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Double HelixMultidimensional rhythms

This Double Helix represents the DNA that is in ALL living things, so feels like a fitting symbol for a left wing equalising spirituality. During the 2004 Greek Olympics the double helix stood high and proud at the end where a cross or flag might once have been. This was my inspiration. The other picture shows the same winding, spiralling shapes but in many dimensions with 2 heads emerging from the dance.

Since Brexit, the left have been in a soul searching mode. ‘Where did we go wrong?’ There have many theories and feelings expressed, but little about our need for a more passionate spiritual vision. The right have often been cleverer at using emotions and even the spiritual for nationalistic ends. The left is more internationalist but does share a deep belief in equality. Many today are against all kinds of hierarchies, while others work primarily towards greater fairness and less economic inequality. But we all agree on the need for more equality. However I don’t believe that ‘equalising’ in its deepest sense is only a materialistic idea, it can also be spiritual. ‘Spirituality’ is a word rarely used by the left. Perhaps this is partly because it has so many meanings, ranging from being compassionate and kind to actually attuning to the unseen equalising forces in nature as yet not understood by science.

Many people these days define themselves as spiritual but not religious. Yet much of the left’s spiritually minded discusions and actions come from mainstream patriarchal religions. We have the charismatic Rabbi Michael Lerner in the US and the Christian Quakers etc. But maybe the time has come for a specifically left wing spirituality. I hope to sow the seeds for this and start a conversation on 26th.Sept. at Conway Hall.

Last night(July5th) I went to a very inspiring Progressive Alliance meeting at the Emanuel Centre in Pimlico. It was organised by Compass who spoke about compassion and the need for shared visions. There were left labour MPs, Greens (Caroline Lucas),Lib Dems, street activists, Journalists ( John Harris of the Guardian arguing against looking down on Brexisteers).  Finding commonalities seems to be the key. If we don’t get together soon the right will rise further. Our spiritual vision can be global while honouring the sacredness of different cultures and bits of land, or trees or our bodies. But no land or person or tree is superior to any other. Vertical thinking needs to disolve into horizontalism and multi dimensional dancing opposites (see above pic).

More info on the Sept.26th. event on my web site  http://www.serpentinstitute.com

 

 

 

 

 

Crossings Equalia in the Mediterranean

Equalia as the Maltese goddess sits in the middle of the Mediterranean. In these 2 versions of the painting I try to convey, both the terror of the refugees crossing over the sea to Europe, and a sense of protection. She has always been there, hidden and forgotten, both a presence and an absence to be filled.

Although her ancient names are unknown, I call her Equalia today because Europe and the world urgently need  equalising plans to work with the refugee situation. The rich world must do infinitely more. But this requires a strengthening of the leftish compassion and rationality before the right react disasterously. A spiritual componant is vital.

So I am hosting a left wing spirituality event on Monday 26th. September, 7-9 at Conway Hall, Red Lion Sq., London, WC1 R4RL. I will give a talk and exhibit some paintings. There will be performances, meditation and a ceremony. It will be a free event for free spirits, of any religion or none who are open to the idea of other dimensions that science has not yet understood AND are politically left.

 

MANIFESTO

We don’t believe that Capitalism, Patriarchy and Racism can be dissolved only by material means. Traditionally the left has been sceptical about spirituality, associating it with often oppressive religions. Yet spirituality too can easily become hierarchical unless equality is at its very heart. The path of Equalia explores an alternative SYSTEM for daily life and gives MEANING to the soul’s journey through many lifetimes. SHE is the equalising force in nature – human and non human, that we can learn to attune to more powerfully.

 

Atargatis in SyriaAttagatis, ancient Syrian goddess laying an egg for the future non hierarchical nature based spirituality.

