The Role Sleep & Dream Function in Discovering the Nature of God

This about sleep function, & this about a region in the brain responsible for (/not) remembering dreams

It seems to me that enough neurological evidence now exists for some imaginative scientist to begin to correlate it & construct a fully psychosomatic theory of dream function that unites both the hardware, firmware & software of homo sapiens? (or should that be homo impercipiens?)
    Yet OTOH maybe this is beyond our collective consciousness at the present time because (just as the Romans lacked a concept of zero) we today lack the concept of a circular argument (ie, where one factor can have a variable meaning according to its place in the expression) & thus there is no way to represent a concept such as relative or variable objectivity?

I was thinking about this as a result of rereading The Cloude of Unknowing, the extraordinary 15thC anonymous guide to finding God whose breathtakingly straightforward writing remains as luminous to psychoanalytically-aware post-Darwinians as it has done to generations of church-Christians. And this led me to a perception that what we can understand of G** is what is at once wholly objective. yet wholly other within us. That in fact the idea G** (as a living experience) represents the perfect equipoise or sweet spot between the chaos of the senses & impulses, the balance between action & inaction - a state that transcends time, as perennial wisdom transcends human wisdom, which cannot be acquired but exists only as a gift. Perhaps comprehensible as a harmonic produced on a string, yet one that obeys not merely physical laws but metaphysical ones which involve the kind of relative objectivity created by archetypes of experience (just as fashion /pop /film creates certain images which epitomise transient social beliefs or 'probabilities’) but at a far more profound level.    
It interests me that god is a word like love that means anything or nothing according to personal experience. Trying to abolish or sidestep the word god achieves nothing since the sense the word embodies is by definition indefinable. And this seems to tally with the idea that the fullest experience is like a ladder apparently leaning against nothing, the rational and non-rational have to coexist in reciprocal balance.

    Which is where dreams come in.


Art in an age without content

In December 2011 Id been watching Andrew Graham Dixon’s BBC4 series Art in America, and it amply illustrated the old adage that ‘advertising is capitalism’s revenge on art’. In the series he demonstrated (unintentionally perhaps) how ad-culture had in fact progressively eviscerated postwar American art by hijacking any attempt to depict complexity, alterity or transcendence, and had systematically obliterated most content or meaning beyond that of a presented surface.

Dixon cited Dan Flavin as the person whose fluorescent light installations finally emptied art of all content.

Immediately after this I visited Nice where Clancy was working at the Opéra and took full advantage of the many galleries of the Côte d’Azur, with Dixon’s ideas buzzing in my mind. Thus it was in the Musée Léger that the penny finally dropt about what the last hundred years of art history had been about. At the time I was reading the psychologist /Nobel-laureate Daniel Kahnemann's book Thinking fast, thinking slow. In it he describes our two ways of seeing: the prima facie glance and the considered  observation.

Seeing Léger’s big crude pictures it fell into place for me that Léger and most subsequent 'art lite' is all about the prima facie glance.

Search as you will in Léger's work there isn't anything else: it's all there on the surface. And that has been the baseline for everything afterwards: this is art in the age of moving images, if it doesn't hit you at once forget explanations, the artist has already lost you. In Léger I see the ideas and shapes as being about a clever manipulation of the semiotics of Modernism. In his early work you see him trying for a style, but once he finds it the work becomes more assured but also lazier and cruder, as if he no longer really needed to bother about meanings because everyone now ‘gets’ him. He has become a brand, as we would say today.

(Exactly the same thing observable in the work of Philip Guston, one of the fathers of US Postmodernism – tho why is beyond me.)

The following day, after a good number of wrong turnings on Cimiez, I finally made it to the Musée Matisse. There I found confirmation of the thesis I was evolving – namely that Matisse was a key figure in the evolution of what might be called ‘high concept’ art (to borrow a phrase from the film industry, meaning a movie which can be summarised in a single sentence, or even just a title) - to wit, the reduction of an art demanding considered observation to one that works adequately as a prima facie glance.

His artistic career may be summarised as the simplification of pictorial content offering transitive multi-layered depth of figuration to a single iconic gesture on an opaque plane - be it a leaf or decorative arrangement of light or coloured paper.
By stripping away content just as the International Style had stript ornament from architecture, Matisse had succeeded in producing exactly what the commercial interests who run the art-world really wanted: a ‘brand’ - which was at once instantly recognisable yet essentially value-neutral, like a Hermès scarf or a Gucci handbag. In other words the perfect commodity for commercial exploitation and reproduction as merchandise in museum shops and on postcards everywhere.

Yet this was about more than creating brands, because this idea of the progressive elimination of moral content (ie ‘intentional meaning’) in art was also the quintessential narrative of Modernism itself – the illusion that humans could disconnect from or obliterate the past - that they could bury once and for all the dark gremlins of Christianity & all its baggage of guilt and sin which had (as they thought) embroiled Europe in the senseless murder of World War One. It’s interesting that between the wars dealers played off Picasso against Matisse, to the extent that one of Matisse’s earliest collectors sold all his works to ‘get into’ Picasso ahead of the market. And of course Picasso’s heirs have carried the process to its apogee by licensing his ‘brand name’ for a range of cars!

