I’ll be doing the meditation this evening as usual at 7-7.30pm GMT and, if it feels right, you’re welcome to do the same.
Some of you might want to do your normal practice, whatever that is. Some might just wish to be still for a while, to get some space inside. Some might be called to focus on the earthquake and the people affected by it. Do whatever is right for you. This is a half-hour open space.
It’s about making a choiceless choice to pursue a pathless path through a gateless gate. That’s a Zen saying.
The main thing that connects us is that we’re doing it at the same time, with an underlyingly shared intent of positive wishes for humanity and Earth.
If you want the full lowdown on it, read this – the first page is the short, need-to-know one, and the rest give additional thoughts.
If you live in another timezone, than adjust the time to your location. If in doubt, just google ‘time now in GMT’ and work it out.
There’s something interesting about doing it at the same time each week. Often we might do meditation at varying times when we feel right for it. But doing it at a fixed time means that we do it regardless of our current state and situation.
It becomes a kind of reality-check. What is the is-ness and the beingness of you at 7pm GMT each Sunday?
Some weeks it might even be a bit of a struggle, other weeks it can be inspiring and other weeks it can be just a tick-over thing, nothing special. And that’s the beauty of it.
At present, as you might have noticed, I’ve been rather in the thick of it and, believe me, it stirs me up. I’m being tested and beaten into shape. But the great thing with a meditation at a fixed time is that if I do it regardless of anything, whatever’s happening or wherever I am, it kinda highlights the way in which my inner life and my outer life are both connected and also somewhat independent and unconnected.
Some of the most amazing meditations I’ve had over the years have been in busy or dodgy circumstances – in one, there was distant gunfire going on, but somehow the gunfire prompted me to focus on the heart of the matter. Or there might be loud music next door, or I might be meditating in a busy car park, or I might simply be in a rather stirred-up state. The nature of the meditation, as it unfolds, is often not what was anticipated shortly before.
So in the meditation today I personally shall be offering up all that has happened to me recently, with a wish that it is all for the best, leading to good outcomes. Otherwise I’ll be leaving it open. Perhaps I need a bit of a rest too.
No big deal. If you don’t have time-space this week, that’s okay – just join whenever it works to do so. We’ll be there anyway, whether or not it’s announced online. If you’re happy joining every week, of all the habits we can develop during our lives on Earth, it’s not a bad one, is it?
If you find yourself inwardly involved with the earthquake zone in the Middle East – an ancient, historic area at the centre of Eurasia where so much history has happened – then it is possible to do some innerwork to assist from wherever you are. It is possible to transform concern into activity, wherever you are.
I suggest that, as a group, we keep to our Sunday evening meditation slot – it’s important not to rush at things, and we don’t have a system worked out yet for activities like this. Unless something else arises between now and Sunday to change this, we can focus together on the region then.
As individuals, if you wish to do some work with this crisis over the coming days, please do. Use it as a way of self-training – there will be plenty more crises like these in coming years.
Note how they often come in twos (currently Chile and Syria/Turkiye), but just wait, because they’ll come in threes and fours before long. All that’s needed is a loaded situation and a whacky fullmoon line-up, and here they come.
If you’re not in a position to focus much on it, practice holding it in the back of your mind as you live your life, and give it focus as and when you can, when you have a quiet moment. I sometimes use a small rosary or mala as a way of keeping partial focus while living my life.
As you know, I prefer not to prescribe methods and strategies since a diversity of approaches is important. But if you need some ideas and a basic structure, here are two recordings made last year, when we visited Pakistan at one of my Magic Circles to help with mop-up and after-care there. One is a talk and meditation, and the other is the meditation only (20ish mins long).
1. Since this is a really big crisis we can really only tinker round the edges but, remember, there will be many people worldwide adding their thoughts and prayers. So find the gaps;
2. Look around for people who are forgotten, unnoticed and undiscovered, going through it on their own;
3. one approach is to help the helpers – the first-responders, doctors, social leaders, activists and ‘community mothers’;
4. you can work with the living and/or the dead. With the living, help them find solutions to their needs, solace to their hearts, warmth, food and contact with relatives and neighbours. With the dead and dying, help them deal with their situation and get over properly to the other side and to a ‘reception squad’ who can receive and care for them as souls;
5. use your imagination and inner instincts. Experiment, follow your feelings and do whatever you’re best at doing;
6. this is an energy-exchange. What are these people and this situation bringing to us, giving us and teaching us? No country, including our own, is exempt from disaster.
7. healing energy comes *through* us, not from us, so bring in any deeper influences that you customarily work with, however you see things, and act as a vehicle for such influences – a bit like a healing drone;
8. it’s better to do small things well than big things badly, and make sure you complete and wrap up everything you start.
Unless you’re that way inclined, you don’t have to ‘do meditation’. Just hold it in your heart-mind, stay calm and bring calm, keep with it, note your thoughts and experiences and, if at a loss to know what to do, imagine yourself actually there, doing what you would do if you were there. If that just involves making tea for people or holding their hands, do it. This matter of consistent and well-paced energy-holding is important. Keep it simple.
The tensions released in an earthquake are not just geological. Human tensions affect things too. This is an area where the world’s first settlements and towns arose, many armies have marched across it and, in recent times, much oil has been pumped out of it. Consider.
Disasters are one of the mechanisms by which world change comes about. It’s tragic, but they shake us out of our customary busy indifference, exposing the human underneath. So one thought or prayer to make is for these tragedies to lead ultimately to real improvements and breakthroughs. May those deaths and hardships become more meaningful in the way they catalyse progress and redemption.
The Indonesia earthquake-tsunami of 2004 led to enormous strides in large-scale disaster-response, and to all sorts of changes big and small. Also it became really clear that the key first responses to disasters come within local communities, often through churches, mosques, temples and brave individuals who, in that moment, suddenly find they have a calling. Big organisations often take a week or two to get activated and deal with logistics and supplies, but it’s the people on the ground and in local communities, in that first week, who make a critical difference.
Resilience is all about the capacity of any society to handle whatever is thrown at it. At moments like this, the togetherness of a society makes an enormous difference. As Pluto enters Aquarius this and next year, until 2043-44, the togetherness of humanity is the central question. Here we have it. This is a soulquake, a prompt from Gaia.
Despite everything, here I stand, weak, strong, wobbly and firm
One of the best books I ever wrote, ten years ago now, I couldn’t publish. It concerned a plot I helped uncover, involving American financiers funding settlement building in the West Bank, a well-known international meditation organisation making a big error and rogue elements in the Israeli and Palestinian intelligence services. I had to get out of the country pretty quick after dishing up that lot!
The story was quite sensational, though I didn’t publish it because it could endanger people’s lives, many issues would be twisted and misinterpreted in the West, American lawyers would have had a field day, some people would seek revenge, and my friends back home would ask me why I bother risking my life for a few darned Palestinians. Well, it has happened again, except it’s Africans this time. If I told you the story that’s happening now, you’d have difficulty believing it’s for real.
That’s one reason I’ve been rather quiet. It has been difficult knowing what to say. Telling the story can endanger lives, sabotage others, and much of it would, again, be misinterpreted. The number of seriously incorrect diagnoses of the situation that I have received recently has been disturbing, particularly because of their implied racist undertones. Many friends believe I’ve been scammed by West Africans, but the problem comes from a whiteskin company in the rich world, not from Africans. We have been stuck between Western corporate negligence and a crime gang’s violence. Meanwhile, people were getting murdered by the gang, whose market for cocaine, crack, people-smuggling and prostitution is in Britain and Europe. If we want to change the world, we need to end this turning away.
In the last few months I have gained an adopted granddaughter, Phyllis, whose life I have now saved several times. Looks like we might lose her now. She is on the edge of dying, due to a drug overdose and having had two fingers on her left hand cut off by the crime gang. Her mother, Felicia, was gang-raped. The bastards. Felicia is Liberian in origin: when she was young, civil war broke out around her and she was forced to watch her parents and three sisters being shot. When Phyllis’ fingers were being cut off Felicia cried out to me, online, “Why, dear God, is this happening to me AGAIN?”. Phyllis is all she has left.
So while I have a cracker of a story, I cannot tell it. I feel bottled up, but it is safest for those involved that I do not say more. Some good book sales would have been really useful though. This nightmare has cost me a lot and, until the company honours its multiple promises to pay me, I’m seriously in debt. They promised to compensate Felicia for all she has been through, and Felicia is now destitute. This has set me back a lot, affecting my plans for the coming year. But my conscience is as clear as it can be in such a gruesome situation, and I am glad I have not obeyed the advice of many friends to look after my own interests and, in effect, abandon these people to let them die. If I lose friends over this, then so be it.
Last year was a testy year. It wasn’t just the hair-raising story I’ve been involved with. It started a year ago. I was unwell and down, in a mess. My partner suddenly left me – she had her reasons – and I lost another adopted grandchild in the process. Gaining and losing grandchildren is a theme for me at present. Looking back, I was unconsciously picking up forewarnings for nine months beforehand, feeling insecure but unable to figure out why. Something needed to change between us, but I wasn’t ready for total, enforced relationship destruction. I got the blame, though whatever crime I truly committed, in the final analysis, has been far outclassed by the response. I miss her still, and her family. Giving myself a year to get over it, I’ve partially succeeded and also I haven’t. I believed we would go through to the end of my life. But no, I had a big lesson to learn there.
