Dangerous Interpersonal Tensions at The Wheel of Love, Esoteric Spiritual Group

As a novelist I enjoy writing about relationships. I’ve spent years observing people’s behaviour in all sorts of situations – within romantic relationships, family relationships, within groups both informal and structured, at dinner parties or self-help therapy groups or in other group situations such as writing workshops.  In my mystery romance novel “Mystical Circles”, I create a hothouse atmosphere within a closed community, where relationships and liaisons flare and flourish or fizzle out quickly. Much depends on  the undercurrents of motive behind the behaviour and interactions of the characters.

Here is an extract showing the interpersonal tensions that may be found in the hothouse atmosphere of  “The Wheel of Love”.

“Life is but a dream,” Rory said.

“You really believe that?”

“Of course. Who’d have harsh reality when they can live here?” he replied.

Oleg moved within range. “Life’s no different from what it was outside. Still goes badly for me most of the time.”

She glanced at him, bemused. “I noticed you last night in the barn with Beth, Oleg. Didn’t you two sort things out at all?”

He glared at her. “What d’you mean by that? Sort things out? How? And why were you watching us?”

She took a deep breath. “I can’t help noticing how much you care for her.”

“She doesn’t care for me,” he snapped.

Silence fell. She sought words. “Perhaps you’ve misunderstood her true feelings, Oleg. Perhaps you think too little of yourself. Be encouraged by Craig. He says you’re in tune with your higher self.”

“That depends upon what he actually chose to tell Craig.” Rory spoke in a snide tone of voice.

“Rory’s jealous,” said Oleg.

Rory moved as if he was about to strike him.

Juliet, alarmed, quickly stepped between them. “What’s up between you two?” she asked.

Rory looked surprised. “Nothing,” he replied, and sauntered on.

Then she turned back to Oleg. “What have you done to upset Rory?”

“Other way round.” His voice filled with self-pity. “It’s him who upset me.”

“Oh?” She ducked under a low branch. “What did he do?”

He looked dejected. “He asked me if I could possibly love him.”

Juliet took the risk of flippancy. “Didn’t you say ‘yes, as a friend? But I love Beth more’? This is, after all, a wheel of love.”

“No, I’d never tell him that,” he retorted, in a fierce undertone. “It doesn’t work that way. Not with Rory. He gets violent.”

“Oh?” She started. Her heart missed a beat. “Violent? D’you mean he beats you up?”

But Oleg was clearly unwilling to say more.

Juliet now felt a frisson of fear when she looked at Rory. She knew she shouldn’t judge anyone here simply on the basis of what someone else said about them. Even so…  She would treat Rory with just a little extra caution until she knew him better.

But what she really wanted to know right now was: how did Craig mean to deal with all these conflicting desires? Was he really equipped to handle them? Or was this, for him, a dream he never intended to wake up from?

Characters in Mystical Circles – Beth, a Member of Craig’s Esoteric Group The Wheel of Love who Feels Unloved – will she Find Healing in Craig’s Community?

Beth doesn’t really know why she’s here; she’s edgy, tense, anxious. Is she searching for the healing that Craig promises? And is she prepared to do the mysterious “work” on herself that Craig requires? She doesn’t want to tell Juliet about her past. She hero-worships Craig, but he’s inaccessible. There is one in the group who would love her in the way she longs for… but is she able to respond to him? She is in a spiritual community where all members are supposed to “share love equally” yet Beth feels unloved and unloveable. 

EXTRACT FROM “MYSTICAL CIRCLES”

Juliet exchanged a wave of acknowledgement with Laura, seated opposite the American, before turning her attention to the next diner, beside Laura.

This was a sharp-faced young woman with dark hair pulled tightly back in a French plait, which emphasised the severity of her expression. She gave Juliet a frosty stare. “I’m Beth. Beth Owen,” she snapped. “I prefer not to say anything else about myself.”

Well, thought Juliet, Beth wasn’t very friendly. How had Juliet managed to earn her hostility so soon? Beth continued to look tense and suspicious. Perhaps she misunderstood what Juliet was trying to do. But if she didn’t say anything, Juliet couldn’t put her mind at rest.

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

Juliet shifted position so she could also observe Beth, who’d so far remained silent. She wanted to see if Beth was reacting to Oleg in any way. But no, her eyes were on Craig. Beth was in love with Craig, Juliet had no doubt about that. Poor girl. What prospects did she have, with Zoe so ahead of the game? Her sister was chatting animatedly to Craig. Sparkling and pretty, Zoe had everything going for her to win first place in Craig’s affections.

