Looking for answers…

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It wasn’t a dark and stormy night… this book that lies open on my desk begins with a rather less evocative phrase. More mundane  and far less atmospheric…though the writer who had penned them both was the same. I’ve never really seen what was wrong with that opening, though it has passed into the realms of ridicule as ‘purple prose’ and the Right Honorable Lord Lytton now has an anti-literary prize named after him, awarded for the worst opening phrase of a story. A tad unfair, I feel. His style was the product of a bygone era and a society that held different tastes close to its tightly corseted bosom.

This particular book, I haven’t read in a good many years, but as it is fairly obscure yet has been mentioned by three people in as many weeks, I thought I should rummage through the shelves and find my battered and dog-eared copy. I’ve always liked the work of Bulwer-Lytton, a prolific novelist and playwright.  His style, I grant you, is heavy and sometimes ponderous… like many writers of his epoch, he will seldom use one word when five will do. His storytelling, however, is a different thing and he manages to evoke times long past and populate them with unexpected characters. Little known today, his ‘dark and stormy night’ is not the only phrase he has added to the language. His novels were hugely influential when they were first published. ‘Pelham‘ changed fashionable dress. Verdi, Wagner and others wrote operas based on his historical works. His friend, Charles Dickens, changed the ending of ‘Great Expectations‘ on his suggestion and Bram Stoker was inspired to write ‘Dracula‘ after reading Lytton’s ‘A Strange Story’, which was the first of his works that I read. The Hollow Earth theory was also popularised by Lytton in ‘The Coming Race’, published in 1861 and was credited with helping to launch the science fiction genre. 

I was barely fifteen when my grandfather gave me two of Lytton’s works. ‘The Last Days of Pompeii’ and ‘A Strange Story’. The books could not have been more different. One, a vividly portrayed piece of quasi-historical drama, the other a dark and unsettling tale, set in what seemed to be my own backyard. The locations were referred to only by their initials, but the town sounded remarkably like my own and the Abbey and the old house sounded like those at Kirkstall, Simply because of that, I ploughed through the heavy prose when most of my contemporaries were turning to Barbara Cartland for ‘historical’ fiction.

The tale tells of youth and ego that seeks to perpetuate itself through the fear of not-being, drawing on the life of others in true vampiric style, though without the blood. It is one of those stories where nothing happens… yet lives are changed as the characters act out their fate. The reader may be changed too, as questions begin to form in the nether regions of the mind and parallels are drawn with less lurid occurrences in daily life. I went on to read his ‘Zanoni’,  where a choice between immortality and humanity lifts the veil on many arcane themes; that book also brought questions and my grandfather’s library was a gold-mine.

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Dion Fortune, Robert Graves, Aleister Crowley and MacGregor Mathers were probably not average teen reading. Many of the books my grandfather gave me raised questions. Some gave me answers too, or better still, were signposts that showed me where to look to find my own. In that I was lucky; far luckier than I would realise for many years. At the time, I just assumed that when such questions arose, everyone would have someone with whom to discuss them. It was not until much later that I found that my situation was the exception rather than the norm. In those days, books on alternative approaches to spirituality were still rare and hard to find and many will have no-one with whom they can explore the deepest thoughts that arise within the hidden regions of the soul.

We all have questions. Many people still turn to books to explore their ideas and seek inspiration, but with the advent of the internet it has become even simpler to tap in a query and see what comes up. The problem is that there is just so much information out there…and most of it conflicting. From the strangest concepts to the harshest diatribes against them, the genuine seeker will find every possible shade of opinion, every argument for and against and every wild and wacky theory there is… and where do you start to sift through them?

Common sense is usually a good place to begin and filters out the worst offenders. Anything that promises the earth will probably not deliver. Especially if it says all you have to do is sit back and pay your hard earned cash for them to wave a magic wand that makes the world right. The wonderful and inspirational sites that tell you that all is right and beautiful have a point; I would agree with them in principle… but when you are stuck in confusion or a dark place in your life, that isn’t really all that helpful. Abstract ideas are all very well, but sometimes what you need is a stout rope… an idea of what you can do to climb out of the hole and there are many excellent schools, groups and systems out there who will throw that rope to you. But how do you know which one?

The best advice I ever read on how to find the school, organisation or system that would work for you came from Dion Fortune when she wrote that ‘the proof of the pudding is in the eating’. She advised that the seeker look at those who are part of those systems … not those who have gone a little way and left for one reason or another, but those who have walked the path and stuck with it. Look and see whether those people have something that speaks to you, something you can trust.

The best advice I have ever heard, was simply to ‘ask the question’. Turn your attention to the quiet place within and listen to the prompting of the heart. The spiritual seeker has already knocked on the door and the wordless inner voice, that expression of the higher self, is waiting to answer.

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30 thoughts on “Looking for answers…

  1. This is a wonderful post. I too was lucky in that my aunt, who brought me up and my mother both had wonderful open minds and I was introduced to Dion and Blavinsky and others when I was younger. Question, question, question everything until you know inside the ringing bell of truth.

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    1. Never accept what you cannot test in your own life or what doesn’t ‘feel’ right… when it does, you know, don’t you. I got Blavatsky early on too… my other grandparents were a Spiritualist minister and psychic, so I was given a very wide range of ideas from which to form my own.

