Dream Prayer

I was having a night of turbulent dreams, in one of which I was pedalling a grand piano into the entrance to a Tesco carpark at a snails pace, despite my legs going round like mad. Eventually I gave up and pushed it. Tho it as hard, it was a lot easier. At this point I awoke and then this prayer came to me. 

I humbly kneel before your throne, great just and mighty God,
Attentive to the inner whisper of your presence.
Here the storm is banished - within this sanctuary of peace I feel your loving care and know that all is well. Obedience is a word I've lacked – faith another. 
You are the same God our forebears trusted and were preserved from harm. Be our protector too. 
Allow us please, the privilege of knowing that as we place our will at your disposal we become partners in the unfolding universe, and so fulfil our destiny as light-bearers – for whom faithful service is its own reward.

During the time this was dictated to me I began to feel the most wonderful peace, and so returned to sleep. 


The Spirituality of the Land - John Carey

Oriel College, Oxford
I hope I do not misrepresent  John Carey's Deep memory and the power of place in early Ireland, since many of its reference points were new to me. He opened with a paragraph from Augustine (Confessions 10.8) where he says that 'memory is an entire universe' wherein we are led to credit things that we do not otherwise know and/or which are beyond our personal experience. Augustine also talks of the 'the fields and palaces of memory', which I took to include archetypal imagination and dream space.

Carey's lecture concerned the dark ages of Irish history and the nexus between oral (Druid) and literate (Christian) memory; and the agendas of the latter in subtly distorting the former, whether deliberately or by misunderstanding. He said that, contrary to widespread belief, early Celtic culture was not illiterate. They used the Greek alphabet; however they did not use it for religious purposes since, no doubt, they felt that its two-dimensionality could not capture the importance of feeling /experience /memory in transmitting spiritual perception/s.
St Patrick began to evangelise Ireland in the 5thC, but the continuing presence of Bards in the 7thC may be inferred from certain references. And a fragment known as The Conversation between St ColumCille (Columba) and the Youth from the 8-9thC suggests that Bardic beliefs in reincarnation were still prevalent, for the 'Youth' seems to be talking about memories of former experiences /lives to the Saint, and contains the sentence: "If you truly know: death is but the middle of a long life."
Carey dwelt at some length on a (9thC?) account of the story of an encounter between Tuàn and Finnio. The latter is represented as a Christian scholar keen to learn from the oral memory of an old, thrice-reborn, high Druid. Carey made the point that the tale would seem to be an attempt to colonise memories of the old religion by representing the expiring Bard as voluntarily handing his tradition forward to Christianity as its natural successor – using the same technique by which sacred pagan locations and festivals were christianised.
     Nevertheless, the narrative reveals much of the old attitudes, particularly in relation to the concepts of transformation and rebirth – and thus to ideas of a reincarnatory continuity of perennial wisdom. Tuàn tells how when he grew too old he returned to an ancestral cave. There he fasted for three days, fell asleep (ie, surrendered consciousness) and was reborn. His first metamorphosis was to become a wild stag; at the end of which life by the same process he became a hawk; followed again by becoming a salmon.  
     In that life he was caught by a magic boy (a prince) and eaten by his virgin sister - from whom he was reborn for his final incarnation as a return to human form. He was now desirous of handing on his Druidic knowledge so that he could be released from further rebirth. By so doing he was implicitly entrusting Finnio, and thus the Church, with the guardianship of his lineage.

Carey showed pictures of Coull's Cave in the Mourne Mountains as a typical example of a natural formation used by bards to anchor myth/s within a landscape and make them real or credible to the populace. Fingal's Cave near Iona would be another. He made the point that the use of location appears to create a narrative legitimacy for articulating archetypal myth, and thus establishes a self-reinforcing connexion between [deep] memory and place.
     I would add that in his BBCtv series on the Greek Myths Robin Lane-Fox makes exactly the same point, and illustrates it brilliantly by citing classical authors in the very locations to which they alluded.

Carey's final reference was to a single gnomic illustration which appears to illustrate how Druidic mnemonic practice may have worked, by teaching bards to tie the sequential narrative of their sagas to specific elements within a landscape.  


Spirituality of the Land Conference - Caitlin Matthews

Meeting others on the same path is always rewarding. Additionally so when meeting a group whose collective assumptions, discoveries and conclusions you can compare with your own. Having long been conscious myself of the spiritual characteristics of different landscapes, to find myself among others of similar sensitivity was an affirmatory and at times moving experience.