In this year commemorating the 500th anniversary of Thomas Moore’s book ‘Utopia’, the very concept can seem hopelessly idealistic. Yet in the most suprising corner of the world the dreams of an anarchist social ecologist called Murray Bookchin(1921-2006) are being put into practice. In Northern Syria 3 Kurdish held cantons (Rojava) are working with his ideas of direct democracy in municipalities rather than a State. This is partly because their leader Ocalan who is still imprisoned by the Turkish government was inspired by Bookchin. They are also affected by a world wide movement away from rigid hierarchies as expressed in The Arab spring, Occupy, the Indignados in Spain etc.

But in Rojava the ideals are practised on a society wide scale. There is an acceptance of all religions and ethnicities, although there is also a strong secular left influence. There are people’s assemblies at all levels including those on each street. Women make up over 40% of all organisations. Salaries are similar regardless of the job. The sub title of Bookchin’s most famous book ‘Ecology of Freedom’ is ‘The dissolution of hierarchies’. He sees them as being linked to our domination of nature, leading to ecological disaster. He argued that any spiritual aspect of this social ecology would be related to the sacredness and interconnectedness of nature. The idea of deity is seen as problematic, part of the old hierarchical religions. That’s why my new painting of Attagatis is kind of dissolved into the many dimensions and rhythms of nature. As an image and a myth, such as laying her egg in the Euphrates river, she can encourage us to new beginnings as well as an honouring of the ancient land.

We all know how quickly hierarchies reassert themselves, and for some people it may be that a new specifically left wing spirituality could be helpful. And that could include flexible, imagined deities like Equalia who can be a loving mother as well as a force of nature. When someone recently read my book ‘Deep Equality’ he associated it immediately with Bookchin. As a proud utopian idealist I was encouraged by this connection and would love to see it as a psychological and spiritual companion to social ecology.

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Pan SpiritsThis was the title of a recent discussion at St. Jame’s Piccadilly between Revd. Lucy Winkett and Malcolm Stern, Founder of Alternatives. Lucy talked of her own very uplifting ‘spiritual’ experiences within Christianity while acknowledging that a lot of religion is ‘bad’. Millions of people, at least in the West describe themselves as Spiritual but not Religious. There was no clear definition of ‘spirituality’ but at the end a woman behind me spoke of sensing the rush of wind taking a persons ‘spirit’ after death. So some of us clearly believed in other dimensions beyond an experience of joy etc.

The hypocrisy of all religions was mentioned, and for me the hierarchical nature of the structures and thinking is deeply problematic. But the celebrity culture of the New Age is kind of hierarchical too. It set me thinking about the ‘good’ aspects of religions and how these could be used in an egalitarian Equalia based religion.

1.Structure is important, but it doesn’t have to be vertical shaped. Perhaps we all need to be contained and have boundaries and ‘rules’ that everyone co-creates and can change. Anarchists from the Spanish Civil war to the Occupy movement have been exploring these complexities within anti-hierarchical ideals. Banning alcohol has been a massive issue in some alternative communities, with passionate arguments on both sides. And only yesterday my supervision group wondered why such a student centred, accepting teacher as me suggested we didn’t swear in our sessions! A long discussion ensued about containment versus domination.

2. Regular practices seem to be important too, even if they are really simple like noticing the breath and/or repeating a name like E-qua-li-a. People can choose their own rather than have them ‘enforced’ but might need support and encouragement.

3. Community also feels vital. Gatherings and feasts are as old as humanity and can be held around natural seasons and moon times etc. Nature and our bodies can be our sacred books and our own intuition and deepest core holds all (or at least most of) the wisdom we need.

The list is endless but I tried to capture the central idea of spirit and structure in my painting of the Spirit of Pan (above). I wanted to express both the music and ecstasy of the steel pan and the wildness of the god Pan in one picture. There are straight lines and boxes around and through the energy and flow of spirit. Hope you like it.

Oh, and of course ‘good’ and ‘bad’ are rather dubious binary opposites and not words I personally use too often!