So, I wish her good fortune and many blessings for all that we had together. She is free, and I sincerely hope she finds rebirth and flowering in her new life. She deserves it – she saved my life in my worst cancer days. I am so grateful for our time together. Now a free man with mixed feelings, I’m not managing very well alone. But that’s my problem. It has its plus side though: I’ve used the pain of loss to fire up my creativity, rebirth myself and give the rest of my life, if I can, to starting something new. Or it’s starting me. It concerns a world-healing project. There’s a feeling of rightness to it, like a little seed currently hiding under the snow, awaiting its moment.
In the last year my cancer process has changed. Medically I am more or less stable, and the focus has turned to relationships and the psycho-emotional side of living with cancer. Cancer strips a layer off you and the shields come down. Issues get amplified. A last-chance-saloon feeling takes over. You suddenly find friends and loved ones committing micro-aggressions they didn’t know they were doing. Life becomes raw and unprotected. You get hurt. It has changed my capacity to relate and slowed my capacity to process things through, emotionally. While I’m kinda managing, being on my own means that, if I deteriorate, I have little or no fallback. Sometimes I just need someone to hold me. Sometimes I just want someone around.
One or two friends have suggested that I move upcountry to England, to be closer to people. But I’m electrosensitive and I can’t hobnob in parties and groups or walk down the street without getting zapped and needing to retreat back home – it can take 48 hours to get over it. In effect, to be with friends and loved ones I have to permit them to harm me with radiation. So I could be just as isolated there as I am here. Folks up in England are all very wired-up, busy keeping timetables and treading mills, and that is the central cause of the care crisis we have today – we don’t have time and space to be human, and people in situations like mine demand too much of it. Meanwhile, Cornwall feeds my soul, and the movements of my soul and its expressions seem to be valued nowadays, by you lot. So this seems to be the right place for me. I’m happy doing forays into England, or even elsewhere, but I’d need a lot of persuading to move because I would lose my taproot.
I haven’t been doing well on the family front either. That’s a complex story – another I won’t tell. What with my disability and their busy family lives, it’s difficult for us to meet up, and online relationships don’t really work for me. Mercifully though, all of my offspring get on really well, though they have three different mothers and live in two Brexit-sundered countries. They’re a lovely bunch, and their husbands and children too. In many people’s judgement I’ve been a useless father, and I guess I’m supposed to feel bad about it. Or perhaps I have had Mandela’s dilemma: a conflict between ‘my people’ and ‘my family’, which I have not been able to integrate – and neither did he. However, as an Aspie and weirdo in late life, I’m tired of apologising for being who I am, and I’m not as wrong as I’m often judged to be. It’s time for a change.
My health is kinda okay, though my back is slowly deteriorating, as if gravitation were increasing. My cancer, Multiple Myeloma, affects blood and bones – will-to-live (blood) and capacity to be active in the world (bones). That’s a wee bit fundamental. Even so, my haematologist is surprised I’ve lasted so long on my current cancer drug, Daratumamab. But, to me, it makes sense that I would do well with it. Dara isn’t a form of ‘chemo’ designed to kill cancer cells. It works by flagging up cancer cells as they emerge so that my immune system can deal with them itself – that’s a brilliant approach, and it’s just right for me. So I’m doing well with Dara. My immune system is in pretty good nick too.
Here’s an observation. I think there are two kinds of immunity: one is to do with the nutrients we take in on a daily basis, which can provide fight-back if our immune system is under pressure or feeling low. Whenever I get the slightest sign of an infection, such as a sneeze, I take a gram of Vit C straight away – and it works. But there’s a deeper immunity level I’d call resilience. If you’ve done immunity-boosting things for a decade or more – good vits, good oils, good everything, though not too fanatical about it – then you’re in a different league. If you’re dabbling with veganism or health-awareness, take note: it truly works if you stay with it for decades, allowing your body-psyche to go through deeper structural changes. Combine this with inner growth, and your cells and genes become transformed. I can verify this from experience.
Longterm resilience has been a life-saver for me, now I have cancer. At root, it lies in attitude. When I’m having a hard time, I look for the gift that’s available. Sometimes I’m forced to lie in bed, watching the buzzards wheeling around over the fields. Sometimes I’m being given a gift of pain to teach me how to move through it and out the other side. Recently I’ve been given a loneliness that has allowed me to spend a lot of time reflecting on life, writing and recording things from my eyrie out here in West Penwith, the Far Beyond.
Immunity is intimately connected with psychic protection too, and right now I’m working on that. Whenever we feel down and got at by life, we have both a protection and an immunity issue. If you want to work positively with cancer or any other adversity, work positively with your protection. This isn’t about throwing up barriers around you – it’s about working on the fears, shame and guilt that grind away underneath, undermining the integrity of your being and giving an opening that outside interference can hook into, draining your power. Sometimes it’s like having fleas, getting nibbled at by lots of small things, and sometimes it’s like a big thump in the stomach. Protection is about the light within us and the degree to which we withhold ourselves behind our shame, guilt and fear.
When I first went into cancer treatment, I hadn’t had pharmaceutical drugs for many years. Suddenly I was getting pumped with chemicals. I called on my inner doctors. “Let it be. We’ll fix it, and follow your instincts on what else will help“. I don’t get it in words like that, but that’s what the message was. I decided to trust, deeply. I started on things like CBD, carefully selected supplements, received healing from many wonderful people, and worked on generating an attitude of yielding and acceptance. On the whole it worked. I’ve balked at a few of the drugs given me, but not many, and in some cases I’ve dosed myself more sensitively to my own actual needs. But I’ve had fewer side-effects than many other people seem to get. That’s resilience: it’s all about strengthening our capacity to handle whatever life throws at us.
At some point, when I can restore my finances, I’ll start doing some events. A monthly online ‘magic circle’ is shaping up, and I’ll be doing some live Magic Circles or talks sometime, though I don’t have it in me to organise them myself. The capacity to handle life’s details and intricacies is one thing that chemo and cancer have taken away – though I’ve gained a widened and deepened understanding of life instead. The only booking I have at present is the Legends Conference in Glastonbury on 8th-10th April, and I shall announce other events when they get fixed.
When I die I shall have no money or property to leave, but I do hope to leave a legacy. We shall see if it works in real life, if I can keep going long enough. When I was young I was heading for a career in diplomacy or government, but then around age 21 I went through an awakening and changed course. I began treading a spiritual-political alternative path. In starting the camps movement in the 1980s I attempted working with the heart and soul of Britain, to transform it from within – with limited success (it was the Thatcher period, after all). In the Hundredth Monkey Project in the 1990s, we attempted direct spiritual work with world events, with some success. With the Flying Squad that followed, we developed the techniques, ethics and practices of such work, forging a synergistic unity and a group bonding that compensated for our lower numbers. This built up a body of experience. There’s further to go, and the world has a need for it.
When cancer came along in 2019, I thought that was it with the world-healing work but, no, reviving last spring from the enormous emotional hit I had a year ago, I got the message, “Ah, there’s one more thing, before you can come home…“. I realised that no one else really had the experience and capacity to take the world-healing work one stage further. In a way it was incumbent on me to do it. I now have a plan, and it’s now a matter of finding out whether and how it will work in real life. It has already started with the Sunday evening meditations, and we’ll let things develop from there.
It involves a group process for which I can prepare the ground, plant seeds and help them germinate, but that’s all. I don’t have much time left, and the events of the last year have shown me how beat up and worn out I am. You see, what decides things for me is not medical prognoses but how long I can keep going, in heart and soul, pushing the limits and remotivating myself to face another day. My current aloneness has tested me profoundly and, while I’m holding up, it has been a big systems check on what I can and cannot do. Overloaded with issues, I’ve been trying hard not to fuck up but only just managing. But then, this is my life, I’ve created it this way, that’s my karmic pattern, and it is as it is. Mashallah – thus has it been ordained. This next chapter is my last dance, and I’m going to give it what I can.
But first, there’s business. I want the company to right some wrongs, financially, and I want to get Felicia and Isaac and their remaining children safe and stabilised in a new life. True heroes, they have paid a high price for being good people. Even as a tottering old man, I choose to stand by them, whatever anyone says. Then there’s that gang, who have deprived at least seven people of their lives. This included an Akan native healer, Okomfo Ayensuwaa, with whom I had close miracle-working dealings for a week or so just before Christmas. Killed for protecting Felicia and Isaac and their families, she has decided to work with us on the world healing project, from the other side. She is with us now, in our meditations. A strong, big and good-hearted lady she was, and the river spirits she worked with miss her.
