My journey in 1991 was a major turning point or “seeing”, from which I later on wrote The Field of the Dead, on eclipse and standing stones – to be published here shortly. Meanwhile, my coastal Sadhana from Strumble Head to Pwllderi youth hostel continues – a rediscovery of views and friendship …
Sunset, Cap Frehel from Alet in Brittany, 1987
August 1991: Sunset
Earlier this summer, in France with my sister and her children, I went walking and devised a way to contemplate the Star of Solomon alchemically:
Sunset Star and Sulphur Symbol
Quicksilver is the descending triangle. It is the silver sea, reflecting light … and it is the receptive Mercury or mind whose power expands up the stem, with the thermal fire of concentration.
Gold (or sulphur/fire) is the ascending triangle, the inner or Divine Signature of all things. It pre-exists the silver sea, but only appears when the silver sea is in a prime state – receptive concentration. Drawn to a point, receptive concentration becomes “fire” (spark) or flame.
Now see the points – the apex – of both triangles, the one above, and the one below. The silver point reflects when focused, the point of the gold. When alchemical mercury (the mind) is one-pointed inward, it transmutes. It reveals … gold.
“Before time began, I am.” “No mind, I am the Self.” “Before Abraham was, I am.”
It rises like the flame symbol: the primordial radiation. This is prana, the breath of the sea. The gold seems to be born in the silver… but only because the silver reflecting it, gives up into it herself. This is Self surrender. Silver is the lunar organ of response to the Sun’s light.
Now, in Pembrokeshire last week, at Pwllderi youth-hostel on the cliffs near Strumble Head Lighthouse, I watched the sun set:
Silver sea or tide, quiescent and still.
The sun, the Great Sage, cannot be seen. He descends behind a horizontal bank of cloud which ends a little above the horizon. But the quiescent silver reflects with a slowly growing intensity, his light behind the cloudy veil. On the distant water, a golden egg is laid. A tiny line of dazzling fire gradually fattens to an ellipse – a vesica or lens of fire – upon the silver element. It becomes too bright to look at. Then an elliptic shadow of gold begins to form beneath the fire. It draws light into itself as it embodies slowly a sphere and then a pathway to the seer here.
As the reflected fire disappears into the expanding path, I see at last the Sun’s golden echo on the water.
Now the echo lengthens rapidly, as shadows do. Subtly, a misty gold pathway awaits the Lord from horizon to the seer. Then the Star Himself emerges, unbearably fiery, molten radiant gold – shield the eyes! Everywhere lights up; the sea is ablaze. Phoenix!
An unseen bank of mist lingers along the horizon. Very soon the star of gold disappears into it, the path fades and the sea turns grey.
The use of symbols is rooted in Nature’s object-lessons. Sunset is not just a photo; it berths and births right now. What is seen?
On another evening, the Sun did not appear. A part of the sea blushed softly gold for a time, in a bridal mist of expectancy, as if embracing something which could not possibly be seen.
Hey. With reference to the point, or needles’ eye in meditation’s silver sea, I just came across this, in The Mountain Path (summer 1991) – from Sri Ramana’s letter to Ganapati Muni:
“When the mind having pure sattva (calm and purity) as its characteristic, begins attending to the ‘I … I’ which is the sign of the forthcoming direct experience of the Self, the downward facing Heart becomes upward facing, and remains in the form of That (Self).”
And this, from a conversation with S.S.Cohen:
“Bhagavan,” says Cohen, “you said yesterday that there exists in the human body a hole as small as a pin-point, from which consciousness always bubbles out to the body. Is it open or shut?”
Ramana replies, “It is always shut, being the knot of ignorance which ties the body to consciousness. When the mind drops away in the temporary Kevala Nirvikalpa (limited bliss/peace), it opens but shuts again. In Sahaja (unlimited bliss/peace) it remains always open.”
“How is it during the experience of ‘I … I’ consciousness?”
“This consciousness is the key which opens it permanently.”
The Self is not a fixture. The I … i which Ramana speaks includes the fluid dialogue, small-I into the I – the brook and the Sea. Self is stability, which appears to be fixed, but encompasses everything. Small i darts in and out of I, like tadpoles.
And David Godman’s comment: “If the Heart becoming upward facing, is the equivalent of this small consciousness-emitting hole opening, then this is another instance of Bhagavan saying that abidance in the ‘I … I’ – (pulsation of pure being) – “is the way to make the Heart open permanently. When the Heart is permanently open, the world which was previously assumed to be external, is experienced not as separate names and forms, but as one’s own Self, as the immanent Brahman.”
