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Black Elk

Into the cauldron of Samhain!

October 25th, 2007

Three weeks into this blog experience and the festival of Samhain approaches. This is traditionally a time of chaos, confusion, a letting-go, an acceptance of death and endings over a period of 3 days from October 31st to November 2nd and a chance to enter a new cycle from November 3rd.

So into the Samhain cauldron I am going to put my thoughts and feelings about this venture, to see what will emerge after Samhain. A part of me is still uneasy with the distraction the internet and computer screens bring into my life which is already filled to the brim with demands. And yet the potential of blogging fascinates me.

I thought a blog was simply a template for an electronic diary, but I’ve realised it can be:

1. A common-place or scrap book that can archive movies, sound clips, photos, quotes and so on.

2. A ranting platform

3. For those of us who work to deadlines, it can be a medium to develop the ability to write under pressure, and a medium to help loosen up one’s writing style and develop expressiveness.

4. A ‘museum’ – in the classical sense, where there can be a group discussion (as yesterday) but which is focussed or which has a primary speaker.

5. A form of sharing journaling in an attempt to follow the ‘naked way’ as discussed – the Transcendentalist’s use.

Maybe an old hand at blogging can add more ways in which a blog can be used, but for the moment I wonder whether one can combine all these goals in one blog. I suspect that to use it effectively I should choose one theme or function. Already I find myself concerned that I am boring readers! So I feel a pressure to be interesting! This must stop! I am off to the Samhain camp and will see what emerges by November 3rd. Over and Out until then!

Climbing off the Soap Box

October 24th, 2007

For today I’m climbing off the soap-box and this blog has become a forum. To follow this go to ‘My Intention is to Undress’ and click on the title and scroll down…

The impromptu life

October 23rd, 2007

What if life was like a play in which most of the time we believe there has to be a script somewhere, but we just can’t find it?

And so we move forward with a sense of something missing, of somehow rehearsing with an incomplete script until the script-writer at the back finishes the final draft and brings it over to us – of waiting for that moment when we finally understand what it is we’re supposed to be doing or saying.

Hence the yearning for a guru, for ‘enlightenment’, and for US publisher’s requests to ‘make it proscriptive’.

Nobody thinks they want an impromptu life. Deep down, though, the creative self yearns for this freedom of expression in the moment!

Thank you Zil for triggering this thought (ref comment in yesterday’s post – if you don’t know, you can click on a post title and it will take you to a page with that same post plus the comments on it)

My intention is to undress

October 22nd, 2007

Yesterday I decided that there was at least one good thing that Judaeo-Christianity has given us: the concept of a ‘day of rest’ once a week. Do other religions offer this arrangement that frees up one seventh of your time from drudgery or thrilling work? If anyone knows do please tell me. And also why witches call their festivals Sabbats, which must come from ‘Sabbath’ surely? So I’ve introduced a new rule to control my relationship with this ‘entity’ that is a blog. Leave it alone on Sunday! But all rules are made to be broken of course…

Now back to Zil’s comment last week. Our relationship to technology is so age-dependent I’ve decided. If you’re under 30 or so no-one would question having a blog or facebook/myspace page. It’s just part of living in the 21st century for many First World people as far as I can see. But for those of us who are older we have a different approach. When Zil asked herself if it was ‘worthy’ of me to have a blog I understood exactly what she meant. She & Myrddhin, her husband and excellent harpist too, had emailed me a while back to announce their MySpace pages and I had caught myself having the same thought as if somehow to have these things is ‘vulgar’ or ‘self-promotion’ or if you’re into psychology ‘narcissistic’ or into eastern approaches ‘egoic’.

I wonder if it is cultural too – perhaps it is a European attitude. I notice my American friends, who are in a similar position (authors, running spiritual groups etc) have been writing blogs for years. Maybe no-one in the States would question it, but in England and France (perhaps more than any other European culture) we are still quite attached to ideas of ‘high culture’ and sophistication, and the concept of vulgarity. So starting a blog or myspace page for us can feel like ‘mutton dressing as lamb’ – a 50+ year-old trying to ease into skin-tight leather trousers and go out on the town, chewing gum and wearing shades.

My desire however is to do quite the reverse. I intend to undress! This may sound trivial, attention-seeking, even ‘vulgar’ (!) but no – it touches upon the most central questions in philosophy, religion, psychology and politics. ‘Surely not!” I can hear you thinking. Over the next few months I may be using this as a recurring theme, because after Samhain (November 1st) I’m beginning work on a book for Reaktion/University of Chicago Press called ‘A Brief History of Nakedness’ , which will deal with precisely these issues.

The challenge in using a blog in this way is the challenge suggested by the Transcendentalists, like Thoreau and Emerson, who suggested sharing journaling as a way of self-cultivation and as a tool for spiritual progress.

If I get undressed now – by myself with no-one around – it may have some value (especially if it’s too hot for clothes). But if I do this in the company of others then there is a real potential for change:

First: you are confronted by your fears. Do I look ugly? What will people think of my pale skin?

