Archive for March, 2010

 

Respect for Printers

Wednesday, March 31st, 2010

There’s nothing like putting a book together yourself to make you realize what an incredible job printers can do. Over the last few months I’ve been working on and off on publishing a book I wrote nine years ago. Since it is of specialist interest, we decided to produce it ourselves here at The Oak Tree Press. What a palaver! Everything from typesetting, to design, to scanning watercolours, is a skilled and time-consuming job and my respect for printers and designers has grown enormously. I took as an ideal Satish Kumar’s latest book – Earth Pilgrim – which is a beautiful production, and called its printer – the Cromwell Press Group in Wiltshire. They patiently persevered with someone who was learning as they went along, and produced a fantastic job. Here it is – a very hard object to photograph with its gold-foil titling and image from Nuinn’s edition of Paul Christian’s ‘History and Practice of Magic’. (More on the book here).

With my increased reverence and respect for printers I paid a visit yesterday to what should be a mecca for every lover of print: the Tom Paine printing press and gallery in Lewes High Street. Here you can see a wooden hand press and receive tuition on it and receive initiation too into the arcane arts of letterpress printing. There are new and secondhand books on typography, and art for sale, including cards – one of which I bought and received permission to reproduce here. The moving force behind this enterprise is the artist of the card: Peter Chasseaud whose prodigious creativity can be appreciated by looking through these websites:

www.tompaineprintingpress.com

http://tompainepress.blogspot.com

http://peterchasseaud.blogspot.com

http://trenchmaps.blogspot.com

Moonrise over Caburn by Peter Chasseaud - Oil on board 48"x60"

The End of Publishing?

Thursday, March 25th, 2010

Three Different Kinds of Humans

Thursday, March 25th, 2010

From Reuters:

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Genetic material pulled from a pinky finger bone found in a Siberian cave shows a new and unknown type of pre-human lived alongside modern humans and Neanderthals, scientists reported on Wednesday.

The creature, nicknamed “Woman X” for the time being, could have lived as recently as 30,000 years ago and appears only distantly related to modern humans or Neanderthals, the researchers reported.

“It really just looked like something we had never seen before,” Johannes Krause of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, told a telephone briefing.

“It was a sequence that looked something like humans but really quite different.”

Writing in Nature, Krause and colleagues said they sequenced DNA from the mitochondria, a part of the cell, which is passed down virtually intact from a woman to her children. They compared it to DNA from humans, Neanderthals and apes.

The sequence indicates the hominin’s line diverged about a million years ago from the line that gave rise to both humans and Neanderthals and that split about 500,000 years ago.

That makes it younger than Homo erectus, the pre-human that spread out of Africa to much of the world about 1.9 million years ago.

“It is some new creature that has not been on our radar screen so far,” said Svaante Paabo, a colleague of Krause’s who specializes in analyzing ancient DNA.

And it would have lived near to both modern humans and Neanderthals. “There were at least three … different forms of humans in this area 40,000 years ago,” Paabo said.

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Journeys of the Soul

Tuesday, March 23rd, 2010

Last night we held the book launch for ‘Journeys of the Soul – The Life and Legacy of a Druid Chief’ which is a biography I have written about Ross Nichols, the founder of the Order of Bards Ovates & Druids, which also includes colour reproductions of some of his paintings, letters, poems, and excerpts from his travel journals.

The launch also marked the opening of an exhibition of his watercolours which will remain on display at Treadwell’s Bookshop in Covent Garden until Sunday. Annie in the office has been slaving away mounting them in frames, and yesterday she and Cairisthea Worthington hung them with extraordinary speed and precision. Here they are wielding the hammers they used on the job and looking ready for anything, and a photo with the party under way! Many thanks to Christina and the Treadwells staff for hosting the event.

Hope and the Maiden Moon

Friday, March 12th, 2010

Another guest blog post:

Hope and the Maiden Moon – Maria Ede-Weaving

Early evening, as the light began to fade, I stood in Borthwood Copse at Queen’s Bower on the Isle of Wight. This ancient woodland is home to sturdy old oaks with deep rutted bark and branches that curl and twist into the distinctive, crimped appearance of long-lived trees.   At the heart of the Copse is also a beautiful beech cathedral: a spacious grove of elegant trees whose aging trunks have not so much thickened as soared. There is a noticeable abundance of holly, the green conspicuous amongst so much winter bareness.

