Wednesday 11 November 2015

Wroth Silver 2015: The Road of Time

Here's a road along a ridge that was here before there were wheels to make it rutted
Older than the legions that marched it; a cattle drovers' way guarded by mighty oaks;
Arden's most ancient guardians have watched over other travellers
Traders with packs or laded carts; cars, lorries, all kinds of goods & transport,
& the movement of people, the river of humanity never ceasing.

Here's the land, the Knightlow Hundred through which the old road passes,
Rolling ridges bounding a central plain; farms, cross roads & cottages
Hedge lines  & earthy mound boundaries, villages with greens & fords, steeples & cenotaphs
Speak of the famous kind of history made by dukes & barons, councils & corporations
But all who work here, or take this road to seek or make their fortunes also make their mark.

Look at the ploughed field where the birds flock, for us that will be a green,
The road bridge a testament to its hi-viz engineers & their forbears,
The tall ash tree standard a steeple, let us  dedicate it to young St Kenelm,
The stone gatepost a monument to those who raised, maintained & guarded it:
The land itself is history, not just some story told of the great & maybe good.

& you can feel the depth of that history, the depth the plough has cut
The depth the ditch digger dug, the depth of the field that is time, the journey that is time;
A story, a cycle, a labour of some days; generations of people at work on the land:
Farm hands & wooders, diggers & drovers, like flocks of birds, come & then gone;
That small tree in the hedge became a giant; let us dedicate it to our ancestors.

& we are many & some of us from far away, still we walk the same road
Gather in the same field, on the same mound before dawn at Martinmas
To honour those who paid their due, made their mark, did their work; built  homes,
Roads, bridges, steeples, cenotaphs & gateposts; & we toast the same long-serving monarch
Whatever name we give to ourselves, wherever we come from.

For a short time each year we bear witness to our state of belonging to the land
To the land that feeds & waters us (& long may it) & those who have guarded it,
Maintained & defended it from harm; stood forth for the dispossessed landsman & protected travellers;
We stand together held in the dark by ties we cannot see, not just ancient obligations
A celebration of the field of time, the road of time; the land & the people of the land.

This is the second year that I have been honoured to be commissioned to write & perform my work at the Wroth Silver Ceremony. Wroth Silver is recorded in the Domesday Book as an ongoing English ceremony of  taxation & is probably the longest running continuous ceremony in England, if not Britain. It ceased to be obligatory in 1800 & has been kept alive by local people ever since. I read my poem to a large gathering of local people in the Queen's Head in Bretford for the Wroth Silver Breakfast. 

A group of people gather before dawn around an ancient stone on a grassy mound in a small field by a major road in Warwickshire. This lot, in 1930, look a bit posh. Did they put on their best clothes for the occasion?

Thursday 8 October 2015

Invoking Deep Nature

Long ago, when I wrote The Art of Conversation with the Genius Loci, I set out to write what I would like to have read. I don't find many books about Paganism or Druidry, magic or the spiritual path very interesting. I'm not interested in beginners' exercises, ritual recipes or guided meditations. I'm not inspired by the kind of scholarship which cherry picks ancient tradition, modern myth or any kind of literature to support some kind of coherent, big picture philosophy which we are meant to accept as lost or extant wisdom. I'm tired of those books which repeat popular ideas about our heritage as if they were common knowledge, when the most cursory research would show them to have been known to have no basis for decades.

I am not a scholar by any means & most of what I write does not require the support of literature. I intend no disrespect to the efforts made by those who would try to glean ancient lore from the fragmentary material which is available to us, I'm just taking a different tack. I'm not setting up my stall or making some kind of argument, more like an encouragement. I'm not an authority on anything, nor do I represent any traditional body or other organisation. I would like to refer to myself as “a practitioner,” which is what the Buddhist side to me would say - it is a neutral enough word in itself & straightforward in its intent. The world is full of heroic experts. They make a career out of that. I say that this is a mistake. “Monetising the blog” as it were. Our spiritual practice itself is our real career, the rest is secondary.