The speakers at this conference in Oriel College Oxford included the organiser, Prof Arthur Versluis (U Michigan) on Entering the mysteries - living sacred sites in N America and W Europe, John Carey on Deep memory and the power of place in early Ireland and John Matthews on the Green Man. 

But of all the talks it was Caitlin Matthews' The place of true abiding: healing the ancestral communion with the land that spoke most strongly to me. She explained how the place of our birth imprints a psychic resonance on us as clearly as the microbial DNA that is found in our teeth and bones. Thus, for her, the quest for where /what /to whom one belongs ('the place of true abiding') has to begin with taking account of the physical and psychic nature of the terrain, the flora, fauna, water and earth as well as parents and society we first encounter. Un-/consciously, we will in one way or another be driven by attempts to replicate this throuout our lives; and therefore it is importantly to reengage with and reconcile these experiences before we can move on to redefine ourselves in different contexts. 
     I might add that one can see the relevance of this approach to the ideas that inform astrology – regardless of whether or not one accepts their validity.

Matthews said that we derive knowledge of our place in the worlds from more than human ancestry. All the organic beings within our birth habitat are elements in the perpetual choir whose song stands outside time yet is heard within us. Analog TV sets used to require adjustment of vertical and horizontal hold. Here, the horizontal hold is provided by the totality of place, while the vertical hold comes from knowing the 'ancestral current' of which we are a tributary, as she put it.

We are called to strike a balance between the place where we are now – 
the place that is calling to us – 
and our origins. 
Becoming whole involves reentering and reconciling these nested realities.
History is not a pyramid or an ever-extending road; it is a circle or cycle in which we are brought back to intersecting points with our past by many life events, not least our Saturn Return every 28 years. She noted that exiles seek to replicate their native cultural context wherever they end up, because it is throu a sense of the restoration of place that psychic wholeness is recovered.

It's as if we need this in the same way that salmon and other migratory species are drawn back to their origins in order to become fertile and so transmit their essence to the future. In consequence of which, certain places have an indefinable depth for us. It may also be that we carry within us ancestral memories which have been subconsciously transmitted to us, and which we re-cognise despite not having encountered them before. Caves and other natural de-/formations become powerful entry points in the outer world by which we can enter inner experience. Who you walk with alters what you see.

When we reach the place of true abiding it has an authenticity that stands outside time, like a scholar immersed in study /a parent immersed in hir child /a musician immersed in performance, or a child immersed in a game. Time and space fold in on themselves and we become lost in wonder and enter into communion with the otherness of the experience.  Finding this 'place of our true abiding' cancels the sense of exile.

Caitlin's most beautiful thought was 'we are the gift our ancestors give our children.'


Eccelsiasticus – Qoholeth (the preacher) - chapter 2

The book known to us as Eccelsiasticus* – in hebrew Qoholeth. the preacher – is one of the most luminous wisdom writings. But as it comes in the Apocrypha it is little know. I have here rendered into modern gender-neutral language.
*Not to be confused with Ecclesiastes, a book of ritual in the OT.

My child if you aspire to serve the Lord prepare yourself for an ordeal.
Be sincere of heart and steadfast, and do not be alarmed when disaster comes.
Hold to your vision and do not abandon it, that you may be honoured in old age.
Whatever happens to you: accept it, and in the uncertainties of your humble state be patient –

     since gold is tested in the fire and they who are chosen in the furnace of humiliation.
Trust in your inner truth and it will uphold you. Walk a straight line. Keep faith.

You who are awed by the raw power in the universe – remember that everything is in flux,
so don’t give up in tough times lest you lose sight of your real self.
You who are awed by the raw power in the universe –
trust your inner experience and you will not be denied your reward.
You who are awed by the raw power in the universe – 

     pray for the common good, for lasting happiness, and for mercy.

Look at the record of faith and see if anyone who truly trusted in this power was defeated? 

     Or who truly connected with this power and was abandoned?
     Or who called on it and was ignored?
For this raw power in the universe is full of love and healing, regrowing what is broken
     and responding compassionately in extremis.

Woe betide the faint-hearted and lazy; and those who try to have it both ways.
Woe betide those unwilling to commit, for they are without protection.
Woe betide you if you give way to despair – what will you do if things get worse?

They who sense this power seek to understand its principles; 

     and love all who make the same discoveries.
They who sense this power seek to align with it;
and find their greatest satisfaction in the groundedness it brings.
They who sense this power hold their hearts open, and honour whatever life brings.

Let us rely on this power of the Lord, not on our fellow humans or their technology; 

     for as is its immensity – so is its intimacy.