come around the edge of Rudston church, there is the monolith, the tallest in England at 7.6 metres, with reputedly the same length buried under the ground. It is so unexpected that the stranger can only stop and admire. Of course, it predates the church by many thousands of years, and it’s presence says something very clearly. This is a holy site and has been for millennia. It is one of many henges, standing stones, circles and tumulus that still litter the landscape, that speak of a past now lost to us. Their silent witness tells of people who cared enough to put a huge effort into constructing and erecting monoliths such as this one. But why? We can only speculate. Speculate not only about the purpose, though that is grand enough. But who organised the fetching of the stone that forms it? Who fed the labourers, who had the knowledge and skill to erect a structure that has lasted thousands of years? They clearly had the leadership, resources and commitment not out of place in a modern company. Reflect on the fact that the monolith weights some 26 tons, and was transported a distance of 10 miles to its present site, and ask yourself the question, how far have we really progressed today?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Namaste – I bow to the Divine in you

Namaste is such a wonderful term. It recognises the soul that dwells within each of us, and the journey from birth to death that we all of us must make. Yet it is so difficult to see the soul in another. It is masked by our perceptions, and by how the other chooses to show themselves. Are they arrogant, self-centered maybe, a braggart, or perhaps good company, honest and caring?  They too will have been fashioned by the vicissitudes of life, for better or for worse, which also shapes the face we present to the world.

But it is you and I who decides what to see, how to judge the “other” stood before us. And it is so difficult to move beyond our perceptions.

And this is the challenge. Namaste, to see the soul in another, to see underneath the surface.  That does not mean to accept arrogance, or misogyny, or wrong doing, but to remember that, within that persona,  there is another soul there, making their way along the same road that you follow.

Magic or Medicine?

Writing “The Wisdom of Rhiannon” was a test of my beliefs. I was trained as a physicist which fashioned me to see the physical world in which we live in a certain way. So I was challenged in trying to determine what “powers” did the Druids have; any, or was it trickery, or a good knowledge of the natural world, for example, in predicting eclipses?  What was the nature of ancient knowledge?  Certainly there is evidence of quite remarkable medical knowledge, for example, trepanation, a delicate surgical technique for making a hole in someone’s skull, with evidence that the technique dates back as far as 6500 BC, with plenty of people recovering from the operation.

And this was my difficulty.  How did ancient peoples “know” what to do, let alone the Druids?  Where did their knowledge come from?  And what was the extent of it?  My scientific training taught me that observation, experimentation, theory, and more experimentation were the only ways to classify and understand the world.  But then there are people like Rupert Sheldrake, a scientist, who talks about morphic resonance, fields which reverberate and exchange information within a universal life force.

Could the Druids, amongst others, “know” when to trepan, could they “know” which herbs to collect, how to prepare medicines from them, see into the future, could they perform “magic”?  But at that time I decided this was a step too far for my rational mind, so the Druids in my book are broadly simply clever people who are well read and educated.

And I think I was wrong!

If I had read Elizabeth Lloyd Mayer’s book, Extraordinary knowing: Science, Skepticism, and the Inexplicable, I would have changed my mind, just as she was forced to change hers, moving from a hard scientific paradigm to a much more open minded view.  In a book full of challenging examples to the rational of conventional science, there was one example I really liked.  The very successful brain surgeon who waited by the head of the patients he was scheduled to operate on until he “saw” a white light; it might take minutes, or hours, but when he saw the light, he knew his operation would be successful.  His difficulty was, how to teach the technique to medical students and other surgeons, so he didn’t, because he would have been laughed at, ridiculed, after all, everyone knows that medical science doesn’t work like that!

Or can it?

The archer, the arrow and the target are united in the “dance”.

I based a chapter in my book, the Wisdom of Rhiannon, on the famous book by Eugen Herrigel, Zen in the Art of Archery.  As a Western visitor to 1930’s Japan, and a lecturer in Philosophy, Herrigel found it almost – but not quite – impossible to learn the Way of the Archer.

It involves not using the mind, not taking aim, but instead stilling the mind, holding the bow steady until “it”, as Herrigel’s teacher called it, determined when to let the arrow fly.  At that point, and only at that point, did the archer, the arrow, and the target become one.  To Herrigel’s frustration, his attempts to hit the target by improving his technique, the strength in his bow arm, and his concentration, all failed and only resulted in his Master’s increasing ire.  Always the guidance was to wait until “it” determined when the arrow should be released.

And then comes this passage toward the end of the book:

“Do you now understand,” the Master asked me one day after a particularly good shot, what I mean by “It shoots”, “It hits”?