Some people have told me or have commented that TAOCWTGL lacks a chapterly practica of graded exercises with numbered lists of things to do. Well I'm sorry, but if you read it as it is intended it is a very practical book, absolutely packed with things to do & some of them are even presented in numbered sequences! Reading a book is not the same kind of process as following a correspondence course. There are some wonderful examples of that out there. The courses of OBOD & the BDO are both well thought out & beautifully presented. I'm not going to hold your hand & tell you what to do next.

TAOCWTGL is a non-linear text which revolves around the idea of investigation, exploration & the pursuit of deep questioning. Such activities, in themselves are quite capable of invoking our what I call our deepest nature. Oh yes, & they are not safe. When the New Age Shaman tells you that everything that they are teaching is tried & tested & perfectly safe they are just plain wrong. It is not safe! None of this is safe! Nothing worthwhile is safe!

Each chapter has a fundamental question or nest of questions at its heart. The premise is that these questions are in themselves the tools of a potent magic & a path to wisdom beyond any concepts of cleverness. The idea is not to imagine the relief or release in finding the answer, nor the security of certainty. Like the famous koans of Rinzai Zen , we hold them close & incubate them. We visualise & pursue them, dance with them, play them like music instruments, fuck or are fucked by them.

It is impossible to use normal language without occasionally making definitive statements, so the reader is urged to treat such statements as the author's own idiosyncratic opinions & then to think of them as questions instead. “It is deep,” he says. Is it deep? How deep is it? What kind of deep? Why deep & not... vast, wide, long, tall or mighty?

Four things are required to pursue this kind of process, they need not be perfect, but they are essential. They are: curiosity, openness, courage & commitment.

From animism to mysticism in a single verse of the song

The Art of Conversation with the Genius Loci raises many questions & I use it unashamedly as a portal into what might be described as a kind of modern Pagan mysticism. In attempting to articulate Pagan mysticism without religion, a system of ritual magic, a package of familiar, popularly redacted mythic narratives, or an eccentric sermon from a soap box, I must walk a fine line & there is another line too; the bottom line. What are we? What is this? What is the deepest nature of reality & the self? Contrary to popular belief mysticism doesn't attempt to answer this kind of question rather it takes it to heart & gives it life. I know that there are many people in the Pagan world who will say that discussing the nature of reality is pointless, or that it has nothing to do with being a Pagan, but there are many of us for whom this is not the case. It is for you that I write.

The idea of mysticism is based upon a simple set of premises. Verbal language is a limited means of expressing them. I have done my best. Please think of more mystical content as riddles rather than definitive statements. Invoking deep nature depends upon the idea that everything, everything, absolutely everything is unique in the apparent world of phenomena, but that we all have a shared nature & that is deep. Unfortunately no-one can really describe it, explain it or present it to you in a packaged initiation of some kind. The reality behind the poetic twilight language is beyond words or concepts.

We, the family of phenomenal beings may be understood to have subjective & objective dimensions; the first known only to ourselves, as we experience our lives unfolding ; the second, as personalities within the apparent world; that world which may be understood as the sum of all our relations. That these two dimensions exist as a dynamic polarity & your subjective experience is inferred by our interactions is something that I take on faith, otherwise I am a solipsist or a psychopath.

But there is a mystery in self; self & other; which all the common sense in the world cannot dismiss. That is the mystery of existence, beyond duality. It is a depth to everything. It is our very own shared nature. This is what my book is about, as much as anything to do with the spirit of place or an animistic way of relating to our places of power.

It is deep & it is inaccessible to the senses, outer as well as inner; also to thought, concept or reason. It is not a monolithic singularity, nor a collective, nor a mere absence. It can be understood as both immanent & transcendent depending upon our own condition & perspective at the time. Sometimes it may seem to be a significant Other with whom we can dance, play duets or have a conversation.

Even though we cannot know it in a conventional sense, we know ourselves & each other through it, & it knows us. Somehow we can awaken to its presence. When we start to try to sense this, then we begin to invoke deep nature, which is both Nature in the conventional sense as well our own true nature, the nature of Nature.

Sometimes I say: “From animism to mysticism in a single verse of the song,” to me, this means that invoking deep presence is not dependent upon any particular kind of belief or practice & can happen instantly, independent of any guidance or authority. It is our heritage. True mystery traditions & their exemplars are those who empower, protect & guide others on the path to such awakening, which, as it depends upon radical exercises of body, energy & mind, is not safe. False authority will always seek to suborn this path to its own advancement, so we must take great care. That said, when our intention has been stated & we have committed ourselves to deep nature, its presence may arise as part of any activity, whether or not it is thought of as spiritual, magical, mystical or religious.

