An Eye full of Reflections (7 of 7)

Amidst the seemingly pristine field of stones, the old oak tree usually went unnoticed…

Like this group of happy but somewhat weary pilgrims, newly entered via the gate at the top of the narrow, fern-lined path, most visitors stood in amazed silence at the large oval of twin-chambered stonework in front of them, conscious of the oak within the oval of stones but seeing it as out of place and not part of the sacred grove where the revered ones had met… and some had died.

The act of dying-in-place had pervaded the ground so deeply that the oak as seed, some thousands of rounds later, had felt the guiding presence in its infancy; urging it to grow strong and be the most it could be, reaching for the sky and creating a four-dimensional picture of time-meeting-life.

The Oak watched, speeding up its vertically-flowing heart to synchronise with theirs, seeing something unusual, something lacking in triviality in the tired but intent expressions. The act would have cost it dearly, but the nearing of the Fullness filled the sky with energy, and it, like them, fed from the gold-flecked deep blue, above.

Those with the knowing in their eyes sometimes came at the Fullness. Not understanding, perhaps–but seeking to, at least. Few looked at the Oak. Most were captured by the pureness of the field of stones with the twin nipples.

So many stones? said their thoughts. Why were they not taken away for the making of dwellings? Another: What a perfect oval... then the Oak would place into their minds the picture of the great oval of the above, with all the great children, laughing with the evening breeze in its hissing leaves and showing them the wonderful ‘accident’ that time had wrought in a place that should no longer look like this… as though it had been protected, thus.

Which it had, of course. On a hillside which contained the fresh and lovely minds of the schoolchildren and the church a minister who was strangely sympathetic; and whose neighbouring roads included one named Bro Arthur.

As though it had been protected…

An Eye full of Reflections 6 - 63

The Oak pulled its climbing life back from the outer edges of the canopy and reached back into the pilgrims’ afternoon. They were spread around its base, but not seeing it, taking their photographs. The Oak read their own history of the afternoon. The salty moisture still on their sandy ankles, their heads alive with snippets of wisdom, their eyes full of sun… solstice sun, Sun of the Fullness.

The Oak liked them, it decided. They knew it not, but revered the place. That was enough. The Oak, the alive one, would always help those that loved the place, its home. They that loved the stones always helped it to protect them, like the children and the minister and the great names etched into the landscape.

The Watcher Oak whispered its name to the one who had first seen the aberrations of the light, now avidly trying to capture their images in his machine… and smiling, as she, his companion had done, moments before.

There were two others, two who stood back and studied the joy of the group. Two with a sense of almost mischief in their eyes, delighting in the wonderful feeling of discovery that always greeted those who came here near the Fullness. The Oak, the Watcher Oak whispered to them, the hissing of summer leaves, the story of the great oval in the sky and the small oval of the pristine stones with the twin chambers, below.

One of the two began pacing the oval, while the other watched. With delight, the Watcher Oak read their intent, sending the inner breeze to clear their minds of doubt. Yes, the leaves hissed, that will do wonderfully…

And so it was that the two asked the rest to align themselves in the North, at a place where the radial from the centre of the oval projected. They were greeted, in turn, by the woman of the North, who spoke softly of their journey around the oval to the south, the reflection of her radial, then bade them make pace it in silence and in reverence.

Around the small oval, below – and around the great oval, above – they walked, individually, slowly and with reverence. He – the other, the man of the South, the place of the sun’s Fullness – stepped from the Watcher Oak’s shadows to intersect each one, bidding them hold the beauty and the energy of the Fullness and take it into the darkness of the West – and the greater darkness of the North. Oval meeting great tilting oval, life in its roundness recognised and honoured.

They had come with a phrase in their heads: Authority. The Watcher Oak took it and replaced it with another: Inclusion in Life; then the rustling leaves kissed them farewell, for now.