The era of Picasso /Matisse /Léger launched artists with a full range of craft skills: but in subsequent generations these skills have become progressively devalued until we have reached the present position where a modern exhibition of ‘drawing’ may not actually contain any hand-made content at all; and the value attached by the professional artworld to craft is epitomised by the appointment of Tracey Emin as professor of drawing at the RA. With the following picture, I rest my case.
The only question must be the velocity of Sir Joshua’s rotation!

Later, when Clancy had a free day, we visited MAMAC (Musée d’art moderne & d’art contemporain), which is in the rear part of the National Theatre of Nice – a 70s complex built over the river Paillion in a style that might euphemistically be described as 'misconceived optimism’, or more straightforwardly as misconceived. The lift having been vandalised we were forced to climb the stairs, but this proved to be as much as Clancy’s knees could manage. So we sat in the foyer and looked at the catalog.

With a couple of exceptions it really was the biggest pile of tat imaginable. Seeing the assembly (collection would be too strong a word) of trivial and meretricious American pop and post-pop artists, and their European imitators, we thought how future ages will surely look at this ugly rubbish and think “what on earth were they on?” before consigning it to a store-room, along with all the insipid Victorian landscapes and interwar Expressionists.

In Dixon's series on modern American art he made the point that most of the guys who 'hit' in the 50s & 60s saw themselves as outsiders. This led me to reflect that, psychologically, so long as they actually were outsiders they had a relationship with an ‘inside’ against which they were rebelling, and which anchored them a kind of counter-balance. But once they themselves, with all their unresolved dissidence and alienation, were hailed as the new mainstream there was no longer anything to counter-balance the energy of their innate negativity. Thus with their bêtes noires vanquished they themselves were in the position not merely of having all their dreams come true, but of foisting those very dreams on others – the unique privilege that being in the mainstream affords the ‘insider’.

Yet that was also a trap, both for them and society as a whole: for if there were no longer a consensual aesthetic criterion of beauty - because the very idea that ‘beauty equals truth’* had been discredited by advertising - then anything goes.
          (*Its deep roots in the human psyche is demonstrated by contemporary celebrity culture, where beauty remains an essential prerequisite of being a ‘personality’.)

And indeed anything did, for Guston, Oldenburg, Warhol et al developed and propagated within the mainstream a deliberate anti-aesthetic concept. Altho this predated the rise of AIDS, it too played a part in the American psyche in leading to an actual distrust of beauty & craft-skill becoming a qualifying statement for those who wished to be taken seriously as avantgardists and (it went without saying) opponents of capitalism and the Vietnam war.
 Academics traced this approach back Duchamp and declared it a valid element in current cultural discourse; but in reality once they and their emulators had created a recognisable style the art world’s commercial imperatives required it to continue producing what had ‘currency’ for curators and collectors. Moreover, those who were successful began to believe their own publicity thus became trapped in a mythography of ‘anti-beauty’ or its transgressive manifestion/s, pace Mapplethorpe and Lou Reed.

I don’t wish to be construed as speaking for or against any particular style of art, my issue is with visionless art. Plenty of figurative art is visionless: plenty of non-representational art is splendidly imaginative. What I have been seeking to do is to draw attention to the way in which today's creative arts are heirs to this progressive elimination from Western Art of the transcendent – horizon-expanding art which challenges lazy humdrum attitudes with new vision and  imagination. As I see it, today that function has been surrendered almost entirely to populist art-forms, whose lingua franca is now the moving image. The custodians of ’Turner Prize art-forms' seem only willing to permit the visionary when it is presented obliquely or incidentally. We are embarrassed by attempts to depict coherent universal meaning/s; we consider duende jejune; and the very idea that the artist might be seeking to respond to the inexpressible mystery of life is regarded as simply puerile. WYSIWYG - there is nothing beyond the material world /consciousness.

The legacy of Modernism is that there is now only the prima facie glance. Yet the absence of the depths of considered observation means that we are without what Jung called an oppositio compensandum, a balancing otherness. Art without roots engaged in the profound meaning/s of life is Art that is incapable of rising above the merely decorative, and at worst is trapt within banality of quotidian imagery. Lazy, hardly begins to describe the work of Sarah Lucas.

 This suits those commercial interests that control journalism and public entertainment, because it is the perfect ‘product’ to be rebranded and remarketed in new guises to a supine public of ‘consumers', fattened on a diet of tech-novelty that keeps them disengaged from the larger questions of their existence. This is materialism in action. Everything that art might be  – a manifestation of the engagement by artists with their daimon &/or the mystery of existence – is dismissed as irrelevant to the Postmodern world.

One may dispute the merits of Ruskin’s long reign over Victorian consciousness and the degree to which it created the illusion of an orthodoxy in cultural values, but the clarity and coherence of his critical perspective influenced the avantgarde of the time as far afield as Ghandi in South Africa, Tagore in Bengal and Tolstoy in Russia. Moreover at least Ruskin and his successors Read and Spencer were social engaged, and saw art as having a valuable function beyond mere game-playing and rhetoric. Part of the problem is that nowadays with the digital world there are very few clear forums which can be treated as the focus of an artform. Alongside this with the financial instability of print-journalism the many layers of debate have left it is equally unclear where /how /for whom criticism is valid. And thus critics qualified to comment authoritatively on the discourse of an artform and interpret trends to the public are themselves on slippery ground, constantly fearful for their own paychecks. We have some excellent critics, Andrew Graham Dixon (Sunday Telegraph, art), Michael Billington (Guardian, Theatre) the late Robert Hughes; but most prefer to stick to writing about big ticket events and few show any real engagement with the dynamic alternatives.

