Inside the mind of a writer www.scskillman.co.uk

Posts tagged ‘glimpses of eternity’

Harmony, the Music of the Spheres and Glimpses of Eternity

Holy Trinity Church, Hatton, Warwickshire (creative commons)

Holy Trinity Church, Hatton, Warwickshire (creative commons)

The other day I was at an inspirational concert in a village church in Warwickshire, Hatton Church, listening to a small choir called Amici sing a mixture of early music and contemporary music.

They sang a capella music by such composers as William Byrd, Orlando Gibbons and Ralph Vaughan Williams. On one occasion the conductor pointed out that five hundred years separated the composers of the two pieces they were about to sing.

The loveliest pieces I heard were Alleluia, I heard a voice by Thomas Weelkes (1576-1623); A Spotless Rose by Paul Mealor (b. 1975); Hail Gladdening Light by Charles Wood (1866-1926), Northern Lights by Ola Gjeilo (b. 1978) and Lux Aurumque by Eric Whitacre (b. 1970).

As I listened to the glorious harmonies that the singers created I found myself gazing up to the stained glass windows high above the altar. Listening to music like this is like a portal into another world, a higher spiritual dimension, opened up by the singers who produce those exquisite sounds.

Then I thought, this must be what the Music of the Spheres is like. Many authors have explored the idea of the music of the spheres, “a universe bursting with music”. And this concert by Amici brought it to my mind again.

We all have the capacity to create heaven on earth with our voices, creating harmonies that are sublime. I experience this occasionally with the Leamington Spa community choir Songlines.

Never forget that the greatest of instruments is the human voice.

 

Why I Believe Mankind Can Never ‘Own’ the Moon

Nobody Owns the Moon.

a romantic image of the moon - a perpetual source of inspiration for artists and poets

a romantic image of the moon – a perpetual source of inspiration for artists and poets

On Friday morning January 10th 2014 I heard Mishal Husain interview Ian Crawford and Nicola Triscott on this topic on the BBC Radio 4 Today programme.

Nicola Triscott has mounted an exhibition on London’s South Bank called Republic of the Moon. She has transformed The Bargehouse at Oxo Tower Wharf into  ‘an artist’s lunar embassy on earth’.

During the interview we heard a quote from Article 1 of the 1967 Outer Space Treaty: “the moon is the province of all mankind”. Apparently Article 2 prohibits nation states from appropriating the moon.

But now there is some concern that that treaty should be updated, and private corporations should also be added to the provision.

In 1967 it was never thought that any private corporation would be in the position of being able to exploit the resources on the moon.

When in the history of the human race have such words on treaties and constitutions and charters of human rights ever been respected in reality?

Colonial invaders have always operated on the principle of Finders Keepers. First here exploits it all.

Such was the case with Captain Cook, Don Cortez and many such.

An exhibit on The History of Human Conflict at the Firepower Museum, Royal Arsenal Thames Riverside, Woolwich, (a brilliant museum which I recommend to all), tells us that human conflict began when men turned from hunter gatherers to farmers. Mankind began to fight over the limited resources of land suitable for cultivation. The source of all human conflict is: limited resources.

God grant there are no resources on the moon that can ever be of any economic value to mankind.

For man is greedy. I generally do not have an optimistic view of human nature. And neither does JRR Tolkien. His own view was expressed through the words of the Lady Galadriel in The Lord of the Rings: the race of men…. above all else desire power… the hearts of men are easily corrupted and the Ring of Power has a will of its own.

For exploitable resources, read the Ring of Power. If there are valuable resources on the moon, I believe that mankind WILL fight over them, and private corporations and nation states WILL exploit them to gain and increase their power.

Let the moon continue to be the sole province of poets and mystics; of those who gave us glimpses of eternity, of creative writers, and those who dream, and those who deal in mystery and imagination. And let the only lunar resources we draw upon be those of inspiration.

Sacred Spaces in the English Landscape and Places of Inspiration: Stonehenge and Salisbury Cathedral

Stonehenge 17 Aug 2013 (photo credit Jamie Robinson)

Stonehenge 17 Aug 2013 (photo credit Jamie Robinson)

Throughout the English landscape there’s evidence that our ancestors shaped the land, to conform to their own mythological landscape.