Then when you actually do it the gain is tremendous. You realise things you should have grasped years ago: that (a) no-one cares! People are far more preoccupied with themselves than with you! (b) If you don’t look perfect they will be pleased, because they don’t look perfect either! And if they do happen to look perfect (and this has only happened to me a few times – once when a suntanned Princess Diana look-alike climbed into our hut tub at the OBOD Summer Camp in NY) then it’s so interesting you don’t care about anything else!

So when it works, Naturism is fabulous because it frees you of this incessant preoccupation we can have with what we think the other person thinks about us. Our mass-media world makes us so conscious of image, perception, surface that we can be trapped in a web of projections based upon unconscious calculations of others’ perceptions. A web of illusion at the heart of which is the spider of ‘Poor Self Image’.

So the act of undressing in this conscious, deliberate, fundamentally spiritual way, is an attempt to call the spider’s bluff. If it works, the web and the spider disappear. I fully recognise that it is not always that easy, and that it is a complex issue, but I believe there is truth in this approach.

Occultists know the maxim ‘as above, so below’. If you can do something on the physical level, it has effects on the supra-physical/mental level. Behaviour affects consciousness. Take off your clothes now and you change your mind.

Conversely, make changes at the mental/spiritual level and you can affect behaviour and the body – ie health. So now – in the interests of health (and research) – I am going to use this blog to psychically undress with the goal of freeing myself from the web of ‘identity’ spun, partly by my conscious or unconscious fears and beliefs about what others think about me, and partly by the circumstances of this life, which are not of course illusion, but which even so can conspire to create an illusory sense of limitation:

How? I’ll begin by taking all those labels that describe ‘me’:

English, pantheistic, naturist, mostly pisco-vegetarian, Conditional Pacifist, heterosexual, liberal, middle-class, intellectual, Druid, Taoist, writer, psychotherapist, leader of a Druid group, father, grandfather, husband, brother, son, uncle, nephew…

….and peel them off, one by one.

None of them , individually or collectively, describes the ‘core self’ of this Being tapping away at these keys.

It all depends on your philosophy – your beliefs about the Nature of Being. I believe that beyond all these labels is the ‘Real Me’. But someone else might believe that is all he is. As I peel away all these labels do I come to some ‘radiant Being’ – some soul that exists beyond all those definitions – or do I come to nothing, like that old TV Series ‘The Invisible Man”? If he was asked to undress you would find, once the pants were removed, there was nothing to see…

To get physically undressed doesn’t take that long. Whisk, whisk and the clothes are off. With this psycho-spiritual approach it will take longer. We are familiar with the psychobabble term ‘baggage’ to denote unwanted or unprocessed psychic content. Well we could just as easily use the image of clothing, and most of us are staggering through life wearing layers and layers of clothes – many of which were worn by our grandparents, and their parents!

The spiritual and psychotherapeutic journey could be characterised as the journey of discovering how we can take these clothes off to live more fully and effectively in the world.

A mistake every day…

October 20th, 2007

I made a mistake yesterday in saying that I would comment on Zil’s interesting query about the value of doing something like this. Why do I never learn? It’s the weekend, the sun is shining and it all seems too introspective for a lovely autumn day like this. So instead here is some entertainment – in which an old friend (really old – she’s 90) when asked if she is a saint, replies that she makes a mistake every day so can’t be!

In pasting this in, I actually partially answer Zil’s question. Part of the value in creating a blog, I have discovered, is that it can act like a scrap book, a multi-media album that you can turn to in later years to reminisce. Better than a photo album because you can add movies and sound clips and jottings. And you can’t lose it quite so easily (perhaps!). Takes up no space too! So this clip is to amuse anyone watching, but it is really here so that it can become part of a personal album. I spent nine months or so living in a wonderful crumbling castle in Ireland when I was 18, and it turned out to be one of the most formative periods of my life. An eccentric inhabitant of the castle was Olivia Robertson, who taught me how to meditate in a particular way, and who went on to form The Fellowship of Isis.

I caught up with her this summer and she was as sprightly as ever. She has an infectious wit and such a lively mind you can see the frustration on her face as the interviewer rather ponderously pauses between each question which is delivered in a portentous tone by a man who used to broadcast for ‘telepathic radio’. Now there’s an idea! When Olivia heard how much trouble we go to to send out the druid courses by mail, she said “Why not do what we do, and broadcast the lessons telepathically each month?”

The Middle Way of Relaxed Discipline

October 19th, 2007

A friend from Brittany, the multi-talented Zil, who is the harpist you can see in the photo in an earlier post on opera, has written a comment on another post which strikes at the heart of the process I am trying to work with through this blog, and which I referred to in this blog’s opening post – ‘It’s like taking off your clothes.’

In it she says  that her initial reaction on being told I had a blog, was  ‘Surely such a thing is not worthy of him?’ – a kind of dismay that I had sunk to the populist level. But she then found herself amused by the ‘That’s so 2005’ entry and read it out to her family. She then went on to say, ‘How can you avoid this being yet another reason to be glued to the computer?’ To be fair to Zil I am translating – her comments are splendidly in French and my translation is rough.

