The mandalas reproduced in this book have been painted in a variety of places and circumstances. They could be considered as visual representations of both inner and outer journeys. The starting point in terms of the work represented is in the early to mid ‘70’s. In the mid ‘70’s I was living on the west coast of Scotland. This is an exceptionally beautiful part of the world, famous for it’s mountains, coast and islands. It is rich in natural beauty and sacred sites and a place which is inherently inspiring. It is an appropriate setting in which to get in touch with and express the energy of mandalas.
Although the mid ‘70’s is taken as the approximate starting point of the book it should be mentioned that prior to that point in time I was already exploring the theme of the mandala and had been deeply touched by the teachings from the East. I had already visited India and spent time with the Tibetans in the Himalayas and visited various ashrams and teachers.
This needs to be mentioned because the inspiration which motivates artists to paint mandalas is primarily meditative in nature and is based on the idea that working with and viewing such images is conducive to centering and the raising of consciousness.
Mandalas are universal symbols and are found all over the world. As an art form and as an aid to meditative practices they are particularly prevalent in Indian and Tibetan cultures. If you travel in India you will find mandalas everywhere in the sacred art of the temples and their architecture and also in art, design, crafts and creative expression in general.
It would seem that the circle and variations of the circle naturally resonate with humanity’s sense of sacredness and wholeness. I would say this is the case because the circle is a perfectly balanced shape and in a sense it is
WHOLE, COMPLETE AND PERFECT
and so naturally resonates with our Inner Being with which it shares these characteristics.
MY VISIT TO INDIA
A year or two before travelling to Ramana Maharshi’s Ashram at the foot of Arunachala Mountain in India I lived in the mountains of Central Wales. At that time I often found myself leaving the body at night. On one occasion I consciously entered the astral body and went to Ramana Arunachala. I received darshan of the young sage who was sitting in meditation. I was also aware of a much older man who seemed to be a disciple of Ramana. When in the Ashram I came across the following quote.
"Behold the marvel at the foot of the banyan tree! Aged are the disciples and young the guru! The guru's exposition is SILENCE but the disciples are freed from all doubts! (Prabuddha Bharatan).
This dream experience occurred during a period of intensified sadhana when I was reading the recorded words of Ramana in the book "Talks with Ramana Maharishi". After this dream darshan, awareness of Arunachala increased and I felt a strong desire to travel there. During subsequent recollection of the experience it has occurred to me that it is indeed true that initiation by dream can be of profound significance.
I travelled to India in 1974, with a friend, and flew to Bombay and then went South to Goa, Bangalore and Tiruvanamalai. Tiruvanamalai is the town at the foot of the holy mountain ARUNACHALA where RAMANA MAHARISHI spent his adult life and taught for about fifty years. I was drawn to Ramana Maharishi and Arunachala by a powerful energy that I had felt ever since I heard about them some years before. The attraction was both specific and generalised as I had felt drawn to India as a subcontinent and culture as well as to the specific teachings of Ramana Maharishi. I felt then and continue to feel particularly touched by these teachings because they resonate with my Inner Being.
I intuitively feel the teachings of Advaita Vedanta (Non-Dualism) to be true and have always had that feeling since I first came across them.
The generalised attraction to Indian culture could be explained in various ways, but I think it is primarily to do with the unusually large numbers of people in India who have sought and/or found truth and liberation. So, in 1974 I found myself in India as part of my own ongoing journey and search for truth.
I was already working with mandalas and it became immediately obvious that mandalas are very prevalent in India. I found for instance that every morning the villagers near Ramanasramam would draw chalk mandalas in front of their gates and that this also occurred on the floor of the nearby temple. Mandalas of a more permanent nature were present in the temple architecture, the Sri Yantra at the centre of the temple and in the form of the ashram symbol which is an OM sign radiating light. Mandalas are very much a part of the Indian spiritual tradition and as far as I know part of all spiritual traditions because as symbols they represent Unity or what is sometimes called Unicity.
Unity and Unicity are considered to be different in that Unity might be considered to exist relative to Duality whereas Unicity refers to that which transcends Unity and Duality. My own perspective is that mandalas explore all three dimensions. Unicity is the underlying reality that inspires mandalas and the interplay between Unity and Duality in all its myriad diversity is the content of mandalas. Clearly some mandalas emphasise one aspect more than others.
The presence of mandalas are very much in evidence all over India and there are many rituals and practices associated with them. Later on during my stay in India I travelled north to Dharmasala, where the Dalai Lama has his residence and government in exile, and came across many mandalas belonging to the Tibetan tradition. Although I have spent a good deal of time over the years in localities where there are specific traditions of mandala art on view, I have never been attracted to the idea of studying and practising according to a specific tradition.