I’ve written before about sacred spaces. In that article, I looked at some renowned locations in England where people have felt they’re in touch with something bigger than themselves – a sense of the numinous.

All of these places work symbolically or metaphorically to express a place where we may be or a situation we may encounter in this life, that we recognise from our own experience.

And one such renowned location is Stonehenge – which I visited a few days ago with family members.

To walk slowly and attentively around Stonehenge, using the audio guide provided by English Heritage, is to experience something numinous, much bigger than ourselves.

The stones arrived here some time just before 2500 BC, to begin transforming the previously existing simple enclosure to something much different. And as we considered the huge effort that our ancestors put into moving the stones 19 miles from the Marlborough Downs in north Wiltshire, and 150 miles from the Preseli Hills in Wales, to this location, in order to  construct this massive circle, we were drawn in to the wonder and the mystery.

Salisbury Cathedral. Its spire is the tallest cathedral spire in England  (photo credit Jamie Robinson)

Salisbury Cathedral. Its spire is the tallest cathedral spire in England (photo credit Jamie Robinson)

Those who accept the theory of ley lines know that Stonehenge stands on the Old Sarum Ley which is aligned with Salisbury Cathedral, among other sacred places.
As the English Heritage guidebook points out, Stonehenge can perhaps be seen as the prehistoric equivalent of a great cathedral like that at nearby Salisbury, built for worship and as a place  where believers could come to find healing and hope and where important people can be buried.

Salisbury Cathedral, described as Britain’s finest 13th Century Cathedral, is another inspirational place.

From its glorious chancel roof                                                                                                               The chancel roof of Salisbury Cathedral (photo credit Jamie Robinson)

The chancel roof of Salisbury Cathedral (photo credit Jamie Robinson)

to the stunningly beautiful lapis lazuli of the Prisoners of Conscience windows,

this is a place to move and uplift and fill you with awe.

Prisoners of Conscience window in Salisbury Cathedral (designed by Gabriel Loire; dedicated to prisoners of conscience throughout the world. (photo credit Jamie Robinson)

Prisoners of Conscience window in Salisbury Cathedral (designed by Gabriel Loire; dedicated to prisoners of conscience throughout the world. (photo credit Jamie Robinson)

Here, the hearts and  minds of all those who enter, for worship or just to visit, may be lifted up to a bigger and clearer understanding of  God.

Or, perhaps, they may receive fresh glimpses of eternity, in much the same way, perhaps, as the hearts and minds of those who built and used Stonehenge over the course of 1,400 years.

Another view of the spire of Salisbury Cathedral (photo credit: Jamie Robinson)

Another view of the spire of Salisbury Cathedral (photo credit: Jamie Robinson)

The Heavenly Choir, Voices of Lothlorien, and Glimpses of Eternity

The most profound emotions, the deepest experiences of the human spirit may be evoked by the sound of a heavenly choir.

Choir of Angels (credit: crossfiremc.com)

Choir of Angels (credit: crossfiremc.com)

There has often been debate about which is the greatest musical instrument. And of course each of us will have different favourites. It has been said, for instance, that the grand pipe organ is “the King of Instruments”.

But I believe the greatest musical instrument is the human voice.

The other day I listened to a heavenly choir – the Armonico Consort – sing some of the most sublime choral music ever composed in St Mark’s Church, New Milverton, Leamington Spa.

As I listened to Barber’s Agnus Dei, and Allegri’s Miserere Mei float through the church, I heard with new ears, and saw with new eyes.  I’ve been going to this church for 14 years and had not previously realised quite how beautiful it is. The power of the music had opened up not only the sense of hearing.

Why do we respond so instinctively to the sound of those voices?  Because, I suggest, they give us a glimpse of eternity.

Whenever a film director wishes to evoke in the audience pity, grief and sorrow, or joy, bliss, peace and gladness, the best choice of background music is that provided by a heavenly choir.

In the first part of The Lord of the Rings film trilogy directed by Peter Jackson, we find this used to good effect on several occasions.

When the Fellowship of the Ring meet Haldir of Lorien, we hear the first long sustained notes of those ethereal voices. The Lady of the Wood is waiting. The Lady Galadriel appears, and the voices of the heavenly choir crescendo.

