Monthly Archives: June 2012

Quantum physics, astrology and paranormal experience: why not?

The drive to understand why we are here and what our lives are for, allied to a profound curiosity about just about everything, has certainly powered my journey through life. I am basically a rational pragmatist in my approach. But I got to my fifties, a time when anyone with any reflective capacity begins to look back at their life experiences and patterns, in an attempt to make some sense of it all.

I had to face the fact that a series of experiences had accumulated over the course of thirty years which I had largely kept to myself. Why? Because they did not fit the parameters of what our culture defines as normal. But memories of these experiences did not go away because I had tried to ignore their existence. They simply lurked, permanently provoked by my refusal to attend to them.

Furthermore, a career I had never aspired to in my wildest dreams, ie that of being a professional astrologer, had been correctly predicted for me in my twenties following a chance encounter with a complete stranger when I was not at all receptive to, or welcoming of, that type of information.

My First Horoscope

Through my studies of astrology I discovered a universe replete with correspondences, and saturated with meaning. 

I embarked on those studies for one major reason: the notion that you could read the significant patterns of a person’s life from marks on a piece of paper set my innate curiosity, and my rational pragmatism, a challenge I simply could not resist.

By deciding properly to investigate a subject which I couldn’t believe could have any value, but which in practical terms had demonstrated great accuracy about me and my life, I opened up a great adventure for myself and for many students and clients who joined me on the road. Dismissing the whole thing, with the kind of closed minded fundamentalist prejudice which gives true science a bad name, would have closed the adventure down before it ever began.

The conclusion I came to, after eighteen years as a practising astrologer and teacher – before my 2001 health collapse stopped my career in its tracks for a very long time – was that astrology is another form of physics, revealing as quantum physics does the dance of universal energies of which we are all part. But astrology causes grave offence to conventional minds, by moving from mapping the movement of patterns of energy through space/time within our solar system – via mathematical calculations no astronomer could fault – to ascribing meaning to those patterns….

The intuitive experience of mystics through the ages and the experimental data of contemporary scientists converges in the understanding that all things are connected, each tiny particle part of and interacting with the One – or the Quantum Vacuum / Zero Point Field if you prefer the terms of quantum physics.

On surveying all my paranormal experiences, there are three which stand out as the most powerful.

These are the first, in July 1970 when I was  visiting my paternal grandparents’ grave for the first time. From this arose an experience of universal grief at the pain of the human condition, channelling through the personal. ( Grief – personal and collective) 1

Then there was the mystical experience I had in autumn 1971, newly in love and responding to the timeless sound of the pipes in a beautiful natural setting at dusk, making me feel a blissful, fearless part of all Creation. (Mystical Experience2

And most recently, in September 1999 the seeming attempt by my mother-in-law’s spirit to communicate something of great urgency for her to my husband, startled me even more by giving rise to the collective ‘babble’ of apparent spirit voices attempting to use me as their channel. (From the Beyond: Mediumship ) 3

At the time one is too caught up in the power, drama and sheer unexpectedness of such events to have any perspective at all. It is only on reflection – and I have reflected on those episodes intermittently for a very long time – that the full impact of  their very strange, alien and disturbing nature registers, and the ‘why me?’ question arises. The only answer I can come up with after thirty years is ‘why not me?’.

(Although my horoscope provides a very clear answer, symbolically)

I am left with the somewhat unsettling sensation that my small person, for reasons entirely beyond my ken, functioned briefly in those episodes as some kind of collective instrument. Despite the unnerving nature of two out of the three, and their disturbing effect, they also left me over time, especially through the mystical experience which was a great comfort and inspiration, feeling clearly that I was a tiny but unique part of something vast.

This feeling, despite all my struggles with a naturally sceptical bent, has never left me. I have thus been able to draw on it for comfort in some very bleak and painful times in my life. It has also helped me to come to terms with one of the central paradoxes of all our lives : “I  am special, and I am not.” At every level in nature, the minute can provide us with glimpses of the vast – in which everything, no matter how small, has its unique part to play.

Those experiences, which I have come to regard as precious, have shown me that, as journalist Lynne McTaggart, author of ‘The Field’ (2003), puts it:

“We are not isolated beings living desperate lives on a lonely planet in an indifferent universe. What we do and say is critical in creating our world. You are and always were part of a larger whole.” 

Footnotes

1,2,3,  These three are the only ones so far which I have submitted for publication: all have been published in the UK and the USA.

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1000 words copyright Anne Whitaker 2012
Licensed under Creative Commons – for conditions see Home Page

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Sophie Agrell: a bright new talent

One of the pleasures and privileges of being an older person is that of having the time to notice talent in younger people and the patience to foster it. Sophie Agrell and I have had a running joke for a couple of years that she is Mouse, hiding away in her writer’s mousehole, and I am Cheese, enticing her out.