That second point is one I struggle with daily. Now for example the sun is shining, the garden is looking lovely. Why am I here at all? I have a love-hate relationship with these computers and technology. I think it is just marvellous that, as in yesterday’s post, I can quote a reader from Ohio of my father’s book, give a link to where you can buy it for one click for 70 cents, and link to his article somewhere else on the web. Or that movie clip of the ball-passing game that shows most of us how easy it is to not see the glaringly obvious. And yet, and yet…. as the Haiku poet Basho wrote! It’s like many things I suspect – love, power, sex, money, magic – neutral in itself, and capable of being destructive of our time and sanity or inspiring and capable of bringing joy, education and entertainment.

When my son Matthew suggested email to me I remember being unconvinced that it would be useful. Now, of course, it is indispensable and it is both wonderful in helping me connect with friends all over the world, and work all over the world, but also has become yet another job to be done, yet another reason to be away from the garden.

And as with money, sex, love and so on, the path leads from experimentation, indulgence, making mistakes, getting hurt, to hopefully finding some Middle Way that for me is a sort of ‘relaxed discipline’. Relaxed because then you are happy and ‘in the flow’ and are feeling good. Discipline because being relaxed isn’t enough – like Love without Will.  And the only way to deal with the lure of the computer is discipline! Like this blog. Just ten minutes a day. So Zil’s first point will have to wait till tomorrow – but it’s such an interesting point, because it comes right back to core issues of perception, identity, roles, purpose in the world, the ego and more.

It is a call to the idea of nakedness once again.

Mozart, Bacon and The Magic Flute

October 18th, 2007

A theme that really interests me is opera and its connection with the spiritual. My father, who is also a writer, has written a great biography of Mozart – Mozart & Constanze, Francis Carr, 1984. The bad news is that it’s out of print. The good news is you can pick up cheap copies second-hand here.

Here’s what an Amazon reviewer, who gave it 5 stars says: ‘Here is biographical study blended smoothly with murder mystery. The cause of Mozart’s death remains a mystery after many attempts to explain it. Despite the great success of Amadeus, the idea that the composer Salieri poisoned Mozart out of jealousy is generally not credited. Francis Carr skilfully reopens the question of poisoning, but with a new and plausible suspect, having set the stage with an analysis of Mozart’s and Constanze’s marriage.’

My dad has also recently published his latest book: Who Wrote Don Quixote?

But back to opera. The Magic Flute is probably the best-known opera for having ‘esoteric’ content. My dad has recently written on it in Baconiana – the online journal of the Francis Bacon Society. This is what the editor says about his piece:
Francis Carr’s lucid and concise piece Was Mozart a Baconian? is essential reading for those who wish to understand the role of Bacon’s philosophy in the enlightenment project and the connection of both with Freemasonry. In view of the triviality of our contemporary arts, ‘classical’ no less than ‘pop’, it is important to be reminded that Opera was once seen as transformative, educational entertainment in a similar sense to the magical drama of The Tempest. John Michell’s review of Joy Hancox’ Kingdom for a Stage introduces a recent fascinating study of the possible use of hermetic philosophy in theatre construction, specifically that of the original Globe Theatre. Readers who haven’t studied the work of Dame Frances Yates such as The Occult Philosophy in the Elizabethan Age and The Theatre of the World will find these an essential introduction to these pieces.

And here’s the article: Mozart and The Magic Flute

Ok This is it!

October 17th, 2007

For anyone interested in brain function, let alone the wider world of politics and power, have a look at this and follow the instructions. It’s only a few minutes long, but very surprising!


Improve your Polish

October 16th, 2007

Kevin Redpath, a friend who is a film-maker and who has just set up his own business advising companies on online video delivery, tells me that soon we will be seeing high quality videos delivered with no delay to our screens, and this will of course increase the demise of normal television as increasingly we can choose what we want to watch and when.

As I was researching the Sacred Places book, which will be published next April, I discovered I could visit virtually every site I was writing about via youtube and google video. Many of these clips were just home movie style, but some were outstanding.

If you have an hour to spare, make a cup of tea and watch this. It’s got Robert Redford reading the commentary and is about Chaco Canyon in the US which has the most extraordinary ancient solstice and equinox calculator. If Kevin is right one day soon we’ll be able to watch a crystal clear version of this. For the moment we have to make do with some blur. But at least we can brush up on our Polish while we watch…(If you want to see it full-screen you can at search for The Mystery of Chaco Canyon).

The relentless requirement to be good

October 15th, 2007

The trouble with trying to lead a so-called ‘spiritual life’ is that one can feel a kind of relentless requirement to be good all the time. Not only to be good but to do good.

As a corrective I have decided to introduce some wickedness into my life. Not the kind of fake evil that people pretend is wicked like eating cream or bacon when you’ve told yourself you’re a vegetarian. I mean the real stuff. I thought I’d begin at the deep end with something unavoidably immoral – blackmail.

I have told my oldest son that I won’t forward his post until he sends me an old family video that I’ve been asking him for for seven years. And it’s worked! It is apparently on its way.

How satisfying! I can feel myself looking around for the next utterly immoral project…