A few years ago a friend invited me to a talk at London’s Royal Geographical Society. The theme was whether the age of exploration was finally over and how the RGS might reinvent itself in a strange new world where everything on Earth worth doing appeared to have been done. It sounded interesting.
I was just back from five months in beautiful Iran, the country which coined the word Paradise; a place of human warmth and grace, where people picnic wherever there’s grass, scrambling up fruit trees in chadors. I was reminded of it on my way to the RGS. It was a balmy summer’s eve, a heavenly time to be on the Sacred Isle, when not even busy London can resist nature’s charms. As I strolled through Hyde Park, people lounged and played in the lingering light, permitting the future to wander alone for a while beneath the trees.
Ilam province, western Iran
I arrived at the RGS and squeezed into a packed hall. A lady presenter from the BBC moderated a panel of three men, one of whom was the explorer Sir Ranulph Fiennes. With respect to all involved, I don’t recall much of what was said. I remember Sir Ranulph’s impressive stillness, his gravity. I remember that the conclusion of the talk was inconclusive; or rather, that it was generally felt that the age of exploration was over, but no one wanted to admit it. I do, however, recall my thoughts. A few weeks earlier I had completed the first draft of a fantasy novel and was thus very much focused on the worlds within. At a symbolic level, it’s what fantasy novels are all about – the hero’s journey. Whether it’s Alice in Wonderland wondering whether to follow the rabbit down the burrow, the enchanted wardrobe in Narnia, or Harry Potter poised to leap for Platform 9 ¾, a portal is passed through, taking the hero from the outer world to the inner world; the causal world and the origin of things.
As the presenters spoke, I felt they were missing the point. Like most expeditions, they remained on the surface. For all our so-called knowledge and clever ways of mapping the world, for all the flags we’ve planted in extreme places, humans have never been more lost. We don’t need new conquests. Neither do we need more maps. We need myth, one we can live by, one we’ve lacked for thousands of years; one which combines the best – of the old, of the new, of everything, while casting aside what never worked, not for the whole.
Explorers of Consciousness
The great irony is that the world of exploration is only just beginning and that everyone has a huge role to play, the RGS included, if it so choses. The exploration is no longer on the surface; it’s beneath the surface, to the worlds within, to infinity, to union; or as Christopher Fry put it in his powerful poem, A Sleep of Prisoners (1951), an exploration into God. That’s a big, much abused, much misunderstood, word. An easier one to digest is the unconscious, but it’s the same thing – the primary world, while everything on the surface is simply a reflection. Seen in this light, explorations into outer-space are absurd, taking us further away from the truth. Like most explorations, they’re fueled by vanity and pride, when the real adventure is through such emotions, through the fear behind them and onto the true wonders beyond – to mature community and the magic, real magic, that comes with it. Of course the planets exist, but in a secondary reality we assume is primary. As wise souls have said since time immemorial, no real change can take place in this outer realm, where often we’re only treating the effects and so perpetuating them. Real change only happen inside of us, in the causal world, which is then reflected out.
Rather than being daunted by the scale of the world’s troubles, this is wonderfully empowering. Even better, it can be done anywhere, especially in cities – the great labyrinth of modern times. Their failings are too easy to see. On the positive side, they’re like a giant school, desperate for a different message; one which works; one to be lived as we shift towards local responsible living. Cities are bursting with people and thus potential, though most of it goes untapped. That’s another great irony. As the world’s finite resources, especially water beneath the ground, approaches depletion, the only way out of this fix is by turning within, tapping into an infinite resource, and breaking the unconscious pattern of destruction. The only growth left for low interest rates to stimulate is growth in awareness. It’s time to stop living vicariously through other people’s heroics, through films etc, and to have the courage and imagination to go on our own mythical journey, in search of the greater part of us we’ve missed for so long.
How to Find Platform 9 ¾
So how do we find Platform 9 ¾? How to escape the labyrinth? The trick is to stop trying to. We can’t buy our way out. In fact, the more money we have, so the labyrinth grows more forbidding, more entangled. Deeper and darker we go. Neither can we buy a guide. They pop up now and again, but they can’t do the work for us. They help us understand where we are and reassure us that the journey is more than worthwhile, but the decisions are ours to make. It’s why it’s called the hero’s journey. As we venture along it, however, we realise that actually we do have guides – the best. Our fears. Like a magical archway, if we pass through them, we discover the quickest route to freedom.
