Another Look at Reality

In my last post I floated the idea that even if we were able to somehow travel back in time and communicate freely with people from a bygone age, there would only – at best – be certain aspects of shared experience.  This, I argued, is because ‘truth’ or what we term ‘reality’ is a subjective interplay between a person’s mind, brain and the objects and events that form to produce each person’s perceived world.

‘Aha,’ you may say, “If that were the case, how would you and I share a common view of a scene before us?  Even a short discussion would prove that our vision of what lay around us was identical.  We could even take photographs to demonstrate it!’

Well certainly we citizens of the 21st century share a common perception of the objects and events around us.  Perceptive reality has strong links to social cohesion and the ‘training’ we were given in infancy. 

Fantasy, Fairy Tale Forest, Girl, ForestOur culture has a slightly strange take on sharing our World View with new arrivals.  A rich mythic tradition is passed on to our children – Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, the tooth fairy, giants, goblins, elves and trolls appear in huge numbers of their storybooks and the bedtime tales we share with them.  Talking animals and fabulous beasts abound.  Then, as the children mature, these wonders are, one by one, consigned to a scrapheap of untruths.  Those stories, they are told, were ‘just pretend’.  Now they are expected to cast away such childish delights and focus on a world that can be seen, prodded and proved to be ‘real’. 

“So are dinosaurs real?” asks the confused child. “What about dragons?  What about Father Christmas…?  Why did you lie to me?”

Parents and carers struggle to justify their actions.  They are doing as their parents did.  They are rearing their young in the way our society dictates.  Once they reach the age of 7 or 8, even the child who knows she once saw fairies in the garden or glimpsed a fiery dragon from her window has put such things aside and conformed to the accepted and shared idea of how reality looks and feels.  Mostly.

Stonehenge, England, Uk, MonumentOf course there are still different perceptions within our common perceptual framework.  If we imagine a hypothetical twenty people standing and regarding Stonehenge in the 2020s, all would probably be in agreement as to the size and bulk of the stones, the green of the grass, the colour of the sky, strength of the wind and sound of the passing traffic on the A303.

One observer, though, might be hugely excited at the sight of a military aircraft flying over the scene – an aspect of the experience missed totally by others.

Another of the people might be high on a hallucinogenic drug or have what is currently called a ‘mental illness’.  That person might be seeing quite different colours strobing and wheeling around the stones and hearing sounds or voices the rest of the observers would not be aware of.

A third might be a synesthete.  He or she might be tasting or smelling the colours and textures in a manner quite alien to the rest.

Perhaps two or three members of the group might have psychic sensitivities which allowed them to see spots of bright light or hazy halos surrounding certain stones or perhaps glowing crystals buried deep beneath the ground.  They might even perceive shadowy figures from other times.

Winter, Snow, Landscape, Trees, SnowfallAs is the custom in our age, more or less all these visitors would take out their phones and photograph the scene before them.  If they then compared the results, all the images would show the grass, the stones, the path and so forth, yet some would include mysterious orbs or thin coloured arcs of light.  Depending on their personal World Views, these would be variously interpreted as aliens, angelic beings, reflections of light from mundane sources or pieces of dust on the camera lens.  Each, of course, would be entirely correct, according to their World View.

I would further suggest that if the group of 20 people were standing around Stonehenge in c2500BC, their perception of what lay before them would be markedly different to that of the 21st century visitors.  Their common take on ‘reality’ would link to their shared prior experience and social conditioning and their society almost certainly perceived the world around them in markedly different ways, with senses responding to stimuli in a manner that we could not grasp.

Clearly, I have no way of demonstrating this.  Those ancient people standing on a wind-blasted plain in southern England left us no written record or clues as to what was going through their minds and how their world looked to them.  They simply, for their own reasons, created a massive structure that survived into our age.

Fortunately for the curious among us, not all World Views are as poorly recorded.  Next time I’d like to take you to a culture that has been meticulously documented by its people, in a language we can read and understand.  In certain ways it is markedly similar to our own, but in others quite, quite incomprehensible.

Perceptive Reality – A Time-Traveller’s Guide

The restrictions of the past year have made it an ideal time for the armchair traveller – or time-traveller, often, in my own case – to indulge in flights of imagination and contemplation.

Stonehenge, Stone Circle, EnglandI will happily spend many hours watching documentaries or reading about archaeological discoveries and documents from other times and places and wishing I could see the temples and sacred places as they appeared in their zenith.  That alone, though, would be no more than mere sightseeing, which to my mind is a fairly empty and pointless activity.  How often I’ve stood and gazed on some great and ancient construction – Stonehenge, the temples of Malta, the Orcadian landscape around the Ness of Brodgar – and yearned for an understanding of the circumstances, the significance, the reason for their construction.

