1 A. I started my autobiographical notes at the point I left University because I felt that was the time my life became primarily dedicated to or focussed on the spiritual path. However in the interests of completeness and because clearly our early life greatly influences us all in many ways I am going to say something about my childhood and the first part of my life up to the point I left University.
I was born in May 1949 on the Island of Malta in the Mediterranean to British parents and have one brother four years older than myself. My parents were living in Malta because my father was in the Royal Navy and was stationed at the naval base there. I was expected to be a girl and they had the name all lined up ready for that so had to rethink when I turned out to be a boy. My rebirther many years later thought this might have been relevant! However as far as I know at least on a conscious level I was not aware of having disappointed them in that respect. According to my mother I was a happy peaceful child. I have photos of that time with my parents and also my nanny but no conscious memories of that time of my life. The nearest I have got to experiencing that phase of my life was a very vivid dream I had when I was in my forty's. In the dream I was in my parents bedroom and was thinking to myself "Who is this man with my mother?" and then I realized it was my father. They were both younger than I remember them being so maybe I was in a cot or something in the same room. I mentioned this to my mother whom said that perhaps we were telepathic since she had been re-reading correspondence between her and my father of that period in her life. I have never visited Malta as an adult and have some fear of Southern Europe which may be related to past life experiences. I have always felt being North is safer than being South.
When I was still a baby we moved back to England and my first memories are living in a very nice house near Ipswich in Suffolk. Initially just myself, my mother and my brother were there because my father was abroad in the Far East with the navy. I do however remember him coming back and that when he did so he made a point of establishing his authority. His authoritative nature became a problem between us when I was older. The house was on the edge of a village with a large garden and an orchard. There was plenty of room to play both indoors and outdoors. I went to a local kindergarten and remember that one of my most blissful early memories was the teacher doing up my shoes! For some reason or another I remember that post war rationing was still operative but I see from googling it that that was the case till 1954 by which time I would have been five years old. However I do not remember there being any shortages in our household though my mother did tell me later in her life that keeping it all together with two young boys was not easy and that funds were not as abundant as she would have liked. This may have influenced me in later life as I have always been somewhat frugal in my tastes. She also told me that because she was short of money she cancelled the places my brother and I had to go to private schools as she could n't see how it would be possible to pay the fees. When my father came back from his travels he immediately re-instated us on the school lists because he was clear his sons had to go to private schools which turned out to be the case. He had been to such a school himself.
I am third from the right and my brother third from the left. My parents are second and third from the left.
I think there must have been a naval base near Ipswich and that is why we were living in that part of the country but my father was next stationed at Portsmouth so we had to move there and eventually settled at Hayling Island. We lived in several houses between Ipswich and Hayling Island but as I remember it they were all very nice and life flowed along fairly easily. The only thing I really struggled with was the authoritative and disciplined approach of my father which I found rather restricting. It was not the whole story as he could also be affectionate and encouraging. Astrologically speaking I have Moon in Cancer and such a placement can sometimes make one excessively sensitive to criticism. Also Uranus is conjunct my Moon so I don't respond well to being told what to do as that configuration is a lot to do with freedom. My life changed when I was about nine and was sent to Boarding School. I think that was a bit of a shock to the system on all levels but after a while I settled in. In my childhood and youth I was very good at and enjoyed sport and there was a lot of opportunity to explore that. At that stage in my life I was not academic but I was good at arithmetic, algebra and geometry which I think is covered by the general term mathematics. My parents would come and take me out on the occasional Sunday and we usually went to golf courses to play golf and have nice food. I have a clear memory of a tea house and eating a delicious high tea complete with scones and cake! It made a nice change from school food.
Although I was by and large fit and strong and sporty I also had health issues, notably a rumbling appendix and the usual childhood illnesses. I also was prone to very bad hay fever. When adolescence began I also had very bad skin. Later in my life I was to learn that such problems could be greatly ameliorated by diet. However as a child and adolescent I had no understanding of fasting and cleansing and so on and nor did the doctors. On the plus side there was n't much if any "fast food" when I was growing up but there was coca-cola and soft drinks. Also the agro-chemical approach to farming was beginning to become widespread and artificial fertilizers and insecticides may well have been prevalent in the food we all ate. I mention these considerations because later in my life I was to become a firm exponent of natural eating and natural living in general. I received my fair share of vaccines, anti-biotics, medicines of all kinds, ultra violet ray treatment for my skin and goodness knows what else! I was to later learn that all of these could undermine my health though the doctors were almost certainly well intentioned and motivated by a desire to help. Since I am on the subject of health I should mention the psychological side of things.