Generally speaking, I am interested in images that come from within as fresh and original inspirations.
This has to be a relative statement as one of the fundamental principles of the mandala is that everything is interrelated and interdependent, so strictly speaking there is no such thing as total originality. Another fundamental principle of the mandala is that there is no separate being painting mandalas, so the ideas of inspiration and originality have to be considered in the light of these two viewpoints.
I spent about seven months in India and have always felt the presence and inspiration of the country and her culture. Although seven months is not that long, I consider that my time in India has been a major influence in my life generally and my work with mandalas in particular.
Although India may be the country most strongly associated with mandalas and Self-realization, the energy of transcendence is not limited by time and space. It is by its very nature omnipresent and so its manifestations are found in all parts of the world.
This brings us back to the West Coast of Scotland and also a consideration of developments in western culture in the last few decades. There is an old Tibetan prophesy:
“When the iron bird flies and horses run on wheels, the Tibetan people will be scattered like ants across the world and the Dharma will come to the land of the Red Man.”
(Padmasambhava, 8th Century)
The iron bird is assumed to be the aeroplane and it is noteworthy that the popularisation of this mode of transport coincided with many Tibetan Lamas travelling to the west to escape from the Chinese and to share their philosophy and related practices with the world. This development exists in the wider context of a sudden increase in interest in mystical and related subjects in the ‘60’s. It is as though synchronistically western cultures were beginning to open up to the more subtle dimensions of existence and with this opening the teachings became available.
This resulted in many individual and social explorations occurring which were and are about understanding and entering into these more expanded dimensions. So, in the context of Scotland there developed at least two large communities which are well known and have been active for the last thirty years or so. I mention all this because I wish to make the point that an artist does not work in isolation, but functions in the context of the society and general ambience in which he or she lives. Later on I will bring the Cosmic/Astrological dimension into the discussion because that also gives an interesting perspective on the situation we all find ourselves in.
The two communities I am referring to are, in many respects, different, but share a common aspiration to become aware of and in tune with the higher possibilities of human consciousness. Thus in both communities there was and is a deep interest in meditative practices and in both cases mandala art in one form or another is in evidence. One of the communities is guided and inspired by the Tibetan Tradition and the other is more connected to the Western Esoteric Tradition. So this preliminary excursion gives some idea of the background situation in the mid ‘70’s on the West Coast of Scotland which was the setting for some of the earlier mandalas in the book. I had spent some time in both communities but not on a long term basis. I mention this because I wish to make the point that the mandalas developed in the context of related processes in society at large.
The first major event where I exhibited my work was in 1977 at the first Festival of Mind, Body and Spirit in London. Apart from anything else this year was significant in astrological and astronomical terms in that during that year Chiron was discovered. Astrology takes the viewpoint that the principle of Synchronicity is at work in the Universe and that strictly speaking there is no such thing as chance. So it is considered that the year 1977 represented that point in time when the consciousness of humanity had become ready to begin to assimilate the energy that Chiron is associated with.
The orbit of Chiron is between that of Saturn and Uranus and Chiron is sometimes referred to as the Rainbow Bridge. It has many associations with the principles and ideas that the mandala explores. For instance being in between what are regarded as the personal and transpersonal planets it represents that magical state of consciousness where integration and union are possible. Chiron has strong associations with the subtle forms of healing that have developed in the last two decades and is an especially interesting area of a chart to investigate.
So in 1977 I shared a stand called Painted Shields with group of friends at the Festival of Mind Body and Spirit. The term Painted Shields was derived from the book Painted Arrows and is an American Indian term which referred to the images that the Indians painted on their shields. The festival was an interesting development in many respects and was and is an indication of society’s growing interest in the realm of holistic consciousness.
Not long after the Festival, I moved further North and spent a couple of years in the vicinity of Oban and on the Sacred Island of Iona.
Along the way I have come across some significant and powerful energy centres which have facilitated inspiration and meditation. Iona, I always remember as a place which has a magical quality suggestive of a higher reality. There is a very unusual and uplifting energy about the island and scenically it is exceptionally beautiful. When spending a winter on the island in the late 70’s I wrote:
OPEN SEA AND SKY.
THE LAND THAT IS NOWHERE,
IS THE TRUE HOME.