Yes, I can read the guide books, digest the various expert theories, wonder at the brilliance of the technologies that created them, but I lack the World View of those who built and used these structures.  So, of course, do the experts.  They can make educated guesses but might I be so bold as to suggest that in a time when religion is fragmented, science, business and technology are the closest many have to gods and upheaval is everywhere we look, 21st century people are not best placed to frame any possible mindset that could explain the concepts and ideologies behind the enduring wonders of the past as we gaze upon them?

The Roman Empire is an exception.  We have no problem understanding that.  It is so close in morality and intent to our own recent past that we can comprehend their purposes, intentions and ideals with very little difficulty.  Their buildings, military and societal organisations make perfect sense to us.  I will often flick through film and TV drama choices and note that the majority of people in our culture apparently find pleasure and entertainment in watching the murder, death and the anguish of others as much as Romans did in their amphitheatres.

Just as, according to the infinite monkey theorem, a monkey spending long enough at a typewriter keyboard could theoretically type the text of Hamlet, so an infinite number of World Views are bound to throw up some close matches.  That’s not to say we have any sort of continuum that leads logically and developmentally from Rome to here.  This has nothing to do with evolution.  World Views come and go, for reasons I hope to consider in subsequent posts.

(Let me just suggest in passing that any society which believes itself to be at the pinnacle of human development has enough pride to be heading inexorably towards a fall.)

I believe a World View is something more than Zeitgeist, too, although there are more parallels with this idea than with the evolutionary one.  I’m not denying the spirit of a particular generation as being easy to recognise in retrospect.  The 20th century alone threw up several of these.  For me a World View is something deeper, more pervasive and far longer-lasting than a decade or so’s trend.  Perhaps it is the spirit of a Great Age…

Peru, Sacsayhuaman, Sacred, Scenic, SiteThe societies who constructed the Great Pyramid, the Stonehenge and Avebury landscape, the polygonal-walled buildings of Peru or the structures of Göbeklitepe, for example, would have technologies, ideas and concepts of the world so radically different to our own that endless scrabbling in the dust to unearth pottery fragments or the contents of spoil heaps will give us little or no idea of their beliefs and intentions.

Each generation of antiquarians and archaeologists has a view on the purpose of the structures, that view arguably having more to do with contemporary interests and fixations than that which provoked the original constructions.  Thus an ancient site may have been variously viewed by later visitors as a geoglyph,  a landing site for spacecraft, a centre for human or animal sacrifice, a temple for religious worship, an astronomical calendar, a tomb (big favourite, regardless of whether or not there are human remains), a place of pilgrimage or for rites of passage.

So could I, as a time-traveller with many months or years at my disposal and a Babel Fish stuffed firmly in my ear, ever learn to understand the World View of the culture who created one of these enduring monuments?

Probably not.

I suspect that the only point at which our understanding would meet would be in the physical as I perceive it and that, of course, is not where their World View resides.  I might learn vast amounts about their technologies, their methods of construction and the way in which their societies are organised, but the all-consuming beliefs and reasons for constructing such structures would not, I fear, be apparent to me.  Our views of reality would differ so fundamentally that there would be little common ground.  It is very possible that the structures themselves would not reveal to my senses the experiences those who created them would have.  There could be sounds, sights, emotional and spiritual experiences freely available to them which to me would remain hidden.  I recall being quite convinced of this when standing in the chambers of the Hypogeum of Ħal Saflieni.  I could see the walls, the carvings and the colours but there was so much almost palpable unavailable experience there just beyond my ken.

Seth, through channel Jane Roberts, explains the reason for this, with his customary clarity and eloquence:

Your many civilisations, historically speaking, each with its own fields of activity, its own sciences, religions, politics and art – these all represent various ways that man has used imagination and reason to form a framework through which a more or less cohesive reality is experienced. 

And that is the nub of it.  Reality is perceptive, not as our scientists fondly believe, objective.  My own Guides put it rather more bluntly:

Reality is barely existent.  There is only thought.  

In future posts I hope to explore aspects of different World Views and their varying perception of ‘reality’, as it is a subject I find fascinating.

Taxonomical with the Truth

Taxonomy is something I’ve been thinking about recently, because it very much underlies our current world view.  Everything is classified and sub-classified so that it can be put into a tidy little box, marked neatly with a (preferably Latin) name and declared separate from everything else.  We do it with flora and fauna, obviously, but that mania for neat, clear, unambiguous boundaries and definitions has become a mainstay of life in general.  It’s how we understand and make sense of things – their features, their purposes, their very existence.Oxford Museum Of Natural History, Oxford

At times, the classifications have to be tweaked.  Poor old Pluto is downgraded from Planet to Big Rock; some garden plant suddenly gets a new name and all the garden centres have to readjust their labelling.  And don’t even get me started on the labels they use and change around in medical and psychological diagnoses…  Basically, though, humanity clings to the concept that everything that is, can be labelled, and that this is a Good Thing.