Popular Art/s
There is then the intriguing question as to why ‘curatorial art’ has become so divorced from vernacular taste? And indeed why the professional art world would probably regard such a question as somewhat quaint? Here too this divergence can be traced back to Modernism, with Pound and the Vorticists, Marinetti and the Futurists, or Cocteau and Cubism, not to mention Les Six. Whereas before this hand those pioneering a ’school’ such as the preRaphaelites or the Impressionists saw themselves as standing within a broad tradition, even if they sought to overturn it. From this point tradition itself was seen as the enemy, and artists challenged the public to accept them on their own terms.

But that meant that in order to establish the uniqueness of their ‘brand’, every artist had to invent and ‘copyright’ a trademark. This was a game-changer: whereas previously every age had certain stylistic hallmarks which constituted a lingua franca of which a handful of artists stood out as preeminent exponents. Now in order to invent a gimmick the object was to create a private language and sell this to the public as the latest thing. I came across a very interesting quote of Picasso's: "By amusing myself with all these games, with all these absurdities … and arabesques, I became famous, and that very quickly. And fame … means sales …. And today, as you know, I am celebrated, I am rich. But when I was alone with myself I haven’t the courage to think of myself as an artist in the great and ancient sense of the term. Giotto, Titian, Rembrandt and Goya were great painters; I am only a public entertainer who has understood his times and has exhausted as best he could the imbecility, the vanity, the cupidity of his contemporaries. Mine is a bitter confession, more painful than may appear, but it has the merit of sincerity." Libro Vero 1952.  

Not being driven by the pressures of maintaining a career or making a living the amateur artist who paints for ‘pleasure’ cares nothing for such matters, nor does the average member of the public, and is therefore happy to accept the persistence of traditional æsthetics. For which they are summarily dismissed by the cognoscenti. Yet I have observed in small commercial art galleries around the country there is still a great popular demand for traditional figurative painting which is almost like a subculture flying under the critical radar. And to read magazines aimed at amateur painters is to leave the world of self-styled 21stC art altogether, with their emphasis on traditional painterly craft skills. Ironically nothing demands more vitriol than commercially successful vernacular painters like the self-taught Jack Vettriano or Thomas Kinkade who do not conform to contemporary critical mores, especially the latter who incurs additional ridicule for being a Christian. While I say nothing in defence of their art, I note that the tone of the critical fraternity is more one of sneering outrage at their presumption than of rebuttal of their aesthetic. Unlike music,  the validity of a vernacular discourse in contemporary visual arts has never been acknowledged – possibly because it has never been economically significant. (If Pop art ever was a vernacular form, it quickly became subsumed into the curatorial discourse as soon as it became commercially successful.)

But in music the existence of a dual reality is acknowledged by the distinction between art music and mass market music – indeed, increasingly the latter receives lion’s share of critical attention. On The Independent website you will find a substantial Music category which is entirely devoted to mass market music, and elsewhere a separate section headed Classical. In The Guardian Friday Entertainment revue, 2-3 pages are devoted to mass market music, with one to ‘jazz/world’ and one to ‘classical’. In German this distinction is called Ernst musik & Unterhaltung musik, inspiring the subtitle of ‘E und U’ to Alfred Schnittke’s 1st Symphony, wherein he attempted to reconcile the two. But herein he missed the point because the essence of vernacular music lies not so much in the actual notes used as in the way they are used and the feeling-tone evoked. The essence of popular music is popularity: its function not as a ’text’ demanding consideration, but precisely in its ability to bypass the mind in its skilful manipulation of a limited range of vernacular musical gestures to create what are in effect reworked clichés – the diametric opposite of the principal criterion of art music, whose intellectually-based determination to avoid cliché has the effect of creating a musical ‘gated community’ which denies access to the ‘unqualified'. 

I feel there is one other factor that should be alluded to in decoding the position of the contemporary arts, and that is the level of technical competence that has come in the wake of technology and universal education. Noone, except amateurs, does anything for enjoyment any longer. Indeed it's the hallmark of a professional that they do it as a job - which is 'serious', because making money is serious. Whilst the greatest artists undoubtedly continue, as Odilon Redon did, to work from love and inspiration, and by so doing to honour their daimon or genius; too many think that they themselves are the genius, not that of God within; while other artists follow Picasso in responding to the art game with the same degree of calculated cynicism that businessmen take to trading objects.

I prefer to see the present situation not so much as the decay of an old order, which it is, as the fertile uncertainty from a new paradigm is being constructed. In a situation where almost anything appears valid, the public is expected to survive on a daily diet of junk art, thrown at it by an entertainment industry composed of conmen and chancers, but I still believe that a renewal of artistic vision is possible, if only because life itself is a story of constant renewal, a cycle of remembering and  forgetting and remembering again. Accepting Shelley’s line that
'poets are the unacknowledged legislators of the world', one has to ask what legacy we are leaving future generations? I believe that until artists themselves come to see that the principal validity of art lies in its celebration of creative artists' role as a mediator of the unconscious aquifer of the imagination, which the majority lack aptitude to express, and depends on their self-discipline and discrimination in giving coherence to that vision.

