Saturday, 13 July 2013

Voice of Authenticity

In the early 1990's, when my inner life appeared to be settling into some kind of short-term pattern of spiritual study and meditation, something very unexpected occurred. I say a short-term pattern because I had no clear and specific idea about where I was headed, except that as a matter of faith it was in a generally upward direction.  The trauma of living with a woman suffering from severe alcoholism was in the past, but only the recent past.  A particular morning came when, having gone through my usual preparations for my morning meditation (the subject of which I have long since forgotten) I suddenly found myself, in my inner state, on a mountainside. I was climbing upwards to meet with a 'wise person', whomsoever that might turn out to be.  This was not my first experience of 'imaging' or 'pathworking', as it is sometimes known.  It was, however, the first time (though it wasn't to be the last) that I had been taken willy-nilly on a path not of my choosing.  It was clear that my unconscious mind needed to communicate something, and although I could have refused to listen, I agreed to travel that particular journey.  This post is a sharing of the start of that journey, the first time I met my 'wise person', the Druid.

For many years I could not say what the Druid himself represented, beyond the fact that he was an inner guide and guardian.  Only now do I recognise him for what he was and still remains, my inner 'Voice of Authenticity', or in other words the psychological truth of what has really happened in my life. Although this journey is rich in symbolism it is not my intent, at least at this stage, to enter into what could be an imperfect interpretation of that journey.  Whatever was to come later, that first meeting was an experience of joy, wonder and hope.  It is something of that experience which I hope to convey, if only in part.

Amethyst with Gold Ring

..........I stood on a precariously narrow track no wider than the width of one of my feet.  The slick, shiny mountain, composed of some unidentifiable but igneous-looking rock, slowly curved to my right to enclose a roughly circular valley filled with trees.  From overhead a full moon illuminated the face of the mountain and just the tops of the trees below me, to produce a gently mottled light on a sea of deep shadow.  I continued my slow but steady progress along the mountainside until I came to a cleft in the rock.  There I waited awhile, taking in the scene around me, and deciding on my next move.  There was a harsh angularity about the mountain that contrasted starkly with the roundness of the full moon, and the softness of the forest.  Yet there was also a feeling of cleanliness and purity about the mountains, uncluttered as they were by soil or pebbles.  There was nothing to mar the slippery slopes glistening in the moonlight.
          I had had some difficulty keeping my footing on the slippery track as it wound its way onwards above the treetops.  The cleft not only offered me some relief from that dangerous path but also a way upwards to the summit.  The cleft lay in deep shadow but offered a safer, wider path upwards towards the mountaintop where I could see a cave at the entrance of which burned a fire.  I climbed steadily towards the cave, approached with caution, then waited just beyond the light cast by the fire.  I found there was something attractive, deeply magnetic about the fire.  I could feel the drying heat on my face as the flames drew me ever closer.  The desire to step into the fire strengthened steadily, but I resisted.  Then I saw that to the right of the fire was a pile of logs.  With these logs I began to feed the fire, turning the flames from yellow to white heat.  The desire to step into the flames and be purged, to experience catharsis, became overpowering.  As I made to take those last steps into the fire, the tall figure of a Druid, dressed in a black, cowled robe appeared at the cave mouth. Although I thought I could see what might have been the barest hint of a nose and a chin, the newcomer's face was completely hidden from me.
          I began to talk with the Druid, but not by word of mouth.  I knew that I wanted access to my unconscious mind, which I felt he could give me, and that desire appeared to be well received.  He approached me, and the moment he touched my right shoulder we fused, then drew apart but having in that fusing exchanged bodies.  As a result of that joining I became aware of his feelings and his thoughts as I imagine he must have become aware of mine.  I discovered that the Druid had waited a long time for me to come, and also that the Druid's powers were not unlimited, though immeasurably greater than mine.  We had both wanted this meeting for so long, and now that it had happened there was a sense of having arrived and been accepted.  Again he approached me, momentarily fused and withdrew.  We were once more in our own, original bodies.
          For a while I was lost in silence, not knowing what to ask of the Druid.  Just when the silence began to become unbearable, he reached into a large leather bag leaning against the wall at the cave mouth and drew forth a handful of ordinary-looking rock chippings and gave them to me.  Carefully placing the apparently worthless gift in my pocket, I turned to leave.  I walked down the path, westwards, until once again I arrived at the bottom end of the cleft. There I stopped to inspect the Druid's gift. 
          The first thing that I noticed was that in some strange way the light had changed.  It was as if the night had passed and the day had returned.  At the same time it seemed as if this new light was localised to the area in which I stood.  Furthermore, the rock chippings had undergone a remarkable transformation.  They had joined to form a composite of intensely beautiful amethyst crystals, purple and surrounded by a circlet of milky white.  They seemed to hold such mystery and purity in their depths.  They were life in inanimate form, were both weak and strong.
          I began to try to prise the crystal structure apart until my fingers began to bleed with the effort, and my finger bones began to break under the strain, yet I felt no pain.  So strong was the structure that it defied all my efforts to dismantle it. Then it was that I discovered that I could easily take the structure apart by lovingly willing the component crystals to slide along their fracture planes.  Just as easily I could reassemble the structure.  After continuing to dismantle and reassemble the crystals for some while, I saw at last in the depths of the crystal lattice a golden ring containing a single diamond. At the same time a mist of glittering particles which had emanated from the amethyst crystals, had formed around me.  Yet for all the apparent detritus that had been formed by my playing with the amethyst crystals, the structure had steadily grown larger and ever more beautiful..........