I have shed so many tears over these unjust tragedies, and several times I have been faced with a painful moral choice I would not wish upon any of my readers: the choice between playing safe, prioritising my own interests and security, and standing by my principles in order to keep some good people alive and to stand up for what is good and right. I’ve made that choice, I’m paying that price and, despite everything, I am glad to have done so. The bravery of these people has been a big lesson for me, and my standing by them has been a big lesson for them. Whitemen have a way of walking off. The fates have now separated Felicia and Isaac, and they struggle on alone. I’m still with them, supporting them even though I can’t send money.
Please pray for them, for their safety, healing and relief from their trauma and misfortune – they, and Phyllis, and Isaac’s one remaining child, Adjoa, aged about 6-7, truly need it. They are struggling, materially, emotionally and spiritually. Please be with them in spirit.
One of my missions in life has been to do with righting some of the wrongs committed by the British empire. One grandfather was in Allenby’s invasion of Iraq and Palestine in WW1 and the other was in the Battle of the Somme. My father fought in Egypt in WW2. Northern Ireland started me off on this path, fifty years ago, and I seem to be at it still. Interestingly, it was the Akan, the Ashanti, who, together with the Maoris of New Zealand, were the only peoples who successfully stood up against the empire – at least until the amoral Brits tricked both of them into losing. The empire had its merits and demerits and, while we should forget neither, we do need to own up to the demerits we forced on so many millions of people. For the world cannot progress while unredeemed shadows such as these hang over us all. Every country has its shadow to face.
This has been a difficult time. I’m still here though! As I write, Felicia is watching her only child Phyllis die slowly, in a coma, in hospital, unable to afford treatment. They’re stranded with nothing in a foreign country. That’s the score today. That’s life, as it presents itself. This has been a difficult and risky blog to write – I hope to goodness that I’ve done it right. Meanwhile, I’ll be there as usual at the meditation on Sunday evenings. Bless you all for being my friends, especially the ones closer to me. We all need each other.
Helen, my peerless homoeopath, gave me Pearl last year (beauty out of pain) and Gold this year (lighting up darkness) – spot on. She’s brilliant. If you happen to need an inspired homoeopath who can do it remotely from Cornwall, try her.
I’m re-working a 2003 book of mine, Healing the Hurts of Nations – the human side of globalisation, as a short, thinking-points archive version (not ready yet), and here’s a chapter from it that might interest you, about the historic growth of globalisation.
Our time is the first in which it has been possible to take a literally universal view of human history, because this is the first time in which the whole human race around the globe has come within sight of coalescing into a single society. In the past, a number of empires, and a smaller number of missionary religions, have aimed at universality. None of them, so far, has ever attained to universality in the literal sense. – Arnold Toynbee, historian, 1967.
Healing the Hurts of Nations contains a few unusual underlying assumptions. One of them is that globalisation is historically inevitable. A bit like growing up. I am not suggesting that the once imperialistic and now corporate-style globalisation process we see today is the only way it could have happened – perhaps it took place this way because humanity rejected earlier-presented options. Nevertheless, globalisation was a pre-programmed potentiality from the early days of human history.
Saying that globalisation is inevitable does not mean that inevitably it should happen as it did, when it did, carried out by the people who did it and with the outcomes that resulted. But it suggests that there is an urge or secret aspiration deep in the human psyche, seeking to form a planetary civilisation, and that humans would therefore try, mostly unconsciously, to put into place the conditions to achieve it.
Humanity customarily walks into the future facing backwards, yet this does not exclude the possibility that, deep down, it secretly knows something more than it sees. Several attempts at globalisation are visible in history. Let’s look at a few.
Alexander the Great
Alexander, one of history’s finest megalomaniacs, did not invade all of Eurasia, but he made a good try. Had his conquests lasted, they could have been a platform for further extension at a later date, by the inheritors of his bequest to history. Starting from Greece in 334 BCE, he and his troops swept through Anatolia, Egypt and the Middle East, through Persia and Afghanistan to Turkestan and what is now Pakistan in eight years, by 325 BCE.
They established a capital at Babylon, Eurasia’s key meeting-place. He took on god-like status, gobbled up several major civilisations and then died prematurely in 323, aged 32. He had set in motion one of history’s biggest intentional genetic engineering experiments too – mating his men with women across his conquered territories.
His big idea was to seed Greek culture and, in his view, to upgrade humanity with Greek modernist internationalism. A flash in the pan, the social and political effects of his audacious feats all the same survived centuries after his time. Had he lived a longer life and run his affairs well, history today might look very different.
The Silk Roads
Three centuries later, in the time of the great classical empires, the world tentatively approached the possibility of unifying Eurasia. The Roman, Persian, Kushan and Han Chinese empires, between them, controlled most of the main axis of Eurasia, from Spain to Manchuria. The backbone of this civilisational axis was the Silk Road from China, through Turkestan to the Mediterranean, along which there was continual travel and trade, despite the distance. Few travelled the Silk Road in its entirety – instead, goods and ideas changed hands at caravanserais and trading cities, and trade between Rome and China reached significant levels for the time.
Chinese silks first reached the West in 500 BCE through Persian intermediaries. Chaotic forces put an end to this period of Eurasian stability: warrior nomads rampaging across Central Asia, together with the separate yet roughly synchronous collapses of imperial Rome and Han China, caused trans-Eurasian trade and interchange to collapse for some time.
The precedent of connecting civilisations and setting intercultural exchange in motion was now there, setting patterns for the future. It is suggested, with some plausibility, that Jesus, in his ‘lost years’, travelled as far east as Tibet and as far west as Britain. This sounds fantastic, yet significant international travel was not uncommon at the time. People had gained a taste for items and influences from faraway places. Imperial administrative structures also approached a scale which could, with a few more developmental steps, begin to manage global control – if subsequent human history had but followed this thread. Though this was perhaps premature.
The Muslim Ascendancy
Then came the rapid Muslim expansion initiated by Muhammad the Prophet in 630 when he and his followers took Mecca, an ancient Arabic cult-centre. He died in 632, but his successors channelled the dynamism of their faith by invading the whole Middle East. By 670 the Islamic empire stretched from Tunisia to Afghanistan, spreading to Spain, Turkestan and northwest India by 720. They had a go at Europe too, but it was too muddy, cold and backward to bother with, and the Franks beat them back.
The Muslim empire’s success arose not only from the energy of the new Islamic dispensation, but also from the acquiescence of conquered peoples, many of whom thought the new dominators better than their predecessors. Muslims did not forcibly convert their subjects, and the relative doctrinal, social and legal clarity and coherence of Islam was attractive to many, whether or not they converted.
Political unity in the empire later broke down, but cultural unity continued, with a second zenith in the 1600s in the form of the Ottoman, Persian Safavid and Indian Mughal empires. Had Westerners not intervened, it is conceivable that a third wave might have occurred during the 20th Century. Despite the fact that globalisation is currently Western-driven, it is likely that the Muslim world will have a big influence in shaping the culture of the 21st Century world. Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda might even play a part in this: though their actions are questionable in a short-term context, the longterm effect of their impact on globalisation and its moral tone could be influential. Whether Muhammad the Prophet would approve of their actions is another question, but the fact that the centre of al Qaeda’s initiative has been Saudi Arabia, Muhammad’s home, is not insignificant.
The Crusades, Richard and Salah-ad-Din
A further chance to build a proto-global fusion came during the Crusades of the 1090s-1290s – Europe’s first bout of overseas expansionism. The Crusaders made their mark with extreme courage and bravado, yet they blundered repeatedly. When they seized Jerusalem in 1099, they allegedly murdered virtually all Muslims and Jews as well as eastern Christians. The Crusaders were a strange mixture of religious visionaries and holy warriors, glory-and-booty seekers, power-maniacs, noble adventurers, outlaws and vagabonds.
Their unprincipled actions incited a pan-Arabic reaction, especially under Nureddin, Seljuk ruler of Syria 1146-74, and his successor Salah-ad-Din or Saladin, Sultan of Egypt and Syria, 1175-93. They took strong objection to Crusader atrocities and arrogance. This was a religious matter of righting wrongs rather than a purely territorial issue, since it was the stated duty of all Muslims to protect their fellows from oppression by the launching of jihad or holy war.
Nureddin and Saladin were not implacably opposed to the presence of foreigners in the Holy Land, as long as they behaved themselves. Saladin mooted the idea of sharing Palestine with the Europeans on a principle of mutual respect for each others’ people, faiths and holy places. This accorded with the highest of Muslim ideals. But he would not allow the Crusaders sole control, since they did not behave themselves and were over-ambitious. His diplomacy could have laid a basis for substantial cultural interchange between Europe and the Muslim world which, conceivably, could have created a vast world bloc with enormous potential.
The English king Richard Coeur de Lion was hesitantly partial to his proposition, tempted by Saladin’s chivalrous political challenge. Some Crusaders were relatively pacific and liberal, many of them born and living in Palestine, with Muslim friends and concubines and adopting some Middle Eastern ways. Muslim civilisation was, after all, culturally superior. But Richard was persuaded and outmanoeuvred by the belligerent lobby amongst Crusaders, mostly fresher to the Holy Land. They were backed by an unholy alliance of Papal, lordly and financial interests back in Europe, who preferred cultural separatism, booty and sole control of Palestine.