You would be entitled to ask if the arts matter amid the many forms of communication that now exist? My answer is that it matters immensely - not perhaps to those whose life opinions are already formed, altho even here they reinforce our identity-perception - but the images /sounds which we choose within our surroundings not only define the world young people are preparing to enter, but are exactly what strangers see of /in us. Yet art also offers more coherent ways of questioning and challenging the surfaces of the so-called real world than politics does – for the latter is, and can only exist in, the surface world. And those who talk of ’the real world’ make it a shorthand for lazy &/or venal assumptions which favour the status quo. And if it is the duty of art to do anything it is to suggest that the real real world is infinitely greater and richer than that of quotidian existence.

The Salisbury poet George Herbert put it four centuries ago:
A man that looks on glass,
On it may stay his eye;
       Or it he pleaseth, through it pass,
 And then the heav'n espy.  

We are on our way to a new vocabulary of the arts and of society, it matters less what that literally is than that it is compiled by imaginative creative arts working from their true centre as has been true of all art that has stood the test of time.


How my spirituality deepened

A letter to Toby Guise, written over Christmas 2013


I experienced a Christian conversion throu the ministry of Billy Graham c.1966 when I was 19-20. Its effect on me was profound, and I've never doubted the validity of the experience. I tried for about 12 years to live within that milieu, progressing to charismatic experience well before it was ‘profitable or popular’ (as Flann OBrien would say of Irish Nationalism). But ultimately it didn’t work for me: I came to see it as a politically-conformist bourgeois movement with dangerous undertones, long before Thatcher & the rise of the Religious Right. I felt those in the (cap C) Christian music /film biz, in which I tried to make myself useful, had a very narrow, not to say suburban, world-view with no interest in - or indeed understanding of - a genuinely creative dynamic. They could only grasp preformatted concepts that accorded with their narrow perspective: but then neither was the Brave New World in the 70s interested in any Christian idea(l)s - which were thought of as being as old hat as CS Lewis & Tolkein. (What goes around comes around!) I also had some pretty bad experiences of casual treachery with certain leading Christian figures of the time - which demonstrated the dichotomy between public & private morality, or perhaps conscious intention & unconscious behaviour.

By the time I met Clancy I was a member of an Elim Pentecostal Church. She never felt at home in that environment. During the first couple of years of our marriage (1975) I was trying to figure out why certain spiritual experiences were labeled as good, and others as bad. Her theatre career meanwhile continued ever upward, & we were in contact with various intellectual luminaries, whom I could see had not only a genuine personal dynamic but also leverage on the zeitgeist with which the formulaic repetitions of credal Christianity simply didn’t engage. Eventually I realised that the evangelical-Christian world-view is essentially boundaried by vocabulary. You could have ’the gift of knowledge’ but not clairvoyance - even if you were clairvoyant - and so on. Once I saw that the barriers around this conceptual enclave were based rather on linguistic formulas than any perennial or experiential archetype/s I began to see that I had to penetrate beneath this level to free myself from its stultifying effect on my creative anima.

This was a hard time spiritually - because altho Clancy & I were both quite successful the fees weren't ever large and arrived at alarmingly irregular intervals, so despite the great love our children brought us, it was a continual scrabble to keep our little show on the road. This militated against my allowing myself space to engage with my creative unconscious. Tho I didn’t then recognise it as such, I had a deep psychological scar about composing my ‘heart music’ owing to the utter indifference that had greeted my first attempts to compose (which in its turn had triggered my decision to run away) but OTOH I could write music ‘like a sow pisses’ (Mozart’s phrase) if it was for a dramatic situation. My BBC music career was going well & I had a couple of anni mirabili - but the communication between my conscious & unconscious awareness was fitful at best - owing to this glitch.*

I was always trying to develop broadcast projects as a writer in order to get myself out of the tail-end-charlie position which music occupies in the hierarchy of drama. I felt huge energy of ideas within me, but I hadn’t found a way to give myself permission to let them develop /gestate organically. One of the ways I began to find freedom from the tyranny of my left brain was to go out driving at night. We'd bought a house in Leatherhead - where housing was cheapest. I became fascinated by the prehistoric trackways across the North Downs & would drive over them sensing a communion with those who had used them, seeking to unlock my own ancient buried patterns of communication. A poem I wrote at that time: http://msteer.co.uk/creative/poetry/round.html  I needed to penetrate a layer of palaeo-psychological of experience below the glib answers of Evangelical Christianity to where the big questions were open to different interpretations. I'd abandoned the Elim Church, partly as a result of moving, but also because the young pastor’s wife had the hots for me. Their marriage wasn’t working (& for the very reason/s her husband didn’t notice it wasn’t) so an awkward situation was on the cards had I not disappeared.

During this time I got my first script commissions from BBCr3 … by extrapolating my own position as a ‘blocked composer’ to propose a series on composers in a similar situation who had turned to the written word. My first series featured Berlioz (voiced by Bob Stephens), then came The Composer’s Voice with Debussy (David Suchet), Ives, Antheil, Boughton, Lutyens (Liz Spriggs), Milhaud. After that I was able to parlay my way into several 45' & 60' drama programmes, the most ambitious of which was a 2h adaptation of Lord Berners’ camp roman à clef about the young Walton, Count Omega. The excitement of hearing these pieces produced gave me unique experience of longform pacing - of relevance to my ultimate interest in writing opera.


