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.
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.
This 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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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.
How come the right often do so much better at ‘spiritual’ inspiration? In France they have Joan of Arc, in Greece ‘The Golden Dawn.’ Isn’t it time that the left developed a spirituality of its own.
Many progressives are often passionately atheist or on the liberal wings of essentially patriarchal religions. The distinction between organised hierarchical religions and spiritualities has often been overlooked. Religion as the ‘opium of the people’ has been the battle cry of the left, while the quieter belief of Engles in ‘dialectics as the spirit in matter’ was forgotten. Engels wrote much of the ‘Dialectics of Nature’ after Marx’s death in 1883 to link natural science with revolutionary ideas. The science is mostly outdated now, but the spirit of his endevour could be used to develop a left wing spirituality. What might this look like?
An alternative left wing spirituality could be based on honouring the concept of equalising as a verb not only as a static ideal. Equality is not sameness. It can be seen as our social and political equivilant of the balancing processes in nature. Everywhere, on every level, in every dimension opposites are striving to balance and equalise. This results in endless flowing rhythms dancing through life, from the oscillating strings of sub atomic matter to the breathing of the cosmos.
It can seem as though we are in the stone age as far as equalising our societies, locally and globally. How different it would be if there was a widespread, passionate belief in equalising as a guiding force on all levels of life. Perhaps it is already evolving in the hidden corners of the collective unconscious, on the streets, during protests and online. This new spirituality is far from the Methodist chapels of the old British Labour Party or the religious based initiatives of progressive Rabbis and Priests, though they all have their value. It is essentially about tuning in to the equalising rhythms of nature and finding a common spirituality without leaders. It can take many forms or none. It can honour local land and/or ancestors or relate to mother earth as a universal. But without some strengthening of a left spirituality the nationalistic right wingers could become increasingly powerful over the next decades.