Standing upon a deep drift of leaves, the antlered mesh of oaks above me, I watched the crescent moon brighten as the darkness deepened. The evening star, Venus, kept close company, its brilliance framed by the forest canopy.

Walking back along the green lane down towards the wetlands in the valley, the golden layer of light in the west was tightly pressed against the horizon, weighed down by a bank of cloud; the world took on an otherworldly light, sung into being by a blackbird. Crossing the boardwalk across the water meadows, I entered the steep woodland enclosure of Borthwood Lynch, a haven for red squirrel. By now the darkness had fallen. I love being in the woods as night comes. I feel safe; enclosed and contained in a world that – despite my inadequate senses – feels welcoming and known. Walking along the ledge of the path – aware of the ground falling sharply away on one side and rising on the other – I felt, just briefly, that I could navigate anything that life sent me.

This sense of renewed confidence and connection to life is writ large across the sky each month; whenever I catch sight of the Maiden Moon for the first time, I say a prayer of thankfulness for her gift of courage and freedom, for her reminder that all things can begin again. That fragile crescent never fails to fill me with joy and hope.

Walking down from the Mead towards the old railway path that cuts through the Yar River valley, I noticed the watery channels that meander through the fields catching the last dim light of day. I was drawn in my mind to the current upheaval and suffering that is being played out all around our planet -  inexorably it seems – in war; natural disasters; social, economic and environmental meltdown and it struck me that there is a great poignancy in the new moons of winter. When life appears caught in stasis, the tender light of a Maiden Moon never lets us forget that the possibilities of change present themselves to us all. We have to be vigilant, looking in all the right places, paying some attention to timing also. So often I miss her first appearance because I forget to look for her, or cloud might obscure her presence.  In our forgetfulness, in the sometimes overwhelming demands of living, it is easy to lose sight of faith and hope.

Stood in the magical half light of Borthwood, brought sharply into the present – into my body and being – by the bitter cold, and with the moon grinning down upon me, I said a prayer of hope for this bright, sliver of a new born decade.

Pagan Ritual, Yoga and the Art of Change

Wednesday, March 10th, 2010

I’m focusing on writing for the next week so Maria has kindly agreed to contribute a guest blog post:

Pagan Ritual, Yoga and the Art of Change – Maria Ede-Weaving

As Pagans, when we perform ritual, we are using the magic of action and movement; our bodies expressing and re-enforcing the intention of our minds to embrace and honour change. In Pagan spiritual practice the body is perceived as sacred, and we try to challenge those cultural preconceptions that the mind and intellect are superior. With an understanding that we have all been influenced by the body/spirit split that still dominates much of our culture, we attempt to perceive of these parts of ourselves as more holistically interwoven – as extensions of each other – and in doing so, open ourselves to a deeper understanding of self and other.

For the last nine years I have practiced Yoga, more or less daily; it has been woven into my Druid and Pagan spiritual practice and seems to complement these incredibly well. I was first introduced to it many years ago when I was sixteen. I was training to be a dancer and liked the physical challenge of the poses. Through it I first encountered meditation and with these techniques brought myself out of a particularly awful three years, post my mother’s death. Over the years I have left and come back to it, something in me remembering and cherishing the experience of that initial encounter. Through it, I gained my first real understanding that transformation was possible and that I could play a central part in its unfolding in my life.

Now that I am much older, my relationship to my practice has deepened. Some people mistakenly assume that Yoga enables the mind to control the body, forcing it into unnatural positions to tame its unpredictable nature. But I have found that like ritual, Yoga is a dance between body, emotion, mind and spirit, a coming together of these in movement and breath, focus and stillness. It reaches for the flow within us.

Our bodies are an extraordinary miracle. Through them we access the material world around us via our senses; the body is the boundary that separates us from others and our environment but also our gateway to sensuous and intimate interaction with these. Our bodies are deeply responsive to our emotional lives and over time, our emotions can sculpt the shape of our physical selves, displaying our wounds and struggles to the world around us. If we leave our bodies out of our spiritual practice, the chances are we are cutting ourselves off from a valuable source of knowledge and potential for change.

After a Yoga session, I am often surprised by the emotions that surface within me as I relax on my mat. Unresolved emotions are often stored in our bodies. When we involve the body in spiritual practice, we enable many of these to be released and processed. Barely acknowledged emotional stuff can block the conscious efforts we make towards change; they can sabotage the conscious plans we have for ourselves. When the body speaks, when our emotional truths are fully heard, we stand a better chance of embracing healthy change in our lives; of being more conscious and aware of our actions and choices.