To invoke it means to symbolically, metaphorically or literally invite the power & mystery of our own deepest nature into our conscious life. We cannot seek what we really are. We cannot summon that which is merely our own presence, but we can align ourselves with its radiance & in doing so manifest harmony, creativity, love & natural power for the benefit of all that lives.

This invocation of deep nature is the heart of the matter. It does not depend upon or preclude being a Pagan, Christian, Buddhist or a member of any other religious culture. Neither does it depend upon any particular mythic narrative or exclusive set of symbols. It is my considered opinion that a measure of any supposed spiritual path or way of being is the degree to which this primordial art is encouraged, discouraged or ignored; implicit, explicit or banned.

We are creatures of the Earth & of our Land, not of elsewhere. How we understand this is vital to the health & well being of the global community of living persons, both human & other than human. Personal enlightenment is indispensable as a step towards social & global evolution, maybe even beyond.

Let us invoke our Deepest Nature. Each in our own way.

Thursday 27 August 2015

A Brief History of Lightning.

Brighter than day the flash
Remade the room, the wall
The open door that Allen left
That Will Blake forced
Through the word storm of pitiless
Ceaseless cant of terror
To gut & fillet the blue horizon
The faithless minion roped you with.

A shortcut privilege,
Golden ticket used as a bookmark
Like an extra page with no writing on it;
You preferred it at first
Until you saw what it really means:
That you are as much a prisoner
No, more so, more a prisoner
Than they ever were:
So cut off their water supply.

Wage war on rhythm of truth
Project your operations beneath the shadow
Of the wall of lies that creepy
Bunch of infiltrators nailed him to
Not realising that he could,
Would, actually, breath through the holes
Punched by arrows, grape shot & dum-dums
With exploding tips.

There was a bindweed vine found its way in
Sought light between, pushed unseen outward
Against that closet door, bursting rusty old nails:
An ancient technique, not quite parasitism
The chemical musculature of the tendril,
Just a sort of  infantile self belief
& if it rhymes,
It lies.

Tuesday 23 June 2015

Crazy Synaesthesia

Crazy Synaesthesia I

Green field, lone man
Dark path-line, waist high.
Sky spike, blossom tuft
Horizon rail in Bicester.

Cloud-wind, window smear,
Small flower below me.
Age crust, out crop
That same old story emerging.

That ancient ocean teemed with life. You are just a photon caught up in Indra’s net; one speck of muspel-light plankton seen through Nightspore’s window. Sometimes you have to run.

Wall light, hedge flight
Crow, gull, magpie, rook & wren.
Eye-like orbit window pair,
Each set off from the other.

Dead street heat
Warmth & smell removed.
Cars, cars, cars, cars;
Cars, cars, cars & bridges.

Electric blue root singularity; one green leaf upon the tree cannot hold it. It could even pass through the centre of the Earth. It is no longer dark underground.

Ivy on the grave yard wall,
Legs flashing bright.
Washing on the line,
Walking down the road.

Klarwein colours & textures, like a Salvia-dream;
Jamais vu tobacco stain cutting.
Like watching the dance
From a balcony with the Lady Mayoress.

So let us not begin to anticipate & fear the Winter’s coming just because Summer is here. Let us not hide from the sun either.

Let us sing the songs of life in reed beds, upon hillsides, in sea wind,
Through train windows.

Crazy Synaesthesia II

The texture of experience
Rucked up like a blanket spread on
A wooden floor
Nerve woven & shining with
Patterns that cannot quite be grasped
By a consciousness built out of ideas,
Has naturally fallen
Into a shape which reminds us
Of the ocean floor,
Or the surface of the sun.

Pareidolia however, fails
To capture it’s taste, smell
Or proprioceptive crinkling
& a blanket cannot turn itself inside out,
Eat itself
Or give birth
To that glorious hermaphrodite
Who is, at this moment, dancing
In the meadow.