A couple of years later I picked up George Fox’s autobiography in a secondhand bookshop and found it inspiring. By this time Sefa's birth was imminent & it propelled us to find a larger house; so once again, driven wherever we could afford, we'd bought a 14 room Regency villa (with no electricity) for £25k in Peckham. One Friday I woke up knowing that I wanted to visit a Quaker Meeting, and discovered there was one in nearby Blackheath. My first visit was so rewarding that I returned with Clancy the following week, and she too got transported by the collective meditation. This became the environment in which we brought up our kids, and I know they found it very nourishing. Presently, only one identifies herself as a believer, but all found the ethical foundation valuable, and who knows how the spirit is moving in their lives? For me, to encounter a non-doctrinal living form of Christianity was very much the answer to prayer, and it was a marvelous liberation to delve into Quaker history & discover the social values to which I aspired woven into the very fabric of the Society.Ħ

But this still didn’t solve my creative dichotomy between coming up with what I could sell & my own creative truth. During the 80s Clancy & I continued to explore alternative ideas /perennial wisdom, & while reading Jung my interest was piqued to have several dreams involving random numbers, which I wanted to puzzle out. The moment I began to pay attention to my dreams I entered an enchanted castle. In the late 80s this brought two tremendously significant influences into my life. The first was Sai Baba, who appeared to me in a theophanic dream - far & away the most powerful dream I've ever had.  Id never heard of him, nor was I the least interested in Indian ideas, so when his name was clearly given me in the dream I imagined it was just another weird name dredged up by my subconscious. The web didn’t exist then & thus it wasn’t until about 9 months later that I discovered that Sai Baba was indeed a real person. But meanwhile, whoever he was, he had firmly imprinted himself on me. His effect on me was as if Holy Spirit§ had taken up residence in my consciousness, I began to receive guidance & hope in a very intimate spiritual way at a time when I knew I was going to have to change my life if I was to reach my potential as a creative artist. Needless to say my ego-identity & financial stability (such as it was) was inextricably interwoven with the professional position I had achieved  - and the implications of letting to of either were truly terrifying in terms of the survival of our family unit. BUT I knew this was a darkness I was going to have to go throu if I were to achieving full creative integration & be liberated from my blockage, and his presence never failed me.¤

T’other significant event was that I was attracted to attend a weekend of films called The Way Of The Dream - which featured Marie-Louise von Franz. This was a revelation. At last, here was an incredibly wise old woman explaining how the most fundamental processes of life play out & are reflected inside us. Her explanations were so simple and so thoro that I could scarcely believe, having sought this info all my life, others had not penetrated it before and made it wasn’t common knowledge? Judge for yourself. http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLEC62024EB58056EC

It was during this period that Clancy & I began to meditate together every morning. I can't over-emphasise the value in a relationship of having regular period of intimacy that isn't predicated on sex. Few people even seek this, but I can tell you that when a relationship gets sticky - as all do from time to time - to have a neutral space which demands nothing of either party beyond being there together is a space where healing can occur spontaneously.


So I came to 1990-1. These years brought my greatest achievements in the (old) world: Notes From Janàček’s Diary, created in the BBC Radiophonic Workshop for BBCr3; Elegy, created over 2 years in the RCM Electronic Music Studio premiered by SPNM, and The Watcher in the Rain, a play about James Joyce’s relationship with his schizophrenic dauter produced at the Rose Theatre. I had hoped that one or all would have set the world afire. Each received respectable notices, but noonelse saw in them what I hoped was there. They'd represented my best shot/s at other people’s targets - from now on I knew that I must shoot only at inner targets & seek to achieve internal subjective coherence since endeavouring to satisfy other people’s expectations had never worked in my life.

I resigned from my position as Head of 20thC Studies at the Junior Royal College of Music with effect from Christmas 1991 and went to Findhorn - a place that has been hugely influential in my development - to discover what I should be doing next. Everything suddenly fitted into place. The first thing I saw was a poster for the screening of a film about Sai Baba that night. It was the first time Id even seen a picture of him. In my initial dream Id been told I must bring him a gift, but Id remembered it the other way round, and had refrained from asking for anything until I was certain that I was willing to will his will. Now it came to me to ask for the gift of joy. And I can honestly say that since that day, even when things have been adverse, I've never lost this inner joy.

As well as my dreams I was ‘receiving guidance’ from Sai Baba. I kept all this and about 10 years ago I uploaded it to http://tlotc.blogspot.com/. I still find it inspiring to reread it from time to time. Some people think this represents an external communication, others that it arises from within the circuitry of the brain. I have no difficulty with either perspective, since what is most truly within us, our unconscious, is also what is most truly outwith us.

T’other thing that happened in Findhorn, where there are dynamic connexions all over the world, was that they’d come to terms with email & I suddenly saw that this created the opportunity for a forum linking new spirituality with eco-activism & liberation politics, so I came up with idea of a weekly newsmag called CataList, a TimeOut of the new age. (Ironically this was also how TimeOut itself had started, tho it had long since lost it.) At this stage the web And within 3 weeks of returning to London Id got a publisher for it in the person of John Brown, who’d bought Viz & Fortean Times & was looking to expand into the alternative market. Finding backing was crucial because financially I was like a cartoon character ’treading air’ over the edge of a precipice.