Loving to write, I am aware of how much my mind enjoys playing over abstract ideas. I often become caught up in the chatter of that internal dialogue, entranced by the construction of systems, the placing together of language that I might ‘know’ the world a little better. Both Yoga and Pagan ritual has enabled me to coax out of myself the often ignored voice of body and feeling. At these moments of connection and communication, I am given the opportunity to open to a greater personal authenticity in the relationship I have with myself. It is not always a comfortable moment, however, there is an intense relief when we allow the truth of our beings to emerge (warts and all) and express compassion and acceptance of this ever unfolding self; it is the trigger point of our most important, life-changing transformations.

We hide so much of ourselves (or is that just me?), fearing that to express ourselves as we truly are might lead to rejection. I think there is a great healing in letting the body speak; in allowing it to articulate our deepest, most profound needs. Without doing so, we cut ourselves off from true intimacy with others and our environment; we become severed from our core.

Invitation to a Spring Celebration and Some Magic

Saturday, March 6th, 2010

Watkins Books May be Saved!

Friday, March 5th, 2010

From an article in ‘The Bookseller’ by Victoria Gallagher:

Watkins Books could live again, after an offer for the Cecil Court ‘institution’ was put in by a local businessman. The Bookseller broke the news last week that Watkins Books had closed, following the appointment of administrator Harris Lipman on 23rd February.

American entrepreneur Etan Ilfeld told The Bookseller that he had made an offer for the London bookshop, which had been accepted by Harris Lipman. A spokesperson from the administrator spoken to by The Bookseller said it could not officially confirm the deal.

But Ilfeld said: “I believe the spirituality of London isn’t dead and I believe a place like Watkins should be preserved.” He added that he would try and give the 11 staff their jobs back once the shop reopens. “I’ll try to make sure it is as sustainable as possible – it’s a big undertaking,” said Ilfeld. “I just want to get the doors open, every day that it is closed is just a tragedy.”

Ilfeld owns art gallery Tenderpixel, which is also situated in the London side-street Cecil Court. He said that there were “major challenges” in the market but he would keep the shop as it is and use the Watkins name to build a strong website.

Fierce Light – When Activist meets Mystic in the Same Soul

Thursday, March 4th, 2010

Just back from an evening with the Heart & Soul group of our local Transition Town network. We watched ‘Fierce Light’ – a moving documentary on the way in which more and more people are combining the spiritual quest with active attempts to initiate change in the world. Have a look at the website – there are a lot of interesting videos up. A chap called Van Jones (now part of Obama’s team) is very inspiring. Here’s the film’s trailer:

The Worst Case Scenario for Humanity

Thursday, March 4th, 2010

If someone suggested that humanity needs natural disasters to ‘set us back decades’ you would think they were cruel and probably crazy or – at the very least – insensitive in the wake of the recent earthquake disasters. And yet the argument set forth below by author Bill Mistele offers an unexpected justification for this idea. Bill suggests here that the worst case scenario for humanity is that our march towards progress goes unchecked. And since we will never check ourselves, because of the imbalance he describes, Nature will have to do it for us. An objection to this argument could be that, in recent history, natural disasters have affected the most deprived populations, leaving the bastions of technological advance untouched. But that could change, and if Bill is right, there seems to be only one way to avoid this: change humanity before we are changed more forcefully. Lennon (and every mystic) was right: ‘Love is the answer – you know that for sure.’

Members of OBOD will know of Bill’s writing from the inspiring  quotations we have used in the OBOD course. Finally his work is being published. His Undines – Lessons from the Realm of Water Spirits will be out in July, published by North Atlantic Books. Here is an excerpt:

Let us do an astral equilibrium study of the human race as a whole in terms of the four elements.  Our current situation is rather terrible.

Think of an individual with great will power (fire), ever expanding knowledge (air), and tremendous capacity for hard work (earth).  But there is almost no capacity for feeling (water).  That is the human race from the point of view of the elemental realms as I understand them.

We have a race that has just created antimatter in its laboratories. Antimatter only exists in the explosions of supernovae and at the beginning of the universe. This is a cosmic level of creation in the external world.  It is a big change. Two hundred years ago we were riding horses and using them to plow our fields.

Yet there has been no increase in our wisdom or religious understanding in the last two hundred years that equals our advances in the element of fire and the application of electronics, or in our other masteries over nature.