Was it always so?  We know our Greek and Roman forebears were keen on this organised labelling idea, but if we go way back to the people who made those strange and wonderful structures that seem to evade neat classification and confound the theorists, I suspect a very different world view was in place.

Teotihuacan, Mexico City, PyramidWe are told by the experts that these creations were burial chambers or astronomical observatories or temples or meeting places or whatever the latest fragments of archaeology suggest.  They dig in the dark and assume that a few pieces of charred sheep bone or potsherds will allow them to make a classification.  The truth is, though, we don’t get it.  We, as 21st century humans, simply can’t see why so many people would work together and go to such enormous lengths to create massive, perfectly aligned and painstakingly constructed edifices such as the Giza pyramid complex, Gobekli Tepe, the Stonehenge landscape or Teotihuacan for ANY of those purposes.  The nearest (relatively) modern equivalents we can find are the great Gothic cathedrals of mediaeval Europe or intricate mausoleums, so, for want of better data, we decide that’s what they must have been ‘for’.

Deep inside, though, we know there has to be more to it than that.

What if our distant ancestors lived in a world where classification was considered counterproductive or, at the very least, irrelevant?

Think of all those folk tales and ancient religious texts where a name was considered to be a dangerous thing – so powerful that it was only to be used by initiates, and then only in the direst of circumstances.  That suggests that categorisation per se was not the way their minds worked.  Did these people see the world, and indeed the cosmos, as something so integrated, that to divide it into its constituent parts would be to destroy, weaken or pollute it?  Was it, indeed, a form of heresy?

What if, instead of saying, “Hey, guys, let’s build a gigantic temple to the gods here,”  or “Oh, this would be a great place to build an observatory,” those wise and distant people would perhaps work together to build something that was not this or that or the other, but something that was this AND that AND the other AND all that they could possibly create as a microcosm of the universe itself?

The current mainstream science-based world view is that everything is a fortuitous accident – evolution and climate, gravity and the tilt of an axis here or there somehow randomly resulted in all this.  As such, it’s very fragile, very likely to dissolve back into chaos and we need to impose order on it, if we are going to make any sense of it at all.

Earth, Globe, Space, Universe, WorldIf we can imagine a society where such a view does not hold sway – a society where the skies above us, the planet we inhabit, the plants, creatures and all of us exist as a conscious, intelligent, unified whole, with each aspect relying on the rest for its existence, there would be no need to separate and divide it.  On the contrary, all that could be done to celebrate its perfect symmetries and unity would be a job worth doing well.  I suspect that such a society would have a language based in something that expands naturally, like mathematics or perhaps musical notation, rather than words that label, define and confine.  Perhaps such a language, were it ever rediscovered, would help us towards an understanding of our mysterious ancestors, and our cosmos.

 

Syncing without Trace, but Czeching

I wish I could trace them – the tracks of my synchronicities.

Sometimes they feel like cross-hairs gradually coming together, to home in on the target, but it’s far more complex than that.  There are many strands and they cross and recross, ricocheting off one another in an apparently random mess, until gradually and subtly they begin building up a pattern.  Finally, with no clear idea how I got here, I find myself standing at the centre of an amazing piece of sacred geometry and the whole thing is laid out clearly for me to see, like those transit patterns the planets make with each other.

(Is that how astrology fits in?  Is it sacred geometry working out at a macro level??  Maybe Pluto or Uranus are not ‘influencing’ us – they’re just making the patterns of the synchronicity working through our lives visible.  Sorry: digression.)

So once I’ve had the ‘Aha!’ moment, I can try to work back to how I got there.  What was it that pushed me to open this file or buy that book?  I think – if I were the kind of person who could create such things – a diagram or flow chart would work better.  Alas, all I have at my disposal are strings of words, so they must suffice.  The process is not linear, but this attempt to unravel it will be, since that’s the way writing works.