Suddenly everything was in fast forward, and - since Id always been highly techno-savvy - it was frustr-ilarating to be trying to create a networked office, with the very early Mac protocols. The story of CataList can be told another time. 18 months later it was employing 5 people, but I was never one of them - the money didn’t stretch that far. It was an incredible adventure & the most exhausting thing I've ever done. Finally our little vessel took two direct hits  - either of which we mightve survived, but not both in the same week. Then began the scariest period of my life: I thought I was going to get sued to kingdom come. What was far far worse was I couldn’t figure out how if Id been following my guidance I was not just sinking I was about to lose the roof over my family’s heads. It was almost the strangest time of my life: Id have nights of blinding clarity followed by days of sheet terror; and white nights followed by blissed-out days.      

With hindsight I can see what this was all about. I thought I was being given this great new project to carry out on behalf of the great gods to bring spirit into the world - but the reality was that this was a leela. They were having a laugh. Spiritually the function of this episode was to completely disorient me so that I had to abandon my conscious mind. Of course that’s what Id said I wanted - but the reality horrified me: the most terrifying thing imaginable was to be the last man aboard a ship that had lost its power & was being driven onto the rocks. But that was what was supposed to happen.

Events were all utterly beyond my power to control. But here was the bizarre thing. I thought at least CataList had broken even, but my accountant showed me that Id actually lost £13k over the 2 years it ran. We had to sell the house to clear debts & the damndest thing happened. When we put it on the market a little bidding war erupted which resulted in us getting exactly £13k above the asking price! Similarly, we'd found our present house but while the Natwest was indifferent to our debts if we remained where we were - they refused to allow us to downsize our mortgage if we moved. Id been desperately looking for work, and yet strangely the one job I managed to pick up was a commission from BBCr4 to make a documentary about a pilgrimage I proposed to make to Sai Baba. On the Friday two days before I was due to leave (& which resulted in Clancy having to do most of the house-packing) we didn’t have a mortgage & couldn’t complete on our present house. I spent the whole day in prayer, at my wits end. By 17:30 there’d been no movement. Everything seemed like the most colossal betrayal. I had betrayed by family, and in turn had been betrayed by my dreams.

Then at 18:30 or 19:00 the phone went, and a NatWest senior manager said he'd been checking throu our paperwork and he could see that a mistake had been made. We could have the mortgage. It's strange how it works: you never get the result until you’ve given up hope. It’s as if The Powers That Be want you to know 1) the universe is not a neutral space, but is spiritually responsive to the least whisper of a true heart 2) it’s not your call.  


I went to India - which was a strange, marvelous, confounding experience; potentiated by the fact that I was recording everything I experienced. No doubt why ‘Jimi Hendrix’ (the man in the afro) fixed it for me. All I can say is that there is no framework of reference in England by which I can describe the experience to you. The arrival of the Beatles in Shea Stadium didn’t come near it. People queued for hours before the ashram gates opened, and then sat on the floor for 1-2 hours before Jimi made his entrance. At this point, in marked contrast to the West, total silence engulfed the c.20,000 devotees - to the extent that one became superconscious of a bus horns in the street or a distant train. We've had two centuries of rationalism which has eviscerated those who claim apostolic succession. When was the last time anyone in the West became excited by meeting a prelate? But here people followed Sai Baba with the passion of football supporters, or the total submission of pop groupies. It was far from a pretty sight.
    What of the man himself, moving slowly along the gangways, taking letters from some, occasionally producing vibhuti (ash) for another, even more rarely prasad (gooey fudge) to share among a group? [All from his open palm]. I didn’t have a personal audience but I did have a direct encounter when one day he walked down the row where I was & paused to take my letter. Seeing him approaching gave me a chance to appraise closely. His movement was stately & his gestures rhythmic yet deliberate: but the main thing that struck me was his eyes. They were like those of a world leader, seeing absolutely everything going on around him yet remaining aloof from the bustle of subordinates & the pressure of expectations surrounding him. Many people I interviewed told me stories about how he had told them things about themselves that nobodyelse could possibly have known. Without doubt he focussed into the auric or akashic record of those he interacted with and would respond with what met their soul hunger, which couldve been anywhere along a spectrum from the metaphysical (manifestation/s) to the purely spiritual. That’s what his incredible powers were about, not what the vulgar herd thought.
    You tell everything you need to know about a leader from the quality of his entourage; and people around Sai were top calibre folk  from every nation - mostly men, but a small amount of women, mostly American. During my first week adjusting to the ballyhoo & commercialised guru-worship I ivd a serene black elderly American and said that I was finding tremendously hard to reconcile the physical manifestation of Sai with the Sai in my head. He replied: “yes, I had that difficulty too. Never doubt, the Sai in your head is the real one.” which was a huge helping me keep my finger on the plot.
    My most beautiful encounter was with a very old sikh in a blue turban. Long after everyonelse had filed out of the Darshan Hall, he remained on a bench at the side, lost in bliss. When he eventually returned to himself I asked him what as a Sikh he found in Sai Baba? As he looked at me his eyes remained focussed on infinity and he slowly mumbled “all is one.”
    Another penetrating view was offered me by the head of the Sai Academy in Puttaparthi.‡ I provocatively asked his view of messiahs, and without pausing he replied: “Oh, failed messiahs are ten a penny. Nature throws them up all the time. What is extremely rare is the necessary discipline for them to actually develop the powers & put them to the use they were given for.”