The mediating efforts of 1192 by Saladin’s brother were sabotaged. The possibility collapsed. This led to the eventual failure of the Crusades: after the collapse, Saladin knew the Crusaders must be ejected. It blew an historic opportunity to bring together two extensive cultures which, together, were potentially in a position to bring about a new international order. It was not to be.
European magnates became ever more bigoted and dogmatic during the Middle Ages: cultural cleansing and the imposition of control and uniformity were major trends underlying the period. Lordly church henchmen even sent Crusades against heretical and pagan Europeans in southwest France, Bosnia and Latvia. Islamic civilisation, which had matured by the 1100s, was multicultural, to the extent that its top level was taken over by Turkic peoples, the Seljuks, and later the Ottomans, without enormous disruption. It had little to gain from cooperation with Europeans, but the Christians nevertheless had their merits – a spunky and enterprising lot.
This failed meeting of cultures was but one entry in a catalogue of missed historic opportunities. In Israel and Lebanon to this day, much suffering might have been avoided, had this cultural hand-shaking taken place. It might have affected the many persecutions of Jews in Europe, the breaking up of the Middle East by the West in the 20th Century and the nature of European imperialism from the 1500s onwards.
Another window of opportunity arose under the Mongols in the 1200s. Invincible blitzkrieg warriors, they felled the Chin and Song dynasties of China and the great Abbasid Caliphate of Baghdad. They brought down the feared Assassin (Hashishiyun) Order of Syria, a Shi’a terrorist sect led by the legendary Old Man of the Mountain, whom even Saladin could not beat. But to do so they had to use massive force – this story slightly resembles America’s match with Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda.
The Mongols had an interesting style: they were herders by nature, setting themselves over their conquered lands and employing local administrations and institutions to run their empire. At first they did not take over the palaces and great cities, camping instead outside their walls. Genghiz Khan (c1167-1227) saw it as his and the Mongols’ divine destiny to rule the world, on behalf of the gods, who wanted it unified. This man had a global vision: any opposition was opposition to the will of the gods, worthy of instant death.
The Mongol empire, at its peak between the 1220s and the 1290s, stretched from China to the Middle East and Ukraine, embracing many ancient culture-areas. Rapid communications systems were developed and intercultural exchange was encouraged, knitting diverse cultures into an internationalist order controlled from Karakoram in Mongolia. They invited Buddhists, Taoists, Christians, Manichaeans, Muslims and pagans to their courts, bringing all under their umbrella. Many impressive potentials were there, but the essentially nomadic Mongols, who were not by nature civilisation-builders, only coordinators, gradually subsided in power.
Two of their biggest weaknesses related to democracy and delegation of power: whenever a Great Khan died, the hordes returned to Mongolia to elect a new one, meaning that their conquests lost momentum; additionally, regional power was delegated to khans who eventually pulled away from the centre, adopted the ways of China, Turkestan or Persia and loosened the ties of the empire. Yet the Mongols had brought a flourish of world integration. No empire was ever so extensive or all-embracing. But then, few empires created piles of skulls to the extent they did.
The Meeting of Civilisations
A further rumbling of global hegemony arose during the 1400s. Three powers were unwittingly positioning themselves for world domination, and not entirely consciously: imperial China, the Islamic bloc and the upstart Europeans, then in the early stages of their cheeky exploratory adventures led by the Portuguese. The smallest of these powers was the Europeans, a smelly, drunken, flea-ridden and voracious lot whose raucous bravado and booming cannons shocked the Muslims and sank their navy in a trice.
Civilised Islamic principles were the Muslims’ undoing when they met the Europeans – the Muslims were too gentlemanly. The Chinese had invented gunpowder, but they considered it immoral to use it in war, so they too had a problem with battle ethics – their philosophy was that it was ignoble to kill a warrior without looking them in the eyes. The Portuguese cared not a hoot about that.
The Chinese sent out embassies all over Asia during the reign of the Ming emperor Yung Lo in the early 1400s. His Chinese Muslim admiral Cheng Ho, from Yunnan in south China, led an enormous flotilla of ships to Indonesia, Australia, India, Arabia and east Africa (some say even the American west coast), furthering the grandiose interests of the Middle Kingdom. They sought ambassadorially to extend the hegemony of the Chinese emperor worldwide and render all other lands tributary – to the Chinese, the emperor was both a monarch and the embodiment on Earth of the gods.
This rare outburst of Chinese internationalism was courteous and diplomatic: Ming mandarins presumably dreamt of lording it over the world. Their big failing was that, since commerce was distasteful to the Chinese ruling class, their costly expeditions led to no significant profit. By 1433, there was a change of emperor and all embassies were called back. When Cheng Ho, who had sailed as far as Zanzibar, came home, he took giraffes and lions back with him for the imperial zoo. The succeeding emperor decided, for internal political reasons, to revert to traditional isolationism. This knocked the Chinese out of the game, by their own doing.
The Portuguese and the Muslims (the Ottomans, Safavid Persians and Indian Moghuls) met up at sea outside the Persian Gulf in 1509. The combined Islamic fleets, masters of the Indian Ocean, were quickly sunk and scattered by Portuguese cannons, giving the Europeans sudden dominance of the Indian Ocean and its trade. Muslim traders had for long plied the waves from the Red Sea and the Persian Gulf down the African coast, and past India to China and the Spice Islands (Indonesia).
The result of the European victory was that, of the three powers eligible to dominate the world at that time, the Europeans had suddenly gained the ascendancy. For the next four centuries, they were the prevalent world force, followed in the 20th Century by their successors, the Americans. The whiteskins, by force, trade and missionary activity, united the world – at least in terms of materialistic integration. By 2000 it was woven into a multi-channel telecommunications web which has turned the world into a buzzing network with a rapidly-diminishing need for a central dominating power. The conclusion of this story is yet to come.
Exploration is not a European invention. Hanno the Carthaginian circumnavigated Africa around 2,500 years ago. Pytheas, a Greek, reached Britain, Iceland and the Baltic Sea around 2,300 years ago. Nearchos of Crete sailed to India, followed by Alexander the Great overland. Eudoxus of Rome visited India and East Africa around 120 BCE. Roman traders reached south China around 100 CE by boat. The monk Fa-hsien travelled from China to Afghanistan and India around 400 CE.
Much later, the Vikings sailed from Scandinavia to Baghdad and Byzantium down the rivers of Russia, over the North Sea to Britain and Ireland and across the Atlantic to Iceland and Canada between 800 and 1000. They had followed Irish monks over the Atlantic: the Irish settled Iceland around 795, themselves preceded by St Brendan, who was reputed to have reached Newfoundland in a leather and wood curragh around 550. The Polynesians canoed from the central Pacific to South America, Hawaii and New Zealand, sometimes in significant numbers. Two notable later explorers were the well-known Venetian Marco Polo, who travelled from Italy to Mongolia, China, SE Asia and India between 1271 and 1295, and the Moroccan ibn Battuta, who travelled 75,000 miles around Africa, Russia, India and China – perhaps history’s greatest traveller-chronicler.
When the Europeans started exploring the world, the globalisation process we know today truly began. One crucial person in this was Henry the Navigator, a Portuguese prince who set up a school in Algarve in 1419, teaching navigation, astronomy and cartography to selected sailors. Not long after, his sailors reached Madeira and the Azores, then travelling as far as Sierra Leone in West Africa. This set in motion a trend which led to Columbus’ voyages to the Caribbean from 1492 onwards – though he never landed on the American mainland.
By 1500, English fishermen from Bristol had reached Newfoundland, followed by an official expedition under John Cabot, and meanwhile the Portuguese Cabral reached Brazil and Vasco da Gama sailed around Africa to India. Magellan achieved the first world circumnavigation in 1519-22 – a tremendous and courageous feat and precedent, equivalent to sending a man to the Moon. Later, the pirate and naval terrorist, Francis Drake, who later achieved great honours, claimed California for the British and circumnavigated the world again in 1577-80. Also, Russian pioneers were pushing across the vastness of Siberia.
By the 1600s this period of exploration had immensely profited the Spaniards and Portuguese in South America. Overseas adventures became serious business – Spanish gold and silver from the Americas, followed by the slave trade, was instrumental in financing European economic growth. European hegemony was built on the sweat, blood and tears of many long-forgotten conquered and enslaved non-Europeans.
Trading posts, ports, depots, trade routes, plantations and towns were established worldwide; embassies were sent to exotic monarchs in India and the Far East; the slave trade was started, eventually transporting over ten million Africans to the Americas; lands and markets in Africa and Asia were penetrated; substantial European colonies and towns grew in South America, later in North America and South Africa, and later still in Australia and New Zealand; and hub port cities such as Bombay, Singapore, Jakarta and Shanghai in due course became major world cities.
In the 1700s the initial driving urge for exploration and commerce was supplemented by scientific exploration. An enormous collection and classification of species took place, together with documentation, charting and pushing out the edges of the known world. European maritime powers fought each other for control of India, the East Indies and the China trade. This was driven by the profit-seeking voyages of merchant adventurers and trading companies, and only later did governments take direct control.