  • Phone, Communication, ConnectionI publish a post on here which includes this image.
  • Someone comments on it and directs me to an interview with Stan Grof.
  • I become intrigued and read a book referred to in the interview.  At this point the lines of synchronicity are shooting off in multiple directions; one even points at synchronicity!
  • Grof intrigues me and, like my grandfather, he is a Czech emigrant.
  • The book tells of psychiatric regressions, with patients picking up ancestral stories from their bloodline, which were later authenticated.
  • In a quite different part of my life, I am buying a piece of Moldavite for a friend’s birthday.  I don’t know why.  I simply have a very strong feeling that this person needs Moldavite, now.
  • Intrigued again (being intrigued is a very strong indicator for synchronicities at work, I’ve found) I begin researching Moldavite.  I discover it comes from the site of a meteor impact, many centuries ago, and is only found at this one place on Earth –  in The Czech Republic.  ‘There it is again,’ I think. (Repetition/dêja vu is another indicator of synchronicity.)
  • While I’m musing on that, I start exploring that country, trying one more time to locate the village my grandfather came from.  I’ve tried on many occasions.  I knew its name from the postmarks in his stamp collection, which I inherited, but the German language forms of many border towns’ names were eradicated after WWII and I didn’t know the Czech equivalent.
  • This time, though, I find it.  I’m delighted and make a mental note to explore some more when I have time.
  • After an exhausting and rather frustrating day, I decide to have a quiet evening watching TV.  I select a film called The Secret Life of Bees, a rather sugary tale of life, death and the civil rights struggles in the American deep south in the sixties.
  • Incomprehensibly, I find myself weeping uncontrollably throughout the entire movie.  I’m identifying so strongly with every aspect of the story line and characters.  It feels personal.  It feels as if I’ve been there and experienced that and the pain is still unbearably raw.  Yet I haven’t.
  • By the end of the film, I’m a red-eyed, snivelling wreck, with a mountain of soggy tissues beside me.  ‘It’s just been a hard day,’  I tell myself.  I need to go and do something enjoyable.
  • I head for the computer and go back to researching the Czech connection.
  • I find the village my grandfather came from on Google Map.  I wander through its streets and peer across the mountains he grew up in.  I even find the post office where my ancestral relatives sent the letters whose stamps now lie, old and yellowing, in his album.
  • I read other sites, with histories of the area.  They tell how this once prosperous mining town, with rich seams of silver and agate crystals was ravaged by the Thirty Years War, fell into decline, was subsumed by the Austro-Hungarian empire and the native Bohemians persecuted and viciously suppressed.  This continued for decades.  The young men faced compulsory 10 year military service in their oppressors’ army.
  • So that was why my grandfather fled to England!  He died when I was a young child.  My father was embarrassed to talk about his origins while I was growing up.  Bohemia had become part of Czechoslovakia by then and was part of the feared Eastern Bloc during those Cold War days, so Dad pretended he came from Austria.
  • Finally, I feel I understand my heritage.  I know why the Bees film affected me so deeply.  I accept that ancestral memory still travels through my consciousness.  I see why dissolving prejudice has been such a huge part of my life.
  • I turn away from the computer – and stare straight into the eyes of my grandfather, whose pastel portrait hangs on the living room wall.  I pass it a hundred times a day, but at this point I really see it.
  • And he is smiling slightly.

Stone on Stone

Image result for John Aubrey

John Aubrey, courtesy of Wiki

I have ‘Rosie’ (author of the brilliant La Tour Abolie site) to thank for introducing me to Ruth Scurr’s wonderful biography of John Aubrey.  It is, as Philip Pullman says on the cover, ‘Irresistible’.  I’m quite certain that if we hadn’t inconveniently lived 350 years apart, Mr Aubrey and myself would have found many common interests to converse about.

We share – across time – a keen interest in antiquities.  His discovery of the Aubrey holes at Stonehenge, his insistence that this structure was NOT a council chamber built by the Danes but dated back much further and his devotion to preserving what was left of Avebury before local residents could demolish any more of it to build their homes and walls are well known.  His jottings, meticulously collected and compiled by Scurr, though, tell so much more of this indefatigable gentleman.

He was not a meticulous diarist like Pepys.  He charted the English civil war, the rule of Cromwell, the Great Fire of London and other major events almost in passing.  There is a brief account of the Restoration of King Charles II, for example, but at that time, Aubrey had something more pressing on his mind.

In March 1660, you see, he acquired a ring containing ‘a curious Turkey, or turquoise stone’.  This stone fascinates him for years.  When the ring breaks, he decides not to have the stone remounted, in case the heat should cause damage to the crystal.  Why the fascination?  Well this is where the story – and time itself – become rather fuzzy…

As synchronicity would have it, I too acquired a curious crystal – in March of this year.  It’s the one I found mysteriously sitting on a path in my garden.  Three hundred and fifty-seven years apart, both Mr Aubrey and myself found ourselves pondering our respective stones with much interest and surprise.  We both noticed that areas of the stones which had been cloudy became inexplicably clear, while other areas clouded.  Our ponderings continued independently of each other until I reached the point in the book where he had made this discovery: a day or two after mine appeared.