The first thing to do is slow down. You’re in the labyrinth; you see an inviting-looking bench. Take a seat. Politely postpone that meeting you were rushing off to. Listen to our wonderful friends the birds who never tire of calling us to presence. Then withdraw your proverbial wizard’s pipe and take a few long wise puffs and remember what we once knew, that everything we see is ultimately symbolic. Symbols are how the boundless unconscious communicates the conscious mind which requires definition. What we focus on and what we think of it, is showing us where we are on our journey. For example, what we don’t like in a passerby is what we don’t like within ourselves, unconsciously, and which needs integrating before we can proceed deeper to hidden treasure. We need to understand that though the outer-word is a reflection, it is the great laboratory where seemingly small actions have far-reaching and high impact.
The Reality of Dreams
That may sound like a contradiction with saying that nothing can be changed in the outer world. It’s not. We’re not trying to change the outer world. That’s a defense mechanism where we try to control things. It’s born of fear, a lack of trust. What we’re actually trying to do is change our unconscious patterns by bringing them to the conscious level, by being aware of our actions and their effects. As our journey deepens, we might start to recall our night time dreams. They shift from the cathartic relaxing dreams of a busy person to symbolic ones, showing the effects of what we did the day before, amplified through symbols, and what it means for our soul’s journey. This is something truly magical. We witness the unconscious in action, its genius and awesome intricacy, as it opens up communication with the conscious mind. We realise that each of us are a functioning part of this vast ever-evolving intelligence we call the universe; tiny but vital.
Dreams become epic. We suddenly understand, like our ancestors did, that dream-time is real; more real than daytime because dreams are honest. Whether we’re feeling saintly or devilish, we generally do what we want, unless we’re being shown repression. There’s still deception, however. Though our own dream-ego travels without a mask, others have them. Demons appear. It’s pointless fighting them, but initially we do, because our unconscious fears are in control. Slowly, as dreams reflect a rising lucidity in daytime, we see the demons for what they are – different aspects of our own fears wearing the masks of pride, vanity, gluttony, lust, envy etc – and that they need to be listened to, understood, embraced and ultimately transformed back into the angels, the pure light, that they once were. In other words: trust, spontaneity, compassion.
Faith strengthens. Seeing that there’s no separation between day and night, understanding the symbolism of both, we no longer feel lost. On the contrary, we feel held, guided. Life’s challenges become God sent opportunities for spiritual growth. Mental suffering falls away. We wake up to the synchronicities of life and wonder why it is, on a soul level, something unexpected has happened, or why our path has crossed with a particular person. Whether it’s our partner, or a stranger we bump into under auspicious circumstances, we wonder what it might be that we have to share. What hidden part of ourselves are they reflecting back? Not only do we wonder, but we have the courage to explore it. And when enough of us are sitting on the park bench, listening to the birds, when the greater part of the collective is present, the labyrinth transforms into something wonderful.
The Portal of Honesty
A big part of finding Platform 9 ¾ is honesty, above all with ourselves. Having slowed down, taken a deep breath, we ask our heart what it wants. The answers are crystal clear and usually the complete opposite of those which come from a conditioned mind. We observe the conflict between feelings and thoughts. But it’s the heart we came here to listen to and follow. To be truly honest, the gentle honesty of the heart and not the false honesty of a spiteful mind, is also incredibly thrilling. When we dare to express how we really feel, we suddenly realise how novel it is. Our hearts race with vulnerability. Our body tingles with presence. Then we say whatever it is and boom – it’s as though we’ve entered another world, which effectively we have. A deeper one. A world where we feel, rather than pretend to feel. A world of life.
Honesty is vital. When we look about the world, especially through the media, we can no longer fool ourselves that if a difficult situation is not in our own backyard then it’s not our problem. To see and hear the beauty of a whale, for example, and then see it harpooned – if it doesn’t feel as though our own heart was harpooned with the same shot, then we need to realise that we are not tough and resilient, but so full of fear that we’ve built a fortress in the unconscious to hide within. It’s the fear of an inner-child, long forgotten, who built defenses against a world of shocks it didn’t understand. These were the critical moments when trust and spontaneity were lost – the keys to the kingdom that the hero seeks to retrieve. The psychology behind this is explained with great clarity and compassion by dear Prem Baba and Eva Pierrakos (1915-1979), both of whose wisdom has been a great inspiration and very much at the heart of this article. [see Borrowed Wisdom page for references.]