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Holy Grail France 2014Holy Grail – France 2014

I am writing on the day of a powerful full moon where ‘she’ is showing herself especially close to the earth, honest and naked. It’s a time when all those hidden potentials, but fears and hates too,  come to the surface. It is also a time in the world of extreme masculinity in many forms, but especially in the brutal masacres of innocents in Gaza and elsewhere. The paradigm of winning and dominating with the help of the arms trade and power politics seems to be clinging on for dear life (or death). But fundamentalist religious fervour has played its part too. Secularist lefties never expected to see such a rise in religions of all kinds in the 21st Century. I often wonder whether it is a reaction to Feminism at a deep collective unconscious level. For example 40 years ago the Secularist Socialist PLO and the Socialist minded Kibutz culture in Israel could have found common ground. But now patriarchal religions have returned with a vengence eg. claiming sacred land in the name of  God. Extreme inequality is the result, as in Israel and Palestine, and of course the occupied people have the right to resist. But the roots of the problem go deeper, not only to colonialism but to the development of the very ideas of ownership of land and the inferiority of women 5,000 yrs ago.

Yet in all religions there has been some ‘memory’, some continuity, some half forgotten honouring of the divine feminine.   In Christianity this was expressed by the Troubadors of the Middle Ages and specifically by the symbol of the Holy Grail. With my family I recently vistited South West France, famous for the heretical sect called Cathars as well as good wine. We climbed to the top of Montsegur (see top of painting) which in 1244 was where the last(almost) of the Cathers were massacred. The hierarchical and patriarchal Catholic Church could not stand their much more equalising ideas and social structure. Women were able to preach and could become spiritually ‘perfected’. Some believed that a few of them escaped carrying the Holy Grail with them.

But as I try to express in my picture, the Grail is really a symbol of the fecundity of the earth, of woman, of the spirit WITHIN not above matter. In the same area there are many Black Madonna’s even within the establishment churches. We visited one in Montpelier famous for her miracles. She looked so sad and forgotten in a corner while the male priests led mass. I depicted her holding our planet in her hand looking at it with compassion, despair and hope. The divine feminine, rhythm of life, spirit in matter is needed so badly today. She has many names and forms but I have started calling her Equalia to play a part in ALL kinds of inequalities not only those of gender.

You could visualise her as the swirling light in the painting rising and falling, imbuing everone with her love but also not denying the dark clouds and the disappointing tragedy that is today’s world. Feel the sadness, then let it go. Feel the hope and breathe its rhythms while chanting E- qua- li-a.

 

Being Connected Yearning for the moon

With Valentine’s day looming, and the shops already full of expensive hearts our minds are encouraged to contemplate love. The first painting (Being Connected) shows  the personal aspect still embedded in the earth and in the rhythms of nature. The second(Yearning for the Moon)shows the longing to become whole like the sphere of the moon itself. She is already part of the rhythms and surrendered to something greater. In my book ‘Love in an Age of Uncertainty’ I explore some of the hunderds of kind of love through ancient mythology. I question the current myth that finding the perfect partner is the solution to feelings of aloneness in this Universe, that love replaces religion.

A few years ago a group of us from the Dionysian Underground did a ceremony on Valentines Day of Primrose Hill to honour the Life Force of Eros that we all have all the time. We tore into pieces some over sentimental commercial cards and invoked the goddess Aphrodite with drumming and dancing. Well it made us feel good.

But apart from ‘denouncing’ capitalist commercialism, how does love relate to left politics. In France we have the ‘ socialist’ Hollande combining revelations about his affaire with slightly less socialist economic policies. His attempts at really raising taxes made him very unpopular. Yet the affaire put up his ratings slightly. Can we make any theories from this? After all socialism has been seen as alot less sexy than capitalism.

However there has been a current on the left of honouring love. Che Guevara once famously said ‘At the risk of sounding ridiculous let me say that a revolutionary is guided by great feelings of love’. There can be love for justice and love for the oppressed people. When we are in touch with our core selves as the Marxist Psychoanalyst said, we are naturally loving. He added that we are also angry(hating) at injustice and I would add extreme inequality.

