Tuesday, 19 June 2012

Chapter 3: Mururoa Allting

Chapter 3 of my magnum opus on the quest to build a morphic field of world healing at the catalytic 1995 Hundredth Monkey Camp.  Here we get down to business and set to in the Allting, as the Scandinavians call Talking Stick Circle (it's the name of the Icelandic Parliament too).
What's it about? ~ Speaking your Truth.... 
Previous chapters
This is a true story.  All names are either used with permission or are pseudonyms.
Chapter Three
Mururoa Allting
Sunday 27th August 1995

  I awoke to the gentle sound of a flute.  The simple melody was repeated in variation.  I could discern the movement of the sound’s author as he circled the encampment.  The sun was up and shining on the rear wall of my tent, the direction from which the call of reveille came.

   I was not accustomed to early rising, and snuggled back deeply into the warmth of my sleeping bag.  As I dipped in and out of my receding slumber I became aware of movement behind me.  Muttered morning greetings, throat clearing coughs and the shuffling noises of people gathering for the first Dance of Life.

  A man’s voice had begun speaking, just a little too quiet and distant for me to clearly make out what was being said.  The voice had a calm and soothing rhythmic quality, and I began to drift back to the security of unconsciousness.

  “Ama tikki wo-oh, Ah-ne-oh-hey, Oh-oh sha-anna, Hey-a-na, hey-a-no, hey-iyaa”

  I was returned to the world of awareness by the chanting of those who had gathered to dance with Ivan.  The texture and cadences were clearly derived from the native American tradition, but also evoked something deep within that I could not put a name to.  A feeling of longing akin to that which the djembe awoke, but with a higher resonance as if it were reaching for the limitless sky or seeking to view beyond the horizon.

  The chant was repeated, then segued into a new line.

  “O-oh hey-a-no, ha-ah-i-iya!” slowly rolling around with a feeling of memory and hope, rising sharply in intensity and volume at the end as if all this energy were being encapsulated and then thrown out to the world.

  “Oh-oh, hey-a-na, hey-a-no, he-ey-i-yaaaah”  The final vowel sound was sustained and then softly faded like the autumn; after a moment’s pause the entire chant was repeated.  Four times in all the chant was made as I lay in my den absorbing its subtle vibration, wondering what movements might be accompanying this wonderful song, and resolving that I should endeavour to join this in future days.

  Just as I thought the gathering around the altar in the centre of the field was over, there was a sudden roar of a shout from those assembled.  This was followed by laughing and mirthful voices blending into a chatter which slowly faded away as the group dispersed.

  Realizing that I would not be returning to my sleep I bestirred; raising myself to a vertical position, pulled on my leggings, tie-dye top and jacket, laced up my Doc Marten boots and ventured out into the day.

  I had reached the café marquee before I remembered that I needed my own cutlery and cup.  By the time I had fetched them the queue for breakfast was gathering fast, and I had to wait in line.  I suddenly felt quite alone and vulnerable;  I didn’t know anyone in the immediate vicinity about me.  I needn’t have worried since most quite clearly had heads full of sleep and were not alert to social exploration at that time.

  The catering crew on the other hand had obviously been up for some time making porridge and toast and were well past their third cup of tea.  As the queue crept forward I reached the hotplate.  Wholefoody extras such as muesli bars and juice drinks were laid out in the Perspex pigeonholes of a display case.  These were individually priced so I could tell they were not included in the meal ticket.  Further along behind the stainless steel counter stood Trudi, whom I had met briefly the previous afternoon.

  “And how is Trudi this morning?” I asked, displaying my ticket with ‘Sunday Breakfast’ written on it.

  “Fine, uh, it’s Claire isn’t it?  We’ve been up for ages.  Nice morning.  Porridge?”

  “Yes please.”  It was indeed a fine morning.  It was too early for the day to have built any heat, but the clear sky outside augured well.

  The line was already moving on and I was faced with the option of baked beans and toast.  I took some toast and moved onto the tea urn at the end of the counter.  The catering was very well presented, the stainless steel hotplate counter ran almost the full width of the oblong tent, a professional rented job.  Behind the counter were all the necessary equipment for feeding a near army of people; gas rings, ovens, wire trays of bread, large plastic trays of vegetables and fruit all stacked up near the wall of the tent.  Pipes snaked out from the heated hotplate and cooking rings and under the canvas behind them to invisible gas canisters outside, doubtless with regard to safety.  I was taking in things I had not fully registered before and was impressed with the attention to detail which had gone into setting up the material support facilities.  It would have been so easy to get a hundred and more people in a field to meditate and then find some crucial detail which we all take for granted in a city had been neglected.

 I found myself a place at one of the tables, and sitting down resolved that I should curb my insecurity.  Living a fairly quiet and reclusive life can allow one to build up an unconscious aversion to crowds.  Certainly being in the middle of one when everybody else around appears to know other people and be engaged in catching up can be a little disorienting, if only at a subtle level.  I felt a tension between my excitement at simply being there and the confidence this gave me to watch the whole event as it developed, and my inner self-doubt which was exaggerated by my probably erroneous perception that I was on my own in a tribe which appeared to be totally pre-existent.

