A common misconception?

 

“….so, this year it is Shakespeare and the Elizabethan Court, and next year we’ll be in Sumeria.” Running around getting things organised for the workshops always involves the attempted acquisition of some strange items. I frequently get asked what I’m hoping to use them for and that inevitably leads to questions about what we do, how and why.

“Sumeria?” The face was blank.

“An ancient civilisation, goes back five thousand years and more…” The face brightened with understanding.

“Oh.” There was a weird sort of relief too. “Cave men,” she said, thereby dismissing the great city of Uruk with two words.

“Not exactly…” But where do you start? The great walled city of Uruk, home to around eighty thousand people, was founded six thousand years ago, predating the rise of ancient Egyptian civilisation by a thousand years. The Sumerian culture had been growing for a long time before that too.

Say ‘Egypt’ and everyone thinks of the fabulous art, the gold and the temples that remain. We have no problem accepting that ancient Egypt was civilised, but unless there is a particular interest, most of us don’t have much of an idea about dates. Say, ‘five thousand years ago’ and ‘cave man’ is still the image in many minds. Say ‘prehistoric’ and that conjures dinosaurs, say ‘stone age’ and you are probably thinking Fred Flintstone.

Prehistoric means simply that period before written history… and written language first began, we believe, in Sumeria… over five thousand years ago. Archaeology has revealed the beauty and artistry of the culture, from musical instruments to fabulously worked gold and miniature carved seals. Prior to the beginnings of written history, the prehistoric culture was already exceptionally rich.

The various ‘Ages’, like Stone, Bronze and Iron, refer in brief to a leap in technology. Thus, the basic advance in the Bronze Age was the ability to work with metal. Before that, stone was the prime technology and, while it may have begun with the use of a simple rock or a worked flint arrowhead, it ended with the complexity of the enigmatic monuments that still draw us today.

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Stonehenge is perhaps the best known in this country. No mere pile of rocks, but a fantastic feat of engineering by any standards, where mortice and tenon joints allow the stones, weighing tons apiece, to ‘float’ above the circle. The construction of Stonehenge too was begun five thousand years ago. What remains suggests a complex mathematical and geometrical understanding, even though it may not have taken the form we now use. It also implies a knowledge of astronomy as well as an established culture strong enough to build the monument. And Stonehenge is just one of over a thousand known circles in these islands…

But why does it matter? That is another question frequently asked regarding the workshops. What possible benefit can there be to delving into the past for our workshops, be it the few hundred years back to the Elizabethan Court, or a few thousand?

We could answer that there is no particular benefit at all… that the stories we weave through our workshops are no more than frames for the spiritual concepts we explore. That would be true, but not the whole truth. Although we spend months crafting detailed and researched scripts, it is not the stories that matter, any more than it is the frame of a picture that holds the true value. On the other hand, those stories allow us to capture the imagination, engage the heart, mind and body, and bring our whole being to the concepts we explore. Instead of dry lectures, we learn through experience, laughter and through play… and that is always the best way to learn.

Nature has designed her children to learn that way; from lambs in a field to humans in the playground, we learn and experience hard lessons within a relatively safe world of play. The Inner Child can learn and explore the inner realms in the same way…and that is one reason why we craft such stories, taking our cue from the ancient Mystery Plays that brought the stories of the gods to life… and the gods, be it remembered, represent the cosmic principles behind the natural forces of the universe.

So, and that leads on to the next common question, are we saying that the ancients knew more than we do?  That they had a lost knowledge that we lack? Well, the obvious answer there is that if there were a ‘lost’ knowledge, then by definition, we do not have it and cannot know what it was. We can, however, look at the fragments they have left and infer that they had a different and more personal relationship with their environment, seeing divinity made manifest in the hills, rocks and streams. Would it be a bad thing to renew that relationship with the earth as a sacred and living being? Given the parlous state of the environment in this industrialised era, it could only be a good thing.

Did our ancestors have an inner knowledge that we lack? Again, in the absence of written records, we can only infer and intuit. Given that, in the days before antiseptic, disinfectant and antibiotics, life and death were separated by the most tenuous of threads, it is entirely probable that their only fear of death was of the pain of dying and loss, and the practical problems posed by decomposition. Today, as a society, we fear death and the dissolution of the personal ego; we seek ever to deny and defer the ageing process and in doing so, we create for ourselves an unsettled, dissatisfied world.

Whatever our ancestors saw, whatever forged their beliefs, is still there, in the natural world, waiting to teach us. By taking the time to look and to explore our relationship with Nature, we may glimpse the world through older eyes…for our ancestors are not separate or different from us, they are part of who we are, both in the concrete terms of genetic coding and in the accumulated knowledge and wisdom handed down to us over the centuries.

Whether, like the emerging scientists of the Elizabethan Age, we choose to take a logical and evidence-based view, or whether, like our ancient ancestors, it is the beauty and tides of Nature that speak to us, there is a path that may call us to a turning point in our own lives, echoing those pivotal points of history that have heralded a new age and a new beginning.

The stories we have woven over the years have been set in both past and future, rooted in the land as well as in myth. Each one has told a different tale, each from a different era. They are held together by a single common thread… Strip away the characters, props, and costumes designed to transport the imagination, and they are all fragments of the same story… that of the journey of the human heart and soul.

Storytelling

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Our earliest ancestors looked out upon this world and framed what they saw in stories that reached the heart through the imagination. As man and his questions became ever more sophisticated, the stories evolved, couching abstract concepts and ideas within the age-old tales. The mythology of any culture goes back beyond memory and history to a time before time was… to the Creation and before… in an attempt to answer the questions that arise in all of us.

