To find the point of death is finding the centre of life

I spend a fair amount of time these days mother-sitting. You don't really notice old age until you suddenly realise: you're next!
My mother has been in & out of hospital for a year. Without modern medicine she probably wouldntve survived into this century. (Indeed she wouldntve survived her first brush with cancer 40 years ago.) But I don't know how much kinder the modern way is? The hospital she's spent most time in is collectively so unaware of the first principles of healing that it really is a travesty of language to describe it by that name: it is a place where materialistic medicine is an industrialised set of technical procedures practised by faceless relays of people employed because they possess a paper qualification – for which empathy with patients is evidently not a criterion.

What I've been struck by is the complete loss of any sense that the process of healing requires the reciprocal response from the patient. Medicine, like entertainment, is something that is done by experts to passive consumers. In the days before science decided it knew everything (or rather, that everything it doesn't know doesn't matter) the person seeking healing needed to go on a journey – maybe a physical one to find a healer, maybe a spiritual one to find an inner place of healing. At all events, it seems a very much healthier approach to illness to demand an engaged consciousness, for without the will to decode & transcend the experience what is physical healing actually for?
"Oh I had an illness but I got over it." "Did it change your life?" "No I was determined it wasn't going to." How often do you hear that said? The entire life lesson in the experience has been missed. If the journey into health isn't synonymous with a journey into wholeness what is gained? Will the individual be any more reconciled to their end-point? Will they have completed /uttered their true sentence before the final full stop?

I read recently that there is now a theory that the dolmens of Stonehenge were transported thither from the Pengelly mountains because the latter is a place of springs & geo-logy/-mancy that had a long association with healing among the Goidelic peoples. Thus the purpose behind the epic undertaking of transporting them to the rising cultural capital of Stonehenge was to make it a healing centre in addition to everything else.
But then it would would never have occurred to neolithic tribes that healing was an individualistic function, they would have seen it as part & parcel of collective unity / wholeness. Whatever took place at Stonhenge probably combined ideas we parcel out to Lourdes, Wembley, Westminster, Glastonbury, Findhorn, old Covent Garden & the Hammersmith Palais - with a bit of Minos, Pamplona & Tenochtitlan thrown in for good measure. (Ritual sacrifice that is.)
I had the extraordinary experience recently, driving home from Mother-sitting, of coming along the A303 in the gathering dusk listening to Gergiev's blistering performance of Le Sacre at the end of BBCr3's Tchaik/Strav week. And with absolute synchronicity the tremendous crashing sacrifice was reaching its climax as I drove up the hill from which the stones are first seen, leaving the ghostly final movement drifting in te ether as passed by this age-honoured point of connection with the inner world. (BTW This performance is available on iTunes. It is more completely intune (/aesthetically aligned) with the music than any I've ever heard.)

Is it any wonder, with all these functions spun off into specialist arenas perceived as having little or no interaction, that half the neurotic illnesses today seem to centre on an inability to experience wholeness - or, to centre on an inability to find a centre? Certainly there is a prevalent view (held, I suspect, by my brother the doctor) that there's very little a patient does that affects the progress or outcome of a condition in comparison with the application of scientific treatment.

It seems to me that feelings of belongingness & healing & psychic unity & purpose which we cherish with/in those rare moments of experiential magic speak to us of the clarity of focus which was once our birthright with/in the collective relationship of a tribe. I'm not talking of the anthropologically-discounted Noble Savage myth - yet I certainly have experienced something of it within that strange tribal assembly which is the Big Green Gathering, an 'elective affinity' wherein irritation & affection are as inextricably intermingled as in a birth family but across an infinitely wider social spectrum.

We compose /write /organise for no other purpose (maybe?) than to clarify our own minds, to express what is in them – in the hope that by discharged our obligations we can achieve some equilibrium, & thus gain an unobstructed view inward throu the divine lens in our heart to the infinite goodness & interrelatedness of all created matter.
Each birth is the firing of an arrow. Its natural energy sends that arrow as high into the sky as nature & nurture allow. As it soars into the air its shadow is invisible on the ground. But after reaching its zenith the arrow turns back towards the earth. And as it nears the ground its shadow becomes ever more clearly visible.
That arrow is the physical manifestation of a person's soul. The mind /consciousness is the observer. In early life the process is not usually clear because even if anyone looks in the sky for the arrow they are generally dazzled by the sun. Only later in the day, when the angles are easier to spot & the shadows larger, does the bigger picture become clear. Even then, many people do not see that to complete the process, to fulfil the arc of life, demands that we become present at our own death.
If the ultimate purpose of life is to find union with 'all that is' & by this alignment to transcend metaphysical gravity (the time & space in which death is a reality) then it seems to me - a day after yet another massacre in that most unbalanced of countries, the USA – the only way is by integrating the shadow - by assimilating within ourselves the duality holding us back from our true purpose in life. This involves engagement with all that is distasteful about ourselves.
It may involve some kind of wilderness experience, & that is why the disorientation following a job loss, a breakup or bereavement can be a blessing in disguise. Only by embracing all that is unlovable can we truly discover love, and only in uncovering the endless spring of love that we can discern what lies in the shadow's penumbra.
Thus we learn to pick our way throu the deceptive attractions which the shadow offers (& which so entertained us earlier on the journey) & come to the heart of life, the point where the arrow, striking the turf, opens to us the infinity that lies within material existence.

I pulled these thoughts together (if indeed they can be said to be together) perhaps as a result of an alchemical dream last night, whose full extent I don't recall, but they left me feeling utterly blissed, & calm enough to decode a lot things that usually slip throu my mind like mercury. I've recently had a sequence of very (self-)impressive dreams, which seem to have arisen as a result of the energy raised within me by playing by heart for the first time in my 60 yearold life.
Finding unity within oneself is a necessary precursor to plant it as a seed on the earth. We cannot bring peace, we can only be it. The gift in death /dying is that it boils everything down to a few simple things, reminding us that how we choose to leave life is probably the single most important thing we have to do. And we all have to do it. So where is it in today's televsion schedules?
It is the small persnal steps we take that matter in this process, not the big public events. Great art links these two: it is the abracadabra that unfolds the mystery for a moment or two, the aufklärung that displays the landscape of existence. Death, or its aproach, is the very public performance of a very private ritual. Playing it by ear will not do, it demands nothing less than playing by heart. Our tribal ancestors once had a grasp on this crucial aspect of life. What is left of that now?

In love

1 comment:

hector said...

Dear Maxwell,
your words touched me. I have been chatting to Suzi about her grandmother and send you all love and blessings.
I work in Dorset as a soulmidwife. There are lots of very gentle things that you can do while you mother -sit which will enable her to have a very gentle death. There are four distinct physical/mental stages of dying which give a good framework for knowing how best to support the process. I can let you know about them, if this would help.
With all love and blessings Felicity Warner
see www.hospiceoftheheart.org
and also www.soulmidwives.co.uk