The first multinational corporations were the Dutch, French and English East India Companies: the English company, chartered in 1600, came to rule much of India from the 1750s-1850s, with the British government taking control only in 1858, after the Indian Mutiny. The Dutch did similar in Indonesia.
Shanghai, Mumbai and Dubai
Thus began European world domination, reaching its zenith by 1900. It laid the foundations for American corporate domination of the world in the 20th Century. The American period, accompanied by European decolonialisation of the 1940s-70s, laid the foundations of the global village. Then, from the 1960s onward, the momentum changed again: the initiative began slipping from America, Europe and USSR as the Japanese began to out-manufacture the West, exceeding it in quality of production from the 1980s onwards and itself becoming an inventor. In the 1990s the Asian tiger economies (Korea, Taiwan, Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand), together with China and parts of Latin America, were growing too. They were not only cheap production sheds, but asserted a growing cultural influence.
As from 1990, Euro-American dominance began relatively to decline, though it still determines the nature of the game, while all the time losing influence. Guangdong province in south China is now the world’s biggest industrial park, and some of the world’s hottest computer programmers work in Bangalore, India. Brazil, Mexico, South Africa and Indonesia, despite uncertainties and growth-pangs, are new economic powers.
At a cost. In the colonial period, the blessings were mixed-to-catastrophic for recipient peoples. Cultures were destroyed or undermined. In some parts enormous populations were shamelessly decimated – especially in the Americas and Africa. Modernisation was thrust on disparate lands as fast as railways and telegraph wires could be laid down. Ethnic groups were played against one another, colonial puppet states were founded, resources were plundered, internal affairs interfered with, blood spilt and things were simply changed, totally, from what they had been before.
Some recipient peoples benefited by being released from the hold of ossifying traditional systems, but the balance of benefit is to this day debatable. This could have been done otherwise. Ultimately, things will go full-cycle when the cultures of the world, having absorbed Western and global ways, reach a new self-defined balance and individuality from that standpoint. Cultural variation is not dead – it is reconstituting.
The pain and consequences of Western imperialism sit with us now, expressed in various manifest forms of anti-Western feeling lurking under the surface and popping up in different contexts around the world. Around 1990 the moral pressure and tempo came from the ‘Confucian sphere’, around 2000 from the Muslim world. Africa, Central Asia and Latin America are yet to come. Antarctica speaks by jettisoning massive ice-shelves, threatening coastal areas worldwide with sea-level rise.
The former subjects of Euro-American domination have adopted the ways of the dominators, giving it their own twist, and the drive toward ‘development’ now covers the world and is no longer Western-driven. TV, cars and computers are everywhere, together with ubiquitous burger bars and all that goes with them. While Europeans and Americans clean up their cities, the smog of developing world cities grows ever thicker and more toxic. But the values driving this Western-led development are incrementally changing, and the West itself is experiencing bounce-back. There are sub-plots going on too, such as relations between China and Latin America, Indians in Africa and the Caribbean and Filipinos in Arabia. When the Dalai Lama visits the Pope, something quivers worldwide. There is much more going on than what the West thinks.
The 21st Century brings us a planetary civilisation. The means by which we got here is receding into the past. Many new problems face us – some a result of imperialism and some new. In the new global situation there lies an enormous historic opportunity, and today’s world is our starting place. We are now in a century of reassessment: everything is up for review. The true reason for which those intrepid world travellers risked life and limb is now approaching its fulfilment. We must not confuse how we got here with what happens next. This concerns global civilisation.
Though really, I’m not greatly concerned about new year.
You see, one of the problems with our calendar is that it has no particular basis in natural energy. As a dating system it has managed to get itself used worldwide, renamed the ‘Common Era’. But it is European, instituted by Pope Gregory Thirteenth in 1582, as a correction to the foregoing Julian calendar, which was even more useless than our current one.
Luckily, the Gregorian New Year’s Day is near enough to the winter solstice and, if anything in a cycle can be called its beginning, solstice qualifies as the beginning or the root-point of a year. So New Year’s Day is close enough to the solstice to fool our underlying perceptions into believing that New Year is solsticial in flavour. But the thing is, New Year’s resolutions would probably work better if they were resolved at winter solstice.
There’s an interesting flavour to this New Year of 2023. It feels like we’re tipping into a long slide, a growing cascade of accelerating, compounding events, all scrunching up against each other. There’s that stomach-churning anticipatory feeling that you get just before doing a high-dive or heading down a slalom run. It’s too late to back out now, and the stage is set for a cliffhanger, the full plot of which nobody knows.
In the end, wobbliness isn’t such a bad thing, because this intensification is by necessity loosening things up, and we need that. The world has been held in a state of denial for at least fifty years, and reality is dawning. At last. Yes, the shit is hitting the fan in myriad ways throughout society and, globally, and this is very difficult for large numbers of people, and some are buckling – especially those at the bottom of the pile. But that’s a question of economic justice, not just the bad luck of a tough world. This fan-hitting is necessary because things have been held in arrest for too long. We’ve been burning up the world. This is a planetary emergency. We have to get real. It’s happening.
But a paradox comes with the pending avalanche of events we’re likely to see in the mid-to-late 2020s. As acceptance and mobilisation increase, things will in some respects get easier, even when they’re getting more difficult. At present we are burning up so much energy trying to keep an obsolete show on the road, trying to resist facing the fullness of our situation. That uses up a lot of energy and it creates a lot of friction. It concerns a simple rule of car-driving: before you depress the accelerator, release the hand-brake – otherwise you wear out the engine. But also, you wear out the brakes – and that’s what’s happening now, in 2023. The brakes are wearing thin.
In some respects the grating, grinding prelude to a crisis is worse than the peak of a crisis. During an actual crisis, real, cathartic change happens – positions shift, facts emerge, stuff happens and the consequences of old problems become the starting place for the new. Like it or not, that’s the way it is.
I’ve had a tendency in life to gravitate toward edgy, dodgy situations. We humans are quickly stripped down and, to survive, we have to pull out everything we have. We have to cooperate like never before, often with people we’ve never met, and do things we never thought we’d land up doing. This is an amazing process and, throughout life, some of the most profound relationships I’ve had have been in situations like this – short yet intense, a sharing of mutual risk, adversity or insecurity.
It bonds you. It calls upon abilities you didn’t think you had, or you didn’t think were useful. But when necessity and urgency are tugging at you, you just do what’s necessary, as best you can, with what you have. It’s full-on. Very alert. At times miracles happen amidst the tragedies, against the odds. One reason I started the camps in the 1980s is that camping takes us out of our comfort-zones, making us available to new things – it’s a form of positively-induced suffering that suddenly morphs into the best time you had in your life.
Of the camps I ran in the 1980s, some of the best had the worst weather. At one camp, in 1987, we had a force eight gale on the first night. We brought down the marquees, people had to abandon their tents and everyone piled into the geodesic domes, the soundest structures in a gale. I lived in a small dome and thirteen people joined me, huddled together, all privacy and comfort lost, waiting out what seemed like an endless nightmare. Morning came. We crept out slowly, blinking. The morning was sunny, dripping and quiet. The storm had gone.
A new camper came to me, saying that she had to leave – she couldn’t manage this. She looked wan and shellshocked. At that very moment, a member of the site crew came down the field with a big tray filled with mugs of tea, nonchalantly calling out “Tea, anyone?“. The lady burst out crying. She accepted her tea, and a biscuit… and she stayed. Fifteen years later she was still with us, by then doing world-healing work in the Flying Squad. Moments like that are really touching. When you tread the edge and cross the threshold, change happens. Comfort zones aren’t the best place for finding a new life.
Over the decades I’ve come upon heart-wrenching moral choice-points where the options have been playing safe, being sensible and putting my own wellbeing first, or making a big, sometimes decisive, occasionally life-saving difference in the lives of people by taking a risk. There’s often an unbridgeable gulf between them. I’ve tended toward taking the second option. This has happened again recently. It gives me a feeling of ‘this is what I’m here for’.
In late life, I’m happy about people I’ve helped or saved. It has charged a heavy price, not only to me, yet it was worth it in the end. For better or worse, it has been my choice and, in some people’s view, an avoidable pathology they’d have preferred me not to live out. That’s difficult. I seem to have spent my life apologising for being myself. But I did it anyway.
Sadly I have not been able to tell some of my best stories because they can endanger people or lead to unwanted outcomes. You might have noticed that I’ve gone quiet about the story I was recounting to you recently. Well, it’s now one of those. It’s a real test of my mettle. If you’re so inclined, please do keep praying. Apart from that, I’m going to rabbit on about other things for a while.
This seems to be a family pattern: my aunt was not permitted to talk about what she did in WW2 until 1988, poor woman, and she received a medal for it only in 2008. She worked with Alan Turing at Bletchley Park. After that, she was probably the world’s first government UFO investigator, without really knowing it – on debriefing bomber pilots returning from Germany in WW2, she was logging their encounters with ‘foo fighters’. At first they thought it was the enemy’s secret weapon, until they found out that the enemy thought the same thing. I don’t work at that level, though I do have a few eyebrow-raisers to tell. But it isn’t wise or right to do so.