While to get that core place we need to do loads, maybe life times of work on ourselves we can meanwhile practice love under will. The Metta practice from Buddhism is a good example. You bring to mind someone you find easy to love, then youself(not always as easy as it sounds), then someone neutral, perhaps a stranger(you can pracice on public transport or on the street), then its someone you find difficult. You send them loving energy even picturing light going from open doors in your heart to that person. You could say quietly ‘I love you’. Don’t scare anyone by speaking it out loud in public!

Minoan Mysteries

I recently came back from Crete to find everyone talking about Russell Brand.  The leftish New Statesman had him editing a special issue in October. While many reactions focussed on his unwillingmess to vote, it was the bringing together of spirituality and (non party)politics that was music to my ears. ‘For me the solution has to be primarily spiritual and secondly political’ he wrote. Millions of mainly young people watched the YouTube videos of his interviews combining an egalitarian, anti corporate stance with an emphasis on spiritual transformation. What is the spiritual/political transformation needed? Firstly, radicals don’t want anyone else telling them what to believe or do, even the very articulate Russell Brand. But that can include the Gurus of consciousness raising too.  Many of us don’t want hierarchical and/or corporate spirituality either. Is it perhaps more about attuning to a ‘current’ that is getting stronger, the current that inspired Occupy, an equalising current?  As part of that, is it possible to develop a spiritual system that is centred on equality AND our interconnected ness with nature?

This is where Crete comes in. You might think ‘what is the link’? Well this is my belief, backed up by loads of scientific archaelogy…. The early so called Minoan civilisation around 2,000BC may have been the last largely egalitarian one before the patriarchal, hierarchical systems completely took over.  Egypt, Sumer and other ‘advanced’societies had already changed by then.  And we have only to look at the Minoans depiction of nature on their murals to sense an all pervading sense of interconnection. Is there a link between their political system and an understanding of the sacredness of nature? There were many places, for example in Old Europe, Africa and the Near East that seem to have had this combination for thousands of years before. And of course some small hunter gatherer cultures had/have similar connections. But women are not always as honoured in these, as they seem to have been in early Minoan Crete. There, the Keftui as they were called then, created a highy complex, technologically advanced civilisation that stayed more equal and less patriarchal for longer than anywhere else. Human cultural evolution could have been very different if it had not been destroyed. But now there might be stuff to learn from them and to bring into the 21st Century.

We can only guess the details of Early Minoan religion/spirituality from the murals and artefacts. The most famous image comes from a later period but still speaks to me powerfully. That is the statue of the so called snake goddess/priestess (see the painting above). She has never been definitively named. But as I meditated on her and lost myself in the painting, a name just came to me out of the blue. That name was EQUALIA. She is holding two snakes, symbols for me of the equalising flow of life, she is wild and bare breasted yet contained and in deep meditation.  If the abstract balancing force in nature had to be personified I think for me it would have to be her.

I then Googled the name Equalia and found that it appeared in the Simpsons as an imaginary land where all the citizens are equal but Lisa and her friend Juliet were in charge!!!!! Still I invoked her at a ritual last week and felt some of her very real power. For me she is ‘a long lost, future goddess/archetype/principle of nature, the Tao and the Da, Ma-at and Rhea, an equalising force, super symetry in physics, the equal sign in mathematics,  and  a disolver of ALL inner and outer hierarchies. Ho Equalia!

You could use the painting above or your own image of Equalia to meditate on and just see where ‘she’ takes you.

 

 

Isle of Man Spirit 1 Isle of Man Spirit 2

I recently spent 3 weeks in the Isle of Man with my brother who lives there. It’s a place full of fairies and mysteries, a place that feels deeply spiritual, whatever that word means. Today a variety of religious groups from evangelical Christians to Pagan fundamentalists use its ‘energies’ for worship. But many more just feel its magic. Is this part of what being spiritual but not religious means. It seems that there are a lot of us around…..Then last week I read an article from the magasine ‘American Prospect’ ( Sept.19th 2013) in which Amelia Thompson-Devaux quotes interesting statistics from the Pew Forum on Religious and Public Life. Apparently one third of Americans under 30 have no religious affiliation at all.( It’s likely to be even more in the UK.) Of those people 4 in 10 say that they are spiritual but not religious. This is a massive number of people. She argues that all the ‘sparring’ between Atheists and Believers is missing the point and that already millions have moved on from that simplistic and dualistic debate.