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  2. 🙂 Someday, I imagine, my mom’s collection of Barbara Cartland will make it’s way to my house – – you want me to bring ’em over, since you missed ’em the first time around? LOL (sorry – couldn’t help myself! 😛 I’ll be too busy working through Dad’s collection – LOL)

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      1. Yup – NOW I’m gonna have to cart a couple over with me during me visit to your neck of the woods, just so I can say, “Psst – Ani – put this on the floor in front of the tub when she starts running a bath” – LOL

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      2. Well…your own fault….KL Caley’s inspired post on why the sheep crossed the road reminded me, I ought to explore my dark side a lil more, daily, just so I’m not unconsciously letting it roam around creating chaos – 🙂 😛

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      3. I sit with it sometimes – just so I get better at laughing at it’s ideas and making the command decision, “Nice! But noooo….we’re not going to REALLY do that” – seems to keep the evil imp under control just a tad better…. 😀

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      4. PS – btw, if I ‘accidentally’ forget to bring the BC books, can you put forth a lil’ nudge to the Universe? If this gettin’ the man-child off to college this summer doesn’t start going smoother – I’m going to have to push my fall 2016 adventure across the pond out to fall 2017 or later – – Trade Ya! 🙂 (Oakley is very loyal – she’ll understand we had to let go of the fun to take care of pack business – but tell Ani I’ll think up something afore I arrive – 🙂 LOL

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      5. Yes – – still have on my ‘list’ for 2016 – but may not know for sure until June/July – have wracked up so many cool WP folks to meet and explore their neck of the woods while I drive east to catch my pond flight, etc., and then those to visit their community garden/have tea/coffee with etc., that (in my evil imp’s absolute fear of waiting to late to actually coordinate it well enough to plan and give notice – “Hey! Will be passing through your area around (this date) – want to meet for refreshments and/or, what’s your favorite thing to visit/see there?”) missives -:) If nothing else, my evil imp, since stroke, delights in getting me all wrapped around the axel about planning appropriately! LOL – (you didn’t think I just did to others what I haven’t tried out on myself, now, did ya? LOL)

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      6. AWESOME! Cuz ya know – I’m just dying to hit see the Moors, Shrewsbury and all your local jaunts (and the pubs – can’t forget those ones!) AND gotta carve out time to get over and coffee with Nick & his sphere, at the Florence Nightingale hospital (yup – I’ll have to look at bookmark to remember modern name, but doncha know, I read a book about her work in.. Crimean War? when I was in 4th grade – HAVE to see that!), too – I’ve received an invitation! Yup – thanks – just got goosebumps and thinking, all is taken care of – just have to wait for it to unfold – THANK YOU!! 🙂

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      7. Nick is just a few minutes walk from Florence Nightingale’s hospital… and one of the ‘country houses’ where she often stayed, Claydon House, is a few minutes drive from me. The moors are a bit farther away… but hey 🙂

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      8. I’ve still got to wrap my mind around it – my brother informed me I might score some savings from flying into Paris and I said, “Umm… that’s not on the itenarary – I don’t think I have any bloggy pals in France – and you know, they are who are alerting me to the hidden gems that don’t make it into the glossy brochures…” AND the fact, that I just discovered, I can go up and visit a child hood friend who moved to Scotland last year from one of my ‘runs a community garden’ areas – in less time than I can drive from here to the Southern Ute Cultural center located in the SW corner of my own state – 🙂 I’m forever reminded, as I plot and plan, a line from the Von Trapp Family Story, wherein, Maria commented over their amazed understanding over just how vast America is, when they were doing their first tour of Concerts in America – 🙂 I got re-wire that portion of my brain, some – 🙂

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      9. Pity… I know all the hidden gems of Paris 😉 Lived there long enough…
        But yes, we are such a tiny country here…about half the size of California. And we think a couple of hundred miles is a long,long way 🙂

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      10. I put over 1,000 miles on Mom’s car, 2 summers ago, during a round-robin trip for her to SW corner – and full itinerary – some of which we discarded, cuz we wanted to stay longer at one site, then another – but she thouroughly enjoyed the excursion – didn’t arrive home bemoaning sitting around in a hotel room and or getting dragged to ‘gift shops’ to fill the time – and we ended up only having 1 long tiring day – took me 23 hours to plan, after her innocent email, “I want to ride the train from Durango to Silverton – will you chauffeur me?” – LOL – – and gracious, “I thought you had been to Mesa Verde – I’ve been there 3 times, but yes, we can do that, no problemo – ) AND since most native cultural centers ALSO have natural grounds with gardens/plants/flowers – she was happy to let me spend more time in the ‘museum’ while she oohed/ahed over the flowers – but which I came out and said, “Hmmm.. what’s the elevation here? Yup, think I can grow that at my place – 🙂 LOL So yes, still some rewiring of my world-view going on, but still holding on to my old imp of planning/organizing activities – cuz it has served me and others well, in the past, even though I sometimes drive folks crazy with it all! LOL

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      11. I remember reading about that trip 🙂 We still manage to do similar mileage round here, Stuart and I, on our research trips.Looking forward to the next one…though we tend to ‘wing’ it rather than plan and see where the day and the road leads us.

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      12. I would ‘wing it’ but I’d never make it back home (or get the fellow traveler’s back in time for work schedules) till some decades later – LOL
        And I DO so appreciate the opportunities to “add to itenarary” those things you and Stuart post about – alas, still trying to show up in your locale, and say, “OK, then, here’s the short list, but what awesome thing do you want to point me to, since I last revised the ‘list’ (during the flight over the pond….) LOL

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      13. Now you see, that wouldn’t bother me in the slightest through choice…only necessity 🙂
        I’m sure we can come up with a few things… dust off the odd stone circle or something 😉

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