                                                                                   (Extract from a private diary)


  1. Tom, I'm stunned by your ability to live so vividly and visually these sub-liminal experiences and to describe them so well.Truly a gift and even more so that you're sharing it here. I can't add anything to what was evidently a life-changing vision with deep layers of meaning that only you can interpret but I marvel at it and am a little bit envious of such spiritual virtuosity. The stones turning into amethyst particles...
    I can see it all, yes, intensely moving.

    Oddly for a visual artist, I have never been able to see anything during the imaging or guided meditations I've attended and when I'm drawing I usually need to look at a source - I can't 'imagine' very well. But asleep and dreaming, yes, sometimes there are visions.

  2. Reading your account I find myself thinking of John Bunyan and A Pilgrim's Progress, and it isn't just the rhythm of the words that strikes me as familiar. Not that Bunyan would have druids in his mind. I used rather more than now to be drawn to mysticism, William Blake in particular. Forgive me for wondering: is it your private diary?

  3. Natalie, I have to treat this as a gift, the results of which being shared wherever possible. Otherwise I would be consumed with embarrassment. The one aspect about this gift is that on occasions, and not that rarely, it will simply over-rule and/or accelerate what is going on in my meditation. It truly is a power greater that my ordinary consciousness.

    Maybe I shouldn't have prayed that my choice to refuse should be taken away. :)

  4. Joe, an interesting comment. I suppose I have always known - but for a very long time refused to concede - that I have mystic tendencies. Of course there is mysticism and mysticism. Mine is of that form that one meets in the "Church" I suppose, not the Mystic Meg variety. Furthermore, I do sense a requirement to treat mysticism with caution, and not get carried away with flights of fancy.

    As to your last question, no forgiveness - rhetorical or otherwise - is necessary. Yes; any block of italicised script, indented paragraphs etc. always comes from my diaries. It is the only 'evidence' I can present to support my ideas and conclusions.

  5. It's so strange to me that you've described your spiritual advisor as a Druid since I've found myself reading a lot about Druidry lately. Not a lot is known, other than Julius Caesar's somewhat derogatory remarks, but much can be deduced when the legends are considered with what wisdom we can bring to bear on their knowledge. One of these days (perhaps when I can get Crow to pose in his wizard gear) I'll write what I've learned in a blog post.

