Thursday, 21 November 2013

Aldous Huxley --- Utopian Visionary

 Why is Aldous Huxley popping up on the Cottarton Blog? It’s because, unlike with JFK and C.S. Lewis,  the 50th anniversary of his death, is about to pass unnoticed. At least in the British press. Also, because when I was 18, I read just about everything he wrote, novels, essays, non-fiction and biographies. More than any writer at the time he shook up my youthful idealism, forced me to question my assumptions about the way things are. The book that burst upon me like an explosion was not “Brave New World”. Everyone reads that in high school and comes away convinced that the world is even more fu**ed up than they'd supposed. No, it was “After Many a Summer dies the Swan”.

On the outside, it’s a science fiction yarn set in California, about a rich man who resembles William Randolf Hearst, living in his castle, and scared of death. His doctor is trying to solve this problem, at least find the cure to aging and death. Unexpectedly they discover that a British Earl may have already solved the problem a couple of centuries earlier. That he might even be still alive! Laced throughout the book are conversations with an elderly chap, loosely modelled after the philosopher J. Krishnamurti, a long-time friend of Huxley, who asks – what’s the point of living longer? People don’t improve with age. In fact, time itself may be our worst enemy. Time, idealism, human suffering are all rooted in the human ego. The worst people are not the uneducated yobs. Those who inflict the greatest harm, enslave nations, lead wars are the idealists, the patriots, those who are convinced they’re doing good. In fact, their “God” is no more than a projection of their ego.

The next book I picked up was “Island”, Huxley’s last novel. It’s set on an island in the Indian Ocean where a utopian society has developed. Not because of a change in a political system, or by any outside imposition, but as a result of a spiritual transformation. It begins with education --- the right sort of education that is rooted in an understanding of the human being, both the physical, psychological and spiritual nature. There’s no religion and no dogma on the island. Most people take occasionally a hallucinogenic such as LSD, not as a recreational drug, but as part of a journey of self discovery. Huxley held that the use of hallucinogenics, taken after proper preparation, could open up a person to experience states of consciousness that we all naturally have but for whatever reason cannot usually access at will. However not everyone needs such an initiation. Some people are naturally high, or can slip into such a state through meditation. Such a religious experience can transform a person by showing them new perspectives, new vistas.

As with all utopian novels, “Island” suffers a little from being dull. A typical novel is usually driven by the conflict of the characters. It is not the best medium to explore a world where the characters don't experience conflict. Huxley was attempting an impossible task, which he largely pulled off. These days, dystopian visions abound and form the backbone of the science fiction genre: movies, novels and video games. A general feeling pervades our society, and our media that the world is going to sh**. The reason for this plethora of dark material is not because such is to be our destiny. I suspect that it springs from an overall feeling of alienation, a feeling of being alone in a universe that doesn’t give a damn for us. That message is regularly reinforced by luminaries such as Brian Cox, David Attenborough, Richard Dawkins and other science profs.

To see things differently takes vision and imagination. Huxley was a man of great vision which is why, despite Brave New World, he could see the possibilities for a better world. One where things could go right. He wasn’t na├»ve or Pollyanish about it. He knew that the solution lay not in any political, social or idealistic solution but in the transformation of the human being. Not a trivial task.

Wednesday, 13 November 2013

Andrew Glazewski --- priest, mystic, scientist and friend

One defining moment in my life was a couple of years ago when Amber and I, driving toward Dartmoor, decided to stop by Ilford Park. For me this was pure nostalgia, a trip down memory lane to see  my friend Father Andrew Glazewski 's old house. Back in 1971/72 I visited him there, an army barrack with a curved corrugated iron roof. He was chaplain to a community of Polish refugees, known as “Little Poland” --- people scarred both physically and emotionally by the war and who could not integrate into British society. Andrew (he liked to be called that, without the “Father” or other title), meant a great deal to me. I met him when I was 13, learned how to meditate from him, how to heal, about angels and other supernatural matters. 

We drove into the area of the camp and soon realized that we were looking at an empty field. The barracks were all gone, the church, refectory, Andrew’s house. All that was left were the concrete slabs. Past the old camp, stood a modern building for Polish old folks. With an empty feeling in my chest I asked the young receptionist if anyone there remembered the old times, especially the chaplain. She agreed to put up a notice on their bulletin board with my inquiry and my contact details.

