Wednesday, 23 March 2011

The Dance of Life

Sunday 27th August 1995

I awoke to the gentle sound of a flute.  The simple melody was repeated in variation.  I could discern the movement of the sound’s author as he circled the encampment.  The sun was up and shining on the rear wall of my tent, the direction from which the call of reveille came.

I was not accustomed to early rising, and snuggled back deeply into the warmth of my sleeping bag.  As I dipped in and out of my receding slumber I became aware of movement behind me.  Muttered morning greetings, throat clearing coughs and the shuffling noises of people gathering for the first Dance of Life.

A man’s voice had begun speaking, just a little too quiet and distant for me to clearly make out what was being said.  The voice had a calm and soothing rhythmic quality, and I began to drift back to the security of unconsciousness.

“Ama tikki wo-oo, a-ne-o-he, o-oh sha-anna, he-a-na, he-a-no, he-iyaa.”

I was returned to the world of awareness by the chanting of those who had gathered to dance with Ivan.  The texture and cadences were clearly derived from the native American tradition, but also evoked something deep within that I could not put a name to.  A feeling of longing akin to that which the djembe awoke, but with a higher resonance as if it were reaching for the limitless sky or seeking to view beyond the horizon.

The chant was repeated, then segued into a new line.

“O-oh hey-a-no, ha-a-i-ya!” slowly rolling around with a feeling of memory and hope, rising sharply in intensity and volume at the end as if all this energy were being encapsulated and then thrown out to the world.

“O-oh hey-a-na, hey-a-no, he-ey-iyaaa”  The final vowel sound was sustained and then softly faded like the autumn; after a moment’s pause the entire chant was repeated.  Four times in all the chant was made as I lay in my den absorbing its subtle vibration, wondering what movements might be accompanying this wonderful song, and resolving that I should endeavour to join this in future days.

Just as I thought the gathering around the altar in the centre of the field was over, there was a sudden roar of a shout from those assembled.  This was followed by laughing and mirthful voices blending into a chatter which slowly faded away as the group dispersed.

Monday, 7 March 2011

The Hundredth Monkey Camp: And So It Begins…

Suddenly there was perfect silence and stillness in that crowded cafĂ© tent.  A feeling of immense gravitas overcame me, the serious nature of what our endeavour amounted to now present in my thoughts and my heart.  I felt privileged, awed to be present at such a unique gathering.  We had chosen to give what we could of ourselves to aid a world in pain and crisis, or perhaps we had been chosen.  There was the sense of a huge responsibility which we had shouldered.  The awareness of that to which we were committing ourselves filled me with both pride and humility.  The hushed crowd had the presence of a congregation at midnight mass on Christmas Eve, with a touch of the dignity and solemnity of Remembrance Sunday.  Palden, tall and lanky, bespectacled with a stubbly smile wide full of teeth would be our choirmaster.

He began the chant with a resonant “Ooo…….”  Slowly at first, but with growing strength we joined in.  The multitude of voices created a rich chord, blending from deep male basses through the majority of mid-range to the sopranos who floated above the chorus.  It reminded me of my prep-school where the pupils would sing the ‘Amen’ to grace at mealtimes, led by one of the senior choristers who would sing the first note.  We were like the schoolchildren falling in behind that keynote, following the initiation made by Palden.

We seemed to have entered a dimension in which time had a different velocity, density and viscosity.  Slowing down our connection with the outside we went more deeply into ourselves through that sound, touching our deeper beings in the inner stillness, awakening parts of our souls which had been lying dormant, waiting for the moment, waiting for the call.

The vibration penetrated with the smoothness of a knife through melting butter.  Our psychic defences were as much use as that butter in keeping it out of our souls.  To have resisted would have been more disturbing than to go with it, it would have shaken me apart like a jack-hammer.  Better to let it slide smoothly in to connect with whatever it was seeking, gently loosening obstacles in its path to the being at the centre of each of us.  In those moments we were exposed to ourselves, knew our apprehensions, our fears and ambitions, even a glimpse of what it was we had come in search of.

The energy focussed like a standing wave in the centre of the circle, resonating subtle ripples out through the ethers.  It truly felt that we were creating a new beginning, seeded from the aspirations and intentions which we brought with us and encoded in the harmonies of that great hum.  Briefly a thought crossed my mind ~ what hidden notes might lie unnoticed within the harmonies?  In the Ainulindale, the creation myth in Tolkien’s Silmarillion, one of the Angels sings a note which is disharmonious, causing conflict and destruction.  My ear detected no dissonance, but what might be hidden within those sonorous layers of textured sound?  Tolkien’s primal chord had had its antiphony, but it had been disguised at first within the whole.  Only as the variations found their way into manifestation did the conflict, the clash of wills and directions become apparent.  But this had been part of the Great Design, so that discernment could be exercised in differentiating the divergent vibrations, understanding the confusion and making a world which could rise above these contradictions.