The Secret City

His angle of departure
Cuts the city's gravity well
With arc of intention,
Death posture magus
Has seen the stories
The archive burn with words,
The music thrash
Itself with chords,
The beat, beaten.

Walking the borderland,
Against the lines of force,
Across the morphic field,
A contradictory power
Upon a transgressive path
Among dim trees
Along unseen hedge lines
Inward, onward
Into the movement,
Contrarily agnostic,
Counter clockwise.

The crazy synaesthesia
Hits him seductive
Sway of boundary
Fringe petticoat
Looms life low
As seething tiny freedoms
Burst out from
Green veins to
Caress the stem brain in
Clasp spasm seizure;
Tag lined, hazy
Luminous script
Read only by initiates.

The secret city
Is not a city;
The unbounded wall
Self referenced
Reflected illusion light;
The story is not a story, it's
An archaeology,
A geology
Of meaning & pain
Into which we fell,
With which he has fallen
In love for ill good.

Sigh distance haze
Through leaf limb waving,
Tragic romance of
Summer's odour
& streets' lines,
Of tangled scent
Will place a kiss
Upon your brow,
Pave the secret layer
With seal of leaf fossil
Sleep imprint,
Word shouted by an ecstatic
At the corner's end game.

A polite note: I am not neurologically synaesthetic, "Crazy Synaesthesia" is a term I use for a meditative experience in which the senses all contribute to a feeling of an instant, intense, spacious texture.

Tuesday 10 March 2015

The Forests & Rock Pools of the Mind

 Max Ernst La joie de vivre 1936, National Gallery of Scotland

Perhaps, through a recognition of beauty, any beauty, which has shed its baggage of memory & association, we might sense our deepest nature, the root of our being. Our inner world, that inner life of sensations, thoughts & emotions which we inhabit, is an ecology just like the apparently outer world. Contemplating the complexity & paradoxical simplicity of our own inner life is not unlike peering into a rock pool, taking a walk in the forest, or watching the birds who visit our garden.

Our thoughts & feelings are complex textures, multi-valent patterns of relationship; constellations that constitute the cosmos of our experience, the moment by moment, hour by hour, day by day sensations of being in the world.

Can we step back from the field of meanings? From all the ideas that we have about ourselves? Can we experience our thoughts & feelings as modalities of sensation? Witness them as textures & patterns instead of fixating upon what they seem to say? Can we quietly watch them grow & clash, feed one another & upon one another? Give birth to each other or die? It becomes like watching an opera in a foreign language which we don’t understand, peopled by unfamiliar figures whose real motives are obscure to us. Yet despite all the obstacles to our comprehension, we can relate to its harmonics & its rhythms so that it doesn’t matter if we cannot understand every word, we can still appreciate its beauty.

If we are serious about meditation, about discovering our deepest nature, we must allow ourselves a panoramic presence that takes this all in & keeps walking. When we truly experience this we discover an amazing thing, that we are privy to an incomparable vision; our inner world is also a deep & ancient place, shining forth all its dimensions in splendour. There is geology here, deep structures formed in darkness beyond memory. There are whole landscapes, landscapes! Vibrant, diverse communities which we once called a self. There are forests with deep roots that drink in secret, unseen places, supportive structures; stems, trunks & branches exploring space; all kinds of leaves & flowers, fruit & seed beyond normal knowledge or belief.

All manner of strange & wonderful creatures live in there, dressed in dream colours & their voices & perfumes fill the air. The strangest thing of all is this: that you can know it in a minute, you don’t need to sit down; you don’t need to close your eyes; life is itself a profound state of trance, the so called alteration of consciousness is not necessary. It is only necessary that you open yourself; that you make yourself vulnerable to the world that you are. When you do this, how can you not be in love with it all?

But you call it hope. You call it fear. You call it desire. You call it suffering. You call it pain, you call it pleasure. You are often embarrassed or disturbed by it. You call it a person; you make it a kind of object, but it is a dynamic, ever changing wave pattern, not a lump of particles stuck in the mud by the side of the road.

