Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category


Pagans & Pilgrims at Knowlton in Dorset

Tuesday, September 16th, 2014

In the following clip I talk with Welsh poet and TV presenter Ifor ap Glyn, at Knowlton in Dorset. A church was built here in the centre of a pre-Christian sacred site. This happened centuries ago, but we found evidence of Pagan practice occurring today. This is an excerpt from the BBC series ‘Pagans & Pilgrims’ based on the book ‘Britain’s Holiest Places’ by Nick Mayhew Smith.

Ok it was a bad hair day. I believed the Brylcreem tub that said ‘Achieve that iconic swept-back look’. I didn’t know I’d end up looking like the professor in ‘Back to the Future’.

Rise and Shine

Monday, September 15th, 2014

you are asleep

A guest post by Maria Ede-Weaving…

Following Philip’s quote on his Facebook page regarding awakening, and whether the process of such was a choice, I have been pondering my recent sense of spiritual disconnection. After a period of three years of major personal change and transition that included, amongst other things, bereavement and divorce, I have, over the last few months felt a crippling sense of being lost and cut off from my spiritual resources. Thankfully, this state of alienation and sadness is beginning to shift, and as I emerge, Philip’s words got me thinking about the nature of spiritual awakening and spiritual sleep.

The notion of enlightenment can erroneously be perceived as a fixed state, something we aim for, and in time and with effort, achieve. But we all know that this is untrue. Like nature and the cycles of our own lives, our awakening is in fact a series of awakenings. We move through moments of spiritual opening and closing, experiencing both those wonderfully heightened moments of realisation and belonging, and those equally powerful times of spiritual numbness.

For many years I considered my default position as one of deep communion with Nature. My recent struggles have robbed me of this. My eyes were seeing the beauty of the ocean and sky, the woodlands and downs but my heart just wasn’t feeling it, as if the chord of connection between me and the world had been severed. It was distressing and left me feeling internalised and consumed by the grief and the many losses of these last three years. It was the opposite of awakening, a closing off and shutting down.

And yet, as I now feel my eyes re-opening and my body, mind and emotions re-engaging with the life around me, it occurs that the opposite of awakening is not just sleep but dreaming. Dreaming, allows us to process the events of the day. It’s an honest place, one in which all that we have been denying comes to the fore, sometimes in striking and alarming clarity. Our confusions are worked through, our fears acted out, our hopes and wishes lived. Anyone who has kept a dream journal for any length of time will recognise that our dreams are dialogues with our deeper selves and bring much knowledge. They are a world where our known boundaries, restrictions and limitations are broken down that we might glimpse another way; our false expectation and negative patterns make themselves known and we are given the opportunity to challenge them, if we can listen to the promptings of our unconscious. The dream world can be a wonderfully comforting place or a nightmare, depending on where we are with ourselves at any given time. All that we are, our constructs, the ego’s flimsy and incomplete understanding of our greater self, can dissolve in that amorphous place. This fact rings true in those times of waking sleep, when we are stuck in those psychological fogs that can blind us to who we are, where we are and any sense of meaning and belonging we might once have felt.

When we are suspended in that place of disconnection, it can be hard to believe that we were once so absorbed in our spiritual journey and practices; the meaning and purpose of these can simply disintegrate into a sense of pointlessness where nothing quite lifts us, or sparks within us. It can feel like the most crushing stasis but I think that, as a state of being, it is anything but static. These moments are potentially incubation periods – they are the darkness of soil engulfing the seed and no matter how relentlessly harsh the winter, there is a pulse beneath the earth; the quiet, patient ticking of life.

In periods of waxing, we take on a solid shape, psychologically speaking. We gather ideas, explore them, live by them, and this in itself moulds us emotionally. We become a different person, and for a while this new being is all we need to be; we inhabit its shape comfortably, resonate with its tones, its texture easy on the sensitive skin of our psyche.