According to the rebirthers everyone can benefit from ten sessions but boys who have been through the British Boarding School System need rather more help! Their view is that such schools sever the connection with the family and introduce unhealthy conditioning in all sorts of ways all of which may well be true. I certainly felt when I was older that I needed to break free of all of that and to a certain extent undertake an emotional or psychological detox. One point to consider is that parents who send their children to such schools generally speaking share the same values as the schools and have often been to such schools themselves. In other words even if a boy or in this case myself had n't gone to such a school I may well have had similar conditioning at home. However perhaps the biggest consideration is the severing of the link with one's mother though it is probably true to say that the age at which this occurs is critical. I think in my case aged about nine it led to a degree of detachment that had n't been there previously and that once the connection had been broken it could never really be repaired. It was not by any means all bad news in other respects. The facilities at the preparatory school where I was from aged nine to thirteen were very good and in many respects we enjoyed a privileged life. Most of the teachers were very friendly and supportive. We were all subjected to corporeal punishment to a lesser or greater degree but it was quite mild compared to what awaited me at Public School when I reached thirteen. The preparatory school was affiliated with the Public School so the transition from one to the other was fairly straightforward.
So aged about thirteen I found myself in a large Public School with several hundred other boys. The school was divided into houses and I was once again at the bottom of the pecking order! In those days that meant being allocated to a senior boy who was a prefect and being required to do chores for them. Also we were required to run if any of them called "Boy" and I think the last one to arrive was given the work in question. As I mentioned there was quite a lot of emphasis on corporeal punishment and I received my fair share or more than my fair share of that. By modern standards I think it would be regarded as abuse and one downside of the process was that it tended to be self perpetuating in the sense that those who were treated in that way went on to treat others similarly. I remember as a young child feeling great resentment about this and thinking in terms of revenge and retaliation. The person who was expected to administer the punishment or caning was the head of the house, or the head of school or the headmaster depending on the severity of the misdemeanour. When I was eighteen I became the head of house and was expected to behave accordingly but I am glad to say I declined to administer corporeal punishment. My stance was not appreciated by the house master who was also the headmaster but he accepted my position. Incidentally he was a well known academic and thought to be somewhat severe but I seemed to bring out the softer side of him and he would recommend books to me and we would have discussions and so on. Some years later I seemed to need to tell people about the canings I received and they were astonished by what I and others were subjected to. I think in my case one way and another I was able to release and heal most if not all of the harm done but I am sure many others did not find a way to do so and were damaged for life as a result. As I understand it in the intervening fifty years such practices have ceased and might be or are illegal. Being at such a school also had its good side. We had very good facilities in all areas of life such as sport, music, art and so on and the best education available at the time and relative to the population at large had a privileged life. One of the ways my upbringing affected me was in my attitude to children. I decided that I would do my best to always treat them with respect and as equals. Many of my contemporaries and friends felt the same way and have explored alternative forms of education for their children.
1 B. I do not remember asking deep questions or exploring philosophical ideas till I was a teenager. At that time in my life I started to read a lot of novels and also became interested in Comparative Religion, Philosophy, Psychology, Ufology, Art and Music. I became somewhat intellectual. One of my memories is that we used to sleep in a dormitory when I was about fourteen and one of my friends would get up in the night and stare out of the window at the sky. He told me that doing so reminded him of India where he had spent his early childhood. I also began to stare out of a window but in my case it was from the library which was quite large and well stocked with books. For one reason or another I was looking for Flying Saucers and would enter into a meditative state in the process. I am not sure what set in motion these new explorations but they were an indication of how things would unfold in my adult life. I also became quite religious at that time which coincided with me taking "confirmation" which I think was more or less the case with every boy of my age at the school. When I was about sixteen I remember reading The Dead Sea Scrolls in a cemetery near the school. I did not know that some yogis go to such places to meditate but somehow it seemed an appropriate place to read a book of that nature! A deep enquiry was arising in my consciousness as to the nature of reality and I was sure that all the adults in my life did not have the answer! It was clear to me that the micro society I was part of and the macro society at large was some kind of illusion and with that came the feeling that a much deeper and more meaningful reality was waiting to be discovered. I sought answers in the subjects mentioned above and it was not long till I found what I was looking for. The inner world was calling me and I was keen to hear it's message. In terms of art I would sometimes go up to London to visit galleries and I would also spend time in the school art department which was a large building in the school grounds. I also learnt to play the guitar so my leisure activities were moving away from sports though that continued at quite a high level as I had natural abilities in that respect. Also it was compulsory to play sport every day for an hour or so. As I got older my interests shifted more and more towards art and philosophy. Later in my life I would find a synthesis of the two in the mandala. I did read about the mandala as a teenager because one of the subjects I studied was the work of Carl Jung in the context of Religious Studies which was a class we all had to attend. I must have been seventeen by then and we could choose our topic and I chose Carl Jung. In the book I was reading about his life and work it mentioned that he worked with mandalas for himself and also with his patients. I was later to go on and make a serious study of his work some years later at University. However as I remember it mandalas were not appearing in my art work at that time and I was more interested in modern art and sculpture.
