With Martin Shaw and Carla Stang
Throughout history we hear it; from Amazonia to the Arthurian tales: that an essential part of becoming human requires a wedding to the earth itself.
Though diverse in expression, an essential part of the message is this: to be threaded into the nervous system of jungle, dream, myth, forest and ancestral confirmation before societal demands of work and family take primacy. Such primary grounding shaped us, informed us of the firmament we stood upon, illuminated the story we were actually in.
In 2017 we appear to have largely fallen out of such an arrangement. And we appear to be in a new kind of story. So, we ask: what exactly does this story serve? Does it come as vision or hallucination?
Throughout our time together, Carla Stang and Martin Shaw will be weaving three areas into our enquiry.
- Cosmology and stories from the Mehinaku of the Amazon.
- Folklore and myth from eastern Europe and beyond.
- The role of the alchemist as purveyor of an economy of secrets: from the garden of Eden to the present day.
These three elements will bring us closer to the rigorous education of the earth. To, as the poets say, “think in ways we’ve never thought before”. From amazonia to fairy tale we will explore cosmologies, stories, initiations and concepts of the soul that are startling and vivid: that in their very otherness are saying something deeply needed for the condition of our times. As they reveal something of our old arrangement with the wild, they reveal an earth that is nourishing, dark, vital and bristling with intelligence. A place of grace and danger, of true education.
We will also trace something of the journey of the alchemist, from roots in Jewish, Greek, Arabic and Egyptian thought and mystical practice. In the lives and ideas of these practitioners we start to glimpse a subterranean underpinning to what we so glibly call “the West”. We will quite naturally find associations with our wider explorations and in this very dialogue between domestic and wild. For many centuries alchemists have carried secret knowledge about how to live, to deepen; to make, in part, a “magnum opus” of our own lives. It may be time for those secrets to step closer. In alchemical motifs we track the maturation of the psyche, in a similar fashion to the hunter trailing deer tracks through the forest.
Throughout the week we make a continued emphasis on taking the imaginal seriously.
Respectfully handled, these three ingredients lean us usefully into the crucible of our own lives, will create something unexpected, may just help us glimpse a story we would be honoured to be part of. A story that will require study, wonder and more than we will sometimes wish to give.
“I love you because you knew what was real. I love you because you knew what to pay reverence to and what to obey. You were on fire with the wisdom that came from something greater than your own personality and were able to bow in reverence and obedience to these greater forces. To this I will always claim my love.”
- Elie Wiesel on the ancient Hasidic masters
“When we win it’s with small things,
and the triumph itself makes us small.
What is extraordinary and eternal
does not want to be bent by us….
Winning does not tempt that man.
This is how he grows, by being beaten, decisively,
by constantly greater beings.”
- Rainer Maria Rilke, The Man Watching
This two week intensive is a module on our Ecology and Spirituality postgraduate programme, also open to external participants as a short course, allowing for a rich community of experience, sharing and conversation.