This thought was but a small voice as the cadence within our circle rose and fell, breathing with us like the sky I had seen less than 24 hours before, singing our new creation into existence.  Our souls, like stars, the source of worlds yet to be born, realities yet to grow from the seeds we brought with us.  We would overcome the conflict and hostility endemic in the world by our example, so that by the Hundredth Monkey effect new patterns would be adopted which did not engage with these negative energies.

The sound of our congregation rolled around the circle like the backwash of the Big Bang, the Cosmic Background; its centre of gravity now here, now there, now in the middle as we exhaled our breath into this deep space and united ourselves for the journey we were beginning.


I counted 128 faces in that circle, adults and children.  Two to the power of seven.  An interesting number.

The chorus abated.  It had lasted perhaps little more than thirty seconds, but in that time we had travelled to the centre of Creation and back again.  I felt that I would have travelled for this alone, for the privilege of chanting with all these others, most of whom I did not know and had not met before.  Diverse our paths may have been which led us here, but we had now all been united in a shared experience, all been affected by the vibration we had shared, become one in opening ourselves to each other in this.

We stood there holding hands in silence until we felt the press of our neighbours fingers pass round the circle, signalling the moment to release from this union.  Slowly, reluctantly, like lovers parting, we let our hands relax and slide free.

The silence was almost as profound as the chant; reluctant to part from the moment we stood meekly, like children respectful of the sanctified atmosphere in a great cathedral.  Slowly, hesitantly, we began breathing again, the rustle of movement returned, someone cleared their throat and then we were back in normal space-time in the late twentieth century again.

copyright © 2011 Claire Rae Randall

Tuesday, 1 March 2011


Temporarily satisfied with my work I began arranging my belongings inside my tent.  The ground I was to lie on was not as flat to the back as it had seemed to the eye.  I was left shuffling my sleeping bag, clothes and guitar until I had what seemed a satisfactory solution.  I lay down with my feet  toward the Westering sun which spilt through the gaps between the loose flaps at my feet.

Resting from my efforts I could hear the sounds of activity, voices, children running about and screaming with the freedom of their new-found territory.  The heavier tread of an adult brushed past within inches of me on the other side of my nylon walls, and I could hear its owner enter the large tent  to my right.

“Yes I’ve found it, Tina” I heard the voice say.

“Sean…. Sean Kenilworth, well I’ll be darned, it is you” I exclaimed as propelling myself forward I rose out of the front of my den and confirmed what my ears had told me.

Sean was an old friend from way back in Leeds.  I had recently graduated from the University when I first met him through a mutual friend, and we had shared a social group whose interests had begun with magic mushrooms and grown into investigation of mysticism, meditation and metaphysics.  ‘Exploring the limits of reality’ as he had once put it.  The early eighties had seen us explore paths of the Cabalistic Tree of Life and the corresponding images from the Major Arcana of the Tarot.  As so frequently happens with such groups, our meditation circle had self-destructed when the psychic archetypes we had activated led us each to our own individual paths.  The flower had withered, but was replaced with seeds that were blown by the wind to find places where they could grow and flower again in their turn.

I recalled Sean had once said in the about 1981 “I wonder what we’ll all be doing ten years from now?”  That decade had come and gone.  I lost touch with him, heard that he was living in a community in the West Country, tried to re-establish contact, had been stonewalled by his former girlfriend who misunderstood my reasons, and eventually given up my search.  Now after all this time the trajectory of his life’s destiny had intersected with mine again.

Reductionists will tell you that synchronicity is no more than the inevitable workings of statistical laws.  That in the vast number of events which occur all the time, improbable connections will occur simply because it is possible.  We do not see or count the occasions on which such connections do not obtrude but only notice when they do.

I fully accept that statistical laws are the means whereby such events happen, but the Reductionists fail to understand that meaning and recognition of patterns are characteristics of our nature.  The fabric of meaning and interpretation which we construct from our experience is a meta-layer above the material events.  To deny that we exist on this level is to negate the value of our humanity.  Scientists such as Roger Penrose have recently begun to point out that possibly the most interesting thing about the whole universe that we have begun to explore is the very existence of us exploring, perceiving, trying to understand it.  We are a function of the universe and so the impulse to find meaning is no less than a function of the universe too.

Much has been made of the fact that so-called primitive magical thinking relies on correlation of events which may be no more than unrelated coincidence. Scientific methodology shows us that we need to build up a valid statistical picture, and the advance of technology in the twentieth century has shown us the practical value of such an approach in the causal realm.  But humans are much more subtle, and less predictable than the materials we manipulate by our technologies.

Apparently chance meetings are not reproducible events, and so their significance is ignored by statisticians and methodologians.  But our intuition tells us that they have meaning, and so they do.  We must make of them what we can.  Invest no meaning and the event will be meaningless.  We are beings who search for meaning, construct it where we can, and wither without it.  The interpretations we arrive at may be maladaptive, like fanatics defending a backward and dying religion or political system, but we must credit the misguided with at least the drive to find meaning, even if the conclusion is hazardous.

