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.