The way things were set up in those days was that one took "O" Levels and then had to specialize. This was a difficult choice to make but I chose science and studied Biology, Physics and Chemistry "A" levels and at one point was planning to go to medical school. However somewhere along the line I felt more and more drawn to the arts and psychology. I read several books about psychology including those of Jung, Freud, Adler, Fromm, Maslow and others. I also read books by Arthur Koestler and other philosophers. I am not sure if I was reading any mystical literature at that time apart from the Bible and related texts. I must have read a certain amount in that field as part of studying Comparative Religions which was part of Religious Studies. Because I was taking science "A" levels that was the main focus of my studies. This was the era of the Swinging Sixties and we all felt the impact of pop music and culture through the media. We were allowed to have record players at school so there was often music being played during time off by all the famous musicians of the time. I remember on one occasion there was a solo percussion performance at the Music school that I went to featuring a school friend and contemporary. Within a couple of years he was the drummer in one of the biggest bands in the world... For myself I played the guitar and later wrote songs but never to a high standard but it provided an outlet for my creativity and emotions. I also began to be interested in writing poetry and prose.
As well as outings when my parents came to take me out for the day and other outings with friends or friends and their parents there were also holidays when I returned to Hayling Island where my parents lived. In the Summer we went on family holidays to Cornwall for a couple of weeks and on several occasions I went cruising on the Norfolk Broads with family friends for a week or so at a time. Hayling was a very nice location for holidays in terms of being by the sea and there being friends of my age around of both sexes. There were quite a few parties where we would all listen to pop music, dance and explore friendships and romantic possibilities. Until I was about sixteen I played a lot of golf to a high standard for my age but as I grew older I began to lose interest in the game. Rather I was dreaming of other possibilities and when I was seventeen travelled with a friend to Portugal, Spain and France in the summer holidays. I had travelled round Scotland and England the previous year with a couple of friends from school so this was n't my first adventure independent of my parents. I had also been on a school skiing trip to Austria when I was about thirteen. This later journey to the continent was quite an adventure and although my parents were concerned they did not attempt to stop me going. I travelled with a childhood friend called Frank who was a couple of years older than me and studying architecture at Oxford or Cambridge. We took a boat from Southampton to Vigo in Portugal and then explored Portugal a bit and then proceeded to Spain. Amongst other places we visited the Cathedral at Santiago which in recent years has become widely written about in the context of El Camino de Santiago. What I especially remember about it was a very large Standing Stone at the entrance where pilgrims knelt. I do n't think it was described as a Standing Stone but that was what it looked like to me! I was later to learn that many Churches and Cathedrals were built on ancient Sacred Sites. We visited several other Churches and Cathedrals and I was struck and impressed by their beauty and also on one occasion by a group of Nuns chanting. Sometimes we stayed in Youth Hostels and met other young people traveling around Europe. Other memorable places we visited in Spain were a huge Cathedral carved into a mountain, the town of Toledo and The Prado Art Museum. I spent several days in The Prado by myself exploring all the wonderful paintings. Our journey also took in Paris and The Louvre Art Museum where I looked at yet more amazing and inspiring art work. It was there that I first remember seeing light shining out of a painting and feeling an inner resonance. Eventually we returned to England and before long I had to go to Wembley Stadium to train with the school rugby team ready for the next term which was quite a change in consciousness!
