“We do not, as children, first enter into language by consciously studying the formalities of syntax and grammar or by memorizing the dictionary definition of words, but rather by actively making sounds – by crying in pain and laughing in joy, by squealing and babbling and playfully mimicking the surrounding soundscape, gradually entering through such mimicry into specific melodies of the local language, our resonant bodies slowly coming to echo the inflections and accents common to our locale and community.

“We thus learn out native language not mentally but bodily. We appropriate new words and phrases first through their expressive tonality and texture, through the way they feel in the mouth or roll of the tongue, and it is this direct, felt significance – the taste of a word or phrase, the way it influences or modulates the body – that provides the fertile, polyvalent source for all the more refined and rarefied meanings which that term may come to have for us.” David Abram, The Spell of the Sensuous

Learning and creating languages is an interesting intellectual pursuit, but I think there’s more depth to it than that, something I’ve discovered in my exposure to other languages. The idea being that language goes back to our primal roots, through cries, grunts, murmurs, screams. The calls of animals we hear in the wild places are the primal matrix from which languages evolved, like the first light sensitive cell on a microorganism that eventually became an eye.

Our first experience of language acquisition is instinctive, not intellectual; it is something experienced by the body, and from there our learning of language is built up. Looking through a dictionary we might be mistaken that language is a purely intellectual pursuit, something “raised above” our instincts, and that translation between languages is just a logical pursuit of matching meanings of the words and/or parallel grammatical approaches.

Perhaps this is the reason I never learnt French in school (despite 6 years of learning), because the formal approach in a school doesn’t resonate emotionally or instinctively with us; it doesn’t access the roots of language. It’s well known that emersion in a language is the best way to learn, and that’s certainly the case with me: I’ve learnt more French and Spanish since living with them.

Sometimes I say something in Spanish, not because I know intellectually that it is correct, but because I have a gut feeling that some words or phrases are correct. I think even if I make mistakes in another language (or my own even) it is understood because I am learning to speak from a “gut feeling” level and am understood at the same level. The flow of the words (or even their non-flow) can communicate more than the words themselves.

I think even the written word, though supposedly abstracted from our bodies, can have an effect on us. Going back to gut instinct, we can get a feeling for the words on a page, not just their dictionary meanings. So much has been done so that our experience of the body is distrusted, and I think that use of language has a lot to do with it. If we trust the sensations of the body through our languages a whole new level of communication is accessible.

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“The reaction to any word may be, in an individual, either a mob-reaction or an individual reaction.  It is up to the individual to ask himself:  Is my reaction individual, or am I merely reacting from my mob-self?  When it comes to the so-called obscene words, I should say that hardly one person in a million escapes mob-reaction.”  D.H. Lawrence

In a language there isn’t just words to communicate with, there is also a whole psychological structure specific to it. It gives us a model with which to view the world and to communicate about the world we sense, both the world within and the world without. But it also gives us our identity, since each language has its own history and also its own character. That character transmits itself into us a “national personality,” a sort of personality that deeply structures the human psyche from birth. In other words, stereotypes.

On one hand this can be useful; as we can see that languages and the qualities they carry are the accumulation of experience from history. Through language we are being transmitted the “wisdom of the ancestors”. On the other hand it can also carry the rubbish, the karma, of the past which is undeserved by future generations. Language isn’t just an encoding of ancestral wisdom, it has also acted as a waste bin to conveniently give the load of one generations responsibilities on to the next.

Time to sort the wheat from the chaff. Time to make a review of the type of language we use and how we use it. Say no to what is useless and harmful and encourage the growth of what is useful and healthy. Languages contain patterns, and we have to ask ourselves do we really want to repeat the past blindly? In a synchronicity a friend made a comment on Facebook about not letting an anger he had inherited from his ancestors carry on further. His affirmation that since it was not his it would stop with him and within him.

Like this we can all reject the “mob- reaction” within us, the stereotypes that have been transmitted to us through the generations, and so, as the Great Invocation says, “seal the door where evil dwells.”