    In the meantime, your story reminded me of the pre-St Patrick, Irish St Kevin. He was a Catholic priest who seems to have been more of a Druid holy man than a typical priest. He far preferred his own company and that of animals to people. The place he spent the most of his time in meditation has some similarity with your vision. According to wikipedia:

    "St. Kevin’s Bed can best be described as a man made cave cut in the rock face very close to the edge of the mountain. It overlooks the upper lake from a height of about 30 odd feet (10 metres). The approach to the cave is very difficult, with access to it is through a rectangular space and a short passageway 3 ft. (1 metre) high and 2½ ft. wide. The inner or main part of the cave is just 4 ft. wide (1.5 metres) and less than 3 ft.(1 metre) high. It is reasonable to assume that the cave could only have been used as a sleeping place, and would have been impossible for an adult to stand upright in it, so it is quite likely that St Kevin only used it as his bed, or a place for pious prayer or meditation."

    I'm very impressed and grateful for these most personal insights you've been sharing, Tom. I only wish I could meditate deeply enough to reach a visionary state but I get both fidgety and a little scared about what I might see. Karen Armstrong once said she had never had a spiritual experience of her own but got intimations in her reading. Your generosity in writing about your own experiences is serving to encourage me in my practice.

  6. In general I think images emerge that have some meaning for the recipient, and those images may come from a variety of sources. I suspect that in this case, the Druid is an image from literature (although monk-like images appeal to me anyway). Again I suspect that he is an alternative to an 'inner Christ', an image to which I have a powerful antipathy.

    I did love your reference to St. Kevin which of itself may considerably modify the previous part of my response.

    Sometimes these journeys are difficult and fearful, but that in itself is no reason to hold back. You don't have to go all the way in one step. If it gets too heavy you'll withdraw anyway.

    Karen Armstrong, very readable.

  7. To Joe and Zephyr:

    Joe, I have lost the 'publish' box to your blog so cannot respond.

    Zephyr, My comment to your blog will not transmit.

  8. Amethyst. And gold. A powerful combination. I sense this even though I know nothing about these things. Hmmm.

  9. And so it seems to me, Rouchswalwe.

  10. I came and looked at the heading a few times but did not read. Today I read and first thing that happens and disturbs me is that I start thinking about strange experiences I have had. Never knew enough and still don't to know what and why.
    Here I feel this transformation - a feeling free to let yourself being guided by what you see and feel from within you and not by what is coming at you from outside. Did you feel that you had been prepared or were ready to rise above yourself?

  11. Ellena, what am I to do with you? Or more precisely, what would I do without people like you around me? Such simple questions, yet I need to delve deeply inside myself for answers. Well, I must try.

    I never feel that I am being, or have been prepared, to rise above myself. It is only in hindsight that I can say, "Yes, I was ready." In one sense, our whole lives seem to be a journey of short-term preparations, maybe for one great long-term preparation. What that is for which we are being prepared is perhaps anyone's guess.

    I believe you make a very important observation, "a feeling free to let yourself be guided by what you see and feel from within....." That is the crucial source of guidance. But of course wisdom needs to be exercised also.

    I suppose I have always believed that nothing would ever be thrown at me, internally at least, that I couldn't deal with. That we may sense fear about our inner worlds may arise from the West's preoccupation with psychological pathology, rather than spiritual exploration. Yet I know from your shared experiences of life that you are not lacking in love, courage and wisdom.

    My response only scratches the surface of what has arisen inside me as a result of your questions. I hope that is enough for now. Given a few more lifetimes, I might get to complete the task. :)

    Bless you!

  12. Tom, reading your post again just now, I'm struck by the beautiful metaphor of rock chippings turning into extraordinary living jewels and I read this as a lesson to learn and re-learn every day. How in looking for the Spirit to give us dazzling insight and miracles we are often blind to the miracles that surround us in ordinary life and in simple things..."rock chippings".
    Thank you for this reminder.

  13. Natalie; One of the things I love about this work is that I too am able to come back to it, time and again. That confirms for me that the experience of the Spirit (and I feel almost shy about the use of that word) is authentic.