It's like looking into a drop of pond-water with a microscope for the first time & seeing all that life; all those creatures swimming about, hunting & engulfing one another; watching the pulse of a contractile vacuole as some tiny little being pisses out the excess water which would make it explode. Then one little, hairy thing swims across the field of view in a tightly spiralling trajectory, on a quest of some kind. We see a droplet, it inhabits an ocean. When I see such a creature, I feel kinship with it, for all that it is just a single cell & my body is a universe of billions like it. Take a look through a microscope. Do this for yourself. Allow yourself to see these things, to feel these things.

It's like looking into the deep sky with a reflecting telescope; seeing those fields & fields & fields of stars & galaxies, planetary clusters & nebulae; countless worlds, more than we can even begin to imagine. Who cares if we can prove that there are earth-like planets out there or not? When we get a direct sense of this vastness & complexity for ourselves how can we doubt it for even a moment? & yet. & yet this is, again, a reflection of the cosmos of uncounted tissues & immeasurable forces that we ourselves contain. Take a look through a telescope. See these things for yourself & allow your feelings free reign.

A cliché is in the mind of the beholder. Nothing is banal & everything is happening. Invoke, don't banish. Then you will become stronger; strong enough to look yourself in the eye & see what many have called God looking back at you.

If you enjoyed this, here is a worthy read:

Sunday 8 February 2015

Phaedra by Tangerine Dream

“One of the most important, artistic, and exciting works in the history of electronic music".
Vladimir Bogdanov
All Music Guide to Electronica, Backbeat Books, 2001. p.505. 

A Note.
This poetry is dedicated to the memory of Edgar Froese of Tangerine Dream, who died recently. I don't believe in explaining my work too much; make of it what you will, but in this case I will make an exception.
On a Saturday afternoon in the mid '70s my life was changed forever by a piece of music. I was listening to the Alan Freeman show; he played the kind of rock music we would call “Prog” (for progressive) these days, though I wasn't aware of it being called that at the time. On his show I heard my first Yes, King Crimson, Wishbone Ash... the list goes on, but on that day I turned on just in time to hear Mysterious Semblance at the Strand of Nightmares from Tangerine Dream's album Phaedra. I had never heard anything like it. I had heard what was then called electronic music, the tape effects & the incidental music of Dr. Who, the haunting theremin of Forbidden Planet; but nothing like this. I was utterly trancefixed, moved, ecstatic. I went out & bought it on cassette tape as soon as I had enough cash. It was music which perfectly suited my mystical temperament; deep, rich & consciousness altering. 

Without the pioneering work of people like Edgar & bands like the Tangs, so much of the musical landscape which we take for granted today would not exist. Well, it probably would have evolved anyway, but they were the ones who did it first & did it so well. I have been faithfully listening to their music, this album in particular, for forty years. I've seen them live twice, on both occasions in Newcastle City Hall. They didn't disappoint. 

Here I have written four poems, for the four tracks of the album. It is by no means the first time I have taken inspiration from this music!

I've provided links so that you can listen to each track on Youtube. They are all longer than the poems so as you read & listen you may find it helpful to contemplate each poem for the entire length of the song. If you like it please buy the album. If one person does so as a result of my writing here I will be very happy.

Froese, Franke, Baumann 17:39

Theseus the killer rides out over
The sun flaked shining waters
Of a channel filled with darkness & starlight

In an inversion, the errant sun orbits the earth again
The magnetic magic of her tresses
Matching, praising the maiden's beauty

Cloud-light witnesses
The spiritual progress of the satellite
The orbital engine of the deity

A bitter, always jealous beauty
Adored by all whose eyes have turned
Eastward before morning, west for twilight

She's rising from the sea
A magic brighter than the moon
In polyrhythmic hymns addressed to tide

Each day, night, season, year
An emanation of her power
An iteration of machine passage

That won't be, can't ever be bested
Betrays her lover with false accusations:
Her embarrassment destroyed her happiness

An embarrassment of riches
One penis too many flung out its chord
One sword too many did its work

In the analog mood of a heat de-tuned oscillator
The detumescent hero
Tragically believes her lies

The bass-line heart races
Into a crisis of murmur; murder
Is as inevitable with these demi-gods as suppertime

The dead youth floats in the
Cosmic sea mourned only by birds
His blood a shadow across the nebula

In the end, after silence
Has taken the tale into oblivion
Who are those children at play?

I think that they are the ghosts of the future
Her unborn children
Innocent of their radioactive heritage.

