Previous Chapters for those new to this blog.
Continuing the serialisation of my book 'Walking The Monkey!', the true account of my experiences at the ground breaking Hundredth Monkey Camp of 1995 which aimed to build a morphic field of understanding in order to help heal our broken world.
In this chapter I have conversations with two shamans, one the feral but humorous and wise Barmy Swami, the other the famous builder of Glastonbury Festival’s Swan Circle, Ivan McBeth, who both share profound insights into the nature of reality and how we interact with it, and give me keys of knowledge that will be of crucial value to me later when I travel my spiritual gauntlet.
These conversations contain much of what I now consider to be core elements of my world view.
Many thanks to both for their inputs to this chapter, and to Ivan for permission to use his real name. Other names are either used with permission, or are pseudonyms or first name redactions only.
Herne the Hunter
It was warm in the sunshine, and I was becoming ever more conscious of the fact that I had not had a shower since arriving at the camp. I recalled there was a women’s only hour in the showers, but I could not remember when this was or if the time had even been announced. I could probably have found out by going to the whiteboard in the restaurant and looking there, but need drove me to act while the sun was still warm.
I pulled what I needed from my tent and headed for the converted trailer which housed our mobile bathroom, located on the southern perimeter of the field slightly to the west of the café.
A thin plume of smoke rose from the wood fired boiler behind the covered trailer and I could hear that at least one shower was in use within its canvas walls as I rounded the corner to its open rear. I saw a bearded man inside whom I had not previously met. I hesitated for a few moments, but my need overcame my modesty and I stepped up on to the wet duckboards. Deciphering which were the relevant taps in the Heath Robinson tangle of pipes I turned on the hot feed only to find myself nearly scalded, and recoiling reached for the cold supply to moderate the temperature.
The man departed and somewhat to my relief I was left on my own. Privacy was a commodity at a premium in this camp.
Refreshed and cleansed I returned across the central plaza of our new age city. A group of about five adults were gathered near the stump altar. I recognised the tall man from earlier whom Ana had introduced. He was teaching them a chant from sheets of music. I disappeared into my tent to dry my hair and began to be drawn into the world of the song which penetrated from behind me. At first they were clearly only learning fragments, but as the lines were assembled into their sequence a beautiful and delicate melody emerged. Mournful yet somehow joyous it reached into my soul. I recognised the Taizé chant, it evoked memories of my friend and the mediaeval town of Durham. I basked in the ambience, taking the opportunity to pause and catch some rest.
The heat was dropping out of the day as the sun, westering, spilled into my little canvas cavern. This matched the tenor of the choir, mellow and golden, but cool and soothing after a warm day, bringing gentle clarity to the mind filled to bursting with an encyclopaedia of new experiences and information.
I entered a timeless place until the choir broke up and went their separate ways. The incipient chill and now absence of heavenly choir caused me to bestir myself. It was almost time for the evening meal.
I gathered my cutlery, cup and meal ticket, but to my consternation nowhere could I find my purse, filled as it was with my weeks spending money, and essential for extra cups of tea and snacks. Attempting not to panic, but with concern about my missing money foremost in my thoughts, I made off for the café tent, where the multitude was beginning to assemble for their vittles.
Reaching the counter I asked all the crew in turn if they had encountered my small black purse, but to no avail. Clearly I had left it somewhere. My thoughts distracted such that I was barely aware of the rich kidney bean shepherd’s pie or the sponge pudding with custard. The pink cut flowers which the crew had thoughtfully placed in vases on our dinner tables also barely impinged on my thoughts.
Swami Barmy found me staring into space. “Had a good day?”
“Oh yes, but I’ve mislaid my purse. I don’t suppose you’ve seen it around the gate camp have you?” I didn’t think I had been there since I last remembered using the offending item, but it was worth a try.
“Not that I’ve seen. Why don’t you come back there later and have a look. Join me by the fire if you haven’t anything else planned for the evening.”
“Yeah, thanks, I’ll give it a go.”
A slim woman of medium height with dark shoulder length hair wearing a long jumper with a mixed pattern of earthy colours, jeans and calf length leather boots sat down next to us.
“Have room for another Deadhead around here?” she opened. Her accent was American.
“Always room for another Deadhead.” I returned. “Glad to know we’re not alone. Did you ever get to see the Dead ?”
“At Woodstock.” Came the reply.
“Hey, cool! Greetings, I’m Claire.” Swami also introduced himself.
Dinner was spent sharing thoughts and reminiscences of our favourite band. I was also pleased that a Woodstock veteran was with us. Historical perspective may have muddied the message of the landmark rock festival, but it had meant a lot at the time to our generation. I would have been just a little too young to go even had I lived in the States, but over the next couple of years the album and movie had become embedded in our collective psyche.
It had seemed to us then that music and love were all the world needed to overcome war and conflict, but the decades since had disillusioned us of that dream. Still it was encouraging to know that there were those of us who lived through that era who were still trying for something better than had gone down since.
The Barmy one had left for his duty at the gate while I was still conversing with my new friend, and so the night was closing in by the time I approached the fire where I had had such apprehension just two nights before.
“I can’t find your purse here, at least not in this light.” He said. “Perhaps it will show up in the morning .”
I cast around for a few moments myself, but all I could see were a scattering of cups, the tea makings and the large enamel kettle which Swami proceeded to place on a cast iron trivet, made from horseshoes welded together, sitting over a flaming log.
He reached down beside the sofa and found a wooden pipe with a long stem and small bowl. Picking up a twig he scraped out the charred dottle, then loaded it with a sprinkling of green herb out of a small box he took from his pocket.