When she first very tentatively showed me one of her poems in 2010 I recognised her talent, thereafter nudging her, gently but persistently, into sending her work out into the wider world, first of all in the form of allowing me to publish her on my blogs.

She was successful in her first submission, to a UK national poetry competition. “Touching Ephemera: Rome, April 2009″ made the “Highly Commended” slot in the Poetry Anthology 2011 published by United Press Ltd. This was soon followed by United Press Ltd including that same poem in their “Uplifting Moments” anthology, published early in 2012.

Not long after that, the Editors at United Press Ltd asked her to submit a number of her poems for an anthology called Ten of the Best. As a result, twelve of Sophie’s poems now feature in this ‘Showcase of Poetry’, published in May 2012, offering through the work of ten new poets “….certain proof that poetry has the potential to cut straight to the heart of life.

Do check out the book.

In the meantime, here are two of her poems from that anthology,  very contrasting in theme, mood and tone, showing Sophie’s range as a poet. Enjoy!

In Sri Lankan national dress

In Sri Lankan national dress

Sophie, photo by Anne Whitaker

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My paradise island

Let me tell you about my country,

My paradise island, my Serendip,

Where every memory is filled with laughter,

With spices and sunlight, the mango sweetness of happiness,

Where tropical beauty splashes in technicolour

In every hedge, on every street,

Where elephants stroll through chaos –

Traffic, trishaws, wandering bullocks

And traffic policemen despairingly waving their pristine gloves –

Where gentle, ever-smiling people offer lotus flowers

To serene, impassive Buddhas.

 

Let me tell you about my country,

My paradise island, my Serendip,

Where thousands live bewildered behind wire

With loss beyond losing everything.

Where white vans steal young men at night,

Where in dusty streets war-maimed beggars sit,

Where questions are answered with bullets, with threats,

Where no one knows whom to trust,

What is safe to say and where,

And smiling murderers offer lotus flowers

To serene, impassive Buddhas.

 

O let me tell you about my country,

My paradise island, my Serendip.

SIA 16 iii 2010

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How do I explain it?

How do I explain it,

This peace that lures me

Into sleep

To dream of gentle dragons,

That fills my heart with stillness

So words vanish,

And I lie, tranquil,

Listening to your breath

Beneath my ear,

The clattering rustle of turning pages,

In entire contentment?

How do I account

For this absence of all restlessness,

All considering,

All planning,

All looking beyond this moment?

 

I only know

There is only now,

This breath,

This breadth of time,

And you and I and love

Within it.

SIA 14 xi 2011

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photo by Anne Whitaker

(sophie_agrell@hotmail.com)

Sophie grew up in Kent, UK,  in a family whose connections spread from Sri Lanka, Sweden and Scotland throughout the world. She read Ancient and Modern History at Oxford, eventually settling in Scotland where she works as a proof reader. She lives with her two dogs in a North Lanarkshire village. Sophie describes herself as “…. an escaped medievalist who watches the world, delights in its beauty, and grows roses…..”

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600 words copyright Anne Whitaker/Sophie Agrell 2012
Licensed under Creative Commons – for conditions see Home Page

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Where would we be without silence ?

We have just returned from a hectic and enjoyable family wedding celebration in London, which took place during an interesting hiatus: just after the great collective affirmation of Queen Elizabeth the Second‘s Diamond Jubilee, and just before the Olympic Games, shortly to be held in the UK’s vibrant capital city. Although I loved our visit, the recluse in me is now craving that drug without which I cannot function effectively: silence.
As I sit quietly this evening, savouring solitude, silence, gazing out at a light summer’s evening, listening to the river’s flow, I reflect on the equinox and solstice points which have always brought major shifts to my life’s path, and realise that we are a mere ten days from Midsummer, the summer solstice.
From then, we have the slow diminishing of light and warmth, taking us to autumn and winter. We may not like aspects of this descent. But we need it. For where would we be if we never had the nourishment of darkness, and silence? We could not have the verdant fecundity of spring, or the warmth (in theory, at least, here in the cold wet West of Scotland!) and vibrancy of summer.

World culture abounds with myths telling of this archetypal Descent and Return: most familiar to us, the Greek myth of Persephone’s forced descent into Hades, abducted by the dark god Pluto, and the bargain he struck with her mother Demeter for her return to the upper world.

Then there is the ancient Sumerian myth telling of the descent of the goddess Inanna to visit her brutal sister Ereshkegal in the depths of the Underworld, and the drama of her escape and return.

The ‘dark night of the soul’ written about so eloquently in the Christian tradition by St John of the Cross, has inspired and guided many a spiritual seeker.