  Strengthened and refreshed by my breakfast I went off to attend to the bodily matters which must be seen to even in a meditation camp.  The nearest toilets to my circle were twenty or thirty yards beyond the circular meditation tent to the West.  I believe these were the women’s loos.  They were of the ‘shit-pit’ variety made notorious by Glastonbury Festival, but mercifully were not to receive such heavy usage.  A wooden cabin with two cubicles was painted blue with silver stars, comets and ringed planets.  This was placed over a five foot deep pit.  Inside was a bucket of sawdust with a trowel, and a notice on the wall read ‘Throw one scoop of sawdust in the pit after use’.

  Nearby stood a stainless steel kitchen sink with draining board and tap on a wooden frame plumbed into a solid looking blue neoprene pipe, looking totally surreal.  The three-piece suite around the gate fire had nothing on this.  It was of course entirely functional in that we could all wash our hands after visiting the little blue room, but standing there in the open green with the water dripping out of the unplumbed plughole you might begin to wonder if that post apocalyptic vision truly was materializing.

  The early part of the day slipped by easily with a few casual meetings and I was in my tent putting on some makeup when I heard the delicate sound of a handbell and Ana’s voice saying “Allting… Allting, time for the Allting, we begin in ten minutes.”                        

  She walked past our circle and on to the other campfire circles.  I could hear her repeating the announcement as her voice receded and she continued on her progress.  I gathered my cushion and blanket to sit upon as we had been advised and made for the meditation circle.

  The sun shone into the entrance of the meditation marquee.  A portion of the canvas wall had been removed in the Eastern facing wall.  A pole remained in the middle of the gap with about five feet or so on either side.

  A tall and blonde, slightly portly woman perhaps in her late fifties wearing a pink jumper and long blue skirt was standing by this entrance with a dark blue velvet bag slung over her shoulder on a plaited cord.

 “Angel cards?”  she proffered me her bag.

  “Ah, thanks!”  I dug a hand in, stirred around the leaves in its depths and pulled out a small paper about two inches by one and a half folded like a paper dart.  “I brought these for daily blessings.” She explained.

  It bore a stylised silhouette of an angel blowing a trumpet and the word ‘Acceptance’.  Interesting.  I hoped I would be able to accept the different views that were to be expressed.  I had heard of these Angel cards, but never seen them before, a kind of divinatory tool akin to Tarot cards evidently.  They were photocopied and cut by hand judging by the irregular edges.  Blessings by the handful!  We had all been invited to take on some role or identification for the camp, so she had chosen to be the Angel card lady.  I wondered what other blessings or insights she might have in store for me later.

  She was offering the bag to all and sundry as they streamed into the interior space and were finding themselves places around the edge.  I saw a gap to my left and set myself down in it, some half dozen or so poles round the circumference from the entrance.

  Two women whom I did not recognise were waving smouldering bunches of dry leafy twigs around, wafting the smoke around, drenching themselves in its aromatic fragrance.  I did not recognise the herb or its smell, but like so much of this world I had found my way into, found it highly evocative, just as a good incense should be.  Now they were offering it round the gathering, the participants fanning the fumes over the heads and faces in what appeared a ritual manner.  I followed suit when it came to me.  I was experienced with some types of ritual magic;  mostly Cabala based high magic of the Western Hermetic tradition.  What I was being introduced to now seemed more pagan based, with a strong feeling of the native American tradition.

  The space was becoming quite full now, the incoming flow had slowed to a trickle of stragglers and these were squeezing into the remaining small spaces.  A total of thirty-two poles supported the perimeter.  I didn’t count the number of the crowd present, but clearly most of those on site were there.  The poles acted as useful backrests and with two or three people in the spaces between each of them our number must have been close to one hundred.

  A few had curious wooden seats without legs, but comprised of long flat boards which lay on the ground with backrests that could be removed or slotted into the groundboard and propped up by chocks behind them.  Each one of these was entirely unique, they were obviously individually handmade and designed for no other purpose than that to which they were now being put.  Some were plain unadorned wood, others varnished and still others painted with designs of leaves and flowers or stars and planets. There were also a number of portable canvas camp chairs, some of these with short or no legs, so that the majority of the gathering were sitting at ground level.

  The clothes of the assembling multitude were perhaps the most varied collection that I had ever seen in one place.  Palden’s invitation to shamanic dress had been exuberantly embraced.  Not only casual everyday wear, jeans, woolly jumpers and tee shirts, but tie-dyes, flamboyant hippie gear, all manner of baggy trousers, combats, leggings, bright colours, leather waistcoats, flowing skirts, bangles, beads, headbands, carved and ornamented staffs, bare feet, shoulders and arms, boots, sandals, rustic hand woven meditation blankets spread out and wrapped around willy nilly, embroidered cushions and my bearded neighbour from last night in a tweed jacket somehow did not seem out of place.