“Toke?” He held the mouthpiece and a lighter in my direction.
“Cool, no tobacco mix.” I commented, glad to see that I wasn’t being tempted by my addiction, took the proffered tools and lit up.
“I had an Angel card this morning which gave me ‘Acceptance’. Perhaps this is part of what I have to work with, accepting loss. I guess I should keep my heart chakra open to all possibilities.”
His reply was to surprise me. “Having your heart chakra open is one thing, but something people at this camp could probably do with learning about is the solar plexus chakra.”
“How so?” came my rejoinder. I didn’t really like to admit that while I knew about the chakras intellectually, I had only that day actually worked with them properly for the first time.
“The solar plexus is the seat of the breath. The heart chakra is about openness to feelings, but so often that can just lead to pain and distress if you open to the feelings of others before you are truly grounded in yourself. To be able to work with the heart properly you need to have a firmer basis in your own bodies energies. At a survival level the solar plexus is more important, it regulates your energetic rhythms. It can be like a shield, a protection, and is the foundation on which the heart rests.”
He paused to take pull on his pipe which I had returned.
This was new to me. For so long I had accepted the New Age notion of ‘opening our hearts’ as being the way forward. And here was someone who seemed to have some knowledge or experience of chakras who was telling me it might actually be self-defeating, or at least premature. I mused silently on what Roger’s opinion on this might be.
“But how can we achieve what we have come here to do if we don’t open our heart chakras to the Universe? I mean that’s where we can balance the energy and process whatever we pick up with unconditional love…”
He didn’t seem to mind my questioning his point of view. Smiling he replied.
“Oh, I didn’t mean to suggest that having an open heart was bad or wrong you know! It’s just that there are certain preconditions which need to be met before you can do it safely and effectively. In my view this is why the sixties movement and hippies and all that failed in its time. Of itself it was a good energy, but was undefended against attacks from those who saw it as a threat to their own power, not to mention corruption from the less idealistic for whom it was no more than a passing fashion. You remember the seventies, how it all seemed to go wrong, and then we ended up with Thatcher and a world where money, greed and self-interest took over. The former idealism was either derided as a hopeless aberration or at best dismissed as impractical. What were the success stories of that era?”
“Er, feminism, civil rights in America and the end of the Vietnam war, I guess” I replied.
“And they all succeeded because people got up and did something about them, I mean marches, protests, changing their own attitudes in constructive ways. Women taking their own decisions, black people finding solidarity with each other and draft conscripts burning their call-up papers. The eighties only bounced back and won because the ground that Thatcher and Reagan chose to fight on was self-interest. While the ideology of the sixties advocated everybody getting together and sharing, this was undermined by the promotion of self-interest as a perfectly valid and desirable value. If some means had been found to protect the values we believed in things might have turned out differently, but it was a learning experience. We had to learn what we didn’t know, and what we didn’t know was that there would be predators who would attack love and compassion at its weakest point, self interest.
“Take your purse for instance. If it has been half-inched by some scum who has found their way into this camp do you think that opening up your heart to them will do any good?”
“Well maybe it would help them to see that what they have done is wrong?”
Swami chuckled. “Maybe it would give them an opportunity to stick their knife into your heart and turn it a few times, eh? Accepting that something has happened is one thing, but accepting that that is the way it always has to be is another. The world is full of chaotic and dangerous forces and if we give in to them without question then they can do all sorts or harm. Haven’t you come to the camp to find a way beyond this sort of reality?”
“I guess so…” I hesitated. “There’s that morphic field thing with the Hundredth Monkey effect, setting up positive alternatives for people to pursue.”
“Ah, that! Well they have to be open to the possibility first wouldn’t you say?”
All the while my new friend’s manner remained cheerful and almost chuckling, and I never once felt that he was critical of me personally. Rather that he was running through a familiar argument which he had presented many times before in one way or another. He did not sneer or deride the idealism from which this camp had sprung, but only seemed to be challenging it to go further, to make it more effective, as though its intention were only half-way there.
I changed the tack of the conversation. “How did you come to be at the camp if you are not so sure you follow some of its basic ideas? I mean you said before that world healing meditations were not really your kind of thing, and now you’re questioning whether it can really work.”
His toothy smile only widened into a larger grin as he reached for the kettle. Its lid was jumping and steam was shooting from the spout. He poured the boiling water into the waiting mugs. His eyes twinkled in the glow of the fire.
“I live just outside Glastonbury and Palden needed a groundsman to help manage the site. Stevie won’t be here for a day or two so Palden asked me if I would fill the breach.
“This isn’t so different from what I’m used to. I live in a field not far from the festival site. There’s a community of about thirty of us. We bought the field when it came up for sale a while back, managed to outbid old Michael Eavis too we did!”
“In a field?” I was taken aback. “How do you find it in winter?”
“Oh, I don’t live unprotected in the winter. It’s not possible in this country. You might survive a few nights in a well insulated bivouac bag, but it’s not realistic. I have a small dome I live in, smaller than this one here, but a little larger than Paldy-wan’s. I have a wood burning stove and it’s well insulated.”
“Paldy-wan?” I presumed he meant Palden, but I had not heard this nick-name before.
“Paldy-wan Kenobi, you know after the Alec Guinness character in Star Wars. Someone started calling him that back in the eighties as a bit of a joke, you know, Jedi knight who’s path is to save the Universe from evil. Well he heard it and encouraged it, he even uses it himself sometimes!”