We need to see the news headlines for what they really are. Behind all the war, be it with words or weapons, is the same fear – of scarcity, of abundance, of rejection and humiliation. Shows of aggression are simply compensation. The action comes through an adult body, but the emotions are from the wounded child, which doesn’t understand its place in the world; its want of love distorted into a want of attention.
The Path of the Hero, or the Path of the Victim?
The brilliant Carl Jung observed in the 1950’s that Communism was, in effect, the West’s shadow, its fears; each side projecting onto the other the part of themselves neither wished to admit existed, let alone try and integrate. Instead they chose the path of the victim and blamed the other, disempowering themselves in the process. So it is with most, if not all, major issues confronting us today. To blame them is the path of the victim, the coward, whether we’re blaming countries, corporates, religious groups, secret societies, politicians, our partners, or whoever.
The bigger the muscles, the greater the army and navy sent to battle, the greater violence done, so the greater the expression of fear. It’s very clear. Shows of aggression masked as strength are actually displays of weakness. But to see through the illusion, to see every headline as a cry for help, to be listened to and understood, is to feel compassion for all involved, ourselves included. What we call evil is simply an emotional numbness in all of us, which at the collective level creates a force. But once made conscious, it’s something we can deal with and, through the process, discover what it really means to live; knowing that the fear was an invention and is ultimately without foundation. True strength is to not re-act an unconscious pattern of a wounded child, but to respond as a conscious adult with peace. This is how mature tribes once functioned across the world, when leaders were not elected in the manner they are today. Advice was sought from elders because they really were elders; they had lived a message of genuine strength; understood and revered the subtleties of the universe in a far more sophisticated way than we currently do. We’re on the cusp of remembering this, especially the younger generation. If we can nurture, not poison, children’s innocence and help draw out their natural gifts for the world then positive change can come quickly and relatively smoothly.
A Polar Reversal in Values
Suddenly, like a polar reversal, our value system can be flipped back onto its feet. To hoard more than we need, to be violent and disrespectful, become overt displays of fear and weakness. To be patient, graceful, inclusive, light-hearted, open-hearted and vulnerable, become beautiful expressions of pure strength – something worthy of authentic respect. We’re currently in a period of transition between two worlds; from one of deceit to one of truth. It’s a turbulent time. But the more of us who do our best to live this message, so each successive generation becomes stronger. Together, united, we are magic. That’s the truth. I feel it in my every bone, in my mind, and in my soul. Infinite possibility is our true reality. We need to stop collapsing it down into one gloomy self-fulfilling prophecy we increasingly see in apocalyptic and post-apocalyptic films. We scarcely understand our potential – not only the power of our collective decisions (e.g. what we decide to support through our purchases as we become more aware of the suffering behind some products), but in our true role as co-creators with Nature, each of us with a unique gift to help evolution along its way.
I strongly feel that natural disasters and other calamities are, at a deep level, caused by our behaviour. Nothing is left to chance. There are no accidents. Everything has a reason. Instead of unconsciously projecting our inner-war, inner-pollution and inner-chaos onto the pristine canvas of the outer world with which we’ve been blessed, let’s wake up, let’s remove the word them from our dialogue, let’s take our inner-child by the hand and courageously step forth from our inner-fortresses, and consciously create a beautiful reality as we journey back to truth, harmony, response-ability and trust.
There’s No Escaping the Scales of Karma
I also feel strongly that every act, every thought, we have is accounted for. Nothing goes unnoticed. Carl Jung felt the same when he reflected on death and our passing from this world to whatever awaits us – that all we take with us is the sum of what we gave, be it a debit or a credit. That’s a sobering thought. I look back on my own life to date and silently curse as I wonder, what the hell have I really done? In the same breath, I realise that everything is perfect, as long as we now wake up. As Nietzsche noted more than a century ago, we’re so out of balance that on one level it’s a stroke of luck, because to get back in balance requires a super-human leap in consciousness by almost everyone. A single saviour descending from heaven on a white horse is not enough. Besides, it’s simply a symbol of the divinity, the saviour, within each of us.