But it did not loose its eye on the thread of their immediate lives. Drawing from the golden energy above it, followed their moves as they returned, sated, to their temporary dwellings, and later, replete and happy, as the sun set on the mellow waters.

The rose. At the limits of its perception into space-time, the Watcher Oak smiled as the morning’s plans were changed and one – the memory man – took them on a journey to the landscape of his childhood, within the glory of a green, tree-lined valley named Pennant.

There, they sat and carried out the last of their readings, by a river that was crystal clear and full of the blue sky.

The Watcher Oak strained to follow them into the valley, losing contact at the bend in the road where the sheep were herded for shearing; the woman of the great heart weeping for their fear.


And then the long curve to the next part of the valley took them from its golden sight. The Watcher Oak could follow no more. Just before the seeing was lost it passed their keeping to a child oak growing on the side of the valley.

With distant leaves hissing, it held them, briefly, one last time. Then, they were gone…

Across the miles, it gathered its strength, returning to the guardian task for which it had been born, rejoicing in its inclusion in the glory of outer life on this new and most beautiful day.

In the returning Fullness it was embraced and loved. Its roots reached deep into the ground… and it was good… In the ancient place the Watcher Oak watched.

——- End ——-

Other parts in this series:

Part One,   Part Two,   Part Three,

Part Four,

Part Five

Part Six

©Stephen Tanham

All right reserved, text and pictures.

An Eye full of Reflections (4)

 

As the land-train pulls out of the main square in Portmeirion, we head up into the forest. There are three distinct internal regions within the Portmeirion site. The first is the village, itself; the second is the coastal walk; and the third is the forest walk. The little train follows the forest road, but stops to give a view of the coast in several places. Sometimes, it’s difficult to separate the often wicked humour of the creator of Portmeirion – Clough Williams-Ellis, from the mental overlay that hunters of the ‘Prisoner experience’ project onto this unique place.

Station names like: Salutation, Old Castle, Playground, and Shelter Valley all take on a secondary, if not intended meaning within the context of following the McGoohan mind as you attempt to tease out the secrets of this landscape embedded in the Prisoner series.

We had invited our companions to spend their own time in the forest before meeting up for a group walk along the coastal path. The forest is a very special place and, to my recollection, featured in the Prisoner series only when No 6 was running away or having secret meetings with other ‘prisoners’ – many of whom were planted, and simply pretending to suffer to get No 6’s sympathy so that he would tell them why he resigned. The thought brings back the central question of the series: why was it so important that the various No 2 characters found out the motives of No 6? They were presumed to be all-powerful, so why did it matter what reasons had engendered the resignation in the first place?

“His power – the very reason for him being here and retaining a glimmer of that power – was that he had a secret,” hisses the intense green all around us… The sun is getting hotter and the deep, summer blue fills the gaps in the canopy of the forest. The shifting has begun, again….

And then, high up in the trees, a pagoda comes into view and we’re suddenly back in that different sense of presence where the voice of McGoohan is guiding us from ‘above’. There is no pretence that the being of the actor is actually here, simply that we have woven an internal, creative state – a kind of walking meditation that enables insights, using the ‘voiced presence’ of the creator of No 6 to help bring it to life. It’s a directed mediation, just like we use in the Silent Eye, and, in this rich and wonderful hillside, it’s working beautifully…

There is a real question here, beyond the mental and emotional game we are playing: what did it mean? What was the inner meaning that McGoohan went to such pains to conceal, giving only hints, even long after he had left the Prisoner behind. “It’s important, then,” says his voice in my head. “to work it out for yourself.”

We move deeper into the forest. The green intensifies…

“Who were they, then?” asks the dark voice of No 6, “The others – the supposed fellow victims of abduction to this demented heaven and hell?”