“You’ve known him some time then?”
“Since the Glastonbury camps of the eighties, and the Oak Dragon camps of which this is the successor so to speak. The Glastonbury scene has many varied aspects to it. The New Age movement is not homogeneous by any means. It’s only those who don’t understand it or wish to destroy it that stereotype it as being no more than a bunch of luvved-up hippies with crystals. You certainly don’t want to go opening up your heart chakra to the likes of them if you aren’t protected!”
I was beginning to think there might be something in this feral wisdom. So many times had I been hurt by people with whom I was trying to be open and honest. I was still hoping that I might find a critical mass of individuals who did not act in this way, that could pull together and make a difference.
We sat in silence for a while with another pipe. The sky was not as clear as it had been on the first night and the darkness was a void between the glow of distant campfires and the pinpoints of lamps which had been placed about the site.
Brigantia approached, gave us a wary glance and disappeared into the dome behind the armchair. She rustled around inside for a few moments, emerged clutching something and disappeared into the night, her silhouette melting into the blackness.
Swami stood up and stepped toward the edge of our little illuminated world where the woodpile lay off to the side of the settee. Pulling a sizeable chunk of log back with him he placed it carefully on the fire.
“The best way to keep wolves out of the circle is to have a good strong fire. If the fire dies down and the wolves come in then you have to defend yourself more actively. It’s better to have a good circle with a strong centre. If the centre is weak then the boundary can’t hold and new energies will come in. They might be hostile, in which case they will have to be fended off. They might be friendly, beneficial and healing for the circle. In such case perhaps they are needed and attracted synchronously, or they could be neutral, random things that are simply an indication of the wild card nature of the Universe. How we respond can determine the nature of them sometimes. Like some sort of strange quantum effect. You know, Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle.
“It’s important to be able to tell the difference between actively hostile stuff and the rest. Outside influences can be good. Not everything outside the circle is necessarily a wolf, it could be a messenger, or a friend seeking help.”
I reflected on this: “I find myself thinking about the tight boundaries on this camp. But they are porous to an extent. I mean supplies and important messages can get through. We have bread and milk delivered every day and a couple of crew members are I believe empowered to go to out of the camp for specific needs.
“I can understand why it was decided to keep the location secret, we obviously don’t want a convoy of old busses turning up and taking over the site.”
Swami was chuckling. “They’re a fun bunch of guys on the Convoy” he winked, “but I’m as happy as Paldy to keep them out. I was thinking in more subtle terms.”
He saw my puzzled expression.
“Well it’s not just humans who can get kept out. There are all sorts of other beings who get quite interested in this sort of stuff and then wonder why they feel unwelcome when they turn up.”
“Nature beings, planetary devas, extraterrestrials.”
“But this is a human thing to work out.”
“Why not accept help when it’s there? Not all humans come from planet Earth you know.”
“What?!” He had really lost me here.
“Well I feel I’m from Sirius, whatever that might mean.” I was familiar with the Sirius connection from my Illuminatus!¹ days. There was a persistent belief that the human race had been influenced by beings from Sirius in the distant past. It was based on religious beliefs of the Ancient World, primarily from Egypt and Sumeria. I had read ‘The Sirius Mystery’² by Robert KG Temple back in the eighties which detailed how this information had been handed down through the Dogon of Mali, knowledge of the dwarf star Sirius ‘B’ and its orbital periodicity which was only discovered in the nineteen sixties and other even more obscure material.
“Wasn’t all that a long time ago though? I mean isn’t the idea supposed to be something like they came to teach us and left us to get on with it on our own?”
“Some of us might have decided to stay just ’cause we liked the place. I mean someone’s got to care for it!”
“You don’t hold with the idea of leaving the material plane, or at least this planet of incarnation when you’ve achieved enlightenment then?”
“Well, what’s enlightenment except remembering what you’ve forgotten? That’s why it’s like a joke.”
“You know, like a joke that you keep forgetting. And then you remember it. But the remembering is part of the joke too. It’s funny that you forget it, even funnier when you remember that you forgot it!”
“But didn’t Gautama Buddha say that enlightenment follows from non-attachment?”
“I think that was about suffering. Suffering, pain and loss come from attachment. Like your purse. I’m inclined to hold that this sort of thing is a part of material incarnation. We don’t come here just so that we can find ways to escape. Your soul or psyche has attached itself to your material vessel. This was a choice we all have taken on this planet. To become embedded in matter and find out what it’s like. Enlightenment is awakening to reality. We’re here to learn how to care, not to not care. Pain is a natural part of organic life, and can be a great motivator. Sometimes it’s the only thing which can cause people to move from their rut. Two opposing characteristics of life which work together. The attachment to fixed forms, and the pain this can lead to, drives us on to movement and growth, change. Not to no forms at all, but to new and developing forms. Evolution and growth. What life is all about.
“ There can be other reasons for staying around the planet though. We could move on or we can choose to use our path for the help and protection of things that have become a part of us, like this beautiful planet. The archetype which I identify with is Herne the Hunter. He’s the wood god, the spirit of nature, like Pan or the Green Man. There is a movement in this world which takes people away from the natural world. It sees nature as hostile, dangerous, uncontrolled. Red in tooth and claw. But that is it’s nature! It may be dangerous, but it’s not essentially hostile. Like riding a wild horse, or a dragon. It is wild and chaotic, a source of energy. Those who would set themselves against it fail to see that they are against their own roots.
“If some of us didn’t come back to keep on making sure the old ways get used and protected then the city folks might end up thinking they had it well sussed.