There are some good stories too. I happened to follow the Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem through a checkpoint, entering Israel from the West Bank. Guns go up. Oh shite. They’re all aimed at the Patriarch, but I’m standing a few yards behind him. “Do you have any weapons?“. Now that’s a silly thing to ask a Patriarch, but lots of silly things do happen in that benighted land… Silence. “Yes“, says the Patriarch. Uh-oh. More guns go up. “Reach down slowly and get it out.” Right now I’m wondering whether I ought to move. Nope, better stay there, Palden. Don’t lift a finger.
The Patriarch, not exactly young and sprightly, reaches down slowly, pulls out and holds up… his Bible. Quite a few of us were trying hard not to crack up laughing, including a few of the soldiers. He had fifteen soldiers by the short and curlies. They’ll remember that for the rest of their days. That’s an example of psycho-spiritual peacebuilding through the teaching of pertinent lessons.
It was a hot day in Al Khader, near Bethlehem, and a new squad of Israeli soldiers was taking over in our area (they changed every couple of months). Eight or so were standing around down the hill, where the boundary lies, sweating in their uniforms. I moseyed down slowly, deliberately relaxed, to see if I could do some bridgebuilding. I had a bottle of water. One, with a French accent, asked where they could get some. I said there was a shop 200 metres back. Pushing my luck, I said I could take one or two of them there – they’d be alright. They weighed it up. They seemed to like me. I told them to keep their guns down and just relax – Israelis get really nervous and edgy in Palestinian areas, because of course all Palestinians are terrorists – and we walked slowly up and along to the shop. You could feel eyes watching.
We went into the shop, they got some things, the shopkeeper was quite friendly and chatty, and we walked back. There was a moment of connection where we all saw the ridiculousness of the situation we were in. When we got back to their mates, I said, “These people in Al Khader are alright if you’re alright with them. They won’t give you trouble if you let them be. You’ve just had a demonstration“. I think they got it. In the coming days it seemed to work. Besides, the soldiers weren’t really bothered. They were probably rather relieved to have an easy posting.
People sometimes ask me who or what I work for. I work for good-hearted humanness, however best I can judge it at the time. If I am financially supported, which is unusual, I accept contributions only if the sole requirement is that I use the money well – if there are any other strings, I say No.
I had to learn this the hard way. Shortly after the intifada, I went to Bethlehem with some financial backing and a list of nine tasks, then to spend the next month learning that it would be possible to achieve only one of those tasks – the circumstances just weren’t right. I got nervous: how would I explain that? One day, not long before leaving for home, I gave up, accepting my fate. An hour later, in rolls a van and, lo behold, every person I had needed and failed to see during the last month was inside. It was all sorted within hours. Phew. Magic.
But that made me decide to free myself from such concerns in future, because in high-chaos situations, improvisational freedom of action is absolutely necessary. Going into a chaos zone with plans, as too many Westerners do, is like trying to swim with a weighed-down straitjacket on, and it causes everyone else too much run-around. Yet strangely, high-chaos zones do allow magic to happen.
Magic happened there. But there’s one problem with trusting that magic will happen, because it doesn’t happen just because you want it to, or because you believe your agenda should be everyone else’s agenda. It happens when it is in line with the Universe’s bigger chess game. We get occasional glimpses of this but, quite often, we don’t – not at the time. Quite often we just have to make a choice and do our best. And remember: not doing something also has consequences. In our time we are getting lots of consequences from things not done, in recent decades and throughout history. We live in a time of consequences.
We are more free now to get things right than ever we have been in human history. Life is asking us not to give up on the brink of a miracle. Well, that’s one of the big lessons I seem to be learning at present. Don’t give up just because everything seems to be against you. Though sometimes we must change tactics in order to progress with our overall strategy. In the end, if you’re trying to move a mountain, it’s all about ‘Thy Will be Done’ and ‘the highest good’.
In the Middle East, whenever they make a statement about something yet to happen, they tack the word ‘inshallah’ into the sentence – ‘If it is the will of God’. In English we say ‘All things being well’, or ‘With luck’. We need a neat new word like ‘inshallah’. It would help us get over the arrogant belief that we are masters of destiny. Which we aren’t. At times The Great Cosmic Steamroller hoves into view, and woe betide us if we’re moving slower than it does.
Now that’s a pleasant thought for the new Gregorian year! But there’s truth in it. The more we’re willing to shake things up, the easier it gets in the long run. In the next year or two we’re moving from a time of rules to a time of crowds.
I saw a joke yesterday. It went… Breaking News: aliens now implementing a points system for people who want to be abducted. Too many requests.
If you’re on your own this New Year’s Eve, so am I, so we can be together in the ethers.
Here’s a hug to everyone, with love from me, Palden.
Some of you will be having a quieter Christmas than many, and some creatives will be using this time as a way to get down to some work.
In this podcast I share some thoughts about writing. I’ve been an author, editor and online content creator, and I have no idea how many hours I’ve sat at typewriters and computers for sixtyish years, creating yardages of verbiage in print.
I guess my mother handed me that gene – she was a prizewinning shorthand secretary in the 1940s.
This isn’t about sentence structure or punctuation. It’s about getting on the flow. Getting it down – it involves a lot of fingerwork on keyboards.
That’s what copyright is actually about: ideas are free and flow freely, but it’s the fingerwork, the iteration of ideas in text, that gets copyrighted. The work done to encapsulate ideas on paper or onscreen.
It’s a load of slog. You spend hours and hours and come out with a coupla sheets of paper or a screenload of web-page. People loom at it and think, ‘Is that all?’.
If you’re writing a book it stays inside a computer for months, and no one sees it, and then suddely it comes out as a printed or audio book, and it’s almost like giving birth.
So this might be interesting and useful to a few listeners. Recorded in October 2022 during a storm.
With love from me, and Happy Everythings. Paldywan.
To deal with winter we must consolidate, come together and work at it. This shift happens fully at winter solstice, when the darkness is maximal and everything stands still. It’s a time for celebration around the fire, eating and making merry – or perhaps sorting out some of the family stresses that no one had time to work through before!
We have made it through the changes and challenges of life and we find ourselves still here, together once again as a kinship group of blood, soul or commonality – and it’s a time for grandparents, for harking back and reflecting on a sense of posterity.
This is our family. Ultimately our family is humanity, but our emotional security needs require something more local and personal, made up of people whose names we know, with whom we have common history and/or genetics. We are capable of feeling a personal connection with and looking into the eyes of perhaps 50-80 people at any time – beyond this things get impersonal, no matter how friendly we might be. This is the basis of extended families, whether genetic or of the soul.
The fruits of the past year are shared and eaten, even to excess, after a solsticial pause for awareness or prayer, or for moments of wonder and goodwill. The seeds of the coming year are laid here in the relative quietness of this time of contemplation and rest. In former days when resources were meagre, the Yule feast represented a necessary stocking up of fat and nutrition to help everyone survive the winter. Modern affluence has turned this into an orgy of consumerist excess, sozzled stupor and TV overdoses, but it wasn’t always so.
To get through winter we must engage in regularised routines, fulfil our social obligations, act sensibly, pace ourselves and stay within the bounds of socially-acceptable behaviour. It’s time to be low-key, sleeping and recharging our batteries at the opposite end of the year to frenetic summertime, with its work and activity. Summer gives meaning to winter and vice versa. While autumn was a time of becoming, winter is a time for living with what we have and what we are. That’s what you get, and that’s that. If last year’s harvest was insufficient, you go hungry and hide in bed, lying low until a better time.
Forty-five days after winter solstice the ascending light is clearly evident. It’s still cold, perhaps even colder, but a change is apparent. This is the winter cross-quarter, Candlemas or Imbolc, when the Sun is around 15° Aquarius. By this time winter has been with us long enough to become tiresome, and something in us starts looking forward to a change. We relish the growing light. The first signs of growth will come in the weeks that follow – in Britain, that’s snowdrops followed by daffodils. In colder climes this is a snow-covered period of light and crispness, good for getting out the skis or skates, bringing in the felled logs on sledges from the forest, or breaking holes in the ice to drop a line through for fishing.
Acceptance of winter realities gives way to an urge for something different, a hankering for springtime. Yet the winter quarter is not done – not yet. The coming change is so great that we must be held awhile in arrested progress to help us put things on the right footing. Gardeners must dig the earth, spread compost and prepare seed-beds. Tools need fixing, houses need cleaning, things need sorting out – it’s a necessary time of preparation.
The back end of winter, leading up to spring equinox, is spent fulfilling our obligations to the situation we’re in, accepting that everything has its time. Something is stirring deep down – the hope, the aspiration, the necessary understanding that will act as a foundation for what is to come. By now we’re tired enough of winter to generate the will to wrench ourselves free of winter habits and move forward. A time of reality-adjustment is here, starting after Candlemas and peaking just before spring equinox.
Well, it’s a bit like that. For those of you who are interested, here’s the latest lowdown.
Sunday morning, wet and windy here in Cornwall. Early on, and Dr Isaac and I were dealing with an emergency, yet again, on Skype. We’ve become quite a team, he and I.