For me it has been an important experience to move to another country and see my own country from “outside”, to see it from a different perspective and see its virtues in comparison to other cultures and also its vices . And so also see myself from an other perspective. Learning a new culture, and a new language, makes me rely less on the “safety blanket” of my native culture and seek to communicate with the world in a new way, and so I can only grow, retaining the benefits of my culture and discarding the disadvantages of it too, and adopting a broader view of the world that is not so limited.

La humanidad no sirve la nacionalidad, la nacionalidad sirve la humanidad. Hay mas que una lengua en el mundo y por eso el aprender otras lenguas, sólo es sentido común, el sentido de la humanidad (Thanks Mika for correcting this).

“It is a common delusion that you make things better by talking about them.” Rose MacAulay

A little while ago someone said to me “Psychology doesn’t work.” I felt a bit defensive about this, since I am studying psychology (with Psychosynthesis and Ecopsychology) and find it a valuable and useful tool in my work. But it soon occurred to me that they were right! Psychology doesn’t work at all. It’s just a bunch of theories and methods for knowing and working with the human mind. Just tools.

People work, not psychology. People make psychology work.

If you are not willing to look within yourself and understand yourself using psychology then of course it doesn’t work! People go to therapy or counselling hoping that some “magic wand” (or pill) will help them get better, that somehow you just turn up and They; the therapists, psychiatrists and counsellors will do something. They don’t. They can only share their understanding and help facillitate your inner work. Maybe they can help start the process of inner healing with their knowledge and understanding but it’s not them that will have to follow through and accomplish the work (though sometimes these psychological facillitators may not always be competent, as I’ve found out, further undermining the value of psychology). Will power is a very important part of the process; the willingness to look at yourself and do the necessary work.

It’s a common delusion that someone else can work on your own psychological processes. That’s the delusion. There’s no one else in that mind except you and yourself. You will have to face Yourself someday, in the end. Know thyself (and what a journey that’s been, and will continue to be!).

To reflect on the quote above; of course talking doesn’t make “things” better. It’s not “things” that understand words but people. People understand words, they understand their significance, and words can help affect changes within. To give one example they can work like a release valve, releasing some of the pressure within (“A problem shared is a problem halved,” as they say).

And sometimes you don’t even need another person to hear them, sometimes it’s just worthwhile to put your inner thoughts and feelings into words that can help clarify and reflect on what’s going on (for years I’ve found this release mostly through poetry. In fact any art will do). But communication of inner thoughts and feelings also stops people from becoming isolated within themselves, proper communication, not just talking for the sake of talking. Talking for the sake of creating understanding.

Psychology doesn’t work, people do.

“Most religious stories and mythologies have some sort of similar root, some sort of global archetypes.” Maynard James Keenan

 “Americans want to believe that the average Brit wears a bowler and a school tie and maintains a stiff upper lip and has a certain dry sense of humour; they do not want to be told that a good percentage of the British population are vulgar dimwits who care about nothing but shopping, alcohol, football and Posh Spice’s navel.” Joe Queenan

In Jungian psychology there is the well-known concept of the Collective Unconscious; a “reservoir” of ancestral experience inherited through genes or very ancient memes. In science it’s known that babies’ brains are “hardwired” to recognise faces shapes and voices. There has also been research that suggests they can recognise spider shapes at an early age, presumably because the quicker you can recognise a danger, like a poisonous spider, the better your chances of survival. These examples show that experience of the world is, to some extent, built into our genes from ancestral experience and show a very basic idea of Archetypes; models of human perception, roles and functions that are often represented by symbols and personalities.

But not only can the Collective Unconscious be ancestral experience but unconscious material that we exchange every day, things in society that we don’t question and take for granted as “reality.” This too contains “models of human perception, roles and functions that are often represented by symbols and personalities” that are called stereotypes.

There is a subtle but important difference between the two; Archetypes, for the most part, come from within and are natural to the human psyche and its development and are the fulfilment of certain human experiences. Stereotypes are things to conform to, that are imposed on the human psyche from the outside by cultural standards. With Archetypes the human psyche is simply going through different processes of human development that most humans go through despite culture. With stereotypes the human psyche is being programmed by cultural forces and made to fit into a preset image.