Amelia also questions the Atheist Churches like London’s Sunday Assembly,  inspired by the Philosopher Alain de Botton in ‘Religion for Atheists’. She thinks that his ‘effort to spell out rules seems out of step with the moment’ and ends the article by hoping instead that ‘the unaffiliated will ‘engage – either together or alone- in exciting acts of reinvention.’  Many people today don’t want superior leaders, holy books(even modern ones written by atheists) or dogmatic rules.  We want to be more creative and flexible while still sharing such basic values as equality and interconnectedness with nature. To go with this shift I  enjoy playing at reinventing visual symbols to represent the new spirituality.

Some of these are already all around, in the tattoos and other adornment s of our bodies on the streets.  My favourite is the snake/serpent/spiral which appears in most cultures of the world representing energy, healing, sexuality and much more. Its shape is so different from the more static symbols of mainstream religions such as the cross, or even the pagan pentacle.  A shape that moves from up to down and back again also feels more egalitarian, more about sustainability.  In 1920  the Tatlin tower was designed to represent Communism as an upward spiralling form. Yet it is still reaching to the top in a one way movement. It is still hierarchical, as that form of State Communism indeed turned out to be. Shape matters. I recently found myself at the bottom of the Shard in London. It rises so relentlessly into the sky, even higher than all the city skyscrapers nearby, another symbol of endless economic growth and high tech phallic thrusting. I felt very small.

But there are other alternative shapes becoming popular. The double Helix is one of them, with its endless twisting and snakey form.  DNA is in every living thing and the Helix shape can represent our interconnectedness. At the Greek Olymipc games in 2004 the ending ceremony started with Snake goddess of ancient Crete and went right through their history. But it finished with a gigantic model of the double helix……..a perfect image for future spirituality.

Then when I was in the Isle of Man, yet another image of equalising energies came to me. There is a mountain in the middle of the island with supposed magic properties. I had a vision of it with an internal vortex winding upwards and then from the top moving in an equal and opposite direction. This reminded me of WB Yeats’ A Vision’ where he saw the winding gyres, the double cone or vortex as the form of all interconnected opposites on a soul level. He has a particular system in that book with names like Will and Mask for specific opposites. But writes on page 74 that ‘These pairs of Opposites whirl in contrary directions.’ He quotes Flaubert, Blake and Heraclitus among others. The shape of the double vortex and endless winding is a powerful one to play with.  We can use it in our everyday life too.

Visualisation. The Vortex can be a useful shape for those moments when we need protection. Perhaps someone is invading your privacy, staring at you just a bit too much, or unconsciously ‘sending’ you attacking energies. Use my paintings above or your own image of light winding around your body to help you feel safer.

Lammas at Tymawr0001

I made this painting at a silent retreat in Wales. The Tymawr Convent is in the background, in front of the primeval Trelech ridge above the Wye valley. In the middle is the path we walked each day past fields of grass to join the nuns. On the left is the goddess Demeter and on the right is the sacred bread and a mysterious figure who could be the goddess Elen. Despite my very serious problems with organised Christian religion, I found a spiritual essence here that suprised and even transformed me. It was probably the most peaceful place I have even been to. If spirituality is about other dimensions whatever names we give them, then ‘they’ were very close in that landscape. For at least 6,000 yrs humans have been attuning to the spiritual there. No doubt they were also attuning to the natural seasons. They still are.

Lammas (1st.Aug. first harvest) was observed in the Convent chapel, with a loaf of bread on the alter. As they are an Anglican community female priests are now ‘allowed’, and while I was there all those who led services were women.  It almost made up for the patriarchal words everywhere. It was also heart warming  celebrating Lammas in an actual agricultural community, where the recent sunshine mattered practically. This was referred to by the priest as a contrast to the wet summer last year. My pagan side was fed in this place more than in many a city ritual.