Strange, I thought.

In the July, Aubrey records:

My turquoise ring has changed again.  Now the cloudy spot in the north of the ring has vanished entirely and the one in the south has lessened.

By October:

(It) has become cloudy again in the north and a little speck has appeared in the middle.

The following February he finds a halo has formed around the northern cloudy spot and determines to take it to Mr Robert Boyle, no less, who has an interest in ‘movement within stones’.  Sadly, there does not seem to be an account of this meeting, if it ever took place.  I’d love to have known Mr Boyle’s opinion.

So now, not only did I have my own curious stone to watch and contemplate, but Mr Aubrey’s turquoise to consider as well.  How could these solid objects go through such obvious changes?  Were we imagining it?  Was it simply dependent upon the light in which we viewed our respective stones?  And if it WAS happening… why?

Bubbles!

Then, last Friday morning, I woke to find the most amazing transformation in my stone.  There is a face, roughly the shape of a parallelogram, which had been a diffuse, swirling, misty purple.  Overnight, though, it had transformed to contain countless tiny, and very clear, bubbles.  Almost all of them contained a central tiny circle or dot, several of these being a deep red colour.  Some seemed near the surface while other appeared as if deep under water.  It resembled a clump of frogspawn, and gave me the distinct but illogical sense of new life forming.

It continues to change.  The ‘bubbles’ are still visible, but are gradually fading into the mists again.  I wonder what its next trick will be.

At the weekend I asked my friend Will to try a remote viewing of the crystal, asking him to search within it and hunt for impressions beyond the physical.  As he focused on it, he didn’t see the stone at all, but gained some clear impressions of shapes, colours and a landscape – a vast desert with hills or mountains in the far distance.  He also commented that time, and especially the future, felt relevant.

So what do you make of all that, dear reader?  Comments would be most welcome.

I’ve long felt that the distinction between living and non-living is wrong.  I subscribe to Seth’s view that all matter contains consciousness.  When I consider the enormous discoveries made by the late Masaru Emoto about memory in water, I wonder if we are on the brink of discovering similar properties in crystal.

How I wish I could chat this through with Mr Aubrey.  But then, who is to say I’m not doing so already, at some level of consciousness?  After all, I’m unable to account for how this pristine crystal appeared in the middle of my garden.  Maybe it was sent to me, or left by a passing etheric gentleman on horseback…

 

 

What Price?

Money, Dollars, Success, BusinessThis has been puzzling me.  Maybe you can help me work it out….

I’m not even going to touch on the conspiracy theories or give any opinion on the character or behaviour of either of the protagonists here, because that’s not what interests me.  What I want to figure out is the part money plays in the story.  (Also I know it is far more complicated than I’m making it.  I just want to solve my puzzle.)

Once upon a time there were two men (as I understand the story) who were developing electricity in amazing new ways, so that it would be available to all.

Thomas Alva Edison, Inventor, 1922One was called Thomas Edison.  He was a smart, hard-headed businessman as well as a brilliant innovator.  He needed investors in order to develop his amazing stuff.

The other was called Nikola Tesla.  He was clueless with money and no good at working with people but also a brilliant innovator.  He too needed investors, for exactly the same reason.

Edison wanted to develop a business empire, selling electricity and electrical products to people.

Tesla wanted to develop free electricity, so that no one would have to buy it ever again.  He’d worked out a way of doing that.

So let’s imagine you were an astute investor, back then, with lots of money in your pocket.  Which of these men would you invest in?

It’s not a hard choice to make, is it?  Edison wins hands down, because his investors will get great returns as everyone clamours to buy his products.  Tesla doesn’t stand a chance.  You invest in his company and you get free electricity forever – but so do all the other people: the ones who didn’t invest anything.  There’s no profit to be had in something that is free.

That means the world is stuck with power stations that run on fossil fuels or nuclear power, and we are all still having to pay for our power – as is the planet.

Flash, Tesla Coil, ExperimentNow let’s imagine an alternative universe in which the investors all went for Tesla’s ideas.

No one owns electricity.  It’s as free as the air we breathe, even in places where people struggle to survive.  There are no bunkers full of nuclear waste that can’t be safely disposed of, no pollution in the seas around Japan, no coal or oil-fired power stations belching out fumes.  Suddenly electricity is not a commodity. It isn’t bought and sold.  You can’t own shares in it.   You can’t wage wars over the fossil fuels to power it or build pipelines where you shouldn’t.  It’s simply energy, like a thunderstorm or a forest fire.