So we took up residence in the womb of Wiltshire in 1993. And then began the very darkest period of the cloud of vnknowing. I was constantly busy with projects but few paid the price of the busfare. There was a long-drawn-out sequel to my Pilgrimage - which really taught me what leelas are and how the gods (/our subconscious) set them up. Having a prog to record had really sharpened my senses for everything I encountered & given me the illusion that I was doing an important job (very much like being allowed to help Daddy) but the underlying spiritual reality was the soul-lesson to be learnt - namely, the Powers That Be don’t need your help or anyonelse’s. The only people they can work throu are those who are totally submissive /responsive to ‘that of God within’ (the meaning of the word muslim). I think sin is an unhelpful & hackneyed word, but another way of expressing the concept is that we’re full of shit & we need to have that shit totally kicked out of us before we can begin to comprehend the magnificence of our environment and the majesty of our potential as co-creators of the future with the heart of the universe.
    I was thrilled with what Id recorded & sent all the tapes to the Ch Prod Religion in M/ter expecting to hear from him. I then immersed myself in moving & the immense task of converting our present house & making it habitable as it had absolutely nothing except water & LX. After a couple of months I became more & more annoyed to have heard nothing whatever, so I called up the Ch Prod Religion - to discover the bastard had taken early retirement & simply dumped me. Knowing of old always to have a note of secretaries’ names I managed to speak to her. She knew which cupboard the tapes were in & said she'd arrange for them to be listened to. Eventually a very nice young producer got in touch & was enthusiastic, but said the Ch Prod Religion had acted on his own say-so (with departmental petty cash as-it-were) & that the prog had not formally been commissioned. This he undertook to do, but in time received the answer from Cr4 that they were holding all Indian subject over to the following year which was the demicentenary of independence. I could see at once that this wouldn’t fit into that concept, so he sent me back the tapes & suggested I try a department called Network Services - of which Id never heard.
    I duly contacted it & found an extremely intelligent woman (let’s call her Helen) who explained that her department’s job was to make features for the local radio network. There wouldn’t be any money in it, but should could arrange facilities for me to edit the piece & they'd punt it around their system if they liked it, but it was up to BBC local radio station managers to air it. Accordingly, I spent the next two months’ Sunday mornings in  tiny cubicle in Radio Wiltshire’s minuscule facility in Salisbury with 2 Studer A80 ¼” reel-to-reel machines (gawdblessem) assembling premix masters. So eventually it was finished as 2x 30’. I didn’t shy away from including awkward material Id recorded about a troubling situation a couple of years earlier where 4 boys from Sai Academy had been shot by police allegedly for trying to rob him. Even if the cover story was true, which I doubt, it was a highly unsavoury & completely wrong response - but nothing could ever be verified because the bodies were buried before their parents could see them. By including a trenchant iv about the unanswered questions with a Bangalore journalist I instantly ruled out any support from the Sai community’s most famous benefactor (Isaac Tigreth, founder of Hard Rock Cafés) - since duality was not welcome in discussion of a God - only hagiography was permitted. But I have no regrets: it was my duty to include it.
    The end of the saga was that about a year later Helen sent out the progs for broadcast. Heaven(!) knows how the info reached them but the Indian community went into overdrive on learning that a prog about Sai Baba was to be broadcast & bombarded the BBC Helpline for info. Eventually I had a call saying they'd had an unprecedented volume of enquiries and had somehow dug out my name. But I could tell them nothing about transmission/s & refered them back to Helen - who also knew nothing, since that decision was down the local managers. In the end as far as I know only 2 BBCLR stations actually did run it somewhere at the back end of their schedules. Thus did I graduate in the karma module – do your work to the best of your ability, leave the masterplan to the master.  It’s none of your fucking business! Or as it says in the Bible “deo (solus) dat augmentum.” There’s a couplet I love from Updike’s poem Midpoint.
Cherish your work, take pleasure in your task:
For doing’s the one reward a man dare ask.
    It goes with his other magnificent one from the same poem
God screws the lukewarm, slays the hear that faints,
And saves his deepest silence for his saints.


And that was what happened next. I don’t know how I came throu it - other, obviously, than the  the love of Clancy, my kids and a handful of close friends (who strangely have all drifted away now my life has mutated yet again). It certainly took me back throu my suicidal impulses before I ran away from school. There were times I thought I just couldn’t carry on in such total silence & isolation. Of course there were bright shafts of sunlight, but it was like groping blindly for some kind of foothold in a fathomless pit. This experience is far from uncommon, and indeed I'm convinced that what we nowadays label as depression is simply a natural element of or prelude to soul evolution which rationalism dare not acknowledge because it has no theory of mind that encompasses the non-rational aspects of the human condition.
    During this time I was continuing to note my dreams - but then I found something changing around the turn of the century. I would wake in the first light of dawn with no memory of a dream yet fully alert. And into that space came sometimes words, sometimes music - so I started to record that just as I had my dreams. And one such ‘dictation’ was http://youtu.be/QQDNPqZtaFs. I haven’t really listened to it since, but I paused to take it in when writing this. Easter is always a tremendously psychically alive time for me, but I was startled to have this poem clearly given to me in 2004. I my ego-self w/could never have written it. Read it here http://msteer.co.uk/creative/poetry/easterdawn.html.  Sometime later I began to set it to music, finishing it at Findhorn the following Easter, while I was there for an Eckhard Tolle conference (rather disappointing, since you ask). 