It cannot last, and neither is it meant to. When our shapes become brittle with age, when their usefulness is outlived, something deep within us goes into action. Our lowest times are often a preparing of the way for something waiting to be born within us. To our egos, to our ‘small’ selves, this metamorphosis appears to manifest as a wrecking ball; the shaman’s initiatory vision of being flayed, de-fleshed and left a heap of bones is not a bad analogy for this transitional process  – it can feel like a violent and painful intrusion upon our sense of self and well-being.

In this last year I have often felt like everything precious to me has been rendered a pile of rubble and yet, it also seems that deep down in those mysterious and hidden places, my psyche has been sifting and sorting, testing all that I have thought and known, to see what is of true value to the growth of my spirit. We can hang onto stuff far beyond usefulness out of fear, sentiment, or sheer bloody-mindedness! Our deep selves will never allow such resistance to change to take hold for too long. Sooner or later we realise such resistance is futile and, more importantly, not good for us.

Virginia Woolf once beautifully wrote,

Change was incessant, and change perhaps would never cease. High battlements of thought, habits that had seemed as durable as stone, went down like shadows at the touch of another mind and left a naked sky and fresh stars twinkling in it.’

We should welcome the wrecking ball as it makes its first strike at those ‘high battlements’ but we are human, and we so often curse their fall; we stare open-mouthed at the rubble at our feet and forget to look up at that magical, naked, bejewelled sky left in its wake.

In time we come to see, our eyes adjusting to the darkness and in that dreaming state, just prior to our awakening – in that cursed but blessed place of breaking down, of buckling to our knees – we eventually blink and squint through the settling dust and gaze heavenward. One by one the stars come out and we find ourselves tearfully grateful.

Spiritual sleeping and awakening are inseparable – they are locked in a dance of unfolding and blossoming, expansion and contraction, which our spirits depend upon.

And so wherever you find yourselves: in a place of tormented and restless sleep, or yawning blissfully awake into a new and inspiring phase of your life, you are in the place you are meant to be. Maybe the best way to look at it, in the darkest moments, is that all is well, that you are merely experiencing a spiritual snooze. We cannot live without sleep, and I feel we cannot live without those times of spiritual sleep either. So sleep well – your dreams are shaping you anew.




Are Humans Inherently Flawed? Is Evil ‘Natural’?

Sunday, September 14th, 2014

The recent news about beheadings and crucifixions in the Middle East is so horrendous, I have started to wonder whether we, as a species, are inherently flawed – whether there is something profoundly ‘wrong’ with human nature.
I have always loathed the idea of original sin. Looking into the eyes of a new-born baby, how could one possibly think this beautiful creature is ‘sinful’ from the start? Far better to embrace the doctrine of ‘Original Blessing’ surely?
And however much a Christian service might have uplifting moments – a break from dirge-like hymns to some beautiful ones, the light flooding through stained glass, the beauty in some of the language of the prayers and readings, the magic of bread and wine offered as a sacred feast, taking one back to the pre-Christian classical Mystery schools – however much these may inspire me, still I find it hard to cope with all the guilt-tripping: the opening Anglican prayer that reads like a ‘bad mantra’: “there is no health in us: But thou, O Lord, have mercy upon us miserable offenders.” Imagine what that is programming into your mind and body – “There is no health in me” – every morning (as an Anglican priest or devout Anglican is supposed to pray, I believe).
And yet…
Humans can be so unspeakably destructive – either to their fellow humans or the Earth, perhaps the ‘unthinkable’ needs to be thought – that human nature is not naturally beneficent, and evil acts therefore the result of aberration, but that it is in its essence a mixture of beneficent and maleficent, and that only some sort of training, discipline, spiritual practice, psychotherapy or education that can help us ensure our beneficence rules our head, heart and actions, rather than the reverse.
What do you think? Have you sometimes thought ‘perhaps they got it right when they came up with the idea of Original Sin’?

For the Love of the Wicker Man

Saturday, September 13th, 2014

The Body Tells a Story

Friday, September 12th, 2014

This looks an interesting conference. More details here:


Coming Home at Twilight in Late Summer

Wednesday, September 10th, 2014











We turned into the drive,
and gravel flew up from the tires
like sparks from a fire. So much
to be done—the unpacking, the mail
and papers … the grass needed mowing ….
We climbed stiffly out of the car.
The shut-off engine ticked as it cooled.