We live in different times now.  What if crowdfunding had existed back then?  Ordinary people hand over their money to pay for some kid’s operation or to refurbish a hostel they will never see.  In my tiny country £46.6 million was raised in one night last week for Children In Need.  Billionaire stars turn philanthropist and give away their fortunes.

If Tesla were here now, asking for investors, would he find them?

Light Bulb, Idea, Light, Dim, Bright, OnSo this is my puzzle:

Have we changed, in those few short years since Edison won his battle?

Is the pursuit of money, ever so slightly, losing it’s grip?

Are we treating it more, now, like energy, allowing it to flow freely rather than stockpiling it and having to make a profit from it?   And if we use it that way, how might our world change?

 

 

On the Shoulders of Giants?

Quick trawl through the internet to find the derivation of that idea:

English: Coat of arms of Sir Isaac Newton Espa...

Coat of arms of Sir Isaac Newton

Well Isaac Newton, yes.  I knew that one.  With typical modesty he wrote of his work to Robert Hooke in 1676, saying, “If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.”
Not original though.  Newton apparently found the metaphor in the writings of one John of Salisbury – a twelfth century author and theologian who rose from Anglo Saxon roots (not easy in Norman-dominated England in the early 1100’s) to become Bishop of Chartres.

Impressive.

Still not original, though, for John was quoting Bernard, a colleague of his at Chartres, who was the chancellor of the cathedral school there in 1124.

Chartres Cathedral; Fresneau worked at the cho...

Chartres Cathedral(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Here, via John, via Wikipedia, is Bernard’s idea:

Bernard of Chartres used to say that we [the Moderns] are like dwarves perched on the shoulders of giants [the Ancients], and thus we are able to see more and farther than the latter. And this is not at all because of the acuteness of our sight or the stature of our body, but because we are carried aloft and elevated by the magnitude of the giants.

At this point I could easily waffle off into an appreciation of said Bernard.  Hadn’t come across him before, but I was rather taken by some of his philosophical ideas.  I’ll resist the urge for now, though.  I want to get back to those giants.

Let me start by making it plain that the ones Bernard was referring to were almost certainly classical philosophers – Neo-Platonists by the look of it.  The ‘magnitude’ he spoke of was intellectual rather than physical.

The giants I’d like to meet have left a more cryptic legacy.  Sadly, Wikipedia won’t be able to help me to reach them.

Popular culture has two very different views of our far-distant ancestors.  Firstly there is ‘Stone Age Man’ – and Woman, obviously.  Anthropologists will lead us back through fossilised bones, carefully carbon-dated, belonging to African ancestors clutching lumps of stone and animal bone, and beyond them back to tree-dwelling ape-like beings.  Wind the clock back still further and our ancestors are seen crawling from the seas and originating in a potent slime on a planet poised to bring forth life.

The second concept of the Ancients, though, is as different from the above as could be imagined.  Instead of our modern, technologically advanced society being viewed as the pinnacle of an evolutionary process, we look back to the Giants – the ancestors who held knowledge and yes, even technology which would put ours to shame.

Topographic/bathymetric map of the Indian Ocea...

They could be another, now-extinct species whose flowering ceased in one of those cataclysms caused by comets, say, or volcanoes, leaving only tantalising remnants – physical giants with huge bones or strangely elongated skulls, hidden away in museum vaults by those who fear spoiling the story.

Perhaps they are our own ancestors – people like us who evolved to reach a golden age in Mu or Atlantis before sinking, almost without trace…

They could be incomers from other stars, other dimensions: the gods perhaps – worshipped and depicted by our ancestors as they swooped down from high Olympus or interstellar craft to intervene in human affairs and perhaps human genetics before flying off and leaving us to find our own paths.  I have to admit to a personal preference for this story.  It seems to fit, and channelled sources are supporting it.  See, for example, this comment in answer to a recent query I put to the Guides who wish to be known as Higgins in Cheryl Jensen’s Ask Higgins blog:

There was a time when the race that created mankind lived alongside you and they taught your predecessors how to utilize the positive and negative energy of the Earth’s magnetic field

Whoever they were, their presence in our folk memory and mythology is persistent.  They are a very real part of our heritage.

We stand on their shoulders – you and I, Isaac, John, Bernard, his Greek philosophers and whoever inspired them…  Do we see further than they did, or are we elevating ourselves too high?

Should we climb down and search more carefully amongst the clues they left for us – the carvings and structures, folk tales and mythology, or trust that access to their knowledge lies within us all, if only we have the confidence to reach for it?

 

 

 

Listening to Llull

IMG_20150417_161121This wasn’t the post I was intending to write this week, but the Friday 13th events in Paris, and the Western governments’ entirely predictable responses have prompted me to insert a few thoughts on someone who for me is a new-found hero: a man who lived many centuries ago, but perhaps has something to teach us all today.