It’s a sobering question. If McGoohan was the ‘awakened’ self, projected, post-resignation, into a new reality in which his ordinary life became exposed as a prison and left him resolutely determined to escape to the ‘real’, then who were the characters who met him in the forest, pretending also to have been abducted? Agents of someone, singular or plural, but who? The mysterious No 1, presumably…

We are climbing now, and, up ahead a Japanese Cedar curls out its exotic curves, projecting an image of something that goes somewhere via a very roundabout route. Its shape suggests that straight lines don’t necessarily get you there as you expected, and sometimes curved paths are more fruitful.

How do you follow a curve? I ask myself. Then the old answer comes back, one borne of recent experience: with trust… in other words by staying on it. When the envisaged future is invisible you can either refuse to get off the bus in the forest or get off at Unknown Crossing and trust that you are where you should be…

The forest begins to speak for itself; there is the sense that we have discovered enough, that if we take what we have and see it from the green wholeness that this place provides, the important patterns will emerge.

We say little, simply walking and letting our thoughts wander.

 

There’s a signpost up ahead. Ironically, it speaks of a lighthouse. What more potent a symbol could there be? And then, as the path moves downhill and turns sharply left, the forest gives way to the coast. The splendour of the sea is revealed, pointing us back to the place where our adventure began, the previous evening – in the tiny cove of Borth-y-Gest. It’s a wonderful omen…

“I’m going to take a stab at it,” I say to Barbara.

“What, the whole thing?” she laughs.

“What’s to lose?” I ask, sounding more sure than I am.

“Ok,” she says, challengingly; waiting and watching as I draw breath and look out to sea.

“No 6’s life as a spy is just that – he spies on life from a distance and under the cover of special powers.”

I look across at her. Initially, she says nothing, then, “It’s a good start…”

Another breath, deeper this time, because I’m assembling this, charged with the forest’s green energy, as I go.

“He realises the shallowness of his life and resigns – the brochure of a holiday paradise in his case – intending to be free of the whole thing and completely underestimating the power of the establishment to curtail his little adventure.”

“The establishment… I like that,” Barbara says, laughing, and continues. “Who promptly drag him, drugged, back to where he came from and psychologically torture him.”

“Exactly,” I say, warming to this unfolding. “He forgot the power of the establishment – the ego – to take away his new, enthusiastic consciousness and drug him back to an imprisoned state where ‘it’ could find out what he was up to…”

“So, in a sense, he stays drugged, and wakes up powerless but determined to get back to that moment of truth from which he could see his new life, his paradise?”

I look at her, so glad this has been a shared thing. “Yes… Exactly that.”

“And No 1?”

“No One, Oneself… Take your pick. The other ‘controllers’ are the regents of the ego, trying different ways to undo him – as they have done all his life. They don’t answer his question of Who is No 1?, because they can’t.” I pause, slightly giddy with the ride, and grinning like the proverbial cat.

She is smiling, too. “But when he truly wakes, again, by defeating the No 2s, he will remember that he is really No 1?”

“Exactly… and paradise will be reclaimed.”

“Bloody hell!” she says.

It’s a very precise statement…

——- to be continued ——-

Other parts in this series:

Part One,   Part Two,   Part Three,

©Stephen Tanham

An Eye full of Reflections (2)

There is so much going on that you can miss him on the downward leg of the guided introduction to Portmeirion. In a world of the strangely beautiful, one in which the normal laws of constructing a ‘village’ have been changed, there is simply too much to see to notice the quiet, deeply bronze head of Patrick McGoohan.

We stop to consider this dramatic bust – strangely overlooked when we made our rekkie trip a month prior. Then, our attention is drawn to a bee, exhausted from its work, standing in the middle of the tarmac of the roadway along which the group is walking.  I stop to pick it up, using a leaf as stretcher, and relocate it beneath a laurel hedge. Later, I wonder at the world of that bee; at the intervention of a ‘higher power’ to create an alternate reality in which the little creature can have no notion of what just happened – even the fact that its life was probably saved. It is a metaphor that will return to my mind may times as this Silent Eye weekend unfolds.