As the time when I would be leaving school approached I had to think about what I was going to do next. If my interest in the sciences had continued it would have been relatively straightforward but I wanted to switch to the arts after "A" levels. Meanwhile I had another year at school. I was now one of the senior boys but things had changed and so we were not allocated one of the new boys to do chores for us so things were moving in the right direction! Also there was the growing recognition that the complete absence of girls was not equipping us well for life in the world so get togethers and dances were arranged for the senior boys and their counterparts in local girls schools. I am not sure these really helped much but were an indication that the school was beginning to move with the times. As mentioned earlier in my last term I became head of house which brought with it certain responsibilities but I did not take them that seriously as I was by then well aware that the status quo needed changing rather than perpetuating. At the age of eighteen I left the school with enough "A" levels to proceed further with my education but as mentioned I wanted to switch subjects so there were some challenges ahead.
1 C. I left school when I was eighteen and started a degree course at Portsmouth a few months later. It was n't the degree of my choice but as far as I knew there was n't a course anywhere that covered my interests and if there was I did n't have the necessary "A" levels. So I started on a course which I think was English, History and Economics. I do n't think I lasted more than one term and dropped out of the course and decided to take on various temporary jobs to give me some further time and space to work out what to do and how to do it. I think this process took me till I was twenty when I started a psychology degree course at Birmingham University. Meanwhile I worked in a variety of situations including hotels, holiday camps, building sites and The City of London. To a certain extent this gave me some time and space to consider my options and also to explore and study my interests. It was during this period that I experienced what I later called "The Circle Dropping into Consciousness " which I have covered elsewhere in this narrative. In terms of my spiritual journey like many of my age I was following with interest the lives of The Beatles and other celebrities who were spending time with The Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. When in London I went to talks on Transcendental Meditation and was initiated into the practice which had a powerful and profound effect almost immediately. I had already experienced a certain amount of spontaneous meditation but this was the first time in my life I set aside a time and place to practise meditation. In this period of my life I went on two meditation retreats in the context of TM including one where The Maharishi was present in person. Stated simply TM is based on mantras and on initiation one is given a mantra to repeat and taught how to use it. The idea was that repetition of the mantra would lead the practitioner to a deeper state of consciousness and eventually to what was referred to as Transcendence which would be equivalent to samadhi in yogic terminology. There were also a variety of other experiences associated with the practice. I did indeed experience transcendence and also some intense experiences to do with chakras opening, celestial music, the sense of levitation and so on and I was told all these experiences were part of the process... I persisted with the practice for some years but later on was inspired by other teachers and paths. The Maharishi himself was a very unusual person to be around and may well have been enlightened. I remember on one of the retreats there was a woman who had been with him for a while and had experienced an extended period of realization or enlightenment and asked him when the experience would return. He replied with a question which was "What is time?!" I was present when he was asked about Vietnam which was big news at the time and very controversial. He seemed to be saying something along the lines that every generation has such challenges to deal with and has to deal with them. I later felt somewhat disillusioned when I learnt that the US military were being taught TM and as I understood it with his blessing. Later in his life he may have changed his tune because apparently he effectively temporarily excommunicated the UK TM movement when the UK became involved with the Iraq war. Incidentally twenty or so years later I became very close friends with someone whose aunt and cousin were personal associates and disciples of the Maharishi. At that time I also read a lot of books about spiritual subjects, visited The Theosophy Centre in London and other centres and generally tried to learn more about the spiritual path and meditative journey.
I was n't sure how or if any of these explorations fitted into life in the modern world and my life in particular but I was working on it! There seemed a certain incongruity between the high ideals and aspirations associated with the spiritual path and the human predicament. I was looking for a way to integrate the two and had the feeling that there was a way of life that I had yet to discover which would enable explorations of consciousness and some kind of meaningful or related activity in the world. I started to take an interest in alternative communities, other cultures, monasteries and ways of approaching life which were not part of my upbringing or contemporary mainstream society. I became aware that there were a lot of people of my generation feeling the same and looking for a new way of functioning in the world and who felt that to explore and experience more expansive states of consciousness it was necessary to step outside the old paradigm...
