Tag Archives: William Kotzwinkle

No theory of evolution here! Swimming in a secret sea (v)

She was so electrified by religious fervour that her wiry red hair almost stood on end. I was fourteen, she was enraged.

“ Miss Anne Whitaker, how dare you ask me if I believe in the theory of evolution. If YOU believe in the theory of evolution, you will be damned to hell everlasting !!”

I believe that was the last time I asked a question in R.E.

Ardmore beach, during the summer holidays a few weeks later. I was just beginning to develop my pilgrimages, being at an age where I could slip away for a bike ride without that attracting too much parental protectiveness and restriction. I had such a deep need to be alone, quite often. Sharing a room with my six year old sister, I had no private space in my parents’ home.

Here at Ardmore it was usually deserted. There was a rumour that World War Two mines lay buried in the sand. This may have been propaganda designed to keep people from wandering around the perimiter of  the nearby airport. I didn’t believe the story about the mines; moreover, there was a great place between the dunes to leave my bike where it would not be seen.

Tern on patrol

Tern on patrol

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roseate_Tern

The beach was about a mile long, approached through dunes spiked with marram grass and patrolled by terns. Here, I could walk, forage for interesting objects cast up by the tide, have solitude. The endless timeless rhythm of sea breaking and ebbing on the shore hypnotised me.

The sound I heard would have been the same a million years ago – would probably be the same a million years hence. This realisation was too big and awesome for my mind to hold for long. As I strolled, finding a slow rhythm, the tensions and tightness in my body generated by the lack of peace at home began to unwind.

I now understand that I would fall into a meditiative state on these walks, taken as often as possible from that summer until I left home at seventeen. In that state I felt just like a grain of sand on the beach – minute, but an integral part of a great Wholeness.

In those days as puberty began to thrust my body, mind and spirit from the cocoon of childhood, I found the Holy Spirit in the wildness and expansiveness of sand, sea and sky. It was certainly not present in my  secondary school Religious Education class on the religion-obsessed island on which I grew up……

Night Sea Journey

Night Sea Journey

(http://www.flickr.com/photos/magnusvk/166233536/)

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To read the first four parts of “Swimming in a secret sea” click HERE

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(note: inspiration for the title of this series of posts was taken from a book which I read a very long time ago but whose haunting title I have never forgotten: “Swimmer in the Secret Sea by William Kotzwinkle)

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500 words copyright Anne Whitaker 2010
Licensed under Creative Commons – for conditions see Home Page

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Swimming in a secret sea

“One does not discover new land

without consenting to lose sight of the shore for a very long time”

Andre Gide

It is nearly Spring. It feels at last with March arriving that our long cold winter is almost over. I feel vital, alive, engaged – full of gratitude for my sense of well-being. Setting up and running “Writing from the Twelfth House” from mid-2008 has been very good fun –and most rewarding: this wonderful comment from “Lawrence” came in via email two days ago: ” I really enjoy the spiritual serenity your Blog site exudes.. … your site is a healing oasis….”

Other feedback of a similar nature has affirmed that the site is doing what I hoped it might. So my wish is that those of you out there currently going through dark times may take heart from what I write today. Life has its profound rhythms and cycles, which at times clash brutally with how the Ego thinks it should be.

Going through my “night sea journey”, to use Jung’s terminology, took seven long years. At several points I very nearly drowned, in darkness without any apparent navigation points. But the steadfast love of those closest held my head just above the cold dark sea, and I called for aid to that level which I have learned to trust, but which I cannot name. Every time, my call was answered, one way or another. Every time, the deepest message was  Hold on. Try not to be afraid. Be patient. This is necessary – but it will pass. You will be all right. And I am all right, all right and deeply enriched.

Night Sea Journey

Night Sea Journey

Perspective on a prolonged ordeal which removed me from the world shifted and changed as the journey went on. I reached the heart of my own darkness, understood it, accepted how my life had been both blighted and enriched by conditions in place from the beginning. Quite quickly after that act of acceptance, I returned to being well again.

I recognise now that a lengthy retreat from the world was requisite for the kind of person I am – it is not necessary for most people to go through a mid-life summing up of such drastic dimensions, thank goodness! Having practised as an astrologer for nearly twenty years, I could see from my horoscope, when I was well enough and brave enough to reflect on it again, that periodic bouts of retreat seem to be part of my necessity. One of the great advantages to being an older person is that one has several decades to look back on, in attempting to make sense of one’s own patterns.

Gradually regaining the strength, energy and inclination to lead a “normal” life again, along with a profound sense of gratitude that my good health has returned, I am left awestruck at the sheer power, depth and mystery of the human psyche. The sense I already had of being woven into a meaningful cosmos – tiny thread though I am – has been amplified and deepened by many of the experiences I had whilst on my ‘night sea journey’. These experiences certainly challenged my rational, sceptical self. The added perspective gained by wide reading in spirituality, religion, mysticism, science and cosmology enables me to sum up what I now believe in one sentence:

We live in a meaningful, multi-dimensional cosmos where anything is possible.

The last couple of years of the retreat were spent in a state which I recognised from before, which one might call liminal: not quite having emerged from one life phase, not quite having entered another. This felt uncomfortable and frustrating at one level. But at another, it offered an opportunity to practise the art of trusting to the unfolding process of life, or Spirit’s call, to put it another way; knowing that, in due course, the shape of the next phase would become more clearly defined, the time to take action become evident. As indeed it has. Writing feels like my post-career vocation!

During that liminal time between 2006 and 2008, I felt inspired to begin work on a personal memoir. Not wanting to write an autobiography, I did want very much to track my spiritual development from early years. Thus I recorded key developmental points which remained vivid and significant in an unfolding process set out chronologically, but episodically.When the time is right I will tie it all together into a short book. In the meantime, I thought it would be a good idea to share some of those episodes, which might very well trigger my readers’ own reflections on the early influences shaping their spiritual lives.

Here is a taste of the first one, which I will publish on the site next week:

Origins:

i) Grandpa Donald

It was a very stormy day, as is frequently the case in the Outer Hebrides in winter. The ferry was tossing alarmingly, the passengers were very scared. Some were lying being sick in the toilets. Others, white faced, were on the cafeteria floor, clinging to the table legs for comfort and support.

Grandpa Donald’s nerves were steady…..

(note: inspiration for the title of this post was taken from a book which I read a very long time ago but whose haunting title I have never forgotten: “Swimmer in the Secret Sea by William Kotzwinkle

– and the beautiful photo illustrating the post comes from http://www.flickr.com/photos/magnusvk/166233536/)

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850 words copyright Anne Whitaker 2010
Licensed under Creative Commons – for conditions see Home Page

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