Felicia is hanging in there, just about. We had to take her back to hospital last night for intensive care, and a doctor there has allowed it on promise of payment later, bless him. Dr Isaac has sold his TV and sound system this morning to pay for oxygen and a drip. He’s such a dedicated doctor. I am sniffing around amongst contacts in the NGO sector, to see if there’s a good job waiting for him somewhere – he’s a true asset and he deserves better. He and his family risk having an Unhappy Christmas, though if I can change that, I shall. They are looking after Phyllis, who is doing well, and she’s a good kid too, and everyone loves her. We need to get her Mum Felicia back.
This is sharp-edged stuff. It’s really testing our mettle and our capacity to keep finding remarkable solutions. But we’re also both weary, fed up and in debt. Something needs to change now.
As you might imagine, this has been an enormous learning experience. It started with my doing a return favour for one of the company’s agents, to get him out of a tight scrape. Then it mushroomed from there. Quite a few people have been questioning whether I’m getting things right – to be honest, I don’t know, and we shall see. But I feel it’s right to keep these people alive.
So now it is a waiting game. Mercifully, my beating heart works well under pressure, and I’m not unused to being under fire. Though one thing we cancer patients have is greater sensitivity to and higher impacts from life’s buffetings, as if a layer of emotional armouring has been stripped away and we’re less protected. I’ve realised this in the last year since I became a single man again – fewer fallbacks, everything is up to me.
My response to this vulnerability has been a greater readiness to get down to the bottom line faster than before. Perhaps there’s a certain aged recklessness too, that comes when you know you’re in last-chance saloon and your time is limited. So, in a way, within the scope of the capacities I have left, I guess I’m playing for high stakes.
I’ve dealt with one-to-three crises every day for two rather long months, with no days off, unpaid, and I’m still in the running. Phew. I do want a rest and a break – even, dare I say it, some fun! But while Felicia, Phyllis and Isaac are in trouble, whatever anyone says, I’m staying with them. It means a lot to me, and I’m willing to lose friends over it – probably already have. This crunch period of the last week has really made me get down to first principles. What is my life about, really?
A friend in Nova Scotia, Susan, who has recently been my chief confidante, sent me a really pertinent lesson, written by someone called Paul Weinfield. Here are key lines from it.
“Leonard Cohen said his teacher once told him that, the older you get, the lonelier you become, and the deeper the love you need. This is because, as we go through life, we tend to over-identify with being the hero of our stories. This hero isn’t exactly having fun: he’s getting kicked around, humiliated and disgraced. But if we can let go of identifying with him, we can find our rightful place in the universe, and a love more satisfying than any we’ve ever known. Everyone from CEOs to wellness-influencers thinks the Hero’s Journey means facing your fears, slaying a dragon, and gaining 25k followers on Instagram. But that’s not the real Hero’s Journey.
“In the real Hero’s Journey, the dragon slays YOU. Much to your surprise, you couldn’t make that marriage work. Much to your surprise, you turned forty with no kids, no house and no prospects. Much to your surprise, the world didn’t want the gifts you proudly offered it.
“But if you are wise, you will let yourself be shattered and return to the village, humbled, but with a newfound sense that you don’t have to identify with the part of you that needs to win, needs to be recognised, needs to know. This is where your transcendent life begins.“
Gosh, well, yes. That hit me right on the nose! Yes, and that’s life. Planet Earth is a school – for some of us a real crash-course – and our purpose here is to graduate with honour.
But we do need to keep the school going, to enable our descendants to get born into a planetary body, to have a decent chance to do something with this strange privilege of life on Earth. And, you never know, we might one day have Heaven on Earth.
But today, we’re still on the case. If you are so inclined, please stay with those healing and helping thoughts, because we aren’t out of the water yet. I want these guys to have a Happy Christmas too – unlike me, they are Christians, and good Christians who do seem to live by the teachings of their master. That is, they’ll bust a gut for their fellow humans.
Meditation acts as a complement but not a replacement to action. In the Majority (‘developing’) World there is a higher proportion of spirited people who do bust guts for people and for justice.
Not that such people are lacking in the rich world, but here we play safe and stay within our comfort zones – we behave ‘properly’. It’s not very good karma, in the end.
This is one reason all those poor faceless people are coming over to Britain in flimsy boats – we are attracting them unconsciously in order to help us learn how to be more human, how to share. We are in a ‘cost of living crisis’ to teach us how to pull together and look after each other. We have problems with our politicians and bosses because we as a society have not taken life in our own hands. We have problems with race and gender because we labour under the belief that other people are deeply different from us.
The good news is that, once the Great Correction really starts, life is going to get easier. Why? Because inequality and injustice are inefficient, energy-wasting, murderous ways of running a world. It doesn’t work. We need to make life easier. At last, increasing numbers of people are realising this. But the test lies in what we actually do. Leaving your job (or whatever) and changing your life is just the first step.
To get a country like Britain to a sustainable level, we need to reduce our consumption to 1960 conditions. Those of you who remember that time will know that, though there were problems, as there are today, life was alright. We had more time for each other. It’s doable, and we can be happy with that. It’s all to do with how everything is shared.
Bless us all. Life is tough at present, for many people. History takes a long time, and it’s grinding hard. But the Great Correction has actually already started – Covid was a tipping point and we’re now sliding inexorably into accelerated change. Now we just gotta get it over the hump, so that we achieve the necessary momentum to really crack our world problems.
Thank you so much to all those who have helped and contributed. There have been times when this has brought tears to my eyes. You’ve made a real difference – Felicia and Phyllis are still with us. However, this has become more of a marathon than a sprint, and there’s more to go.
It’s good practice. That’s how it’s going to be in coming decades. There’s no going back now. If I could hug you all, I would, but I’m down’ere in glorious isolation in Cornwall, so please feel it imaginally.
There’s one robin that comes from the thicket above my cabin, and another who lives in the brambles down below the barn.
Problem is, being male robins, and with breeding season coming, they’re doing their territoriality trip – much to the consternation of the tits and the blackie, who also want to get to the feeder just outside my door.
When you spend much of your time alone, issues like this do matter! But it’s a welcome diversion too because, as you might imagine, my thumbs haven’t exactly been twiddling very much recently, and I’ll welcome an off-duty break one day.
It hasn’t snowed here in Penwith, though it went sub-zero and icy in the last few nights. Stuck out in the Atlantic and bathed in water that not too long ago passed Miami Beach, we’ve been about 5 degrees warmer than most of Britain. But then, though Brits love to complain, whatever the weather, up where my daughter Maya lives, north of the polar circle in northern Sweden, it was -30C last night – and the sun won’t rise until mid-January. Welcome to Planet Earth, dear friends – this is what you get on this world, and this is what you chose when you decided to come here.
I get cold feet. I’ve got this weird thing called Peripheral Neuropathy – a side-effect of chemo drugs where your nerve-endings die off. So I can feel the inner feelings in my feet but not the outer ones – and I never knew there was a difference until the Good Lord (or whoever) gave me cancer. This also means I don’t feel the cold in my feet very much – which goes to show how, in life, you win some and you lose some, and that’s the deal. I still have warm double socks on though.
One of the narratives of my life has been about dealing with paradox. My mother did love and care for me but she didn’t have the time and presence to mother me in the way I needed – that kind of thing. But that’s alright: it gave me some mother patterns to work with. Or this: my Tibetan name means ‘radiant merit’, my Arabic name ‘servant of the light’ and my Brahmin name is god of the sun, but there’s a shady side to me too, who gets involved in gritty, underworldy, heavy stuff. I’ve been exposing this side of me in the last month, with the strange thriller I’ve found myself in.
It goes to show, I’m not a holyholy meditation teacher at all, but a lawbreaking aged hippy charlatan who does nasty things, corrupts dishy young ladies, leads people astray and ought to be locked up forthwith – a danger to civilised society. Be warned.
I’ve been breaking the law recently, paying bribes. In West Africa, if you don’t pay enablement payments, nothing gets done. However, as my late senior barrister friend Keith used to say, in his endearingly bombastic Leo kind of way, “I, dear boy, am a purveyor of the Law of Man, but you, sir, are a purveyor of the Law of God”. Well, that’s a bit over the top, but there’s truth in it too, and sometimes divine will does need to prevail, whatever anyone thinks. So I’ve paid some bribes because, actually, it’s usually just to pay the guy’s phone bill or taxi fare so that he can do what you’re asking for and perhaps take a few bob home to his missus.
Well, if they want to arrest me for that, I’m over here. It’s a professional expense, and not the least of the sins I’ve committed. I’ve been a traitor, consorted with terrorists, smuggled tofu though Israeli checkpoints (they think it’s Semtex), taken on false guises and a few other things I’d better not mention.
But on the other hand, bad as I am, my life-saving stats measure well against any doctor or paramedic, and I’ve had the pleasure of uplifting thousands of people, and many of the bad things I once did, or decidedly didn’t do, are now, a few decades later, strangely approved of. It took a while. Some people think I’m brave, though my rather naive Aspie response is simply, ‘But why is that unusual?’.