In spite of this I decided to have another attempt at continuing my education and started a degree course in Psychology at Birmingham University. This time I lasted two years and found the experience to be interesting and helpful in a variety of ways though to have graduated I would have had to complete a third year. However by the end of the second year it was clear that I needed to take the plunge and explore alternatives. I had already begun to do so in the first year. I was about twenty by then and met many fellow students with similar interests. In the context of psychology I took part in some group events which were not part of the course but which were related and these were called encounter groups. I think the general idea was to use a variety of practices to contact a deeper place within oneself and also share it with the other participants with the view to deepening communication. I also attended a lot of meetings about all kinds of subjects, went to concerts and generally enjoyed the student life. There were a number of other students practising TM and I took part in some group meditations and meetings. In the Summer holidays between year one and two I went to stay on an island called Dornish Island off the West Coast of Ireland which was owned by John and Yoko. They were allowing it to be used by a group of people called "The Diggers" who were more or less hippies though several of us who were there were still students of one sort or another. It is a remote and very beautiful island near the town of Westport which is very close to St Patrick's Mountain. After a week or so on the island I felt a need to retreat and decided to camp on the mainland near the slopes of St Patrick's Mountain. Incidentally when on the island I woke up one morning and wondered what the time was. Immediately I saw a clock face in the centre of my forehead with the time. I checked it on my watch and it was correct. It occurred to me that that is how some people instantly know whatever it is they want to know and that the information is there if we can access it through the third eye! When camping near the mountain I climbed it on two occasions. The first time I set off by myself and met one or two fellow climbers and pilgrims on the way. On the second occasion I climbed it on St Patrick's Day with many thousands of pilgrims some of whom were going barefoot or on all fours as a form of penance. It is the only time I have ever seen anything like that in the Western World. In those days I had long hair and a big white blanket. People jokingly said that St Patrick has returned! Apart from visiting the island community myself and the two friends I was traveling with explored the country of Ireland. On one occasion we visited a modern and very beautiful Cathedral. It was cruciform in it's layout and I think the altar was at the middle of the cross. All the windows had very striking mandalas in them... I was not yet drawing and painting mandalas but I was beginning to feel some resonance with them. I am not sure of the exact timing but I think that I may also have visited Samye Ling Tibetan Centre in Scotland that Summer. I was to visit there several times in subsequent years. On that first visit I remember reading a book about Ramana Maharishi and how the book transported me into a meditative state. I already had a book of His that I had found at The Theosophical Bookshop in London some years before. It was a very small book. The final page said: "Bondage and Liberation are mere linguistic concepts. They have no reality apart form The Self. Only The Self is." I once read that the words of The Enlightened Ones are like mantras in the sense that they convey a powerful and transformative energy. Certainly I found that quote to be one which has resonated in my psyche over many years. So after an eventful Summer break which included several other adventures I began my second year at University.
Although I continued to attend lectures and so on extracurricular activities were calling me! Some of this was social which included some romance, psychedelics, music, and increasingly art. I remember on one occasion I came out of a lecture with a sheet covered in drawings and a friend said that perhaps I should switch courses to something more artistic and there were others of my friends who thought that might be worth considering. However I was not ready at that time to seriously consider becoming an artist. In fact I never made a decision as such to be an artist but somehow found myself gravitating more and more in that direction until to my surprise and delight people started buying my work some years later... Meanwhile however I was still going to lectures and most days coming out with appropriate written notes but was increasingly wondering why I was doing so apart from not knowing quite what else to do. One of the areas of exploration that did occur at that time was diet and several of my friends adopted a macrobiotic way of eating and that group of friends then went on to open a health food shop in Bath called Harvest. The diet seemed to work better for some than others because I remember one of the founder members of Harvest developed a nutritional deficiency and was hospitalized but recovered when the missing nutrients were reintroduced. I remember I also went to see an osteopath and I think she was the one who first recommended a wholefood diet to me. Since that time I have been vegetarian and most of the time since about 1980 vegan with the occasional blip of the dairy variety!
The psychology course I was attending had some areas of especial interest to me such as the work of Carl Jung. I read his work in some depth and also his introduction to well known Eastern books notably The I Ching and the books by Evans-Wentz about Tibetan Yoga and Practices. However I was increasingly feeling that if I was to explore consciousness on a deeper level and express that in my daily life a radical change was required. I knew that in theory at least it was meant to be possible to live a meditative life in the world but I had the feeling that the world had departed too far from the meditative life for that to be a realistic proposition! It seemed to me that it would be necessary to become part of a culture or community which was more attuned to the spiritual dimension. One week-end I stayed at a Franciscan Monastery but it was just to have a retreat. I was n't seriously considering their philosophy or lifestyle as a direction to go in but it was a nice peaceful visit. Rather I was more interested in new and contemporary explorations and the idea that The New Age of Aquarius required a different way of approaching the inner journey. A student friend had been to Findhorn and spoke highly of it. New possibilities were arising and a way forward was beginning to open up... It was 1971 and a new adventure was about to begin...