Ilford Park Camp, around 1960.

As we explored the Dartmoor tors, wandered through the mists and tasted the magic of the place, Andrew remained in my mind. The camp had been wiped clean along with all the memories. Only a few old residents, mostly with failing memories remained. How could Andrew and his inspiring teaching be so forgotten? Google his name and almost nothing shows up. And yet the man drew large audiences, inspired both the religious and atheists to explore a world beyond our physical senses. Among spiritual seekers, if you mentioned his name, either “Glazewski” or “Glass of Whisky” and everyone knew who you were talking about. He had researched the nature of the human field, carried out experiments to test his ideas, published scientific papers. All gone and forgotten. Or maybe not. I could perhaps write a biography, or compile his writings --- if I could find them. Ideas and teachings that had such a strong hold of me needed to be shared with others.

 Andrew Glazewski with Sir George Trevelyan of the Wrekin Trust. Between 1965 and 1973 they collaborated, holding workshops to discuss the new emerging consciousness.

While staying at Felicity’s house in Dorset I set about finding out what I could about Andrew’s family. On a Polish website devoted to family trees, I found Andrew’s family. His brothers were all dead, but his nephews/nieces must still be alive. Somewhere.  

It's strange how, when you put your mind to it, doors start opening. A story that I wanted to tell clearly wanted to be told. An internet search turned up Adam Glazewski, Andrew’s nephew, living in France. After a few tries we connected by phone. "Yes," he said, "Andrew was my uncle." He liked what I was trying to do and said that he would arrange to send me all of Andrew’s letters in the family’s possession. Within a couple of months a large package arrived on my doorstep: a trove of correspondence giving me an insight into some of his relationships, but still not enough for a biographical project.

1972 on St Mary's island where Andrew held an annual summer camp for the parish children. He talked to them a lot about druids, fairies, angels but not much about religion. His right hand holds the pendulum he used for healing.

In response to the notice I left at Ilford Park, people who knew Andrew began to call me. They wanted to talk about him. One woman sent me a 30 page unfinished biography of Andrew written by Bob Bloomfield. Many leads ended up dead. Boxes of correspondence left after his death had been binned, or left to rot in basements, destroyed by water, etc. I kept up emailing anyone who might have known him. A website by the author Maryel Gardyne had some of Andrew's writings. Further inquiries led me to the sons of Bruce MacManaway, a healer in whose house Andrew had spoken several times.

On December 22 2012, a box arrived at our house: tapes of Andrew’s conversations sent by John MacManaway. Bruce was apparently a pack-rat who kept everything. Thankfully, John also held onto the recordings. They had deteriorated badly. The tape player was useless as it produced indecipherable sounds. I sent the reel-to-reel tapes off to my friends Ben Ashton and Roger Wharmby who were able to read them and make digital files. I loaded the old cassettes onto my computer and using various filter options was finally able to hear Andrew’s talks ---his passionate voice, sometimes soft and then rising to an emotional high. Quite recognizable.

I still didn’t have enough material for a full biography. An enigmatic man, he remained so after his death. I doubt if more than a handful of people really knew him well, understood his private thoughts, his feelings, his rough spots --- and I’ve no doubt he had bunches of them. But if nothing else, I could edit and transcribe his talks and writings, give people a flavour of something exciting, that inspired so many of us in those days. I’ve done that. The book, The Harmony of the Universe by Andrew Glazewski is due to be published by White Crow Press early next year.

Andrew's grave in Newton Abbot cemetery. 40 years later, every  All Souls Day procession still begins at his grave. 

Recently I’ve come to realize that many scientists have latched onto the same ideas that Andrew had been teaching, and have taken them further. Rupert Sheldrake’s Morphogenetic field is remarkably similar to what Andrew called the Primary Field. Andrew’s healing technique which he called Psycho-Physical Healing, was rediscovered soon after his death and named Therapeutic Touch. Ervin Laszlo and Massimo Citro’s latest researches bear out many of Andrew’s predictions about the future of medicine.

Whether Andrew himself is remembered is no longer important. The teachings were not his personally but were out there waiting for anyone who was ready to discover them. I suppose that will be our fate too. Fifty years after we are gone, and all who knew us are dead too, whether anyone remembers us and our special gifts won’t matter a damn. In the first place, our thoughts, inspirations and visions never belonged to us personally but to all people.