Ramon Llull was born to courtiers of Jaume the Conqueror – a mediaeval Spanish king responsible for taking Mallorca, among other places, from the Arabs.  Ramon became a page at court and later tutor to Jaume’s son.

Bear in mind that this was the time of the crusades.  Bitter wars between Christians and Muslims had been raging for well over a century when Ramon was born.  The divisions between the two cultures could not have been greater.  Hatred and distrust of all things Arab would have been endemic in his world.

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gardens of Arab baths, Palma

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Arab baths, Palma

Perhaps, as a young man, he wandered amongst the beautiful Arab buildings in his home city of Palma.  He certainly thought deeply and studied hard.

Leaving his family, Llull went to live on a mountain in the centre of the island, taking with him an Arab servant, from whom he learned to speak Arabic.

Certainly, like every Christian of his day (and many in our own) he believed that his religion was the one true way and that Jews, Muslims and anyone who didn’t share these beliefs should convert.  Unlike his contemporaries, though, he did not believe this should happen at the point of a sword.  He proposed the use of logic – philosophical argument – to convince others.

IMG_20151104_143724He produced intricate diagrams and many books which he was sure would convince anyone of the veracity of his beliefs.

He travelled tirelessly to visit heads of state across Europe and the Middle East, offering them his works and begging them to engage in dialogue rather than warfare.

Miramar, the site of one of Llull's universities, on Mallorca's north coast

Miramar, the site of one of Llull’s universities, on Mallorca’s north coast

He set up a series of universities, where young monks could learn Arabic and other less-studied languages, the better to engage in discourse with those of other faiths.

Ramon Llull had discovered a great truth.  He had realised, centuries before Einstein would turn it into a sound-bite, that the definition of insanity is

doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

He was blazing a new trail and trying to move humanity on from endless, pointless bloodshed; he was proposing respectful, open dialogue and discussion at a time when the divisions were apparently intractable.

We have to start somewhere – why not with ourselves?  Might it be time to listen to his ideas?

 

 

 

Of Giants, Archaeologists and Magicians (1)

Sattelite image of Majorca

For the last two weeks (such a pitifully short time, but all I could afford for now) I’ve been immersed in explorations of some of our world’s oldest buildings.

Guided by Kate, a great friend whose intimate knowledge of the tiny Mediterranean island of Mallorca and keen sense of what is sacred and worthy of note have proved invaluable, I’ve walked in and amongst elaborately carved caves, megaliths, settlements and mysterious ‘talayots’ – towers found only on Mallorca and Menorca with walls so thick they make Norman castles look like plasterboard, tiny entrance ways and huge columns rising from the centre of the internal space.

IMG_20151029_123436Faced with a structure like the one in this photo, fitted together with jigsaw precision and formed in antiquity of huge stones, there are – to my mind – three ways of explaining how they came to be constructed.

The first was dominant for most of the last 2000 years.  People would stare in awe at these ancient places and pronounce that they had been made by gods, giants or the devil.  Elaborate stories often grew up around them: stone hurling contests between rival giants, perhaps, or cauldrons and punch bowls created magically for the devil’s personal use.  Even on my recent trip, a local visitor to one of the talayots was heard to pronounce, “Well that wasn’t made by humans!  My family do plenty of building and that just wouldn’t be possible.”

The second form of explanation is more recent, but has become almost universally accepted.  Visit almost any prehistoric structure and you will probably encounter a carefully illustrated information board with drawings of hairy men in even hairier underwear hauling on ropes and log rollers to move gigantic stones into position.  Grubby children run with pigs and goats while women crouch beside cooking pots to complete the scene.  It’s comfortable, seemingly logical and familiar.  We can identify with these ancestors and imagine their primitive, simple lives.

IMG_20151106_111553IMG_20151106_112020Strange and incomprehensible items, such as the grave goods shown here, will be explained away with labels suggesting:

Probably for ritual use

Careful archaeology, a database of similar sites and finds around the world and a general agreement on how ‘primitive’ societies function feed into this bank of information.  As tourists, we tend to blindly accept the word of these experts.

IMG_20151030_113250Kate and I, though, wanted to delve a little deeper.  We could accept the historians’ explanations of the domestic settlements, with their wells, hearths and doorways, peer at museum displays of grey pots and animal bones, admire the skills of the dry stone wall builders, whose works had stood the test of time.  Here we had human-scale homes where people lived, worked, reared the children, tended their livestock, picked figs, olives, lemons and pomegranates from the surrounding trees and generally lived a good life.

There was more, though – far more.