But it’s difficult to tell the difference between the two when you get to look at stereotypes and Archetypes. Some stereotypes have archetypal aspects to them, the interpretation of some Archetypes can be twisted so that they are conformed to and some Archetypes might be very ancient stereotypes that are so consistent with human existence they become universal in quality.

I think that’s the good thing about Archetypes, their universal qualities allow us to see another culture and understand the basic human experience that is going on underneath the bowler hat, feather headdress, baseball cap, horned helmet or sombrero. It’s only the mind that is so immersed in its cultural or societal stereotypes that cannot understand another human being from another culture because the other doesn’t fit into their idea of human “reality.” In this day and age where humanity is reaching a global phase of its development, it’s important to relinquish stereotypes and embrace an archetypal understanding of others, to form a common basis of understanding and communication. We can still be members of our own culture, but instead of conforming to it we can creatively play with it to complement the basic experience that is the human being.

“’Yes I am,’ agreed Arthur. Of course he was a Druid. It was perfectly clear. But he wasn’t just talking Druidry. It wasn’t an academic exercise for him. He was living it, every day of his life. This was a new kind of Druidry. Warrior Druidry. Druidry with energy and verve. Druidry with a mission, not to pontificate about the meaning of Stonehenge, but to fight for it. So he set about turning the Warband into a Druid Order.” Arthur Pendragon and Christopher James Stone, The Trial of Arthur: The Life and Times of a Modern-Day King

 

“We have to bring about a psychological transformation in our relationship with the society in which we live. Therefore, there is no escape from it into the Himalayas, into becoming a monk or a nun, and taking up social service, and all the rest of such juvenile business. We have to live in this world, we have to bring about a radical transformation in our relationship with each other; not in some distant future, but now.” Krishnamurti

 

“The transformation of the world is brought about by the transformation of oneself.” Krishnamurti

 

“If you want to make peace, you don’t talk to your friends. You talk to your enemies.” Moshe Dayan

 

Here is a little something I wrote a while back. I was considering how the whole spiritual, educational and political system of the ancient Druids could have been created from a fragmented nation of warrior tribes. I imagined a council of individuals from different tribes with spiritual, education and political roles working together to direct the conflictive energies of their tribes. For me, this image is THE most relevant image for modern Druidry’s mission in the world today.

 

Long ago, there were many different people, many different tribes, all spreading across the Land. They’d come from one source, but then they separated and their ways diverged from each other. They prospered and developed many tools and skills to live and survive. But as the tribes grew and grew in number, they stopped spreading across the Land for there was nowhere else to go, but instead became crowded in it. The warrior lodges grew more volatile, desperately fighting against each other, trying to gain power for their own tribes.

But the Land suffered and as the Land suffered the tribes suffered, making the warrior lodges fight even more intensely. The blood ran and formed pools, and heads and other trophies were piled high. The life of the Land’s fabric began to fray and unravel, and the tribes’ lives deteriorated in turn.

The Land cried out… Enough!

But the tribes could not hear, so immersed in their own suffering and violence they were.

ENOUGH!

Yet some did hear, women and men, those who knew the Land as soul mate, those whose bodies and souls were intimately in tune with the life of the Land. These Wise Souls knew what was happening, they listened to the Land, very carefully, to what it had to tell them, and they were led by its wisdom together. They gathered in a secret meeting, deep in a cavernous womb of the Land, and here, with their voices weaving across one another, their thoughts and ideas brewing together into one idea; to keep the Land in balance, the tribes must be in balance with it, and for the tribes to be in balance with it they must be in balance with each other. A vision formed of one diverse tribe as part of that Land, but which required much work to forge, much collaboration to manifest that vision.

They vowed to work together, for the Greater Good of Land and tribes, to pool together their knowledge and wisdom from which all of the tribes could draw upon as a common resource so that the tribes could grow in understanding of each other and relate to each other without resorting to war. Their energies could be channeled together for a common goal of peaceful creativity. And so the Druids were born, learned and spiritual people, networking among the tribes, giving council under the guidance of their vision for the Greater Good, coordinating and collaborating through the magnificent diversity of their tribes and speaking across their boundaries in a spirit of understanding.