Stormy sunset: St Malo 1987
Lighthouse Scrible: Kabbalah
One evening, I walked to Strumble Head Lighthouse. It is about five miles. I went “up the mountain” first, behind the Youth Hostel. This landmark can be seen from miles around, and from it you see the whole of the Welsh “Lands End” as if from an island. Around it flow, like ocean currents, the fields great and small, of vivid agricultures.
Below the summit’s rocky tumuli I found a road towards the lighthouse, over the undulating fields. When I got there, night had fallen. The light is a revolving sequence of One, Two, Three, Four dazzling flashes clockwise, over the farmland. During the dark interval, One, Two, Three arms of light sweep the sea beyond. The fourth seaward beam re-emerges in blinding light, as the first of the four landward flashes. The fourth of these is the first over the sea; and so on, in perfect sequence.
In numerical spiral, the four pulses are dovetailed into the Dance of Three: the primal circuitry.
An electron dances a dual revolution of matter with the dark sea of anti-matter. Each side – like a seed, or the ventricles of the heart – reflects and gives rise to the other.
TETRAGRAMMATON is the unspoken Name (J,H,V,H) of God.
In the Hermetic art, TETRAGRAMMATON applies to the four fold fertile rhythm throughout Nature and Creation. Without it, no heart would beat, no substance form.
Father is YOD, Mother is HEH, their Child is VAV, and their Family is YOD, inseminating the next generation and the next. It is like the blood through veins, the river’s fall through valleys, and gravity’s gentle curve of the infinite.
Strumble Light is a squat building, white and very clean. It sits on a green tufted panther of volcanic rock. A light metal bridge over a narrow surge of sea connects it to the mainland.
That night, I sat and watched its cyclic light. The glowing geometries of the multiple lens rotate, strangely hermetic, within its lattice window. Rhythmic arms of the beam sweep the night. A scribbled “Scripture” of light flashes along the pitch dark craggy cliffs – the Bible of an instant.
My walk back to Pwllderi youth-hostel and my tent, along this precipitous coastal path in the dark, is an adventure! It takes about an hour; it is rugged, and some stretches of it are unknown ground.
The path opens an instinct of itself ahead. Sometimes it is lit by the flicker of JHVH. For the rest, my feet must find it. Attune them to the terrain: hurry not! Lean back, and let my feet carry me home … for they seem to know, like wild ponies do.
The script is again, as on my bicycle earlier – “Lean back into Now.”
and I just discovered a photo of Strumble Light at night in http://judeness.wordpress.com/2009/01 – (star, light and houses) … a visual feast of a blog!
How often along these paths and cliffs, I thought of St Christopher carrying his sacred burden over the river. It grew heavier and heavier upon him. It clung to him like an angry old woman, like the tired body of the Spirit going uphill. The higher you leap the heavier it gets, O Gravity, you Grave One. Finally he reached the other bank, and set down none other but the Christ Child. The act of kindness realized him.
Franz Liszt set this to music: piano and baritone.
When I get really tired after a long scramble, it helps to become a child being carried home, ride pick-a-back on this body. “Take me home!” The trick is to let my hips and lower spine be shock absorbers: roll ball-socket, loose and yielding: let Yoga in motion be the auto pilot. It is about degrees of unstressed awareness. It takes practice. It is hard when fatigued in life – difficult not to strain ahead and wish this steep slope were over.
Very subtle is the way my feet, in relation to an alert quietude of mind, seek and find rocks and pebbles for support or stumble … hold gently, firmly the ground, like hands.
… don’t get in the way of the goat, pony or alchemical saint – Fulcanelli in La Mystere des Cathedrales makes much of St Christopher! – who trundles homeward over uncharted and untrod terrain. The starry constellations are received in moments when I rest, downward into the earthy, stony track, like a root.
Small stones glow.
Who am I? the mobile root of the sky at night, en route.
Revelation flashes a Bible over the cliffs: a lifetime touches, climbs and finds them.
Pwllderi is just visible in the background.