And then, somewhat behind the rest of the group, we turn, again to study the bust of Patrick McGoohan, previously unseen. Amidst the splendour of Portmeirion – especially on a blazingly blue and golden summer day like this – you could be forgiven for thinking that it was just another wonderful art treasure, like so many others to be found in the village.

But it’s not…

Its a very good rendering of a man who had nothing to do with the creation of this gem of a village, just east of Porthmadog and sixteen miles south of Snowdon, the highest mountain in Wales. It’s the head of a man–a British actor– who had a passion so strong that he turned down two separate offers to play James Bond in the early films, a role that would have brought him worldwide fame and fortune, rather than the lesser pickings from his (till then), most famous role as Danger Man in the hit British TV series.

Most of the tourists passing through the gate miss the bronze completely. And rightly so… They are here to see the architectural masterpiece created over a forty year period by Clough Williams-Ellis, whose own lifelong passion was the real village of Portmeirion. Even the official guide, leading our group, does not pause at the McGoohan statue, yet someone in power, here, viewed him important enough to justify the creation of it by Tiziano, and its donation to the village. Like the man and the bee, it occupies another, parallel realm, with a modern mythology so strong that a good proportion of Portmeirion’s visitors every year still arrive in search of its ‘McGoohan secrets’…

The two worlds co-exist very nicely. There is harmony in Portmeirion’s coffers, and who can blame them? The estate did give its permission for the filming of the famous TV series of The Prisoner in 1967 – a decision that greatly enhanced their own fortunes. Even today, fifty years after The Prisoner’s creation, people come in droves to see if they can further decode the enigmatic story of No 6, the British spy who resigned and then woke to find himself in the surreal landscape of a sugar-coated but deadly ‘Village’ – Portmeirion as it was and is, but viewed from a different consciousness.

Patrick McGoohan was close to Lew Grade, the head of ITV in that heady era of the late 1960s. McGoohan was a deeply religious man – and deplored any glorification of violence – which was why he had twice refused the Bond role. Later, he spoke in interviews of the ‘greatest enemy’ that mankind  faced – himself. He had been determined to create a ground-breaking series in which this deadly relationship between worldly success and inner insanity was broken open. The result was The Prisoner, which ran for seventeen episodes before Lew Grade, fearing that McGoohan was so involved he would be unable to bring it to an end, pulled the plug and forced McGoohan to curtail it, prematurely, with a single anarchic episode.

McGoohan’s adoring public, unable to understand it, jammed ITV’s switchboard for hours. McGoohan and his family fled to a rented cottage in Wales where they locked themselves in and rode out the storm. McGoohan emigrated to the USA shortly after.

One of the mysterious landscapes in the Village – the giant chess board. The chess pieces appeared only at the end of the Prisoner series, though the board was a feature from the start…

Our Friday night had begun gently at the Moorings Restaurant in Borth-y-Gest. During that evening, we had begun our consideration of the modern mythology of the Prisoner by discussion the idea of Resignation – what got No 6 in trouble, in the first place. We discussed whether it was ever valid to ‘resign’ from something or whether we were simply ducking what was before us, thereby judging ourselves ‘above it’.  It’s a very complex issue – as McGoohan knew it would be for generations of people attempting to understand his creation.

The No 6 cafe. We were inside, watching the opening episode of The Prisoner

Our Saturday morning had seen us taking coffee and, for some, breakfast, at the famous No 6 cafe, where, with the permission of the staff we got out a laptop and watched the opening minutes of the Prisoner series. This was a treat for the few who had never seen the original. Soon, though, the Guide was calling for those on the first tour to gather outside.

Now, only a few minutes later, but in another world, we turned, reluctantly, away from the bronze. The Guide was getting ahead of us, and I could feel that strange sensation that signals the entry of something deeper into the moment. At the base of the hill, where Portmeirion meets the estuary, we were due to consider the next ‘seed-thought’: when your world changes, completely, do you accept it or take up resistance against it?

——- to be continued ——-

Other parts in this series:

Part One, 

©Stephen Tanham