  Like a ship’s mast the central pole upon which the circular marquee depended was strung with ropes lashed to stays at its base, a weblike dream catcher hanging from it at head height.

  In front of this facing the entrance was another tree stump like the one at the centre of the field,  a tangle of roots spreading out to all directions.  On and about it were a multitude of candles, smoking joss sticks and incense cones in brass holders. Some devotional pieces were spread before it on a small patterned blanket.  A Buddha, a mandala, several crystals, one of them a huge rose quartz the size of a child’s head and a polished wooden box about fifteen inches by three by two with a brass clasp.

  Palden and Ana were sitting opposite the entrance, conferring over notes, jotting the odd thing down.  Palden was wearing a pink speckled jumper, red trousers and floppy hat.  Ana a long flowing skirt and rainbow tie-dyed tee-shirt.

  The hubbub began to quieten and I felt a tremendous anticipation.  The gravitas of the previous evening’s Om returned and was amplified.  We were now assembled for what we had committed to do.

  Once the silence had been established for a few seconds Palden spoke.  “Let us all hold hands and open the circle.”

  The link was made and we held it in silence for a moment which seemed to have an immense depth.  Distant sounds of children reached our ears from outside, but within our circle was absolute stillness broken only by the occasional brief muffled sound of a cough or clearing throat.  The signal of the pressed hand rippled round the multitude and we were back in the present.

  Palden stood up.  “Welcome to the Hundredth Monkey circle.  Before we begin our meditation I just have a few pieces of information to share.  This afternoon we shall begin the workshop groups.  To help choose who shall be in which we have decided to let the Universe decide, and so we shall pass round a hat with the names of the group leader/facilitators in it, so that you can choose one at random.  If you really feel you would rather be with another group, go and speak to its leader to see if they have room, but please think about why you want to change if you do, and what it is you are looking for.

  “At the Oak Dragon Camps the morning circle was called Pow-Wow, drawing from a perceived Native American tradition.  However this term is not actually used by Native Americans, but is rather an invention of White Americans from the late nineteenth century.  We did not want to use a term which might be seen by some to be a stereotyped caricature of Native American culture and traditions, so we have taken the name Allting, derived from Scandinavian culture.  A Thing was a moot or gathering, and so an Allthing or Allting is a moot in which all things may be discussed, a grand council if you will.  The Icelandic parliament is called the Allthing…

  “Now today we begin the Hundredth Monkey Camp with our first meditation circle.  The subject is the testing of nuclear weapons by the French at the Mururoa atoll in the Pacific.  You are welcome to meditate using any technique which you are comfortable or familiar with, but there is a method which we have been offered by the beings who have asked us to set up this camp.  When we begin meditating, go in your mind to the place of our focus and wait to see if there is anything which draws your attention.  Don’t try and actively change what you see, but allow yourself to become part of the situation, respond naturally and observe the outcome.  We are visiting observers who are there to help.  Don’t force yourself into the scene if those already there don’t seem to want your involvement.  Just see what happens, don’t attempt to control what is there, even for the better.

  “By the way you may be interested to know that this is the same marquee which we used for an Oak Dragon camp in the Spring of 1986.  Chernobyl had just blown and an Easterly wind brought rain to Britain which carried particles from the dust cloud.  Some of those particles are perhaps still embedded in the fabric of the marquee.  Not at dangerous levels I hasten to add, but perhaps leaving a homoeopathic resonance.  This nuclear theme is a synchronicity which may be appropriate to our first meditation.

  “We’ll take a five minute break after the meditation which will be for twenty minutes, and then we shall reconvene for the Allting.

  “Let us begin.”

  He sat down and gently clashed a pair of miniature bells known as ting tings.

  The gentle ringing faded.  Shutting my eyes I listened to its sharp note slowly disappear, swelling and ebbing to an almost imperceptible beat frequency until it was lost in the ambient background.  We began.

  I had a moment of anxiety.  My intellect did not know what to do with the situation and I had to actively work at disengaging it.  I focused my attention on the feeling of the ground against the weight of my body, the smell of the grass which is always magnified under canvas, the gentle sounds of that canvas as it swayed in the light breeze, the creak of the guy ropes which held the shape in place and the presence of all those attendant.

 Looking inward I pictured a nuclear explosion.  It was surrounded by water in all directions.  On the horizon were miniature vessels.  It seemed that all the world was there to witness and record the event.  Momentarily I felt I was in a crowd meditating on that image.  How did the rest of the world see this I wondered?  Then I was in Northern Nigeria.  A young Fulani boy had heard the news of the tests on the radio and was wondering what it meant.  He asked the teacher at the local school what this thing was and why people on the radio were so concerned about it.  The teacher said: “This is a terrible weapon that the white people have.  It is like a spear of fire which they shoot from their airplanes, but it can destroy a whole city like Lagos or Kaduna.”  The boy had heard of Lagos, the great city on the coast in the South, but of course had never been there.  Kaduna he had seen once before when he had accompanied his father to sell cattle in a market there.  He could not imagine a larger city, it had stretched for miles in all directions with tarmac roads flanked by stalls selling everything from soap powder to fruit and vegetables, sunglasses to transistor radios.  Everywhere was crowded and in the centre were huge buildings.  They had an airport and even television.  The teacher continued: “When the fire is made it sends out a terrible burning wind like a thousand Harmattans* which flattens everything before it, but the dust it carries is not sand, it is a terrible poison which kills slowly and for which there is no medicine.  Afterwards the land is poisoned and any crops grown will be too”

  My young Fulani boy was bewildered and frightened.  “But why did the white people make this terrible weapon.  Is it not enough to kill  their enemies, why do they burn and poison the land?”