On the sloping patch of ground behind the Youth-hostel, I made friends with a large, orange and yellow tent surrounded by a chaos of self sufficiency. Her name is Oni. She works with British Airways. When she isn’t flying around in stratospheric cabins and being well groomed, she takes off with her portable cave, well away from the flight paths, turns into a shaggy troubadour and cooks lengthy feasts out of doors at midnight. Hiking around burial grounds and standing stones with sketchpad and watercolours, Oni converses with unexpected outlines of Providence. You could hear her cheerful voice from the other side of the field.
When she arrived, she pitched next door to me. Oh no, one of those Talkers! Will she go on all night? But then we got acquainted. “Come and have a bite,” she invited. “I like sharing things.” And a gale of anecdotes and escapades flowed forth from this scamp: a kindred spirit. We quickly found our mutual affinities – to hang out! Make no plans! Travel alone and meet everyone! Follow the weather, that trail of the unexpected which delivers up a musical mosaic so much Larger than Life!
As wind and imminent rain built up for the night, we sat beneath a drunkenly swaying GAZ lamp by the awning – I thought she was an entire family, she has so much stuff everywhere, but no, it’s just herself – and discussed life. We dined on trout, baked potatoes and bullet peas mixed up with mushrooms which she cooked in foil over some kind of coal in the grass, in the dark. The coal took forty minutes to become incandescent. As the wind gusted and buffeted, Oni badgered back and forth; we sipped airline Drambuies to keep warm. She found also a half bottle of airline Medoc, and finally dished up supper in tin plates with the aplomb of a grubby eleven year old.
Presently we became aware that we had new neighbours. Two young Belgian boys, struggling to peg their tent in pitch dark in the gale, appeared in the cluttered entrance to Oni’s cave. Their hairy white shanks in very short shorts trembled knock-knee in the night like daddy-long-legses. “’Ow can it be,” they gesticulated “that you two sit out here like this, like midi on the Riviera taking ze sun, ‘ow can you be so strong and tough, look, we don’ know ‘ow to make this tent and the wind, cold, dark, and the legs zey won’t stop doing zis …”
Later, after I crawled back under my patched and archaic sway-backed canvas to sleep, I heard Oni calling me. Jane, there’s a curtain of vertical columns of light! Over there in the northern sky – I’m sorry but I had to tell you, you’ve got to look. Isn’t it bizarre? … like aurora borealis without colour, but it must be, you know it IS THE NORTHERN LIGHTS!
I laboriously untied my tent-flaps yet again from the pole, looked out and saw it too. What else could it be? The stars were all out with it, very bright. Earlier today, the sea was glassy calm, and the Warden said the sea-birds were upset, the weather’s about to change, there must be something very unusual in the atmosphere …? – and I went back in and to sleep feeling strangely happy and replete, my body into the hard ground. It was the only night I slept well – the previous two nights I didn’t sleep AT ALL. I decided to take a leaf from Oni: invest in some up to date gear.
My cave is regarded with derision by herself and by a middle aged couple nearby, who are trying out a workmanlike eight-man edifice. That’s not a tent! You can’t go camping in that, it won’t last five minutes. It’s a toy, you do it at school, you put it up in the garden … Ha ha ha!
My greyish-white old canvas and draughty sway-backed faded flysheet, is too genuinely an archetypal tent to be convincing: and at least 30 years old. It’s a snail wondering if it is an aeroplane. However, when it blew really hard, it was Oni and the eight-man couple who got no sleep for the buffeting of synthetic fibre and the struggle to keep their nice modern caves attached to the ground. They toiled off to Fishguard in the morning for a fresh supply of pegs, while I set out for another long walk along the coastal path to see the big waves. So they ate their words! My cave hugged the ground imperturbably as Gibralter with the wind blowing through it.
But on my walk, I began to feel bothered. Shouldn’t I have stayed to help them? I wanted to talk with Oni some more. I felt shy and uncollected. On my way back from Strumble, along a stretch of path straight as an arrow – a NOW through banks of golden gorse and flowering heather, who should be approaching but herself, rosy face, multi-coloured jersey and rucksack with sketching things, blond hair a-tangle. We laughed, and wondered what we both look like when we are back home. Oni was off for another long hike, then back to work in her metal tubes. We didn’t quite know how to throw a line over into the passing ship, so we left it like that. I had an idea. When I got back I wrote my address on some paper and rolled it around her windscreen wiper. I found her car with no trouble – it was unmistakable. She had poured her cave straight into it.