A PLACE OF ILLUMINATION,
Being on Iona for most of two winters gave me the opportunity to explore the island and what it has to offer and also to meet other Kindred Spirits and fellow pilgrims. I painted many mandalas including PURE LIGHT and SUNSTAR both of which are currently circulating as cards and prints. When working with mandalas it is important to tune into and have the support of inspirational energy. Powerful energy centres such as Iona are naturally very supportive of the aspiration to tune into and express “Unicity”. Iona is an ancient sacred site strongly associated with Celtic Christianity and St. Columba. Apart from experiencing the presence of St. Columba I also felt a strong awareness of St. Francis.
As well as staying on Iona I spent some time near the coast, north of Oban. At that time I was pursuing a somewhat ascetic lifestyle and living in woods away from society. This impulse to distance myself from society and live apart has been a strong and continuous influence in my life. I do have the feeling, to a certain extent, that communication can be worthwhile and creative, but there is an equally strong feeling that solitude and the expanse of nature is inherently healing and uplifting. I mention that in the context of Iona and my stay in Scotland as the impulse towards “space” was very strong for me at that point in time and Scotland is a country of much open space.
A year or two later in about May 1979 I went to visit a friend in Wales whom I had met in India. Wales is a country I have a long term association with since my mother was born and brought up there and I have been living in and visiting Wales on and off for many years. Although West Wales, where I arrived in the late ‘70’s is a remote part of the U.K., it represented for me, relative to my stay in Scotland, a return to a more social and communal life. That is because I have always found in Wales an extensive network of people who are interested in exploring alternative, creative and consciousness expanding lifestyles. I continued to work with mandalas and in the late ‘70’s and early ‘80’s the interplay between yin and yang in terms of human relationships was a recurring theme. Rainbow Lotus emerged in the context of a relationship and as you can see from the sketch which preceded the painting it included two people.
Although mandalas are generally speaking balanced and harmonious images they represent only a part of my personal journey. There has been a fair bit of confusion and suffering of one sort or another on the way! This is often very much part of the search for a deeper reality. As most of you know the mind can respond to difficulties in many ways and my current understanding is that all responses have a certain inevitability about them and are part of the overall plan inherent in the universe. My response to this situation in the early ‘80’s was to go to Glastonbury! So I spent a good deal of 1983 living near Glastonbury, the ancient and sacred town of Arthurian legends. I went to Glastonbury for various reasons but speaking in general terms in order to be part of a community involved in healing, group consciousness and the visionary dimension. I exhibited that year with a group of artists in Glastonbury and for many years afterwards Glastonbury became a main outlet for my work. It was also about then that I started distributing my work on a larger scale in the context of Mandala Prints.
In 1984 I moved with some friends to a large house in the village of Wick, near Langport which is not far away from Glastonbury. As many readers will know Glastonbury is a Sacred Site and major pilgrimage centre attracting pilgrims from all over the world. I was deeply touched by being in the proximity of Glastonbury and Wick is considered to be part of The Glastonbury Zodiac. In recent years through the 1990’s and 2000’s I have been mainly living in Pembrokeshire near The Preseli Hills and often visit the hills and local sacred sites or walk the coastal path. Over the years I have occasionally given mandala workshops in the UK and Europe. A pictorial record of many of these workshops can be found on my web site along with my recent work.
Since about 1997 like most artists and designers I have been influenced by developments with computers and have done a certain amount of design in that context. This has enabled me to print my designs and also photographs in whatever size and quantity they are required. My main avenue of creative expression has continued to be painting mandalas but I have also developed my interest in photography and built up a collection of photographic prints and cards largely of a scenic nature.
In terms of personal development and inner and outer journeys in the 1990’s and 2000’s, I have done a fair bit of travelling sometimes in the context of giving workshops and sometimes to visit family and friends. In the mid 1990’s I gave workshops in Spain (1994) and Switzerland (1994/5) and in 2000’s (2001/4/5/6) in Latvia and Lithuania (2006). I have visited friends in The Far East and Australia and have often been to Holland to visit my daughter. Within the UK I have visited England many times mainly in the South and East. Most of the time I have lived quietly by myself in Pembrokeshire, West Wales and feel greatly blessed to live in such a beautiful and peaceful part of the world with Kindred Spirits round and about. On various occasions I have found myself in the presence of “satsang” in a variety of formats. The process of transformation continues to unfold on a daily basis.
The All Pervading Oneness which is the source and inspiration of All That Is continues to be the Guiding Light in my life and has helped me through the ups and downs that seem to invariably accompany the human journey. I realized at a young age that the path or my path at least is about letting go and surrendering to an ever deepening sense of Oneness and Flow. This is ongoing.
The next section presents my work as it has developed since the early or mid 1970’s.