  “Many years ago,” the teacher replied “ when the village elders were no older than you are now, one of the nations of the white people rose up and made war on the others.  It was defeated, but its ally in the East would not surrender and so they used this weapon to vanquish it.  It was made by the magic which is called science.  They have looked into the deepest knowledge of how the world is made and discovered the secret of how to destroy creation.  This weapon has never been used again in war, but when the white people had defeated the Eastern enemy they turned against each other in suspicion and threatened each other with the weapon.  Knowing that to use it would mean that both sides would be destroyed, they both feared its use, and after many years made peace, not long ago.
  “Now the French, the white people whose language they speak to the North in Niger, fear that they have forgotten how to make this weapon, or that theirs is not as strong as that of others, and so have practiced making it again.  They burn it in the great ocean on the other side of the world, but even there people live on small islands and are afraid that it will poison them.  The white people argue amongst themselves as to whether this is good or should be stopped.”

  The Fulani boy had a lot to think about.  The power of the white people could not be avoided.  His grandfather had been a young man when Nigeria had gained independence from the British and had told him how high the hopes had been for the future then.  But many years of civil war and military rule had left the people disillusioned.  Meanwhile the white people played their terrible and frightening games on a stage totally removed from the affairs of Africa.  He felt very small.

  The sibilant ring of the ting tings sought my attention and I stood back from the pool of imagining.  Who was this boy?  Did he even exist?  Was he any more than the projection of my own unconscious and what difference had I made even if such a thing might have happened?

  “Five minute break.  Please be back promptly.”

  Awakening, the circle melted into a sort of chaos, as limbs were stretched, rubbed and shaken.  Some were taking their cushions and custom seats with them as they left.  I recognized these mostly as crew members who doubtless had duties elsewhere.  Within a short space only a thin scattering of individuals remained. 

  I tailed out behind the bulk of the crowd and headed for my tent.  All around me smokers were lighting up to get their nicotine levels high so they could sit through a couple of hours without a crave.  Despite my attempt to keep off cigarettes I was still addicted to the nicotine.  This I managed with nicotine gum.  I had been using it for nearly a year, and while I had had several relapses, it had enabled me to keep off smoking for lengthy periods.  This was my prime motivation.  I had smoked since I was about seventeen, and inhaled deeply.  I had become accustomed to the feeling of strength and confidence which it gave, but recently I had started to have aches and twinges in my chest sometimes associated with asthma attacks.  An X-ray had shown no more than congestion, but I knew it was not good to have such symptoms, so had been working on beating the habit of smoking for some while.  The addiction to the nicotine itself was still there, but the replacement of tobacco with gum allowed more control and the opportunity to extinguish the dependency gradually.

Returning to our places in the circle I saw that the attendance had indeed been thinned by the departures at the end of the meditation.

  When we had all settled Palden rose to address the remainder of the gathering.  He picked up and opened the box from the altar space where it had been propped against the tree stump.  Turning to show its contents to all present he began.

  “This is the Talking Stick which we shall be using in the Allting circle.  It is made from a piece of a three-thousand year old yew tree.  Perhaps this can remind us how short our own time is so that we may be succinct in what we have to say.  It has been ornamented with some details which you can examine when it comes to you. 

  “When your turn to speak comes be aware of how it may relate to what others have said.  Perhaps there is some relation to others in the circle, like planetary oppositions, trines, squares.  Complimentary or tense aspects.  Perhaps the most important thing about this work is the quality of our attention.  It is this concentration and where it is focused that is most important in both sending out the energy and in developing our own connections.

  “Please remember that only the person holding the Stick may speak.  Anyone who interrupts is out of order and must leave.  If you must take a break for the loo I would ask you to respect the circle and only get up or return at points where the Stick is being passed, and not to walk in while someone is speaking.  With regard to this I would also ask you to think about whether you really need to go to the loo or whether you just want a break.  If we have been going for a long while and a break is proposed, then we may take a vote on it.

  “Now, let the Allting begin!”

  He placed the Stick leaning against the altar in the centre of the circle facing the entrance and resumed his seat.

  A moment’s silence followed and then simultaneously two figures rose from the ground and made for the Stick.  The person to the North side of the entrance was the nearest and the other gave way.