“I’m afraid I don’t understand anything more at all,” I answered, “even the simplest things have got into a muddle. Is it “I” who draws the bow, or is it the bow that draws me into the state of highest tension? Do “I” hit the goal, or does the goal hit me? ….. Bow, arrow, goal and the ego , all melt into one another, so that I can no longer separate them. And even the need to separate has gone. For as soon as I take the bow and shoot, everything becomes so clear and straight-forward, and so ridiculously simple ..”

All is One!

Begin it now.

Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back.  Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth, the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment that one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too.  All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred.  A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favour all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamed would have come his way.  Whatever you can do, or dream you can do, begin it.  Boldness has genius, power and magic in it.  Begin it now.

Attributed to Goethe.

A face that still haunts me

It didn’t even warrant the title “stream”, trickle was a more apt description for the small outflow of water running over a few rocks and surrounded by a mantle of mud. I trod warily, trying to avoid the soft, sticky mire, distracted also by the number of items hanging from the trees surrounding the water. I found myself constantly looking up into their branches, which were hung with a panoply of teddy bears, ribbons of all descriptions, and a host of small trinkets and mirrors that glittered as they spun in the breeze and caught the sunlight.

earth-face
The mystery face.

So it was an unexpected discovery. There at the source of the spring, was a face. It stopped me in my tracks, and for a moment I wondered if I was really alone, the face seemed to have been so recently created.  As I looked harder, I saw the two green leaves that represented tears and felt the pain that seemed to emanate from it. I wondered who had created it, and what it meant to them, and I hoped that it represented a turning point, a transition that led to light and love. I stood there for a long time, feeling the mystery of the face, wondering about its creator, caught also by the ancient spirit of my surroundings, a place that felt outside of time. Of my time anyway.

I returned to that place a few times during the week that I spent holidaying nearby. I learnt that it was a place of healing, with a history that went back thousands of years, before Roman feet walked the land, and that somehow, the knowledge of its power had not been lost, and some still visited it.

On my visits, I never did see anyone else at this sacred site, although there was always a feeling, a feeling of awareness of a – I have no word for it – a presence.

 

 

 

Energy, good, bad, diverted

For more than ten years I practised Aikido, a Japanese martial art.  I was never very competent at it, but it did teach me one thing, and that’s about observing another’s energy.

The Japanese word Ai-ki-do translates broadly as the way of harmonious spirit, with the Ai also meaning Love.  I adored the concept, someone goes to attack you, and you simply turn their own energy back on them, no anger, no hurt, just taking the outstretched fist a little further than the attacker is comfortable with, they fall over, you run!

No hate, no anger, just love and compassion.

And the application of the lesson?  When you meet with another, in meetings, in relationships, in any way whatever there is always an energy that the another radiates.  Sometimes it is wonderful and warm. Coming home from work, and your children rush to greet you.  Going into the corner shop, and the shopkeeper gives you a broad smile of welcome.  Meeting an old friend unexpectedly.

And then there is the negative energy that some another can radiate.  The glare from another car driver caught in the Monday morning queue into work, the impatience radiated by the shop assistant as you fumble for your change, or the anger from someone in a passionate argument.

And what have I learnt?

That you can learn to see, to recognise, that energy, good or bad.

And when you can do that, then you have a choice. To choose to accept that energy, and radiate it back, good or bad.

Or, especially if the energy is bad, to sidestep it, to remain calm, to choose to allow it to pass you by, to not get caught by it.

Instead to reflect Love, Ai, to know that actually there is no opponent, only the dance.

 

 

It is, as it is meant to be.

And it is thus.

It was a Retreat.  The mix of lack of sleep, inner contemplation, the challenge of solving/understanding a Koan.  A process anointed by the passage of centuries, a path followed by – perhaps millions? – over the centuries.

And somewhere on my own personal journey on that Retreat I understood something deep, profound, that moved me to tears of joy. An insight, no, deeper than that, an understanding that this IS the way the Universe works.

It is, as it’s meant to be, for better, for worse in our short term view, but as it is meant to be.

I am an Astrologer not an Astronomer

I look to the heavens for meaning, not for science, although I find meaning in the science.

I feel the weight of all of humankind who have also gazed up on a starry night and wondered about the meaning of life, the Universe, and their own destiny.

Were their questions mine?  I suspect so, and what answers did they find?  What knowledge did the Wise Seers amass? The Druids, for example, spent 30 years learning their craft and were renowned in antiquity for their knowledge of the heavens, and before them, came the builders of the Stone Circles which predicted the movement of the Cosmos.