Dotted around these comfortable villages and elsewhere on the island were structures of a very different kind: the talayots with their huge building blocks and walls several metres thick; the strange caves and chambers with niches, ledges and benches carved out of the rock; the standing stones and the plethora of channels and square, rectangular and circular holes cut deep into the bedrock.

IMG_20151111_110717The descriptions offered for these by the experts didn’t seem as convincing.  Some of their attempts to forge logical explanations appeared little short of vandalism.  On one site – a natural stage rising above the island’s central plain – had been found thirteen standing stones.  An initial drawing (see right) of their positions remains.  IMG_20151031_151136However the archaeologist who worked the site decided there had been an aisled building here and the magnificent, quartz-veined stones were roof supports.  He took it upon himself to have twelve of the megaliths moved, drilled through so that steel rods could be inserted and replaced in neat rows, each two stones high, in order to fit his hypothesis.

So forgive me if, in my next post, I throw caution and logic to the wind and investigate a third way of interpreting such magical places.  I won’t rule out the giants or the gods, the ‘meeting rooms’ or the ‘lookout towers’ suggested by others.  I’ll place them neatly to one side and attempt to link to the timeless knowing of All-That-Is, to the dreams and thoughts and intentions of the ancestors and provide an interpretation which – though perhaps fanciful – may be no less so than some of those I have described today.

 

 

Stone Mullions

2014-02-28 11.01.26A lovely word – mullions – don’t you think? And the sheer romance of having stone mullions (window frames) was one of the factors that induced me to buy LIME Cottage.

Of course they’d been painted and were yellowing and peeling when I first saw the house, but my meticulous builder and his lads cleaned the outside windows back to the original stonework, even going to the local quarry at Doulting (from where the original stone came, all those centuries ago) and bringing back stone dust to mix with the filler for any cracks that needed repair.

The results were fantastic.  I was delighted.

IMG_20150708_100309Then I began decorating the upstairs front room.  Without a thought I started removing the flaking paint on the window frame, expecting to sand it down and paint over it.  That was when I discovered that with minimal effort, I was revealing the stone on the inside too.

Exciting!

I beavered away with the paint scraper – some parts were easier than others, and had soon exposed a decent sized chunk of stone.

My Man Monday arrived the next day.  LIME Cottage and I like our Man Monday.  He’s a wonderful, intuitive odd-job man who adores old buildings and knows exactly how to treat them.  He comes on Mondays because that’s his day off from running his organic wholefood restaurant.  He was as thrilled as I was to see the stonework and agreed that it had to be cleared.  He showed me how to use various parts of a chisel to remove the paint and buff up the surface.  IMG_20150708_100316A YouTube video taught me how to re-putty the glass (surprisingly easy and fun – like playing with Plasticine) and I was happy.

I suspect the stone had remained untouched for centuries.  Then someone – probably in the 1950s, judging by the materials used, had skimmed a layer of plaster over the stone and covered it with a thick golden lacquer of some sort.  I remember the front door of my parents’ new-build house, in 1956, being covered with this same material, and my father’s deep delight and pride at having this new state-of-the-art finish applied to it.  Maybe whoever was the cottage’s custodian back in those days was equally proud of their work.

The next layer – in the sixties perhaps – was a very pretty pale turquoise – just the colour I probably would have chosen myself, had the mullions not decided it was their time to breathe again.  A few coats of ‘brilliant white’ gloss topped things off, but sun and many years of neglect had worked their magic, providing cracks and crannies for my chisel to get a hold.

IMG_20150711_172246I’ve left flecks of the earlier coats here and there.  They are, after all, part of the cottage’s rich history, as are the dents and chips in the stone.

Sometime in the future, no doubt someone will decide to cover the stone again, with some new technological breakthrough.  That’s fine, and as it should be.  History doesn’t stop.  The cottage will do as it’s always done, adapt and change with the ages.

The stone mullions will continue to look out on the road below, The camper vans and hatchbacks, delivery lorries and tankers, tourists and neo-pagans added to their store of memories.

I love to imagine black-clad puritans and straw-chewing ploughmen passing beneath them; earnest men with pitchforks and muskets rallying to Monmouth’s rebellion; gents in curly wigs, smoking long clay pipes; ladies in lace and sprigged muslin frocks; farm carts and haywains; ponies and traps; horse-drawn coaches filled with journeying Victorians, keen to view the Abbey’s ruins; Dion Fortune and her retinue heading to secret ceremonies at her house, just down the road; eager young farm boys hurrying to sign up to fight in the Great War; heartbroken parents heading to church to mourn for them; hippies with flowers in their hair off to climb the Tor…

My beautiful stone mullion windows have seen all that and more, and caked as I am in stone dust and lead paint chippings, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed my intimate encounter with their story.