“Herne is not only about the predatory aspect of the Universe, but the protective side also. He walks the boundaries between the different worlds. Like Anubis in the Egyptian Gods.”
I was familiar with Anubis from my studies of Tarot and the occult which derived largely from the ancient religion of Egypt. He was the guardian of the gates to the underworld, his head that of a black desert jackal. Loosely related to Cerberus, the three headed hound who was chained at the gates of Hades, but rather less ferocious. I had always felt his energy to be characterised as searching, enquiring, penetrating to the truth of the soul, guarding against deception. And beyond this, when the test had been passed, to initiation into higher truths, paths and understanding. Outwardly his aspect is fearsome, but the path which he opens to those worthy is that of the Philosopher’s Stone, the Holy Grail, the Horn of Plenty and the Elixir Vitae. Not material wealth or power as some have thought, but knowledge of the inner workings of the Mind of God, understanding that the Soul is a window on this and that following the true wisdom which this reveals can lead to no harm. He is the guardian of The Path.
I realised that I had seen both aspects of this archetype in the Swami. The first, when we, as outsiders, arrived. Entering the bounds of the camp I had been aware of him as the guard dog and had taken a while to get past this when he had quickly accepted me, like a visitor who takes some time to relax in the presence of an unfamiliar but otherwise friendly pooch.
That stage being done we had moved onto the inner stuff fairly speedily.
He had shared a lot of thoughts quite spontaneously with little input from me. We paused.
“So what brought you here then?” he said.
“Wanting to join in helping to heal the world I guess.” Came my rather predictable reply.
“Oh, not that, I mean what have you really come here to do?”
“Erm, well I’m not sure I know exactly what you mean. I’ve been into meditation for many years, off and on. I first took up TM in my first year at University back in the mid-seventies. I’ve been with a small meditation group in Leeds for the last two or three years, and I’ve been doing stuff with the White Eagle Lodge, you may have heard of them, they’re a mystical Christian healing Lodge, quite Glastonbury in their feel if you know what I mean.
“This camp came up as a spontaneous connection, and it looked so interesting I had to follow it up. In fact it almost felt like it was made for me, like the Grateful Dead or Narnia.
“I guess I have a lot of thoughts and ideas which I would like to be able to share. Changing perceptions of the world. And there’s an awful lot more to find out about from people who are into things I want to know about.”
“You sound like you’re looking for your Path.”
I laughed. “Well, I’ve been on a Path which has led me here, so in that sense I’m not looking for it, and I’ve had a few interesting life journeys on my way here. I do feel rather in awe of some of the great and grand folk who are here though. They seem to be a long way ahead of me in what they have learnt and achieved.”
“Don’t count yourself out. Remember what I said about getting stuck in rigid forms. Maybe it’s easier to find the next stage if you’re a bit less attached to the present one? There are some well travelled people here to be sure. But don’t make that an excuse to put them on a pedestal and yourself down. You could be stuck in your own rut here thinking that others have the answers. What makes them feel so grand anyway? Probably just their familiarity with the camp situation, the customs, a network of acquaintances from previous camps. Some interesting and colourful clothes. You just feel like any newcomer would.
“If these folk are so great and grand and have knowledge that’s worth anything then maybe they should share it. But I wouldn’t be surprised if some of them would rather use it to keep themselves above everyone else. That’s the way of the world and we have to be prepared to find representatives of that mentality amongst us, even if they have convinced themselves that they are here for the job of healing the world. Maybe the real purpose they have come here for is to find out that they too have learning to deal with. We all have new experiences to encounter.
“Your own path could be like that. You don’t feel you have a lot to offer other than a few unique perceptions. But if they are unique, then they are valuable, as valuable as anyone who comes here with a fixed idea of their importance. Probably more so as your ideas are offered in humility. The world is full of people with fixed ideas overwhelming other less assertive views. That’s not what we’re here for is it?”
“I guess not. I just want to do something that will make a difference. The world is so full of conflict, there must be a way forward. I’m fascinated by ideas of archetypes, cosmic beings, nature spirits and so on, but it is all rather ethereal. I feel I need to bring it into the material plane to make it work. For instance, I am involved in the campaign against closure of the local allotment site behind the flats where I live. There is a lovely little orchard which I took on before I had a major illness a few years ago, and I am putting what energy I can into protecting it. The campaign to save the site have asked me to speak as representative of the resistance at the public enquiry which is coming up this winter because they think my posh accent and University education will help make a good impression on the Government Inspector! But what can beings from the Inner Planes do to help with something as down to earth as this?”
“Help you to believe in yourself, and inspire you with the best ideas to go forward with.” He replied, matter of factly. “It’s your own higher being and the connections that makes which are worth opening your heart to, not the enemies who would run you down and do their best to destroy you or take away the grove that you love and protect. Perhaps you will find that this is the occasion and opportunity to get to know and trust these higher connections which we all have. But we must actively work with them, respectable beings from the Inner Planes will not intrude into your life unless you specifically ask them to. If you do so then perhaps you may even come to embody them in some ways.”
“We have begun to do some stuff of this type with our afternoon group leader, Roger Keenan. I hope you will meet him later. He has introduced the concept of ‘Guides’ which I suppose are like what you say. It’s so much easier though to read it in a book or have someone tell you about it. One’s own mind can be so full of distractions and random projections that you don’t know if you’re inventing it or if it truly is real.”