And so, the world we’re transitioning from has played its part, creating the necessary tension to catapult us into a new one, assuming we aim well and let go.
Modern Wonders of the World
It’s possible. Everything is, especially with people like Charles Eisenstein about. Since I’ve been so immersed in the inner-worlds of fantasy writing for the past few years, there have been many wonderful developments I’ve missed. Charles is one of them. You’ll see from his website he’s been writing great pieces since 2002 and recently written the books Sacred Economy and The More Beautiful World our Hearts Know is Possible. Given I’m currently in deepest, darkest Peru, I have yet got hold of them, but they’re top of my list to read. I have, however, heard him talk about them on Youtube. He’s brilliant because he’s not afraid to explore the real cause of our imbalance, and has the brains to do so, but he then puts on his optimistic hat, offering real and practical solutions. He gives an intelligent overview of our financial system and how it has scarcity and separateness built into it, that it necessitates endless growth which is impossible on a planet with finite, almost depleted, resources. I would add that money, like technology, is something sacred, but it’s how we use it that counts. It’s the same with our jobs – more important than what we do, is how we do it, understanding that all types of business are in transition, something in which we can play a vital and wonderful part.
Charles is proposing a transition to a gift economy, which makes perfect sense. The current move towards negative interest rates and 0% lending is part of that shift. The basis of a gift economy is that any excess beyond our needs, we gift away. In this manner we rebuild community based on gratitude. This is real security, real peace; the direct opposite of a system based on competition. When times get tough, we don’t fight, but support one another. I love his practical wisdom, too. He notes that even someone initially selfish has a vested interest in playing along, because the way to receive more is to gift more and whom, over time, as they realise how wonderful is to give, will do so for wholesome reasons.
His message is very much aligned with Prem Baba’s – living a message that works, one based on awakening love: not the modern dysfunctional version many mistake for love, but the real thing from the heart whose essence is freedom. Another word for it is compassion. As Charles notes, commitment to something worthwhile doesn’t come from fear. It can only come from authentic love.
Home – An Excellent and Powerful Documentary
The other media I’d like to share is a documentary called Home, 2009, narrated by Glenn Close. The cinematography is stunning. The message is powerful because, like Charles Eisenstein, it goes into the grim reality, but counter-balances with positive pragmatism. If you haven’t seen it already, please watch it, and with your children. The only thing it’s missing for me, is a stronger message regarding population. It mentions how our number has tripled since 1950 and advocates how we need to stop being so wasteful and harness clean energy. Those are important points, but I feel in my heart that it’s only half the equation. I feel we are too many people and that to reduce our population consciously would also be a great help. It can achieved by our deciding to have less or no children, adopting existing children without homes, in order to allow the world’s natural death rate to overtake the birthrate for a while. This would work in a mature community as it once did, where the deeper meaning of life is understood. It would work in a gift economy. But it’s difficult to initiate in our current one where population growth underpins most business models. Either way, it can’t be forced and must come from an inner-consciousness. Few people want to hear this. Even less are willing to say it, but it’s how I feel. Others disagree and say we simply need to be less wasteful. Whatever the answer, as we shift to local economies, away from the false economy created by borrowing and imports, and as we’re forced to move back in line with the hydrological cycle as underground water reserves dry up, it will become very clear, very quickly.
What really struck home for me from watching this documentary is just how miraculous this world, this life, truly is. And that’s just the surface of it. Everyday, every night, a miracle unfolds before us, but we take it for granted. The rising sun, the moon, the tides, salmon swimming upstream and leaping through rapids and swiping bears to their spawning pools and, God, everything. Watch a David Attenborough series. Hummingbirds visit me in the garden and leave me awestruck. Every time. Nature is exquisite. Humanity is exquisite. It’s our true birthright, our responsibility, our joy and right here waiting to be reclaimed; yearning to be relived.
I leave you with a soundtrack which played through my mind as I pondered this piece. Almost everything about it feels appropriate and symbolic, from the singer’s name, the title of the song, the melody and words. I imagine him singing it to his spirit. It’s Babylon by David Gray from his album White Ladder. Let go of your heart, let go of your head and feel it now. Feel what it means to be truly alive. Right now.
I wish you all a wonderful holiday season and a truly momentous 2016. May it overflow with honesty of the heart, glorious vulnerability and gentle strength. There’s no time left for anything less.