The balance required is in the area of water, not as an external power, but as a soul capacity to feel what others’ feel anywhere on earth.  Water as the undines know it offers an inner sense of shared life, not just the twitter and blog sense of knowing intellectually what is going on with others which is not water but the air element.

So, if we had this water element weakness in an individual, with the other three elements very strong, we could foresee certain problems occurring.  This individual (and so humanity as a whole) would end up causing great harm to others.  He would do this simply because he does not understand when his rapid advances in knowledge and experimentation harms others or himself for that matter.

He would ignore all sorts of warnings about bad things coming his way: he would take excessive risks that threaten his well being and safety because the quest, pursuit, and exercise of his will are far more important to him than the mere feeling that it is important to live in peace and harmony.

And he would not be able to do what people with strong water can do—they can feel if something is right or not without having to think or analyze.  The undines, by contrast, have an inner stillness that can sense or see the future.

Our water deficient individual would not have the ability to dare, not in the sense of taking risks which he is very good at, but in the sense of daring to change his own nature–to dream and imagine how to be complete and whole in himself.

For conscience to operate effectively it needs all four elements equally strong and positive.  Water offers a sense of the rhythms of life.  It tells you when to step back from your many activities in order to renew yourself.  It tells you when to let go and flow because it senses within your own soul the natural, non-artificial way in which your dreams will be fulfilled.

Water offers a sense of connection to others.  You can feel what they feel and with ease unite with them from within.  Water annihilates loneliness and isolation and it dissolves anxiety and insecurity.  It destroys sadness and sorrow.

Those with strong water can hear what others say, both in the words and in the heart.  If you know someone with very strong water, you probably have a friend who at a glance can see if the deepest dreams in your heart are unfolding with harmony and beauty.  A close friend or lover or caregiver with strong water unites with you from within and so for your entire life offers you an inner sense of renewal and completion.  Their very presence in your life offers inspiration.

Take away the water required for balance and you get our world in which the human race can easily end up pursuing different goals that are mutually contradictory and at war with each other.

The worst case scenario for humanity is that we have no disasters in nature that set us back decades.  The result is that we so change our own DNA and connection to electronics and nanotechnology that we cease to be the same species. We become multiple new species that cease to be human beings.  We become technological marvels in which the soul or heart is vastly diminished.

I have seen at close hand how twisted good intentioned, well-meaning, and highly ethical people can become just by immersing themselves in the industrial revolution, the work ethic, and the scientific desire to know and apply new knowledge.  People do things without any conscience coming into play in regard to the consequences of their actions.  So I can easily imagine how inhuman we will become if we start further changing ourselves with technology.

I lived in Detroit. Detroit had a more effective system of apartheid than South Africa.  But it worked for many decades. Everyone was advancing in opportunity or so it seemed until they had to call in the National Guard to stop the rioting.  I was on the last airplane to land in Detroit before they closed the airport because of the riots. The city was on fire.

None of the CEO’s of the big three automakers, for example, saw the increasing disaster that was occurring in health, education, and job opportunities for the inner city workers.  And of course the unions had no insight to offer in regard to the future.  Placing themselves at odds with the corporations, they were consumed by their own cause and so did not look around to notice the disaster coming their way.  They could not feel that things were not right.

For me, growing up in Detroit was a taste of hell.  It never felt right.

From the point of view of this one realm of undines as compared to the sylphs, gnomes, and salamanders, the human race is really out of contact with the spiritual purposes of this planet.  We are so out of touch with the purposes for which this planet was created that it is very easy to see that another race will appear after our time here is over.  This would be a race more aligned with the astral, mental, and akashic resources and purposes that exist on earth.

I jokingly tell people, the 350 earthzone spirits who are guardians of the evolution of earth are bored out of their minds because human beings almost never consult with them.  And the undines view humanity as a race that has no feeling for water.

Sure, we have submarines, surfers, scuba divers, sailors, and swimmers.  Google charts the bottom of the ocean.

But I ask you seriously, in whose eyes have you ever seen the dreams of the blue green sea or in whose voice have you ever heard even a hint of the songs the sea dreams at night?

Bill Mistele, Undines – Lessons from the Realm of Water Spirits, North Atlantic Books July 2010

Does this make sense to you? Is it just wrong to even voice such ideas given the awful sadness and suffering we’ve seen recently in Haiti and Chile? I’d be interested to know what you think!