In Lothlorien, again the massed voices are heard in the background, an aural tapestry evoking mystical power, visions, prophecy, wisdom, insight.

And at the end of the film, they are heard once more, immediately after Frodo has turned to his faithful companion and said, “Sam, I’m glad you’re with me.”

Here, the heavenly choir evokes values like love, loyalty, courage, determination, self-sacrifice.

In the bible we find these words: “God has written eternity on our hearts”.

I can affirm this by personal experience, again and again throughout my life.

Please share your thoughts on this. Have you too experienced the sublime through music? And do you too have a strong sense that God has written eternity on your heart?

“Mystical Experiences and Glimpses of Eternity” Mini Series Part 7 – Arriving Where You Started and Knowing The Place For the First Time

Throughout this series, mountains have been an important image for me. And now we arrive at the end of my mini-series, we find ourselves on a mountain again. And this mountain is on the opposite side of the world to the mountain where I had my first childhood experience – in Australia.

mountain view Great Dividing Range

mountain view Great Dividing Range

I’ve told this story before on this blog. And so it is with important experiences – the story must be told again and again.

On the border of Queensland and New South Wales, behind the Gold Coast, you may find the Macpherson mountain range, part of the Great Dividing Range. The road leads from Southport via Nerang up through Mount Tamborine to the town of Canungra where you may continue your journey to one of two mountain resorts: Binna Burra or O’Reilly’s. I was negotiating the mountain passes on the way to O’Reilly’s. In the passenger seat was my 18 year old niece Caroline, who was visiting Australia for a month (where I lived at the time).

Caroline had mentioned that she and her friend Jo (her fellow traveller to Australia) had gone to Sydney to stay in a house of students who they knew nothing of. And discovered that they were all committed Christians – just like Caroline and Jo. Caroline found that wonderful. I said, “Well, like attracts like” – for I at the time believed that this apparent coincidence was the operation of the Universal system / the principle of  “reality follows thought.” But Caroline was having none of this. “No, it was God,” she said.

I didn’t want to argue with her. Especially as I was driving up a perilous mountain road at the time. My own beliefs were a mixture of NeoPaganism, Pantheism and Eastern Mysticism. I pursued gurus, tried Buddhism, practised eastern forms of meditation and various esoteric philosophies, teachings and techniques.

I prepared to go into “indulgent tolerance” mode whilst we climbed higher up the mountain range. It was because of that very black-and-white “certainty” that I had long mistrusted evangelical Christianity.

But Caroline then launched into a full exposition of the gospel and of the fact that Jesus Christ had come to bridge that divide between God and humankind; and when we reached our cabin in the resort, she drew for me a picture of a cross bridging that chasm. All the time I was in tolerance mode. I didn’t need evangelising. I considered myself knowledgable about the bible, & had been good at R.K. at school. So I just let Caroline do her thing, until she at last got distracted by a  snake lying in the path.

For the next year I continued in my usual way, following my own spiritual interests, occasionally thinking of this episode. OK I hadn’t liked being evangelised. But I was impressed by her conviction, by her belief that her religion wasn’t a private matter, it was to be shared; and by her courage. I thought, “I wouldn’t do that.” It’s a personality thing too, but I actually believed everyone has a right to their own beliefs & it was no business of mine to try and convert someone else to my beliefs. But Caroline believed she not only had a right but a responsibility to tell me what she believes. I was impressed by that. But I didn’t do anything about it until 1991 a few months after I’d returned to live in England, with my parents in their Kent village near Tonbridge – and it changed my life.

Have you ever changed your life as a result of a conversation with one person? Or was it a long process, involving several people, covering a number of years? Please share your own stories with me!

Here is a list of some of my glimpses of eternity, listed by one identifier or the place where the experience occurred:

  1. Mountain at end of road in Wales.
  2. Hedge parsley in Kent.
  3. Dream of the sea
  4. Mount Neel Kanth in India.
  5. Violin passage in Bach’s “St Matthew Passion”
  6. Twilight on the beach at Mynt, Pembrokeshire coastline, West Wales
  7. Taize service in church
  8. Chalice Well Gardens in Glastonbury
  9. The woodland between Conishead Priory & Morecambe Bay, Barrow-in-Furness
  10. St Cuthbert’s Tomb in Durham Cathedral
  11. On the mountain top at Binna Burra, Queensland.
  12. Journey through the Cambrian Mountains to Aberystwyth in Wales

Do you identify with this journey? Share your thoughts and feelings with me about this journey of the spirit. I’d love to have your comments!