“Go on how it feels. Only you can know your own mind. People have followed others for too long. It’s back to what I said about those folk who seem to know so much but probably aren’t open to a new idea or interpretation. Just ’cause they’ve been to a few Oak Dragon camps or say they belong to some esoteric group doesn’t mean anything. That’s just an ‘in-crowd’ thing which you seem to be picking up. It’s great to be part of something, and edgy not to be, but you are part of this something now. Don’t let the self-inflated posture of some know-it-all lead you to believe you have nothing to offer. It’s only because you don’t have enough confidence in what you bring that you think like that.”
I recognised truth in what he said. The irony was that it had always been my different perceptions which had caused me to be on the outside of most circles I had encountered before. I welcomed the idea that this was what made my contribution valuable, but at the same time it raised the spectre of these perceptions being treated in the same way as I had encountered before. For instance, at the end of the 1980’s I had taken Psychiatric Nurse training since I had been unable to find work as an Art Therapist. I soon found that my knowledge of this not only failed to meet with appreciation but was actually held against me. Personally I should have thought that any opportunity for a little extra understanding of one’s patients that a psychiatric nurse could bring to bear or help that they could give would have been appreciated all round. However this had not been the reality I had encountered. The responses I had found from my peers had been hostile when I attempted to introduce Art Therapy concepts into discussion, and my superiors had simply said “You are a nurse, not an Art Therapist!”.
This was congruent with what Swami had said about people who used their power to maintain their position. We hear a lot about sharing skills and bringing them to new situations in the modern work culture, but my feeling was that this was largely a sham. Certainly I had never felt that any other than the rare individual had ever wanted to know more about my skills. Rather my previous training seemed to have done nothing but give others a target for their competitive hostility. Sadly I had found a similar if more subtle attitude in Further Education teaching of Psychology ‘A’ level which I had moved on to. My illness had struck, leaving me bewildered as to my path forward. My health was still fragile and I floated on the outside.
The Barmy Swami’s conversation had on the one hand encouraged me. Perhaps I had come to a place where what I had to share would be accepted, even appreciated. On the other hand he seemed to be suggesting that there might be rapids up ahead. The former filled me with hope. The latter with dread. I was weary with the constricting attitudes of conventionality. Surely he must be wrong about people who would take advantage of their experience or position in the camp to maintain power and influence. The very idea seemed utterly contrary to all that I understood we were here for.
“I haven’t actually encountered anyone with a self inflated posture though, I should say, you know. I’m just speaking from a kind of intuitive hunch, maybe I’m just projecting my fears that I won’t fit in or that I’ve said the wrong thing ~ that’s happened. I think you’re right when you talk about it being mostly my own lack of confidence. I’ve been through dozens of different mind-states about this one. It seems to change every few minutes. First I feel great and in harmony with all the green surroundings. I seem to be in touch with an energy just beyond sight. Then the next thing you know I’ll feel like a complete novice and klutz. Half the time I seem to know and be familiar with woodcraft, building fires, living rough and in the open. The other half I am one of those city folk.”
“It’s very easy to pick up random unfocussed thoughts and projections which people put out you know. I wouldn’t be surprised if some of these things that you describe are like this. Negative thoughts have to have a cause you know, they don’t come from nowhere. Maybe you are stirring up unconscious stuff that has been put on you in the past, but I wouldn’t be surprised if some of it at least is coming from activation by the projections of others. There can be an awful lot of covert one-upmanship at gatherings like this.
“This is such an open situation that if you’re not accustomed to it, it can be quite disorienting. In a crowded street everyone has learnt to ignore everyone else. But here there is a feeling of obligation almost, to connect. So you get all the compensation mechanisms brought to play. People in the modern world aren’t used to dealing with situations like this. In the Glastonbury festival you may be overwhelmed by the crowd, but that can be turned to advantage, you can disappear, it lets you be anonymous. With such a small gathering as this it would probably not be possible to get through the week without making eye contact with ’most everyone at least once. Scary. That’s where keeping your solar plexus guarded comes in… It’s your diaphragm, a resonant membrane that can pick up all sorts of different vibes, sometimes you don’t really want some of them coming in, it can be overwhelming, contrary, and you can lose your centre, so you have to keep it firm, protected.
“All the unconscious adaptations to situations come out of the woodwork. Getting back to nature like this works in many ways. We’re not only more open for the meditations which is great for that purpose, but we also revert to, or perhaps I should say expose, our more ethological side. Remember we still have plenty of primate behaviour patterns embedded not far beneath the surface. And along with that goes the intuition which enables us to know what the subliminal signals mean. We may not notice it consciously but the non-verbal signals we give out help us to deal with passing near a stranger who we don’t wish to talk to for instance.
“There is a certain hierarchy here of course, no harm in that, it couldn’t work without it; but while the activities are well organised and co-ordinated, there is still a lot of room for fluidity. I mean there is no complete hierarchy of everyone on camp. The newcomers to the scene, such as yourself and many others have no specific place, and so you are all outsiders in effect. I don’t really know if there are any simple answers to this. All that we can hope for is that the old lags do their best for the newcomers. Guides can learn too, they don’t know it all. There is always a fresh perspective to see. This is quite a new ball game. I have to admire Paldy for setting it up, even if I treat it as more of an experiment than the simple goal oriented project which he considers it to be.