Stories travelled and changed with each retelling, taking on the character of the teller, coloured by the season, the place, the landscape and by the politics of the local priesthood or rulership… and the myths rooted in different forms in the places they reached.

Yet if we look at the stories mankind has told there are striking similarities beneath the surface. All the mythological systems have some common themes… star-crossed lovers, the trickster, good versus evil and the unlikely heroes. All have the slayers of monsters or demons, their tales of magic and the parallels with fertility, life and death.

Many theories have been propounded, arguing for a common psychological expression of religious impulse through to a simplistic attempt to explain the seasonal growth of vegetation. It has been argued that all the stories are poetic allegories for spiritual truth and, at the other end of the scale, that they are nothing but linguistic misinterpretations… where the functions of the gods arise from the words for their names and stories are built upon them.

I have a feeling there is an element of truth to all of the theories and that the birth of the mythologies arises in as much complexity as the multi-layered mind of man.

What is certain is that there is something in these old tales that speaks to us at a very deep level of intuitive understanding. We can see the morals clearly in some of them, get a grip on the abstract through others and relate to all of them on an emotional level of personal engagement and life experience in spite of the passage of millennia.

The Egyptian myths give us the most complete record of how a system evolves over the centuries and scholars can chart the rise, evolution and demise of the various versions across the landscape of Egypt in both time and space.

From the simplest of stories a cosmogony evolved which encapsulated much of Egyptian history, culture and religious change. Between the words and images that remain we have a window into the minds of those who walked the Two Lands.

We can read their stories for entertainment, much as they would have been told around the hearths of old to while away the hours of night.

We can read them as they might have been told by the priests to the populace and see through their eyes something of the sacredness of the world, learning to see once again that same wonder in our own world, where the landscape is alive and as holy as the gods themselves.

We may choose to look at them as the priesthood may have seen them and read a deeper meaning behind the images and relationships of the gods, seeing in their interaction the story of all things… of mankind and his fallibility, of the relationships between man and nature as well as between man and that which he perceives as greater than all… the Source of Being from whence all arose.

We can read them in another way also and see ourselves in the gods, understanding the fractured facets of wholeness that make up our personalities. We may see that as the gods are both the fragments and the product of the One, then so are we a fragmented whole… pieces of a cosmic jigsaw puzzle waiting to be reassembled… and in doing so might see that we too are of the same essence as the gods.

I have a feeling that the best way to read them is as a child would read, with an openness to wonder and wondering, without analysing too much or dwelling on apparent inconsistencies and impossibilities that the adult may reject but which the child accepts without a blink.

Perhaps we just need to remember how to listen with the heart.

Extract from The Osiriad (Appendix)

Perspectives III: River of the Sun 2015

HYMN TO ATEN

O Living Aten
When you first took your throne in splendour
High in heaven’s precinct, truly did life then begin…

From the eastern horizon
Risen and streaming
You have flooded the world with your beauty.

You are majestic, awesome, bedazzling, exalted;
You are the Over-Soul of Earth.

Yet with a light touch your rays
Encompass all lands and the limits of creation.

Though afar your light is wide upon the Earth
And you shine in the faces of all who turn to follow your journey.

Each path lies open because of your rising.
There in the sun you reach out to those
You would gather in as your children.

The herds are at peace in their pastures.
The trees and vegetation grow verdant.
Birds start from their nests with widespread wings to hail your approach.

Small beasts frisk and frolic and all that mount into flight
Or settle to rest live when you shine upon them.

Fish in the river leap in your sight
And your rays strike deep in the Great Green Sea…

O Living Aten
When you first took your throne in splendour
High in heaven’s precinct, truly did life then begin…

Perspectives II: River of the Sun 2015

THE PYLON GATE…

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Behold! The Double Son of the Songstresses: Hail to you Great God: Lord of Truth and Justice who oversees the completion of the Sacred Eye in the City of the Sun…

1. My purity is that of the Great Benu-Bird and I am come to you without falsehood…
2. Hail seeker on the Cause-Way. Who are you and what is your name?’
3. I am the Root of the Papyrus in this my name of Heart-Seed…
4. What have you passed by and what did you see there?
5. I passed the Pool of Truth and rested in the Field of Grass-Hoppers who were the calf and thigh…
6. What did those of the Field give you?
7. They gave to me a Fire-Brand and a Neck-Ring of Faience…
8. And what did you do with the Fire-Brand and the Neck-Ring of Faience.?
9. I buried the gifts on the River Bank of Maat…
10. What did you find on the River-Bank of Maat?
11. I found a Staff of Flint called Giver –of-Breath.
12. What did you do with the Fire-Brand and the Neck-Ring of Faience after you had buried them?
13. I called out over the gifts…I dug them up…I quenched the Fire…I broke the Neck-Ring and threw them in the River of Maat…
14. ‘You cannot pass the Gate to the Hall of Justice unless you tell our name.’ say the Door Jambs.
15. ‘Scale Pan of Bread is the name of the left Door-Jamb.’
16. ‘Scale Pan of Wine is the name of the right Door-Jamb.’
17. ‘You cannot pass the Gate to the Hall of Justice unless you tell my name,’ says the Cross-Beam of the Door.
18. ‘Child of the Uraei is the name of the Cross-Beam.’
19. ‘You cannot pass the Gate of the Hall of Justice unless you tell my name,’’ says the Threshold…
20. The Flower of Hathor is the name of the Threshold…’

Who is the Dragon-Man of the Two Lands?
He is Thoth.
Come… to whom shall I announce you?
To One whose Roof is Fire, whose Walls are Living Uraei and whose Floor is Water…
Proceed… You are announced…

Your Bread is the Sacred Eye…
Your Wine is the Sacred Eye…
What goes forth at the voice for you upon Earth is the Sacred Eye.

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