In some ways, telling you about this set of experiences was the point of this e-pistle. I feel that in this piece & in my other 21stC choral music http://msteer.co.uk/vide/4ndexvscores.htm I have ‘acquitted my soul’ (as Fox said). It’s ludicrously hard & noone will perform it until the right choral conductor comes along who has done the karmic work on hirself to understand it both spiritually & musically. This person will see the healing it offers & will give it to the world. I may not see this with human eyes, but I know that in spirit my eyes will see it - and see it usher in a new era - every bit as certainly as I know those I love. This is the work of love: to place oneself unreservedly in the hands of love, and to build one small section of the building with one’s best craftsmanship, while not attempting to control the overall design. It is the work that Merlin does, casting the spell that holds the sword in the stone, which can only be released by an Arthur whom he may never know yet who somehow, by the grace of God, holds the pas-sword to pluck if forth at the kairos.
    I know that in these pieces my name will live, even tho now it is unknown. But then my name is of no more significance than those of the cathedral builders, or the author of the Cloude of Vnknowing, or the master of the Eisenach Triptych, or anyonelse who allows themselves to become the Blessed Virgin and receive the impregnation of Holy Spirit. Bach would have told you exactly this, despite living in an age when anonymity was no longer possible. Bruckner certainly thought that.
    To me, having written this music is like having paid off your mortgage (still 2 years to go for me!) After that you live rent free. I've written at some length because doing so was a therapeutic activity, since my motors were still revving after successfully concluding the astonishing number of projects I'd had on the go in December - yet with nothing to engage my energy.


Slowly the little nuggets of meaning that had cohered one by one in the darkness assumed critical mass - and from that I could feel my authentic voice emerging, as it had only existed before as an attenuated shadow. What is has become (for instance in The Fortress of Illusion or now Unexpectedly Vacant) is still only a prefiguration of what I know I can do once I'm fully in control of my cognitive levers & (grotesquely to mix metaphors) know how to cut out the fat & pare the focus down to the very sinew. But then we're all works-in-progress.
    I had to get to this space without anyonelse’s permission. Because noone would give it to me I had to find out how to how obtain an inner affirmation that came to me throu dreams. (My 3000th recorded last night!). When I was 13 I knew that I already knew all that I needed to know for my life, and my depression arose because I couldn’t make myself comprehensible in the language spoken by those around me - and I felt (rightly or wrongly, who can say) that this had already happened to me in a previous life. So that if I made the choice of quitting then all that would happen in the long run was that Id have to come back & face it all over again. Realising that made me determined, somehow, to tough it out & learn earth-speech. I knew then, as surely as I know everything else I've told you, that my peak years would be 60-80: and that all I had to do was to survive until then.
    I wouldn’t say any of this to any average joe, because they wouldn’t understand it & would just assume I was delusional. But I write to you as a person of faith - “and without faith it is impossible to please him” - sensing that there may be common elements in our journey/s. What Jung shows more than anyone is “that the stone [lapis angularum] the builders rejected is become the headstone of the corner.” That is the trajectory of faith, if we can be still enough to receive it.
    When I met these Blake proverbs as a boy I instinctively recognised they were true, and have cleft to them in all circs:
If the fool would persist in his folly he should become wise. (I think this might have been a saying of my father’s)
The tigers of excess are wiser than the horses of instruction.

WarmBest Wishes

*     There’s an interesting reference in Jules’ e-pistle to Iain McGilchrist’s book below - which I think a very interesting exploration of this topic in terms of brain hemispheres.
Ħ     I consider that Fox’s vision of a non-verbal religious structure of relating /belonging one of the most truly remarkable achievements of all time - which prefigured the West’s discovery of Eastern religious thoughtforms by 3oo years, and whose dynamic-point centredness continues to offer a beacon to the credal churches whose fixed-point centredness has entrapt them in ancient thickets of pre-Darwinian belief.
§     The Bible never gives Holy Spirit a definite article, and I believe it is quite wrong to objectify this quality /experience as if whatever it is can be identified & analysed, far less transmitted by a rite like confirmation. NB I do not say that Sai Baba is or was Holy Spirit, merely that my sensations were similar.
¤     Not the least I have to thank Sai Baba for is introducing me to Vedantic thought.Discovering it was like entering a dark room from bright sunlight. At first I could discern little of interest, but as my eyes accustomed to the new light I began to see that every surface was covered with incredible riches that have stood the test of thousands of generation. The subtlety and clarity with which the Vedas present & foreshadow the spiritual journey each person must make is presented with an authority rooted in the depths of time and exprest in a language, sanskrit, whose very syllables are woven together with an esoteric spiritual coherence to which only Hebrew comes anywhere near. For acting as a guide to this I owe Sai Baba as much as I owe any teacher.
    I'm well aware of the allegations of paedophilia made towards the end of his life, and consider them all too sadly credible; Nevertheless even if proved this does nothing to diminish the extraordinary way I guided throu whole ballet of extremely difficult moves.
‡    The ‘Sai Commonwealth’ ran 5 boys & 2 girls schools, a hospital with worldclass heart facilities, and had provided 70 villages with water filtered for naturally occurring fluorosis, as well as many other initiatives in Southern India.