Suddenly Beth leaned back as Don became caught up in a conversation with Rory. She faced Juliet in a conspiratorial manner. Her eyes hardened, and she spoke in a low, tight voice. “When you interview us, Juliet, do hold off from asking us about our past won’t you?”

“Why?” asked Juliet.

“Because none of us here are supposed to remember it. Craig teaches us to cut ourselves off from that.”

“But your background’s one of the first things my listeners will want to know about.”

The colour of Beth’s face deepened. Juliet guessed that to be the effect of the wine. She decided to try the direct approach. “How do you feel about Craig, Beth?”

Cold hostility glimmered in the girl’s eye. “What’s that to you?”

“I’ve been invited here to ask questions,” said Juliet gently.

Beth drained her glass of wine and refused to look at her again. Instead she switched her glance to Oleg, who’d left his seat at the end of the table, and come up to speak to her. She gave him full attention for the first time during the meal. He leaned down towards her, and laid his hand on hers. She jumped as if someone had laid hot metal on her bare flesh.

He spoke in a low, urgent voice. “Why so nervous when I touch you, Beth? Relax.”

Instead of having the desired effect, this seemed to destabilise her further. She pushed her chair back and sprang to her feet. “Goodbye, everyone.” With that, she headed round behind Juliet’s chair, whirled past The Lady and the Unicorn, and vanished through the doorway into the sitting room.

Do Creative Writers Ever Feel they’re On the Inside? Or are they Always On the Outside of Everything Looking In?

This morning I was listening to Howard Jacobson, comic novelist and Booker Prize winner, on Desert Island Discs, and among the many things he said which touched and amused me, the most striking was this, “I have always felt myself to be on the outside of everything, looking in.” He gave this reply to the interviewer’s question, “Now you’ve won the Booker, do you feel you’ve arrived? Do you now feel you’re on the inside?”

What a wonderful response she received to this question! And this seemed to me a true writer’s response. I identified with it absolutely. This is what I have spent my life doing. When I was researching for my newly-published novel Mystical Circles, I was an observer. I was on the outside looking in. I investigated many New Age spiritual groups and lifestyles and philosophies, and I always saw myself as being on the outside looking in – just as Juliet does in my novel. How anxious Juliet is not to get involved, not to be drawn in, to keep her objectivity as a journalist. It almost seems a personal threat to her to get involved. Yet as more than one character says to her,  “You have to come alongside us to truly understand.”

My character the Rev. Theo sees this clearly. “I’m all about people on spiritual journeys,” he says. “I’ll go anywhere, come in on anything.” It is no contradiction to him, a young clergyman, to enter a New Age spiritual group and to come alongside the members of the community and to live as one of them.

So you, my readers, will probably have spotted the apparent contradiction here. Do I believe in being an outsider looking in? Or do I believe in getting involved, coming alongside? The truth lies in paradox. And this is the paradox Howard Jacobson embodies. Of course he is on the inside! Of course he has arrived! And yet – he has the soul of a writer. And so he feels always on the outside looking in.

Do you identify with Howard Jacobson at all when he describes himself feeling like this, despite being successful in the eyes of the world?

Sacred Places of Other Religions and Thin Places in Celtic Spirituality

Today Ezine Articles have published my article on “What can we learn from the sacred places of other religions?” (see below). I wrote this after a visit to Uluru (Ayer’s Rock) in Central Australia, back in 2009.  The thoughts expressed in this article feed into the content of my new novel “A Passionate Spirit”. I am working on this now, and it is a sequel to my first published novel “Mystical Circles”.

I am particularly fascinated by the relationship between spirituality and place.  Last night I was reading “The Spiral – Crop Circle News” published by the Wiltshire Crop Circle Study Group. What stood out for me was the crop circle enthusiasts’ idea of places “where the Otherworld prevails and the veils are thin.” This connects to the awareness of the Celtic Christians that some places are “thin places” where the veil between this world and the spiritual world is thin. This applies to all sorts of places which have numinous quality e.g. Lindisfarne/Holy Island, or Iona, or St Cuthbert’s tomb in Durham Cathedral, or Cheddar Gorge, or Wells Cathedral, and there are many other examples that readers of this may already be well aware of.

I am reminded of something Rabbi Lionel Blue wrote: “Eternity is all around us. Part of us inhabits it already.”

Read my article on Uluru here:

http://ezinearticles.com/?What-Do-the-Sacred-Places-of-Other-Religions-Have-to-Teach-Us?&id=5746009