There was only one way in or out of my cottage when I bought it – the huge, ancient black wooden door that opens from the street into a shared hallway. At the end are separate doors leading to my home and the one adjoining it. A lane runs along the side of my back garden, but there was no access to it. I decided I’d feel safer if there was a second way out, just in case…
‘No,’ said the man from the planning office. Due to its great age and architectural interest, my cottage is Grade 2 listed, which means the planning office can stop me changing anything in the building or the grounds.
‘Boundary fences must be left as they are,’ he told me. ‘If they break or fall down they must be replaced by identical fence panels. Any changes would have to be subject to Full Planning Permission.’
He then told me the cost of Full Planning Permission and I went very quiet.
There are ways around these things. I asked a skilled craftsman friend to construct me a lockable gate that, from the outside, is completely indistinguishable from a fence panel, but which opens perfectly from the inside.
Why, you may ask, am I prattling on about my invisible back gate? It’s because of a wonderful analogy I just discovered in the writings of Jane Roberts.
The book has taken weeks to arrive. I had to order it in from the US, and it was far from cheap. The title would be enough to put most people off: The Afterdeath Journal of an American Philosopher: The World View of William James. I had to have it though.
You see, I trust Jane Roberts. I’ve been to so many talks and workshops where channels stand at the front in long, wafty, pastel-coloured frocks and proclaim something like, ‘The Angel Ganneril is here with us in the room. He is pouring his pale mauve energy on to each of you. He is telling you to hold love in your hearts and to care for the animals. Feel the tingling down your spine as…’ and so forth.
Fine. Such people speak their truth and reach many, but they don’t reach me.
Jane Roberts is a very different character; hard-drinking, hard-smoking, hard-bitten and as cynical as you like. Faced with a new situation (in this case, unexpectedly receiving messages from a famous, but dead philosopher) she does what I’d do. She files it away and ignores it totally, on the grounds that the whole thing seems way too unlikely. The messages keep coming and Jane feels increasingly uncomfortable, as they don’t fit her world view and she wishes they’d stop. Finally, she realises that she’d better find out what is going on, and why. She interrogates the evidence, chats it through with Robert, her husband and eventually asks Seth for guidance. Only when she is wholly convinced that her world view needs to expand to incorporate this new information, does she decide to write it up and publish.
So anyway, the gate?
Well, I’d had a long and busy day yesterday. I arrived home after dark, to find the package containing my new book waiting for me. I grabbed some food and a cup of tea and flicked through a few pages. The first section was – intriguingly – called Front-Door People, Back-Door People, and World Views.
Her analogy runs thus:
We all have a conscious mind – what she calls a ‘house of awareness’. This ‘house’ has a front door, the one we open to the world for normal business and interaction, the one all messages are supposed to come to. But – she continues – there is a second door, ‘a secret back door from the time of our childhood’. This is a ‘magic’ entrance, one that opens to other worlds. Sometimes we can see it; sometimes it’s invisible. Jane speaks of the half-sensed messengers who sometimes call there and of the strange packages and papers left waiting there for us to find.
It made me smile, as I thought of my physical sometimes-there-sometimes-invisible back gate and what an apt way that is to describe the place where I can receive strange, magical information that comes to me.
The front door of my ‘house of awareness’ was very busy yesterday, but so too, in its quiet yet insistent way, was the back door. Just as I have all the information in Jane’s book to read and understand, so I have other, more numinous information which has come to me from other sources to sift through and contemplate. I’ll settle to that now.