“I would guess that contacting all these trouble spots might have unexpected consequences. Newton’s third law of motion, to every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. It may be the case that going and involving ourselves uninvited in a scrap could bring a taste of that conflict back here. Perhaps we can’t stop things happening until we fully understand why and how they come about in the first place. Experiencing that may be necessary. Archimedes said ‘Give me a fulcrum and I can move the world’. You have to have a fulcrum for the lever, and however long that lever is there must still be a counter-force, a reaction. The meditation may be the fulcrum and lever, but you cannot write yourself out of the equation. My firm prediction is that if this thing is really to work then it will work on those who have made it work, if you get my drift. After all, we are part of the Universe which we are trying to change. Change it, change ourselves, n’est-ce pas?”
“Yeah, I s’pose, but there is another view which would say the spiritual energies work at a higher level than mere material forces. I mean, you yourself were just saying about helping out by coming back for reincarnation.”
“But you can’t come back and help without some sort of involvement. Taking on another mask, carrying another load. As Bilbo Baggins might have said ‘It’s a dangerous business going into incarnation’! Enlightened beings reputedly reincarnate as avatars who take on imperfections which they can work on, both as thrustblocks for their own evolution as well as anchors to help them connect with the world and serve. Spiritual progress is more than an intellectual pursuit. From the point of view of the inner planes it is straightforward, but bring it down to the earth plane and it gets difficult, complicated. You can’t move without affecting emotions, and they can have all sorts of repercussions. There are material, instinctual levels of existence in our incarnate being which have to be dealt with. This world is in some ways incomplete compared to the infinite realms of the spirit, but the linear nature of our time and experience allows us to explore how things work in ways that would not be possible on planes where creation follows instantaneously from thought. In the spirit realms anything is possible, including the coexistence of opposites. In this realm they must interact and find ways to coexist which conform to the laws of material existence. Everything must take its turn, day and night, the passing of the seasons. I believe it is richer in that it allows evolution. But it does not exclude the spirit. It is a challenge for the spirit to find ingress, but it is always there in potential, just waiting for its opportunity.
“Matter relies on the spirit in the sense that it was created by it. It existed as an idea, a potential in the infinite, and therefore had to come into existence. However it is of course the very opposite of spirit, limited, linear and ever changing. They are the yang and the yin. Spirit has to create matter from itself, its own laws, and likewise in reverse matter cannot do without spirit; it cannot create it, that is not within its power, but it does depend on it as the substrate which brought it about in the first place. Spirit is hidden in matter. You could say it is the hidden programme behind everything and how it works. If you can access the spirit in some way then you have the opportunity to work beyond the simple laws of matter as materialist science has it.
“I know that is sort of the idea behind the camp, but it is easy to slip back into trying to make the spirit work in the way that you want it to, rather than allowing it to proceed by its own design. Remember, matter is the servant of spirit. The evils of the world are caused by those who attempt to make matter the master. The so-called laws of economics which rely on trading in greed, rather than serving needs. Those Bosnian Serbs who think that they will find happiness by controlling the land and expelling people with different ancestry.
“They are actually slaves to matter, not its masters. They think they are above others and in control, but they are not. They would have control of themselves and their passions if they followed the path of the spirit and worked towards outcomes which treated all life and all beings with equal respect. But instead they are like junkies who always need another fix. This is the same whether it is greed for land, money, power or anything which would elevate them to status beyond their fellows. Seeing themselves as no more than the body they limit themselves to its appetites, and so are trapped, ignoring the path of their spirit which would give new opportunities, freedom of choice rather than the limitations they see as their reality.
“Greed for spiritual power such as we see in the Churches and other religious type organisations is no different, except that it is less honest. Materialists may be mistaken, or limited, but at least they are more open about their attitudes and intentions. The quest for spiritual power over others is the worst vice of all. The spirit makes the rules, but does not force compliance. It is up to the incarnate beings such as us to learn what those rules are, karma we may call the outcome of disobedience. It is not arbitrary, but pure logic and the way of teaching us the results of what we do. Materialists contradict themselves because they ignore that 3rd law of Newton. Not materially, but spiritually. They believe there are no consequences other than physical, but the wave functions which we all emit are transmitted out into the world. This is the Law of Return. Eventually everything we put out will come back to us. After all, we are the Universe!”
He chuckled, seemingly as much at himself and his cosmic rant as at the implications of what he had said.
It was clearly time for the kettle to find its way back onto the fire, and as if in response to this two figures appeared from the sea of darkness. They were Brigantia and Ivan back from their rounds.
Ivan beamed at us as he settled himself down. Brigantia’s demeanour was more reserved, avoiding eye contact. As the teas were poured the conversation was of camp arrangements. The returning wanderers had visited the crew’s encampment behind the café and had been checking the paraffin lamps set in the open spaces between fire circles.
The conversation turned to mundane and practical arrangements. Necessary details no doubt, but it seemed that my conversation with Swami was at an end, at least for the present. I drank my tea and soaked up the warmth of the fire. Although our conversation had hardly been filled with agreements on our different views, I nonetheless had felt remarkably at ease with the wild hunter of the woods. But the ambience had now changed entirely. While I discerned no difference in the attitude of my unexpected new friend, it was clear that he was a part of this band and I was not.
Ivan was not much of a one for conversation it seemed, but as Brigantia exchanged news with Swami I had a distinct feeling of unease, that I was an outsider here. I tried to suppress my rising intuition that this was what we had been discussing, that some of the old lags were not doing what they could for newcomers to make them feel a part of this.
As I was beginning to feel excluded and ready to wander off into the night to retire to my own private space, the discussion of practicalities ran out. After a moment’s pause Swami took a new tack.