Mysterious Semblance at the Strand of Nightmares
Froese 9:55

In this in-between place
Puissant wind & wave
Were my love;
This misty shore
Awakened me from my slumbers,
This voice called to me
From over dream gaberdine;
A gaseous intelligence
Illuminated by arches
Of pale aurora.

Monique operates the phaser-shift
Edgar plays solo mellotron
My friend Julian said:
“You can hardly believe
That this was played on
Any kind of instrument.”

The day the earth changed
Was a Saturday
My life was shifted
Back where it belonged,
Into the clouds
Of not knowing;
Such a perfect discovery
To have been made by the stony strand.

Huge charge surges of potent, god gulfed
Grey-green wine water
Pool & raise themselves out, up onto
Low frequency force circles to turn
Heads in over to see the inevitable figure
Of the nereid who guides you through the dreamscape
Of weed & barnacle encrusted old one shadows
To this sunlit stone
Where she may finally be recognised & she smiles
Because she owns you.

& birds flew out, around the turret
Poured outward from the cliff
In waves of shadows
Tumult passage
Over the darkening sea
Then she made a simple gesture with her hand
& we flew out over the bay
While she reclined, enigmatic Maya upon her rock.

Olive skinned & sheened with
Sea water light
Her naked smile
Was the reward;
Some settled on an island far out
We shot past, careened,
Screaming joys
Up, away into a void of shout.

Movements of a Visionary
Froese, Franke, Baumann 7:56

In the quiet of a dripping, ticking clock cave
He made his platonic seat
But he saw no shadows on that wall
Instead saw everything
Like light flashes
Flashes of beam, pineal sequences that suggest
A beacon coded signal
Transmitted via history
Decrypted in trance-shine.

Heavy, mad, wrapped in his blanket
With naked arms reaching out into space
His fingers webbed with thread
To jerk unseen limbs
Into dance in halls, cellars
Temples, city squares
Each gesture flipping
History into his story.

Far away in night city dance factories
Technical ecstasies
Possess the future celebrants
Unknowing of this prophecy;
Edgar was a non-drinking vegetarian
Who never took drugs
He didn't need to:
A truth rediscovered by each generation,

A secret encoded in body rhythms.

Sequent C
Baumann 2:13

Finally the long night is done
The morning flute
Of the man in the afghan coat
Calls us to the eastern window,
Calls us to witness the timeless repetition
Of day.

His head nods
Heavy to make notes
As if the tape loop
Could cut & cycle
Time itself;
But we cannot return to that moment.

I'm still stoned,
Blinking my eyes in disbelief
As every blade of grass
Beyond window glass
Wave-moves in perfect synchrony
& dew light spectra
Echo the accumulated chords
That Pan made in the garden.

In memory of Edgar Froese, 6 June 1944– 20 January 2015

“We’ve never ever created “electronic music”! Such music emphasizes the intellect and is normally produced as a pure studio event. Working with synthesizers is a completely different approach to electrified music. We’re open to all kinds of modern music developments and wouldn’t be interested in the locked up situation you’re into while working in a musical ivory tower. ”

Quietus, 2010:

Also read:

Edgar's Home Page:

Friday 2 January 2015

You Cannot Hold a Candle to the Year

With day-length light growing to a year-miracle, almost without our noticing
Peace appears, standing in the middle of a sun-ray world smile moment
Turns frost hardened earth bed round to swing the shift, the ancient morning
Of skin-prickled threshold crossing, cup drunk up, bird voice brightened
To bell & rattle - voices singing, shouting round the tree-bright blessing.
Mysterious snow falls from a cloudless sky, radiant with day-star winter
Our turn swung round, the twelfth day of misrule breathing down our necks
But there is no in-between! No transition! No place is liminal now!
The waiting room was the audience chamber all along, you know! This is it, no ending,
No beginning. So where are you going? What are you doing right now, amidst this
Rush of ever changing lights? What are you up to in your steaming heart-kitchen?
Peace appears, standing in the middle of a sun-ray world smile moment
Some old friend is arriving. Long lost face-voice sighing. The door is open.
You cannot hold a candle to the year, but still will better be for the lighting of it.

Repost of an old poem; happy new year!