There is One Earth and it is crying ENOUGH! It is asking for collaboration, it is asking for humanity to channel it diverse ways together into a common vision of a truly global humanity, at one with the Earth, not ripping apart the fabric of its existence.

And it asks for a new Druidry to guide this task, or at least women and men in tune with the Land, with the Earth, with Gaia, working together to pool their diverse wisdom and knowledge into a common vision, to speak across the boundaries of humanity and affirm that we can work together, becoming a contributing aspect of the Land’s creativity and evolution, to carry on the work of weaving its fabric, to become Artists, Teachers, Workers and Guides for the Land and its tribes.

“Although many a Druid, both man and woman, wielded the sword of justice when needed, the role of the Druid transcends petty tribal rivalries and jealousies. The Druid-as-mediator walks between the worlds and the tribes, between the battle lines, between the living and the dying, between our world and the ‘others’.” Tom Cowan, Of Ancient Shapes and Memories (preface to the book The Rebirth of Druidry)

So, once again, I find myself inspired by a message board. This is an edited version of what I originally wrote for one message board. This grew out of another thread I was involved with which I’ll will publish a part of in the near future.

For me the Druids were an intertribal and transcultural network working spiritually and politically for their tribes. Their “wisdom tradition” wasn’t situated within any single cultural context, except a Celtic one. But even this wasn’t exactly one thing, as Druids have apparently been in Gaul, Britain and Ireland, and possibly further afield. And in these lands there were Goidelics and Brythonics and maybe others that I don’t know. And across this geographical range, around the time when Druids were supposed to exist, there were several different pantheons.

When I imagine what may have happened, I think that perhaps the priests and shamans of different conflicting tribes got together to forge a common understanding, a common wisdom, that transcended tribal loyalties and cultural context so that the tribes could better coordinate and collaborate and yet still keep some form of autonomy, focusing their energies in different ways than by all out war. Perhaps they had limited resources or environmental troubles, like today, and saw that collaboration was a better way of getting out of the situation than violent competition. Together these “proto-Druids” maybe have pooled together their wisdom, using their position within their tribes to influence their chieftains and kings for the benefit of all tribes. In time, Druid schools may have developed and more complex political systems arose. And over time this spiritual-political institution may have spread to other tribes and other Celtic cultures.

 In time though, the Roman Empire and later Christian conversion saw the disappearance of Druids, at least as an intertribal institution. What if they had not disappeared? What if Romans and Christian had never took over and left the Druids to their own devices? They may have spread further, perhaps seeding themselves and integrating the Germanic, and even Norse, tribes. Perhaps they may have gone south through Gaul and over the Pyrenees becoming part of the Iberian-Celts culture. Perhaps parts of Europe may have become a confederation of Druid guided tribes and nations. With this in mind, I do not envisage the Druid Way being of a specific culture. The Druids belonged to different Celtic peoples but their Wisdom transcended these peoples to somehow unite them. Today, this is what we need. For me a Druid’s mission is to work with others, across the borders of their native culture and provide a network of wisdom and transnational vision for the fragmented nations of the world, following a global vision through local action.

I am a Pagan Druid. My ethnic history goes deeper than the Christian-centric history of Europe. I am British and within that I have Germanic, Norse and Celtic roots, each has influenced what my culture is today. Each has its own wisdom that can be revived to show us what has been missing under the deep layers of Christian history and what other ways there are of viewing the world, through magic, through myth and through the sacredness of nature itself.

I am a Christian Druid. The culture I was born into and the childhood I enjoyed was very much Christian. It provided me with a deep optimism of the universe and of humanity. The humanist element within its ethics being part of my own conscience, and the conscience of my culture through its Law. But also we are all united “in Christ” or “in Humanity.” No matter what “type” I might be; male, British, white or European, and no matter what “type” you might be; [insert types here], we are still human and our history is a common one, which is now reconnecting across the globe.