“Ivan, Claire and I were just talking about circles and magical spaces and Glastonbury and all that ~ you should tell her about your own connection with the Vale of Avalon. …” Chortling, he winked at me in his cheeky but kind way. “He’s like a neighbour of mine in a way.”
He had me completely lost, so I had to wait and see what rejoinder Ivan would make.
“Oh, you mean the Swan Circle?” he replied casually. Swami nodded grinning at this.
“Have you been to Glastonbury Festival?” Ivan enquired of me.
“Yeah, several times, back in the eighties, and then again, last year and this.”
“You’ve been to the top end of the site, the Sacred Space field then I imagine?”
“Michael Eavis commissioned me to build the stone circle there back in ’92”
“Wow, awesome…” I was taken aback to be in the presence of the master megalith builder himself. “It’s a pretty major deal to have gotten into.” I was curious to know more. “Stone circles are fascinating and amazing structures and all that, but how did you come to get into it? I mean you don’t just start making a stone circle in your back garden one day and then the next thing you know you’re building the largest modern stone circle in England at a world famous location…”
“For sure… it’s all about creating sacred space. I began getting into this stuff back in the seventies. I was a really unhappy disconnected kid who started looking for a way to get connection with the earth, a spiritual reality, myself. It’s been a long pathway, but the essence is to create that space in which people can feel a deeper contact with themselves and the Universe which can facilitate healing ~ it’s about sacred geometry that allows us to experience a reverence within that space; the intuitive construction of that space so that you can hold the energy. That is what shamanism is about, allowing the natural flow of energies to facilitate healing.
“I built several smaller circles back in the eighties, and in the early nineties Michael asked me to create one for him on the festival site. Unfortunately it didn’t have planning permission, if you can imagine such a thing being necessary for a stone circle! So it had be pulled down after that year’s event. Then he approached the local council and got formal permission for a permanent one. I was delighted to design and construct it. I moved my dome into the field and sought inspiration from the lie of the land and the stars. When the full moon in May rose behind the King’s Hill, where Swami lives, I had the inspiration to make a circle based on the main stars in Cygnus the Swan. I had to do quite a lot of thinking, looking at the ground, the way it lay, checking with my star maps. I realised that I wouldn’t be able to make a circle as such, but that an egg shape would match the major stars.
“Choosing the stones, excavating the holes for them and getting them in place was a huge job. The stone was local, Michael helped me choose them. We had volunteers for the digging; to truly connect with the energies it’s important to have as much work done by hand as possible, although we had tipper trailers to bring them on site, and a crane for the final lifting into place. That was the test of whether all my envisioning and preparation would work.
“It was a moment of great relief and celebration when at Midsummer’s morn after a night long vigil with the Glastonbury Order of Druids, standing behind the belly stone I saw the sun rise right over the stone at the pointed end representing the head. It would have been a major issue to realign the stones if I had got it wrong!”
“Interesting symbolism about the egg shape…” I mused. “A gestation space for people? Somewhere they can develop in safety?”
“A kind of serendipity. It wasn’t my primary thought, but it is a part of the gestalt and so gains meaning that way. Sacred space is about entering into holistic structure. In that relationship we can see ourselves better. We have to become ourselves. No-one else can do it for us. It’s like that thing in the Hopi prophecies about the beginning of the New Aeon, the Rainbow Warriors who will come to save the world from extinction. ‘You are the ones you have been waiting for.’ We will only remain children if we expect the angels or the space people or whoever to do it for us.”
“But what about things like this camp, where we are trying to reach out and help people?”
“We can’t do it for others, but we can help. There’s a difference. Demonstrating concern alone can make a difference, people knowing or feeling that they aren’t alone. Or perhaps showing different ways when they are stuck. There’s no harm in having teachers to show the path, we have always had those in one way or another.
“Absolute autonomy is what freedom is about ultimately, but understanding our responsibility for the consequences is an essential part of that. Only when we have become ourselves can we truly see how those consequences flow out of who we are, that they are part of us. Then we see the greater picture of how we are a part of the Universe, a microcosm of it which reflects back that whole. Then we are free. Before that we may think that we have freedom, that our separation releases us from obligations that we might see as burdens, but it is the other way round, we are trapped in limitation. In sacred space you can come to see yourself and your integral relation. It is humbling, but also empowering.”
“Interesting… there was a stone I felt a particular affinity with. It was like that thing in Castaneda where he talks about finding your ‘place’. I would go back there when I felt I needed to re-establish my centre – even amongst the chaos and noise of the festival I felt quiet and still at that point.” I was recalling sitting with my back to the stone, base of my spine in contact with the earth, facing in towards the centre of the ring.
“That’s good to hear. It’s how it should work if the stones have been placed in a good relation with the earth.” He smiled.
He had a gentle passion in the way he described all this, and I sensed a hint of something in the way that he was master of the Gate ~ holding the boundary of the camp space. Heimdall on the Rainbow Bridge of Bifrost at the Gates of Asgard. He began to morph in my perception into a greater and more archetypal being than merely one of us who had come to the camp to participate, even than those who had come to serve. He literally held the energy of the camp. I determined to join the following morning in the Dance of Life which he led but from which I had truanted this first day, feeling that it would be a teaching of its own in addition to all the other powerful energies with which we were working.
My feelings about not being engaged by the more established camp people changed entirely with this. I felt that I had been brought into a deeper circle of trust, that all I had to do was be in the right place at the right time and connect to be a part of what was. Layers of initiation peeled away, I began to perceive beyond the veneer of my own expectations, that there was a world deeper and wider than my timid persona allowed. I remembered experiences I had buried, insights gained but with which I had been unable to connect in the narrow world of city and mass media.