And then we noticed the pear tree,
the limbs so heavy with fruit
they nearly touched the ground.
We went out to the meadow; our steps
made black holes in the grass;
and we each took a pear,
and ate, and were grateful.

~ Jane Kenyon

La Serenissima – Loreena McKennitt

Tuesday, September 9th, 2014

La Serenissima by Loreena McKennitt with some very beautiful images…

Feeling Safe

Friday, September 5th, 2014
Only humans get worried about being naked. This cat on Ibiza is quite happy wearing no clothes.

Only humans get worried about being naked. This cat on Ibiza is quite happy wearing no clothes.

The Spanish seem to have a sensible attitude to nakedness, at least on the island of Ibiza, where I am now. There, on certain beaches, if you want to go skinny dipping or don’t like the feeling of sunbathing in damp, cloying swimwear when you come out of the sea, you just head to the left, and the understanding is you can be naked there if you wish. No signs saying ‘Naturism tolerated’, as they sometimes say in France, just an accepted tradition.

This sensible attitude is in refreshing contrast to the prurience that has recently resulted in the publishing, without their permission, of private photos of famous female actors naked.

In my capacity as an ‘expert’, having written A Brief History of Nakedness, I have been telephoned on this mostly tranquil island to give interviews on the BBC and CBC (the Canadian Broadcasting Company). What I said was this:

Taking nude ‘selfies’ or being photographed naked isn’t an abnormal or pathological activity. Edward Snowden revealed that the NSA was constantly finding them as they invaded peoples’ privacy, and these images were often traded amongst male employees if the subjects were female and attractive. When the NSA trawled through millions of Yahoo webcam images they were surprised to find over 10% of them were of this nature.

Why do people do this? It’s the modern mirror – we are curious to see ourselves as others see us. Being aware of ourselves as a ‘being’ can evoke such an amorphous, permeable, shifting sense of identity, that there is a part of many of us, I suspect, that wants to objectify ourselves, that wants to understand and see ourselves as a concrete, defined, object.

People do it too because it is transgressive. Humans love making rules, but they like breaking them too. They like the feeling of being ‘naughty’ – and as far as being naughty goes, taking a nude photo of yourself or your partner is a totally harmless way of gaining this feeling. Considering how much appalling rule-breaking is going on in the world right now in the Middle East and elsewhere, it is tragic we should be concerned at all about such a small and private pleasure.

On the positive side, this phenomenon shows we are increasingly capable of feeling free, of feeling proud, rather than ashamed, of our bodies. On the negative side, it may be a symptom of our increasingly narcissistic, self-obsessed culture.

As regards the recent publishing of the nude photos of actors, our only concern should be with the violation of their privacy. Someone has broken into their virtual ‘home’ and stolen their private possessions. If the photos had shown them wearing overcoats the issue would be the same.

It is the question of violation which is the central issue. The UN has just published a report that tells us that throughout the world 1 in 10 girls under the age of 20 has been raped or sexually assaulted. That is 120 million human beings who have been violated. What an appalling statistic – and what a world we live in where this can happen. And so to see women – and men – not ashamed of their bodies, not hiding, and happy to be seen naked, as here on the beaches in Ibiza, is reassuring – that at least in some places in the world we can feel safe enough to feel free, safe enough not to have to hide parts of ourselves.

If Happy Little Blue Birds Fly…

Tuesday, September 2nd, 2014

Here is the fabulous image taken by Birk Möbius at the Aerodrome in Taucha, Germany. It shows the exact moment that lightning struck a plane as it flew through a rainbow!


The Cave of Crystals

Tuesday, September 2nd, 2014


In 1975, a chamber in the Mexican Naica mine was drained of water in order to prepare it for mining. It remained unexplored until 2000, where upon giant gypsum crystals were found, many of them a meter thick, criss-crossing the intensely hot, humid cave that birthed these extraordinary structures. It is truly mind-boggling to think of the conditions and time it took to grow these beautiful crystals, and even more amazing to think that if they had been left in the mineral rich waters of the cave, they would have continued to grow.