A letter arrived this week:
“Dear Jane, I was very amused on returning from my hike to find the ‘Post’ had called! … I really enjoyed my few days camping and hiking in Wales. Like you, I so enjoy hiking around and meeting similar unusual people, all roughing it for a bit. I wonder how the rest of your walk went. The weather has sure turned beautifully hot again – we’ve been frying in our metal tubes – the aircraft! Yesterday we flew to Madrid – 110 degrees F!! Glad we were only there for an hour.
“My last day’s walk was weird – total contrast. A sea mist swirled round the Tors, and you could believe you were wandering around Snowdon. But even in the mist I came across another of those wonderful brilliant hued rock gardens round the Tor summit. Strange shapes of hikers flapped through the rocks, like lost souls haunting the wilds! By the time the rain set in, I was on my way home, in the evening, but I was so tired from the previous night’s disturbed sleep and re-pegging – I actually camped again, beyond Bath. I was falling asleep at the wheel. All good wishes, Oni.”
Coastal path 1991 – place of meeting!
After meeting her like that, the day unrolled many treasures. Wild cloud-bank of mist drove in from the West and over the tor. I raced to the top to see, greet and be enveloped in the cloud. Next I journeyed to the end of the great Dinosaur headland, where the sky cleared again, and I began my exploration to the cove of purple sandstone. (See On the Coastal Path with Krishnamurti and Ramana)
For it was Oni who directed me to those paths, south of the Dinosaur. On one of her own big treks, she found and investigated a wool mill and a track leading down to a dramatic beach further down. “You know I love those folded rock formations! Weird shapes, colours, terrific …” – and she found a rope tied to a metal bolt, which dangled some thirty feet or so to the base of the cliff. Down the rope she went. “What a GREAT way to go for a swim. You know, the swim I had in that beach is one of the best swims I EVER had.”
After I discovered the cove of violet stones, the spiral snake and titanic Hartland families, I too found that place, further down the coast, and swung down the rope to swim in bouncy peaked rollers coming in over the sand. There was rather a lot of seaweed, and after my swim I found a large jellyfish stranded and collapsed upon the beach. But the water in the slanting sunlight was a joy; a smile for Oni’s naughty tousled shape, in that green place above the beach where the path descends; her friendly grin like a carousing minstrel. Surprised and slightly alarmed at a depth of affection like a sign-post.
We are connected, a long way back. Somewhere, we were a pair of mates, mess-mates maybe; and now the paths swing back together, luring us to Strumble in wild Wales. I am at peace with whatever comes next, and the feeling fades, being just a signal. Much there is to share and learn with this funny person. Much of value.
Here is a drawing she sent me:
Leo Taurus by Oni
Everybody, in the tide of walkers and conversations passing through Pwllderi, was seeing more seals than I. They arrived back from the cliffs with their tales of spotting whole familes with babies sunning themselves on the rocks.
I LOVE seals. To see one gives me great kudos, encouragement and hope, during a walk. But try as I might, I saw only three. And they were a long way off. I was so jealous of those gifted walkers. I was consoled by a few stewards of Neptune who also abound in these parts: dolphins and porpoises with tall black dorsal fins rose suddenly in a swell of off-shore current, to snort and blow. One pair was greyish white.
Mostly I saw only jelly-fish, hundreds and hundreds of them. They quivered like phallic toadstools in the deep water along the “lions’ paw” headlands, and put the damper on carefree swimming.
Neither was I very successful in locating Ancient Monuments indicated on my map. I got very exhausted floundering around in gorse, and trying to cross the country from one pile of stones to another while avoiding farms and barking dogs. I am not a gifted tourist of Neolithic wisdom and energy fields. I seem to dowse it only on the cliffs themselves. I was extremely annoyed that Oni discovered so many more monuments than I did. Holidaying on the coastal path, to rough it in the open, gets lonely and tiring. I’m dragging my feet up some muddy lane. Then suddenly, along comes a familiar face or pair of people I spoke to earlier; their legs are scratched, they are trying to find a route through a string of cow-patted farmyards, they offer a drink and some chocolate, we start floundering around in the gorse together, seeking unsuccessfully yet another Gothic Site of Burial on the O.S.map. The air lifts; I rejoin my human tribe; the tiredness is gone. I am not a hundred-per-cent hermit.