  Their story was of a Pacific islander frightened and anxious about the effects of the nuclear testing.  There didn’t seem to be a great deal of influence or change from their observation of this person and these feelings, but it was quite moving to focus so much attention on the feelings of one such person; whether they really existed or not could never be verified, but we were stepping through the doorway of our imaginations to put ourselves in the position of the many thousands of islanders who surely must have similar feelings.  Taking different perspectives to what we were accustomed must have some effect upon our own understanding at least.  The feelings of Pacific islanders were clearly not being taken into account by the French government.  Perhaps we might act as a conduit to a recognition of such points of view.

  The Stick passed to the right, moving anti-clockwise.

  As it did a variety of tales which we each individually could not have encompassed began to be spelt out.  There were Australians, New Zealanders, Indonesians, Polynesians, Philippinos, French, British.  Each with their different fears and apprehensions.

  “First I would like to say what an honour it is to be speaking in this circle.  If more opportunities for such expression were made routine in this world then it would be a much better place.

  “I saw a young naval recruit in the French fleet.  He was terrified by what was happening.  He knew that he had no power or influence on the matter, but felt bad that he had become involved simply through wanting to enlist and serve his country.  He knew that the leaders of France wanted to ensure that their country was respected and properly defended.  He wondered if he was wrong to be afraid.  He was simply in doubt and confusion about it all and so shut himself off from feeling too much and let it not be known to his peers and superiors that he was having such thoughts and feelings.”

  “There was a young man on a Greenpeace vessel in the Pacific.  They had been forced back from the danger zone at gunpoint by a French warship.  He was consumed with anger against what he saw as brutal and fascist behaviour.  He remembered that the French Secret Service had sunk their famous ship the Rainbow Warrior in port in New Zealand in the late eighties, with the loss of the life of their photographer.  He was in no doubt that the nuclear testing was not only a danger to the environment and the inhabitants of the Pacific, but that it was a demonstration of power, ruthless in its determination.  No-one has ever stood trial for the terrorist attack and murder¹.  This was an example of what some people will do to further their agendas.

  “This nuclear testing is not about French security, it is about imposing their will through threat and fear.  It is a macho posture to remind the world not to question or resist their will.”

  “Ho” came the response from a handful of voices.  I guessed that this was an assertion of agreement and support which was acceptable within this context, and not seen as the kind of interruption which would require those who uttered it to leave.

  These contributions and others of a similar nature reflected aspects of what any and all of us may have thought or felt.  The fear of what was happening, the anger at the unwillingness of the French government to listen to world opinion.

  The Talking Stick passed to a man of wiry build and an aquiline profile.

  His behaviour took us all aback I believe.  Squatting on his haunches he waddled forward from his place several yards, holding the Stick out in front of him.

  “Eet eez a matter of protectsion;  ve muss be allowed to ensure zat no-one can attack ma contree.  Zelf defenze is a right zat ve are all entitled to.  Voud you not say ze same about your own contree?  Vy do ye not respect our rights in zis matter?  You make your own decisions, ve muss make our own too.  Ve too haff fears, and muss do vot ve can to deal viz zem.”

  I had not noticed this chap before and was entirely at a loss as to whether he really was French or was simply acting.  He had raised a quite real issue here about the rights of people to take their own autonomous decisions.  Were we simply interfering?  Had he contacted an energy in the thought ethers which was reminding us that we were essentially only observers?  Was this the sort of reaction which would be provoked if we engaged in what might be seen as hostile acts ourselves?  I couldn’t find myself agreeing with the sentiments that had been expressed, in that they used a reasonable idea to support an unreasonable one, but this was an Allting ~ a place where all things, all viewpoints were to be allowed to be put forward.  Indeed how could this ‘work’ expect to have any impact or success if they were not?  I might not agree but I would have to defend to the death the right of anyone to say things I disagreed with, as the old saying about democracy goes.  I had no idea what a critical point this was eventually to become.
There was a feeling of subdued contemplation which seemed to arise from his contribution.  I certainly had not expected anything like this, assuming that we would all contact thoughts, feelings, ideas, people that did not wish the tests to continue.  Had we to take into account the feelings of the warmongers?  Evidently the answer to that question was “Yes”.  This would take more mental and emotional digesting than I had allowed for, and we were barely a quarter of the way round the circle on the first day.

  The Stick continued on its way.  The impact of this unexpected point of view appeared to have subdued responses from some of those who followed.  One woman passed altogether, and several others gave very short accounts of their meditations.  The reference to being honoured to be in this circle was mentioned again, almost as a default or fallback statement in the absence of the confidence to speak their heart or mind.  It took several passes for the energy or momentum to gather itself again, as if an inflating balloon of energy had been deflated.

  A woman was speaking now.  “I found myself in contact with the mother of a French naval seaman in the Pacific.  She was torn between the pride she was told she should feel as the mother of a young man who was serving his country, and her own very real feelings of anxiety for her son.  She had heard how nuclear tests in the past had exposed servicemen to radiation which had caused cancers later in life, and was consumed with fear for her son and any children he might one day have who could be affected by the radiation.”