It set me thinking about the natural spirituality so many of us, from all religions and none, have in common. Its usually the hierarchical structures and beliefs that are so problematic. My God is better than yours or men are superior to women etc. Yet for some modern appologists for religions these can be kept more or less intact so long as the spirituality bit is cut out. In Buddhism, for example, people like Stephen Batchelor want to keep the philosophy but totally reject anything spiritual or other dimensional. Techniques like mindfulness are taken and used as therapy to help people stay calm, something we all need. Yet it’s Buddhist roots can almost be seen as an embarassment and are often ignored. Anything that can’t be proven by present day science isn’t seen as valid. Good scientists are usually more humble about the limits of our present understanding. I put my bet on String theory, but who knows. Maybe we will never get our heads around the mysteries of the other dimensions.

99% of humnas throughout history and prehistory have attuned to spiritual  forces in one form or another. Isn’t it insulting to those people to dismiss it all as backward or superstitious? Many on the left want to respect other cultures but draw the line  at belief in other dimensions. Modern secular Westerners can enjoy the cultural symbolism, the music and the stories. Statues of the Buddha are becoming ubiquitous in fashionable shops and living rooms everywhere. Gospel music is much loved. But talk about contact with the spirits of dead ancestors and people will become uncomfortable and mumble something patronising about such beliefs bringing comfort to the bereaved.

Since the Enlightenment, educated middle class people have become more and more sceptical about anything spiritual. Indeed in many countries it is a mark of being of a superior class to look down on the attunement practices of people  perceived as lesser. Formal, organised, hierarchical religion might be acceptable for social status but not having a premonition of a future event. On the left, religion is still seen as the opium of the people. Isn’t it time we developed our own spirituality with a trust in the dialectic, equalising forces of nature? Can we develop a spirituality without hierarchies or sacred books or dogmatic beliefs? It could be a 21st century way of attuning directly from the heart, from our deepest intuition from our shared humanity.

She is returning to the people as a symbol of powerful feminine energy.

She is returning to the people as a symbol of powerful feminine energy.

I went to a wonderful talk last night by Caroline Wise about Elen of the Ways at Steiner House in London. She has researched this figure in history and mythology for over 20 years. I have been painting her for nearly as long. I was especially interested in the way that Caroline refused to call her a goddess, noting that this word has all too often been overused. Elen doesn’t generally appear as a goddess in the literature though she is clearly sacred and has many connections eg with Helen of Troy and St. Helena, mother of the Roman Emporer Constantine. She seems to be more a force of nature than a transpersonal being.

Caroline noted that she seems to be especially associated with the regenerative power of nature, as in the ever living cross of St Helena. This was replaced in Christianity by the cross as a symbol of death. She can be seen as the Green Lady, just as important as the more familiar Green Man. In one slide she showed the two of them  Green woman and Green man equal and interconnected with double helixes swirling between them. In another image she becomes the horned goddess as an image to balance the horned god. This may go back to the ancient honouring of the female reindeer who have antlers, and whose tracks across the land Elen also symbolises.  She seems to be a connecting energy or light both across landscapes and between dimensions. In my painting I gave Ellen bull’s horns which bring in a ‘masculine’ element. These were sacred in what have been losely called ancient goddess cultures in the Neolithic and Early Bronze age religions of Europe and Asia. But as a force rather than a deity she speaks to me much more powerfully for today’s world. I see her more like the ancient Chinese Tao…the way of opposites, that mystery which we cannot speak of. The word ‘goddess’ has sometimes been diminished by its overuse and can lack the numinous associations of the word god.

People today don’t always want to worship a superior being, but there can be a longing to honour and attune to a hidden, mysterious life force. Ellen is one name that can be given to this. In my painting she is pregnant with hope for the future right in the middle of the city of London. Behind her the bankers buildings rise into a stormy sky. And beside her there is the sacred river Thames  winding snake-like to transform the land back to sustainable use.   It is a kind of prayer to Ellen in these times of deep transition.

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