Recognition of a synchronicity is not fatalism; at least does not have to be.  It can be a perception that a richer vein of possibilities is now available, and that it is up to us to choose how we deal with it.  Meaning is not causality, but interpretation.  Carl Jung called synchronicity an ‘acausal connecting principle’.  Material things are connected by causes, consciousnesses by meaning.

Alchemy was in one of its strands the infant chemistry, seeking new possibilities from combining simple materials.  As humans we are richly woven with varieties of influence;  engaging with the influences of another can lead to the development of new understandings, the equivalent of a new chemical with mysterious properties.

So recognising a synchronicity can be an opportunity to enrich one’s personal fabric;  it may be the recurrence of an energy with which we have not yet fully dealt and over which we need to exercise discrimination.  Either way the universe is requiring us to make a judgement and take a choice.  I am reminded of a story I read in a magazine in which a woman described a synchronous meeting with a childhood friend.  At the time she thought it would be an opportunity for the friendship to resume, but she said it did not.  It sounded to me as if she had neither put the energy and will into it, nor decided that she did not want to.  Her description was merely that nothing came of it.  She had made no choice, and was left wondering why nothing happened.

For the present I was not to be allowed to ignore the fact that an old psychonautical friend was now camping next to me for the coming week.  I did not shrink from re-establishing connection.  We had shared metaphysical exploration in years gone by, and I saw no reason to pass up the chance to do it again.  Our divergent experiences over the last few years would provide alchemical enrichment for us to connect with.

A slightly built woman of medium height with shoulder length ginger hair, wearing khaki trousers and a loose fitting multi coloured top was approaching.  “Hey Tina, look who’s camped next to us, my old friend Claire from Leeds!”  Sean exclaimed. 

copyright © 2011 Claire Rae Randall

The World Dream

It seemed to me that the opportunity for some sort of collective breakthrough presented itself at this meditation camp.  If as a large group of people in harmony we could reach that trusting point beyond fear, then perhaps it really would be possible to move something in the mass psyche of the world. 
The present World Dream is running to a script which decrees that greed, domination and revenge are primary motives.  Control.  Moving beyond the present world agenda is of the essence.  Recommended background reading for the camp included “The Celestine Prophecy”, which, though a work of fiction, nonetheless purports to offer a blueprint to do just that.  At bottom it is a worldview which says that we create our own future realities by the energy that we put out and the corresponding energy we attract back.  If we put out love and trust to the Universe then we can expect it to lead us on, but one of the main lessons of the book is how fragile this reality can be to the invasion and destructiveness of fear.  I thought my faith was strong enough to allow me to face my fears, but all the weirdness that I had ever known before was nothing to the abyss into which I was eventually to peer.
As the summer progressed last minute updates and information about the camp arrived.  We were to be gathered in a number of campfire circles, meals were to be had in the cafe marquee served by the crew, morning meditation was at 10 a.m. followed by Allting till lunch.  Afternoon was to be taken up with small group workshops led by people with unusual skills and experience.  I didn’t actually pay much attention to this at the time, although they included various references to such subjects as native American practices and psychic work.  Late afternoon and the evening were to be taken up with a variety of one-off optional talks and workshops. We were invited to bring devotional objects with which to create altars, and to wear colourful or shamanic dress.  Every morning we were to have the opportunity to join in with the Dance of Life, a sacred dance of the Cherokee people, and besides being a vegetarian camp, there were also to be no generators or power cables on the site at all and no electricity except for batteries giving low voltage D.C. for torches and suchlike.  Acoustic instruments and music only were to be allowed.  Electronic games were not.  There was a children’s programme so that parents could attend meditations and groups knowing their kids were being taken care of, a shower, hot tub, and shop.  It was so well organised by the sound of things I thought that I had really stumbled onto a total bunch of post-peace convoy New Age adepts who had every angle covered.  It was to be a full on attempt to cut ourselves off from the outside world for a week, and not be involved with anything out there except what we might pick up in our meditations. 
Certain advice was given; not to have any ongoing business which might require your attention during the camp, and not to leave the camp.  This is sound advice for any closed group process, and since one of the phrases that Palden had used was ‘pressure cooking the worlds problems’, it would hardly be suitable to have a pressure leak.  There would be designated people who would be empowered to deal with whatever necessary and unavoidable interactions there might be with the outside world, like milk deliveries, or collections of medicine from local pharmacies. The literature stated that the organisers unashamedly wanted to run a tight ship, indeed one factor in this was that the location was to be kept a secret, and participants were requested not to divulge it when it was disclosed shortly before the starting date.  There was on the part of the organisers a feeling that we might be considered fair game by gatecrashers if the venue became known in certain quarters of the alternative world.  Events at a number of Glastonbury festivals with the so-called Peace Convoy had perpetually raised the spectre of disruption at this sort of outdoor summer event, and splits within the Camps movement had led to the development of groups with a somewhat more anarchistic frame of mind who it was feared might wish to join in the proceedings uninvited as if it were some kind of impromptu and open party. 
Consequently there was an edge of military espionage about it all.  We were even warned that we might experience elements of psychic attack and attempts to prevent us from reaching the camp by the appointed time.  

copyright © 2011 Claire Rae Randall