  This was becoming a charged debate.

  There had been a lot of fear contacted that morning.  Pass after pass of the Stick gave rise to stories of people from all over the world who were in fear of the consequences of what France was doing.  Another Pacific islander reminding us that the word ‘Pacific’ means ‘Peaceful’ drew attention to the Newspeak value of this.  Only a subliminal perhaps, but it amplified the contradiction.  “Peace is War” and “War is Peace” Orwell had told us.

  There was a Frenchman living in France who had reservations and was thinking about it deeply, but felt the atmosphere in his social circle in the home country was not conducive to debate.  He had seen people being ridiculed, even abused for questioning his nation’s actions.  This circle was a rare opportunity for honest self expression without fear of condemnation.

  The ripples of shock from the first Frenchman’s contribution had settled by the time it came to Palden’s turn.

  “In my meditation I found myself in Paris, in the office of the President of the Fifth Republic, Francois Mitterrand.  I asked him why he had followed this path, and he replied that he had felt it was necessary for the defence and good standing of France in the world.  I asked him what he thought about the disagreement and opposition this had generated throughout the world, and he said that people did not understand these things; if they did they would understand why what was being done was necessary. ‘If we fall behind we will be as nothing.  We are not the puppets of America’ ”  [was he referring to Britain?] “ ‘we are our own nation and will not be dictated to by third world countries or a rabble of demonstrators.’  When I questioned him about the environmental concerns, he told me that French scientists had assured him it was safe, the new detonators and techniques of formulation meant that the fallout would be much less than with previous designs of bomb, so that these tests were actually a good thing, since a new generation of safer weapons are in the making here.” 

  Could we believe this?  Scientists were and still are always telling us their procedures and techniques are safe, and perhaps they even believe this, but after BSE, cyclamates, thalidomide and God knows how many other tragedies, could we rely upon such assurances?  Both instinct and experience told me that ‘just  ’cause it’s said that don’t mean that it’s so.’

  All the meditational contacts so far had been with hypothetical people who could have been archetypal rather that actual, but this was claimed as contact with the President of France.  Ok, so I could accept that it might happen at a super-conscious level which Mitterrand would not be aware of in his conscious mind, or Palden could have contacted some sort of astral shell which was merely the automatic summation and image of the vibrations which the President emitted.  There was just a niggling little something in the back of my mind which found the idea of our own ‘leader’ immediately homing in on ‘their leader’ as somehow a little contrived or deliberate.  What was to stop this being an exercise in meditational Art Therapy wherein we projected our Shadow, in Jungian terms, so that we could objectify it and thereby understand it?  But who was I to criticize someone else’s meditation? And anyway it was only an insignificant little thought putting its hand up in the back row of my mind.  There was no reason why he shouldn’t have had the experience he related, and perhaps it was appropriate.  It was important that we kept ourselves open to all possibilities.

  The progress round the circle continued.  The stories from around the world were diverse.  Russians, South Americans, Eskimaux, Japanese.  If these were creations from the unconscious minds of the assembled, then we brought a diverse set of our own concerns which surely mirrored the real world to a large degree.

  The Talking Stick was now a little past half-way and had reached the dapper man with the beard who had stood next to me in the circle for the Om the previous night.

  “I have a deep identification with this island that we live on, and am aware that in some way I am a personification of that nation which inhabits this part of the island, I feel very English.  Not in any aggressive nationalistic way, but from a deep sense of my connection to this land which has grown with my ancestors, it is an inner identity, part of me.  I do not feel the need for my own nation to posture and threaten others as it so often has in the past, and have a similar difficulty with this sort of behaviour from any other nation, especially a powerful and well established one like France.  I can only imagine that for some reason they doubt themselves, their historic identity and how it is evolving in the modern world, perhaps with the arrival of immigrants from their former colonies.

  “We were asked to bring what thoughts and contributions we might wish to share to this Allting, and also to represent some tribe or nation.  I would like to represent Albion as the highest ideal of what this nation of ours might be.  In the words of William Blake ‘I will not sleep from mental fight, nor shall my sword sleep in my hand till we have built Jerusalem in England’s green and pleasant land.’

  “I believe every nation has its own soul and uniqueness which can be the basis of their identity and contribution to the world.  Britain is highly developed in this aspect, even with several distinct souls that contribute to the greater whole.  Let us set an example to the world that it is better to build on our strengths and earn respect.  Strength does not have to inspire fear.”

  I found this a most stimulating and welcome contribution.  While all that had been spoken before were no doubt true expressions of experiences, I became aware that this latest strengthened me, that I had been drifting into a mindset which saw futile resistance against the oppressive Goliath as the only thing that was going on in our circle and what we were connecting to, while significant inroads were being made by weapons testers in the outside world.