“This is waking stuff up within me I had forgotten.”
“Haha! Good! That’s what it is all about! What is coming back to you?” he seemed genuinely interested.
“Well there is this whole ‘alongside’ life I have had, free festivals, going back as far as the Windsor festival of ’74, meditation, stuff that doesn’t fit in with the conventional world. The Harmonic Convergence, that was a big one…”
“Oh yeah, there was an Oak Dragon that weekend, ended up getting kind of crazy, but I guess the energies got too powerful for some people and just needed to be released. What did you do?”
“I went up to a local hilltop, one of the highest in Leeds, where there used to be some kind of ancient settlement, and watched the sunrise. It seemed like ten million golden angels flying towards me. But then there is always the return to mundane reality and you wonder what it all means…”
“It’s important to anchor, have some kind of continuity, a practice that will keep it awake and alive within you, otherwise you can end up feeling adrift, lost. These connections to the Universe are subtle, they need encouraging; the world of the lower astral planes is very dense and can drown out the higher dimensional stuff which feeds the soul.
“Glastonbury is a very special place for that, where many different traditions meet, it is a place of immense spiritual power, some say that it is the Heart Chakra of the planet… The Druids venerate it, and it is the place where the mystical root of Christianity is in these isles. The spiritual source, the magical landscape, the Sacred Wellsprings and the Holy Thorn. It awakens the Spirit within. Geomancy, with the stone circles, and in lesser ways, is about setting up the space to allow that Spirit to come through in our hearts, our perceptions. The landscape of Glastonbury is a gigantic sacred space for that. People get spiritually lost in the city not just because of the astral reality which pervades and projects itself into their minds, but also because the geometry, the space has no soul within it, it is linear, and not fractal…” It seemed then to me that he held an internal hologram of that space, that structure within him, that he projected into the space about him, and in which we somehow were enabled to participate; deeper and more subtle dimensional realities underlying the physical.
“Implicit order… interesting. You mean that the apparent order of cities, the geometric grids of streets, are actually chaotic?…”
“Yuh… because it doesn’t embed into a greater structure, it is fragmented, meaningless. Linear space and time… but they aren’t linear, they are curved, spiral vortices which have implicit structure. All space is sacred unless it is taken out of this context. Then energy doesn’t flow because there is no way for it to be generated, nowhere for it to go without getting trapped and stagnant. It is dead. The ancient ley lines are how it moves in the landscape, but a lot of that has been damaged. Starting with the Romans, they built on the energy hot spots, trapping it, taking it away from the land and the people. One of the main purposes of the Druids is to heal the flow. But it is a massive task. We have to start with people, reconnecting with the land, the sacred space and then we can work together with the divine mother Earth who will help us as we do this.”
My own paths of illness and disconnection seemed to be implied within this world view; I had always sought the ease which came with the lightness of being in touch with nature. And yet I had suffered a health collapse; it had been the virtual slavery involved with pursuing a career within the system which I knew had caused this. Commuting in crowded and pressurised transport systems, working on the production lines of ‘education’ had been the downfall of my energies which had not been strong or dense enough for me to maintain myself within that world. Long had I felt guilty that I had not been able to make a success in that world that was so expected of me with my academic background. But the Universe had had other thoughts in mind ~ it kept providing me with opportunities to explore this other reality which insisted on coming back, however gently and repeatedly. If it was in my true nature, then servitude to the machine of the State was an illusion; the Spirit was greater and would provide me with pathways if I allowed it too.
We sat with the hypnotic aether of the fire, the logs gently creaking and cracking as they burnt softly and settled in the pit. We had reached a sacred space of our own there in that place surrounded by the velvet night. The camp beyond seemed also to have come to stillness and thoughts began to turn to the realms of rest and slumber.
“Well, it’s an early start in the morning, so I’ll be to bed.” Said our Druid. “Nice talking to you Claire, see you tomorrow, hope you’ll come to the Dance first thing.”
“Wouldn’t miss it for the world!” we hadn’t talked about the Dance, but I could tell that it fitted into the greater worldview we had been discussing.
“Night all!” and he disappeared into the large dome behind him as we too bid him goodnight.
I could tell it was time for me to retire as well, so I thanked Swami for his hospitality, nodded to Brigantia and made off into the night, following the lines of hurricane lamps which my hosts had ensured guided me between the scattered encampments in the darkness. I was ready to sleep, but a part of my soul had begun to waken with all that had happened on that first full day of Hundredth Monkeying.
¹ Illuminatus! (1975 Dell Publishing) by Robert Anton Wilson and Robert Shea.
A darkly comic novel in three parts written in the early ’70s which introduced many of us to the background of basic conspiracy facts, Adam Weishaupt of the Bavarian Illuminati and the rest.
Vol I The Eye in the Pyramid
Vol II The Golden Apple
Vol III Leviathan
² ‘The Sirius Mystery’ by Robert KG Temple
Laird Scranton has done further extensive work on the Dogon of Mali, their knowledge of Sirius and the laws of Physics.
Decoding the African Mystery Tradition Foreword by John Anthony West
Ivan McBeth's Website. This is a wonderful space with oodles of great information and pictures of stone circles and shamanic thingies. I cannot urge you strongly enough to check this out!
also on Facebook
The website of the Venerable Dhyani Ywahoo who taught Ivan the Dance of Life
The Dance of Life
In this YouTube video I demonstrate the Dance of Life in my own fire circle.
© Claire Rae Randall 2012