from BARDO

The stars are in our belly; the Milky Way our umbilicus.

Is it a consolation that the stuff of which we’re made

is star-stuff too?

– That wherever you go you can never fully disappear –

dispersal only: carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen.

Tree, rain, coal, glow-worm, horse, gnat, rock.

Roselle Angwin

Tuesday, 24 September 2013

asking the question; and the dragon current

This weekend I was at one of my most favourite British places, with which I have a long personal history. Abbotsbury is a unique little town built around an old abbey (as it sounds), which may be of esoteric import. It certainly feels it to me, with the beautiful little St Catherine's Chapel on the hill with its terraces creating a kind of spiral effect, like the Tor at Glastonbury, its old tithe barn and the associated monastic buildings, its prehistoric structures on the high ridge above it, and the Fleet, the salt lagoon with its snow of swans.

According to some sources, of which Paul Broadhurst and Hamish Miller's book The Sun and the Serpent is one, hilltop chapels dedicated either to Mary or to Catherine mark the undulating 'feminine' current that interweaves with the straight-line 'masculine' current of the significant St Michael leyline – he who preserves the energy of the old dragon current associated with the pre-Christian Old Ways.

Certainly the area around Abbotsbury holds an almost palpable presence of the Goddess. The local River Bride, or Brid, is very much central to the old religion of Bridget, the pre-Christian mother goddess who takes many guises; her name is preserved in various placenames near here (Julian Cope waxes lyrical on this in his wonderful book The Modern Antiquarian).

I've sat leaning against the St Catherine Chapel here as almost unworldly music has poured out in a great stream from unaccompanied voices singing within; an experience that removed me from our usual space-time continuum.

What Abbotsbury is better-known for though is its situation on Chesil Beach, that 18-mile-long strip of banked shingle, unusual in its topographical detail. Wikipedia tells us that the banked shingle here on the Jurassic Coast forms a tombolo: '...from the Italian tombolo, derived from the Latin tumulus, meaning 'mound,' and sometimes translated as ayre (from the Old Norse eyrr, meaning 'gravel beach'), [and] is a deposition landform [created by the effects of waves and currents, and especially here by rising sea-levels in the Holocene, 6000+ years ago] in which an island is attached to the mainland by a narrow piece of land such as a spit or bar... Two or more tombolos may form an enclosure (called a lagoon) that can eventually fill with sediment. Tombolos may be considered a type of isthmus.'

Although this association is much more recent for me, it's impossible to go to Chesil Beach and not think of Ian McEwan's book of the same name – a tragic story in which the central issue was never addressed, the results of which negligence directly caused the tragedy.

So often in fairy story, legend and myth there is a central question, the 'key' to the whole narrative – which is of course the story of our lives. The answering, or indeed often the asking of this question, itself directly leads to the consequences which close the story; and if the question is not asked/answered, the results are usually tragic. I have thought about this a great deal in the last thirty years, and its something I speak of in my first book Riding the Dragon – myth and the inner journey.

The classic example is that of Parsifal: the first time he meets the wounded Fisher King and approaches the Grail Castle, he is too ignorant, and too young, to ask the question and so to enter the castle and help heal the wounded King. Thereby he loses both the castle and the Grail, which we might say stands in as symbolising the 'reward' of one's wholeness. The second time, Parsifal realises there is a question to be asked, and the question directly relates to a life lived in service to the greater needs of the collective.

Often the question is to do with the wellbeing of another/others; often it is the question that allows the shift in consciousness from ego (and our experiences being harnessed to merely service our own desires), to the Self, or 'Higher Self', a mature transpersonal perspective that allows us to put others' needs, and the needs of life itself, and the planet, above our own egoic desires; to give back to the collective in service so that our life is one of serving greater consciousness – arguably the task of each life (and some would say many lifetimes).

As it happens, in my novel-writing course I use this idea too; and in various other courses I raise it in relation to our own lives – for the question of the question, attended to or not, will partly determine our own growth.

Humanity seems to be so mired in the dark forest of its own loss of heart, loss of way, doesn't it, at the moment? What question are we not asking, collectively and individually?

Back home today, the unasked question came up for me again this morning when I was about to recycle Saturday's Guardian, and asked TM if he'd finished reading it. 'Yesterday's papers giving yesterday's news,' he replied – those of you old enough to remember Ralph McTell's 'Streets of London' will remember those lines. We smiled sadly and wryly. 'That song about homelessness, hunger and loneliness is at least as relevant now as it was then, isn't it?' he said.

What are we not asking – of our society, of our politicians and leaders, of ourselves, I ask myself...

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