  Fear had been the dominant emotion so far.  Fear and justification of fear.  This Man of Albion had nothing of this in what he said.  The ancient dictum of the Delphic Oracle had been ‘Know Thyself’.  The knowledge of an inner self beyond the fear of outside influences was a more certain guide to a pathway of wisdom than fascination with that fear like a rabbit paralysed by the headlamps of an oncoming juggernaut about to annihilate it.

  The contributions which followed were still liberally peppered with reports of fear, and anxieties provoked by the nuclear testing, but a note had been introduced which took us away from obsession and pessimism.  We had been reminded that we had our own resources, our own identities and pathways.  The word ‘proactive’ had been much bandied about by the Clinton administration and was a concept that was needed in our own minds.  Perhaps there were too many old hippies amongst us who were still on the back foot from the right wing assaults of the eighties.  Merely crying ‘not fair’ would carry little weight in a world of ruthless politicians wielding unopposable military might.  New directions were needed, and we had perhaps been shown one.

  The pass had come to a rather round lady of perhaps fifty, who had long grey hair and was wearing a multi-coloured tie-dye tee shirt.

  “My name is Sue Barnet.  My lineage is from the galaxy of Andromeda.  I have come to this world in incarnation to create a link.  I have been living in the moment for the last twenty years.  It is important to always be in the moment so that one is able to be receptive to higher self.  The answers to these problems are all held and known by our higher beings.”

  Interesting.  This circle had many surprises in store.  I did not know what to make of this contribution.  Incarnations of beings from another galaxy?  Well… but I had determined to keep an open mind, and the rest of what she said might be the repetition of a cliché, or it might have come from her inner truth.

  It was back to some more routine observations about the nuclear testing for a few passes before the Stick reached me.  As so many had done before me I examined the ancient piece of yew.  About a foot long, oval in segment, three quarters of an inch thick at its widest, polished smooth, slightly tapering, the ends bevelled. Dark brown with streaks of a yellowish hue.  There were a couple of lumpy knots which had resisted the smoothing process.  In one of these was set a flat, mottled green and black stone like an eye.  Possibly a type of malachite.  From the end by this hung a golden cord with a bauble dangling on it.  It felt incredibly good to hold, whether at its centre in a fist, like a vajra, a thunderbolt,  or by one end like a tool, hammer or sword;  the size was perfect to the grip, the gentle contour of the wood comfortable to the shape of palm and fingers as they closed on its surface.

  I told the story of my Fulani boy.  This was what had come into my imagination, but I couldn’t help feeling that I had fallen into the trap of fear which had been opened.  I wished that I had had more to offer.  I didn’t seem to really be adding anything to what had been said already, just more anxiety, fear and feelings of inadequacy.  Still I had to stick to my truth, this was what I had experienced, and so it was what I reported.  Getting into mindgames with myself about my own inadequacy was a little too far from the self-belief which the Man of Albion had espoused.

  Three or four places to my right was a man of medium build wearing a red Jurassic Park baseball cap.  He had a moustache and a face tanned in the way that comes from long outdoor exposure to the weather.  He wore a shirt without a collar and woollen waistcoat patterned in a style reminiscent of those woven by indigenous South American people.   He was sitting in a canvas and wood director’s chair and when the Stick came to him he held it in his hands before him like an offering, his eyes shut.  There was a moment’s silence.  Speaking, his voice was deep and powerful.

  “Greetings to all those beings and peoples assembled here.  I am At-Hlan, Warrior Priest of Atlantis.  I speak through my channel Brother Rohann.  I bring you news that there are many beings from the astral and cosmic planes who are following your work even though you cannot see them.  You have chosen to work with energies which will lead you on pathways of progression, not only for the world, but for yourselves also.  The many challenges which you are facing will lead to empowerment for you have chosen to share your own energies as you engage with the processes of change that have been set in train in this world.  Many beings have much gratitude for this work you have begun for the Universe is One which all are part of.  By transforming energy in your own lives you are assisting the Universe as energies will flow to parts of it that you do not know.  Those who block energy do it not only to themselves, but to the whole world.  When you move energy you move it for all.  Many new connections and pathways are begun here.  We of the realms beyond the material plane thank you all for these beginnings which will create many new possibilities for all, and which will empower you to know your own path more truly.”

  Fortunately I had by now suspended scepticism and rationalistic criticism, otherwise I might have found this a little bit too much to take.  I was realizing that it was my inner response and not my intellect which was important here.  Even if this weather-beaten fellow was only taking on a mask, playing a role for dramatic effect, there was a feeling raised in me which told me there was more to this.  Perhaps it was the richness of his voice, or the cadences of his speech hinting at a deep inner understanding and acceptance. 

The Stick passed.  I could not see the person on the other side of the man in the canvas chair until he leant forward and spoke.  His accent was familiar from my early years.