“Mystical Experiences and Glimpses of Eternity” Mini Series Part 6 – An Inspiring Project in Brisbane, Australia: The Relaxation Centre of Queensland

In Australia I found a unique Centre – located in Brisbane, and run by an Englishman.

35 years ago, LIONEL FIFIELD, formerly an accountant, set up an organisation called The Relaxation Centre of Queensland, using premises in Brisbane.

I spent nearly five years living in Brisbane, and during that time I must have tasted every kind of course, workshop  and seminar that the Relaxation Centre had to offer.

There was only one problem. Attending courses at the Relaxation Centre was addictive.

And I have not found any similar organisation in England – though I believe that it would meet a great need.

Lionel Fifield

Lionel Fifield

Lionel Fifield was an engaging inspirational speaker. He had an entertaining, at times Monty Pythonesque style. And the Australians loved him – and I have every reason to believe they still do.

Here is what Lionel says of himself: “For over 35 years now he has been co-ordinating and developing a programme at the Relaxation Centre of Queensland focusing on managing stress, facing fears, building confidence, improving communication and exploring potential. Lionel likes to talk about his own “funny ways” and how quickly we can separate ourselves from each other and from our own sense of knowing.”

The Relaxation Centre maintains that it advances no one particular religious or spiritual system, and   many who teach there have different spiritual outlooks. Spiritual healing, however, has long been on the agenda. I explore spiritual healing in my current work-in-progress, a romantic suspense novel called “A Passionate Spirit”.

BERT WEIR, leader of The Centre Within courseat the Relaxation Centre, was another inspirational figure. Formerly a salesman, Bert was a man full of humour and practical hints.  “I’m a very practical man,” he would begin his course, “and I will only talk about things that work.” There was much psychological wisdom, too, in the Centre Within Course, and many practical strategies to combat stress and anxiety and false attitude. Again, The Centre Within Course was addictive. I must have taken the complete course at least four times.  And therein lies the danger of inspirational speakers – do we attend purely to delight in the entertaining style of the speaker? Maybe – but we can always hope we are learning something along the way that is permanent!

Bert Weir

Bert Weir

A third individual stands out in my memories of the Relaxation Centre, and this was a character I shall name only as GREG, teacher of a Dream Interpretation course. Greg again was a very down-to-earth character full of wisdom and humour. Nobody would have guessed he was a spiritual adept in the art of dream yoga – an art he had learned from an old Tibetan lama he’d met in Sydney.  Later he was to provide inspiration for my novel “Mystical Circles”.

When I took Greg’s course in dream interpretation there grew upon me this feeling. “There’s something light and bright and fluid and flexible about him… something Puckish, childlike, teasing and infinitely wise and spiritually attuned… he’s like a children’s storyteller, a street corner entertainer.. . he’s mobile, passionately involved and sincere, yet also detached, low-key, non-judgemental.”

It was from Greg that I first heard of the concept of having “a fluid and flexible ego” (mentioned in my novel “Mystical Circles“).

An adept in Tibetan Dream Yoga, Greg possessed the gift of “shapeshifting”. I witnessed his face changing during the course of one of the dream yoga sessions. I later put this experience into my novel “Mystical Circles” when Juliet sees Craig’s face changing. I had by that stage learned that this is one of the arts of a shaman, and part of the skills of shapeshifting. I make no value-judgement at this point; I simply tell you what I have observed, and what has arisen from my own experience.

All these people were way-markers for me. It’s no accident that for me, my spiritual journey began with a mountain and that journey took me to another mountain, in Australia again.

As T.S. Eliot says in his poem “Little Gidding”:

For the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time (tweet this)

If you live in the UK, have you ever found a centre which runs courses like The Relaxation Centre of Queensland? Whatever you believe, does the work of this centre ring any bells for you? Do you identify with this journey? Share your thoughts and feelings with me about this journey of the spirit. I’d love to have your comments!