I am a Gaian Druid. The Earth is a living system and I exist in and evolve as part of this system. Humanity has existed and evolved within this system and the future depends on our relationship with this living Earth. As we evolve, Gaia evolves and as Gaia evolves, we evolve; our qualities become qualities of Gaia. We are the mind of Gaia reflecting upon itself. This global and Gaian vision guides what we are and what we are to become in our local lives.

My Druidry is a synthesis. Christian-Humanist ethics, embedded within a Gaian Worldview and complemented by my ethnic background, this is my Druidry.

All of that, plus my membership and training in the Order of Bards Ovates and Druids lol.

 

 

Mel Smith and Griff Rhys Jones
Mel Smith and Griff Rhys Jones

“There are few experiences quite so cruel as, when after having made a well-argued, even elegant and moving case to someone, you lean back expecting the warm sparkle of shared insight and understanding, only to encounter the flat opaqueness of complete and utter incomprehension.” John Livingstone

“Education is not filling a pail but the lighting of a fire.” William Butler Yeats

THAT (the quote by John Livingstone), I feel, is the result of centuries of religion where the only people being religious were the priests. They stand at their pulpits proclaiming the word of God, whilst the believers that they serve sit in their pews passively listening hoping some of the religiousness of the priest will wear off on them (Pew Potatos, like the Couch Potato but religious). But that’s not my way, I don’t want to be a passive listener, I want something more intelligent than that. Nor do I want to be the active proclaimer talking to a passive audience but I can’t help thinking that maybe I am. I mean, here I am writing things, hoping that my words will be more than just passive two-dimensional monologues but there’s no way of telling because, although I can see how many people have visited this blog, I don’t know who’s reading it and what they’re (you’re) thinking and feeling, what sort of dynamic responses is going on in the brains of the readers.

It’s only in active dialogues that words come alive, they take on the quality of vitality, not just something that’s known but something that’s experienced and developed into something that can be applied to life. Words can change things, that’s why talking, writing, conversing are arts, they can reach into minds and connect synapses that weren’t connected before, opening doors of realisation and comprehension. Or, if misused, words can create the opposite; ignorance and denial. Which is why we need to be wise enough to be careful with words; with who we speak to, what words we speak to them and how we speak to them.

Still, I don’t need comprehension here. I’m sure lots of people understand my words, and it’s easy to agree to words, but the real challenge is when someone disagrees or doubts (or doesn’t understand but wants to understand). For me that would be the real work with my words, to grapple with them (the grit in the oyster to create the pearl), give them dynamism by introducing them to other minds where they are expanded into dimensions beyond the original two they were written in. When that happens words then become an organic experience, growing, rooting, branching, like I said before, coming alive. Evolution happens! Synergy happens!

Synergy is a word I was introduced to a little while ago (last year I think), and it’s really opened my eyes to the sort of relationships we can have with people. A synergistic relationship doesn’t have an active part and a passive part, an energy giving and an energy taking part, no way! All “components” (or individuals) in a relationship of synergy are active parts (energy giving), and this positive contribution by all involved builds up momentum by itself, as long as there is energy being put into it and doesn’t become victim to energetic leaches.

Going back to the beginning, where I talked about active proclaimers and passive listeners; it doesn’t just happen in churches or other religious places, it also happens in schools and in present day entertainment. Students just passively “eat” what they learn, there’s no way of learning how to use their learning. And also there’s the TV, which has produced the well know Couch Potato (although if you’re lucky some synapse triggering stuff might appear lol). This is “filling a pail” when what we really need is “the lighting of a fire.”

Now, I’m not saying “come on have a dialogue with me,” although you can if you want to. What I really want to say is don’t be passive in reading this, use these words to light a fire inside you and make reading this blog, in fact any blog (or even any writing) a dynamic activity.

And finally, the only potatoes I want reading my blogs are the ones that you stick in the ground that grow more potatoes. Well, my dinner’s got to come from somewhere LOL 😉

And finally finally (no really, finally) a note on the image. That is from Smith and Jones, a British sketch comedy in the 80s and 90s. The image is of them in deep conversation (a well know “head to head” sketch), usually about some deeply inane subject. An image of the type of dialogue I DO NOT want. As it says in WikipediaSmith was the idiot who knew everything, Jones the idiot who knew nothing.”