These and many other archetypal tales – which have provided us over millenia with guidance on how to face the deepest facets of human experience – are in essence journeys into silence, into the deep core that holds the ‘dazzling darkness’ wherein we may encounter that profound light and energy which charges up the spark of immortality we all possess.  It is to be found Somewhere. It is often hard to access. For some people, it is only through profound suffering that the door opens. Some people call that energy “God”.

The monks of  Worth Abbey have no hesitation in doing so.

They and their then Abbot Christopher Jamison came to national attention in the UK a couple of years ago via a BBC programme “The Monastery”, in which they

“……invited five participants to live alongside the monastic community and discover for themselves the wisdom of St Benedict……”

This series of programmes attracted a great deal of attention. It touched a deep chord amongst many people in our noisy, 24/7 society where silence and peace are hard to find. Clearly, there is a great deal of spiritual hunger in our materially over-fed culture……Worth Abbey was inundated with requests for retreats and for spiritual direction following the screening of those programmes.

Again presented by Christopher Jamison, in the follow on programme ‘The Big Silence’, five new participants  were “……invited to take the wisdom of silence found in the monastery……” and carry it back into their everyday lives.

Five volunteers went on this journey into silence, led by Father Christopher Jamison. His starting point is simple: “Many of the world’s religions believe there is one simple path that leads us towards God. It’s called silence.”

"The Big Silence" Participants

“The Big Silence” Participants

http://www.worthabbey.net/bbc/thebigsilenceindex.htm

Father Jamison is convinced that everyone – atheist, agnostic, lapsed, uncertain, seeking – can benefit from sustained, regular periods of silence. “When we enter into periods of silence, we start to see things with greater clarity. We come to know ourselves, and come in touch with that deepest part of ourselves. That is our soul.”

I watched the three BBC programmes following the difficult, absorbing and moving experiences of the five participants, all of whose lives were challenged and changed by being in silence. Watching this process, and the careful way they were guided through by Abbot Jamison, the monks and the spiritual directors assigned to each participant, was a profound experience for me at the time.

Tonight, I’ve decided that my personal Midsummer retreat this year will involve revisiting those programmes and watching them again. Join me, and let me know what you think!

Light, darkness, silence....

Light, darkness, silence….

The whole BBC series can be found on YouTube at “The Big Silence”.

AND

UPDATE from Worth Abbey, June 2012

http://www.worthabbey.net/cloister/weekend.htm#fsilence

….weekend retreats for those who have seen the TV series and who would like to experience something of monastic silence.

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800 words copyright Anne Whitaker 2012

Licensed under Creative Commons – for conditions see Home Page

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Telepathy – who needs an advert?!

As readers of recent posts will know, I resumed my astrology consultancy and teaching practice on 1st May 2012 after a long sabbatical. Taking on my first one-to one student, and preparing to start mentoring her at the end of June, has triggered off memories of  interesting highlights from my previous teaching life. Here is a story which I still find intriguing. (to read more in this vein, check out Wisps from the Dazzling Darkness

After sixteen years of building up work experience in the public sector as a higher education teacher, then social worker, I became self-employed in 1985 and spent the next sixteen years running a private counselling and supervision practice, also working as an astrologer and astrology teacher.

During this latter period, it often used to happen that I would think about a client or a student from whom I hadn’t heard for a while, and they would contact me that or the next day. This happened intermittently, several times a year. I arrived at the point where someone would float into my mind, and I’d think “Ah yes, they’ll be contacting me shortly.” They usually did.

The most vivid example of this type occurred just before the start of one of my BeginnersAstrology classes, in the autumn of 1999.

Ecliptic - the Sun's path as viewed from Earth

Ecliptic – the Sun’s path as viewed from Earth

Astrology’s reference point

(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zodiac)

On the morning that the class was due to start, I went to photocopy the handouts for that night.There were eight students. However, I was so convinced that someone was going to call at the last minute and ask to join the class, that I did an extra set.

The class was due to start at 4.30 pm. Just after noon, I had a call from a young American woman whose husband was in Scotland doing some studying. She was looking for astrology classes, having seen my details in a magazine. Was I running any?
Yes, the first one starts today at 4.30 pm.”
“I’ll be there!” she replied.

In this way I acquired my ninth student.

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Definition of telepathy: “the supposed communication of thoughts or ideas otherwise than by the known senses.” (p 1482, The Oxford English Reference Dictionary, Oxford University Press 1996)

As Stuart Holroyd observes in concluding his entry on telepathy,   “….research….has demonstrated beyond reasonable doubt that telepathic communication or interaction is a reality. What kind of reality it is, how it relates to other realities, what it implies in the context of  our understanding of nature and human nature, and what it implies for science, which on the whole continues to reject it as an unaccountable anomaly, remain contentious questions.” (‘The Arkana Dictionary of New Perspectives’ published by Arkana (Penguin Books Ltd) 1989, p 172)

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500 words copyright Anne Whitaker 2012
Licensed under Creative Commons – for conditions see Home Page