“Mystical Experiences and Glimpses of Eternity” Mini Series Part 5 – Secret India: The Land of the Gods and Neel Kanth, Mountain of Light

Does an experience of joy and spiritual upliftment only count as a mystical experience if it changes your life?

I believe these experiences gather significance cumulatively, over the course of a lifetime, through the repetition of events grouped around a similar theme – just as in a recurring dream.

And for me the recurring theme is mountains.

Welsh Mountains

Welsh Mountains

When I was about seven years old our family went on holiday to Wales. Early one morning, a few of us got up and set out from our guesthouse for a walk before breakfast. To me, the world was fresh and new, everything was full of potential and wonder, the air held a miraculous clarity, the sky was a pure translucent blue… and at the end of the road was a mountain.

All I could think was “At the end of the road there’s a mountain – and we’re going to climb it.”

And that “start of the holidays” experience of mine was to inform all subsequent “glimpses of eternity” throughout my life.

Several years later I joined the Yoga for Health Foundation which was then led by Howard Kent (1919-2005). I wouldn’t describe Howard Kent as charismatic – probably one of the things I appreciated about him – but I liked and respected his character – wisdom, spirituality & a dry sense of humour.

I went on a Yoga Tour of North India and Nepal with Howard Kent and a group of yoga enthusiasts.

We flew to Delhi and our trip included Agra (the Taj Mahal), Varanasi  (the Burning Ghats by the Ganges),  the erotic temple carvings of Khajuraho, as well as the Red City of Jaipur, and finally Khathmandu in Nepal.

I have a vivid memory of time spent at twilight on the roof of a derelict maharajah’s palace in the jungle near Khajuraho, with Howard Kent and another member of our party, during which we talked about whether it was a good idea or not to renounce the world. (We concluded it wasn’t). Out in the jungle we heard a tiger growl. Otherwise there was an overwhelming silence and tranquility. And I even remember the cloud formation in the sky, which presented itself to me in the shape of a giant fish.

But this post is about one other aspect of that Indian tour – our journey through the Gharhwal Himalayas, (known as “the land of the gods” ), a journey which took us from Rishikesh to Badrinath, centre of Hindu pilgrimage.

And there, in Badrinath, one peak – Mount Neel Kanth – encapsulated all my recurring experiences around mountains.

Mount Neelkanth, Badrinath

Mount Neelkanth, Badrinath

I quote here from a passage in my journal, written on the night of our arrival in Badrinath.

“this town and the mountains around it have an awesome quality… an almost palpable presence filled the valley… the source of this power was Neel Kanth, a mountain of white crystal whose peak appeared between the two dark slopes of Naryan… luminous in the full moon.. it shone out like a mystical vision.” The next day, I wrote,”the spiritual intensity of the night had vanished but a deeper serenity remained.”

Is there a recurring image in your life – in your dreams, or in the real world, which means a lot to you on your journey? Whatever you believe, does this ring any bells for you? Do you identify with this journey? Share your thoughts and feelings with me about this journey of the spirit. I’d love to have your comments!

Tag Cloud

BOOKS FROM DUSK TILL DAWN

Each night I travel the world, I live in the minds of killers and walk at the side of heros.

mychestnutreadingtree

My reviews and thoughts about the books i have read

Cleopatra Loves Books

One reader's view

Bibliophile Book Club

Books, books and more books!

746 Books

Confessions of a Book Buying Addict

The Book Review Café

Reviews & All Things Book Related

The Book Blogger

a teenager's take on books old and new

The Silent Eye

A Modern Mystery School

Rosie Amber

Book Reviewer, Avid Reader and Bookworm. Campaigning to link more readers to writers. People do not forget books that touch them or excite them—they recommend them.

Chat About Books

Book reviews, author interviews, blog tours..... since October 2015

black books blog

Welcome to black books blog

Grenfell Action Group

Working to defend and serve the Lancaster West community

The Gay Stepdad

Mincing My Way Through Life

Image & Word

Life the way I see it...

Melanie Roussel

The blog of an aspiring author and Londoner.

TanGental

Writing, the Universe and whatever occurs to me