Pwllderi Youth-hostel is perched over the bay between the Dinosaur and the slumbering lions of Strumble. The Warden comes out into the sunset each evening. He raises his binoculars to inspect the cliff-path in each direction: the coming night’s clientele. “Where are they? There’s no one coming along yet. As soon as I sit down to have me supper, blow me there’ll be seven of ‘em here won’t there, wanting to check in all at once.”
Mine host is a dedicated character. He genially receives the motley tide of travelers through his shelter – a thin old billygoat with bushy old-mans-beard and two merry teeth, like the guinea-pigs he keeps on grass near the tents behind his house. The terrain of his visitors is unpredictable, like the West Wales climate. Sometimes a straggle of lone eccentrics … a group of vociferous Germans … efficient girls traveling together with maps and lists … families … hikers and bikers … a party of twittering school kids. Some nights have a mushrooming of tents under his wing, and other nights none at all. He collects ancient bottles, skulls, sheep bones and cacti. These profusely decorate his panoramic verandah, where weary walkers sit, smoke and admire the sunset. One of the cacti opened during my visit into a huge pink flower of love. Mine host danced attendance, hospitably.
The Warden of Pwllderi is on excellent terms with the farming community of Strumble Head. He looks out for their cattle. They look out for his groceries. When the weather is rough, the mutual assistance over the battered landscape is close-knit. The plumber arrived for a long, lilting conversation. He never gets any work done when he visits Pwllderi, so there are still no showers. I sat on the drystone wall, bone-tired after a long day, and watched with vague absorbtion, two efficient young men unpack and pitch. The plumber thought I was feeling sad, and began to scold the Warden. “Look you, boy-bach, pwy ydy’r merch ifanc’ ma? why don’t you cheer her up a bit? – you haven’t got that canoe of yours out for a while now, have you. Take her fishing in it round Penbwchy Head and show her some seals! Go on. Don’t be so selfish.”
The Warden runs a little shop inside the Youth-hostel, as there aren’t any others for miles. In his cubby hole by the TV he keeps a mirror artfully angled over his head, so he can see instantly when SHOP is required; or the arrival of a new “cave” upon the back of its knock-knee’d snail. As soon as you stop by the hatch, he appears tetchily and carefully balances his cigarette on a nicotine-rimmed shelf. If he’s run out of eggs he jumps in his jeep and drives off to fetch some from the nearest farm.
There is a very beautiful and comely young woman in the house, who is referred to as “My Assistant”. In the evening she puts on a white overall, and puts the suppers (pies from the local bakery plus tinned veg) in the oven – for those who are not self-catering. He gossips. She sweeps the floor around him. Perhaps she is studying to be a Warden. In the morning there is an invariable strident bellow: “BREAKFAST!”
Self catering – like Self-enqiury – saves money and is flexible with time. The kitchen gets crowded along a bank of baby bellings with polite travelers struggling to assemble toast, bacon, cornflakes and tea. “So where have YOU been then?” snapped the Warden when I tottered in very late at night after cycling from St David’s, and asked sleepily for a tin of Irish stew. It is oddly relaxing to prepare a meal. The effort of my ride through many miles of dark lanes, still rings in my ears. The wind again begins to blow hard. Will my Rock of Gibralter stand another night of this? Out again into the dark, with a torch, the busy work to re-peg.
My mother near Pwllderi, 2002
Those volcanic cliffs to Strumble – splayed paws of the Great Cat – you know what they also are, so rounded? Seals. The seals know their own. Between each toe of the Great Cat are deep, Gothic caverns and archways. Put my foot with that landscape, to wander. Let sole and toes hold flexibly the ground along the trail, like a hand. When the sole of my foot is sensitive and mobile, the rest of my body flows. This sense also in my palm and along my fingers, reaches to touch … who knows what it wants, or grasps?
Discover then, my fellow monkey, that forgotten knowledge in your OTHER pair of hands which hold so lightly, yet so close the ground. Have you a head? Look, and see!
Satsang AGM, Ramana Foundation UK, 1994
DRAWINGS BY ONI:
Lift, by Oni
Crossing the tracks; by Oni
Stream lining – cycles to rebirth: by Oni
My adventure invites fellow travellers. I am a poet, an artist and a seer. I welcome conversation among the PHILO SOFIA, the lovers of wisdom.
This blog is a vehicle to promote my published work – The Sacred India Tarot (with Rohit Arya, Yogi Impressions Books) and The Dreamer in the Dream – a collection of short stories (0 Books) – along with many other creations in house.
I write, illustrate, design and print my books. Watch this space.