  “My name is Mamadu.  When we signed up for this camp we were asked to represent a people or nation.  I have been surprised to find that there has already been a representation for my own people.  I am Hausa-Fulani from Kaduna state in northern Nigeria.  This lady who spoke a few minutes ago has communicated well the essence of what it is like to be a Nigerian in the bush.  My own family’s ancestors raised cattle before they settled in the town, and now I have come to Europe to learn about science and engineering so that I can return to my country and be of help.  There is such a lack of education in Nigeria, in the south the politicians only take the oil money for themselves and their lackeys;  in the north the emirs only wish to maintain their position and keep the peasants in ignorance and dependence.  The Fulani boy who was described to us is like so many of my people, they have become aware of the wider world only to find that it is beyond their power and their understanding.  We must learn more about the world beyond our horizons.  It is not good to feel like children in the world.  Our leaders think only of themselves and what they can gain from the West, but they enslave themselves and our people.  This is not the way to make progress in the world.  We shall only continue to be ignored in greater matters.  I thank you all for the opportunity to come here and learn from you about these things.”

  I was taken aback at the synchronicity of this; I felt honoured that he had accepted what I had said with such grace.  He could so easily have criticised me as a white for imagining that I could understand his own people.  But we had come to listen as well as speak out, and listening, he had heard something he had been able to relate to.

  The short bearded man whom I had named in my mind as the Denim Samurai stood up and leaning on his carven stick began to speak.

  “Some of you know me by my mundane name, but here I like to use my magical name: Oak Heart.  I have taken this name because it symbolizes the spiritual strength of the earth which is in the heart of the forest.  A mature Oak supports thousands of other organisms from insects and fungi to birds, it is a home.

  “We must respect the Earth, the trees, and the forests.  The seas and coral atolls though they are far from my own dear forests of Albion are the same.  For men to use them for practicing war, to vaporize them into atomic dust and leave behind nothing but poison which will last for millennia is a crime against our Mother, The Earth.  It is beyond politics, beyond mankind, beyond our petty desires and games as a species that has been here for such a long time. 

  “We should hold the love for our beautiful Mother planet in our hearts and let all who would harm her know this, let them be aware of the great love which the planet holds for us and which has given us life, then perhaps they will respect Her.”

  I was moved.  Though he might be gruff in his social manner he spoke eloquently and reached the Heart, as was his name.

  The passing of the Talking Stick had now nearly completed its first full circle.  A handful of contributions were left to be made, each with their own personal tale, and the odd ‘Ho’ to come in response, but the main compass of the session seemed to have covered the ground well.  There were the odd remarks about fear of the testing, and references to self-belief as a means to see us through this time.   
  We were winding up and briefly recapping on what had gone down.

  The Stick moved across the open space of the entrance to the last speaker, who then called “Are we complete?”  To which a thunderous and apparently unanimous chorus replied “Yes!” and the Stick was returned to the centre.

  As we began to rise, stretching stiff limbs and gathering our sit-upons, Palden stood and reminded us of the afternoon session.

  The first Allting had passed and left much to be considered as we made for our lunch.

  As we left the circle my eyes were caught by those of Mamadu.

  “So you know my homeland?”  he asked.

  “Indeed, my father was an engineer, we lived in many different places, Zaria, Gusau, Gombe, Oturkpo, Abuja, oh and of course Sokoto and Jos.”

  He smiled as I reeled off names familiar to him, but many which would be alien to most Europeans unless they had spent a substantial time in his home country.

  He shook my hand, one of the few formal social manners that West Africans have in common with Europeans, since hugging between a man and a woman would have been considered inappropriate

  We talked for a few minutes about the land we both loved; not the politics or the difficulties, but the land which we both knew was so beautiful; my Technicolor memories as I called them, the bright orange laterite soil so rich with iron characteristic of much of Africa, the Flame of the Forest trees with their bright red flowers, mangoes falling ripe from the trees and the ever present wildlife, baboon, hyena and deafening chirrup of night insects even in the towns and cities.  But soon he found reason to part; perhaps talking too much with a woman made him uncomfortable, or maybe my outlandish attire, painted Afghan jacket, leggings and Doc Marten boots was too unconventional for him.

  Having gathered my cup and cutlery I joined the thronging queue which tailed outside the café marquee.

  I found that I was now more comfortable in the crowd, smiling at faces I recognized.  I felt less shy now that I had heard most of these people open up before the group.  Disclosure is a marvellous way of gaining trust, and while we had not directly been disclosing our own persons, stating our concerns and meditations gave an oblique point of reference which was both safer and gave a broader insight than might occur from narrowly focusing on our personal issues.

Chatting with the woman next to me I pulled out my purse to buy a muesli bar snack.  We might ‘only’ be sitting down quietly for most of the time, but it was demanding on our concentration and I guessed that I might need some reserve calories to call on before the day was out.  I was entranced with the proceedings already and didn’t want to miss a moment with poor concentration arising from hunger and fatigue.  The wider I expanded my field of awareness the more challenged I was with maintaining balance and focus ~ in that very moment not the last lapse of attention already was slipping by me...

*Harmattan ~  The cool north wind from the Sahara onto the Sahel in the winter months.
¹ A member of the French Secret Service was eventually brought to trial for this crime, though doubtless others, and higher up the chain of command had been involved too.
©Claire Rae Randall 2012

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