I have another weird Aspie thing too. I have an aversion to Christmas. I don’t do it. I’ve always felt unhappy feeling obligated to be happy and congenial when, at the time, I’m feeling contemplative and quiet. So I have a no-compromise approach that, before Xmas, is frowned on and, after Xmas, is envied.
On Xmas Day, if the weather allows, I’ll be out on the moors or the cliffs with a flask and a pie, attending to the top of my head and a few related matters, and if the weather is bad I’ll be huddled round the woodstove, propped in my chair or inner journeying in bed, busy not drinking sherry. Unless I find another person who would delight in an utter non-Xmas with me, I’ll be on my own, and that’ll be alright. You might wonder why.
Well, it’s a time for wrapping up the past and looking toward the future, and I have rather a lot of both at present. That’s solstice, the turning of a tide.
But it’s also a time when, rarely, the Christian and Westernised elements in the world suddenly get excited about peace and goodwill for a day or two. This is really good. My only reservation is that it suddenly ends around lunchtime on Xmas Day, when everyone starts blotting themselves out with food and booze, only to regret it afterwards.
Nevertheless, as a guerrilla planet-fixer with an esoteric style, I find it’s worth scooping up some of this goodwill for good use. After all, there are at least a billion people on Earth who really need some peace and goodwill to be shoved their way right now. If not, truth be told, the whole eight billion of us.
So I spend my solstice-to-Xmas doing consciousness work. It’s secret – don’t tell anyone. It’s a good time for doing some gentle infiltration of the collective psyche, to strengthen that thought: goodwill. If you’re on your own this Christmas, then, wherever you are, stick up your antennae and see whether you can find me in that ‘reality-field’ and come join me. Try 11am and 2pm GMT, Xmas Day.
I’m always there on Sunday evenings at 7pm GMT too, for half an hour.
Ten years ago I was in Bethlehem at Christmas. The slightly sad thing is that Christian numbers for the Christmas Pilgrimage are much diminished nowadays, so Muslims make up the numbers – Palestinians do appreciate Bethlehem’s global name-recognition in such a forgotten land, and Jesus is also one of the prophets of Islam.
The Catholic Xmas is a bit like ours in NW Europe, with a lot of the jingle-jangle, and big concerts in Manger Square with Christian singers and bands from Germany, Indonesia and Nigeria, and a few Papal delegates thrown in. And why on earth do they import Father Christmas to Bethlehem, already replete with Christ Mass primacy, when most Palestinians have no idea where Estonia is or what slieghbells are?
Then comes the Orthodox Xmas, which is a bit more sedate, very ornate and quite delightful to a jaded old heathen like me. The chanting is done with deep faith and mystique, and the archangels and cherubim really do seem to hover around.
Then in mid-January comes the Armenian Xmas, which actually, if I were Christian, is the kind of Christmas I’d prefer – ruminative and richly calm. Either way, they’re all resplendent with candles, incense, chant and reverence – that’s very different to the mosques, where there’s nearly no ceremony or pizazz, just quiet prayer. They both have their virtues, but give me an ocean clifftop or a desert outcrop anyday, and I’ll be happy.
It looks like I’ll still be on duty over Christmas, monitoring the West Africa situation daily. Here’s the latest news from there.
Phyllis, the child, is happy and in good shape. She underwent an amazing turnaround last week, going from fever and coughing blood to wanting an ice cream in two days flat. I think you lot, with your prayers, played a key part in that. She is now staying with Dr Isaac and his family. Phyllis seems to be a great kid, easy to have around, and everyone loves her. I’m so happy about that. She’s special, that one.
Felicia… well, she’s improving, but we hit a setback two days ago. She has been reviving, and three days ago we moved her out of hospital into accommodation near the doctor and his wife. She was awake and becoming able to function, but she fell over, and it was bad. She needed two blood transfusions, a drip and medication. I’ve managed to finance that. So, it’s tenuous with her at present.
Those of you who have been giving your prayers, healing and positive thoughts to Felicia… may I ask for another round? Please hold her and raise her up. She has brain injuries from the ‘accident’ two weeks ago (they were rammed, actually). We think she’ll be alright, and she’s in good care, though she isn’t out of danger yet.
I want to put in a word for Dr Isaac and his partner Millicent and their children. They have taken in Felicia and Phyllis. They live simply and have their own family concerns, but they care a lot, and they’re definitely not in it for the money.
One of the greatest benefits I’ve had from my humanitarian work has been meeting simple, good-hearted folk like these who are the real saviours of our planet. They just get on with it and hold the world up. They do so much of the mopping up of the world’s mess.
The people I’m involved with in West Africa, and also my handler with the fraud investigation company, are all good and remarkable people. In this business, you develop ways of finding out who you can and cannot trust, and everyone depends on each other, and there’s a certain implicit code of behaviour, and you bond closely with people you encounter when sharing intense situations with them.
In something like this, to use an old sexist term, it sorts out the men from the boys. The people who hang with you through thick and thin are often amazing people. Dr Isaac is like that. He lost his job for us (though I think he’ll get it back). He risked his and his family’s lives. He’s gone several extra miles. He’s a man of faith and a good doctor who deserves more than a one-room home for his family.
I’ve met many remarkable people, and he ranks high, a true server, a doctor of whom Hippocrates would be proud. We’ve known each other for three rather long weeks. God bless you, Isaac. People like you convince me that this world will survive. My daughters, son and grandchildren do that too.
I guess I’m a sucker for crisis situations because it brings out the best in many people, and I like working with them, and it brings out the best in me. I’m not good at normality, you see. I’ve always felt I’m there to help the helpers, the social healers and the frontline people, and it’s an area of deep late-life satisfaction now.
As an independent ‘freelance humanitarian’, for want of a better term, I’ve held to certain principles I feel are important such as: ‘don’t give a person a fish, but teach them how to fish’, and ‘teach a man and you teach a man, but teach a woman and you teach a generation’. There’s even William Blake’s statement: ‘the path of excess leads to the palace of wisdom’ – and war is excess to human need, in my judgement.
I feel also that, as an educated, white, male, privileged Brit whose ancestors built the empire and kept it going, and living through its downfall and seeing its very mixed outcomes, I have a bit of an urge to complete the job. I’m not a great believer in reparations, guilt or sorrow – I just like to get in there and do something to help people have a better life and rise to their full potential. To the extent I can.
People have asked who or what I work with. To my surprise, at present it’s for a big bank – though that’s not my style. One of my PodTalks, The Only Planet of Choosing, gives clues. I’ve worked with all sorts of people, but the bottom line for me is their humanity, and progressing humanity’s evolution. My focus has been community-building, conflicts and crises, and helping social leaders stay on the rails.
You have to have your wits about you. This is strange because, as an Aspie, I can be at times apparently naively open but it’s not exactly that – it’s because I sense people’s hidden motives and agendas, and I often get delayed-action clarity on what’s really happening. So I look blank for a while. Then it all comes. So I’m best working with others, inputting what I’m good at. Such as total attention, hyper-focus. When I’m on form, I’m brilliant, and when I’m not, I’m best back here in Cornwall, out of everyone’s way.
Which is where I am now, on the farm, and it’s a dark and rainy pre-solstice night, and the owls and crows are all tucked under their wings down in the woods and hiding from the feather-ruffly wind. Wherever you are, may all be well with you.
Don’t worry too much about your circumstances, even if they’re tough at present – look at your attitude, and be innovative. Find simple ways to be happy. We all get inner friction and pain, but these are things we can reduce, even if we can’t reduce the adversity. That’s what’ll get us all through.
This is dedicated to my old friends Jaki Whitren and John Cartwight – they eloped upstairs together a few years ago. They’re the greatest rock band you never heard of, big in Glastonbury in the 1980s-90s.
And this podcast isn’t what you might at first think it’s about… this is about reincarnation.
Introduced and outroduced by the Massed Corvid Choir of Lower Grumbla, Cornwall – crows and jackdaws that live in the woods below the farm. At dawn they get worked up and suddenly they all take flight, hundreds of them, and they settle on the roof of the farm. You can hear them arriving and landing just before the music starts.
So this is about reincarnation, and the many lives we live in this life. For me, towards the end of my current life (I’m currently 72, with cancer) this takes on a special significance, since I know in my bones, and always have, that it doesn’t just go blank and dark when you die. It doesn’t end there. You carry on – but without a body or a slot in Planet Earth’s rather bumpy reality.
And when you get born, you aren’t a blank sheet – you come with character, proclivities and tendencies already there, brought with you from before.
Oh, and, for your interest, this is Paldywan on steroids. Yes, literally. I had my cancer treatment today (Weds 7th Dec), and part of it is a steroid called Dex, or Dexamethasone. After my treatment, as you might imagine, I’m buzzing. This time I thought I’d do a podcast to harness the buzzing.
The steroids tend to loosen my vocal chords, so if you’re one of those who likes my voice, this is a good one! But I’m a little slurred too, in places, not entirely in my body.
With love from West Penwith in Cornwall – a rather magic place. Thanks for listening. There’s more to come. 35 mins.
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