LISTENING TO THE SILENCES

 

CHAPTER 3 PAGE 2

Unless a whole concept is indelibly carved in stone, or defined with a nicety that defies alteration, you can bet your last penny that some wiseacre, know all, will come along with "what it really means is...". Even when a definition has been given, that does not stop an idea being hi-jacked and a concept being totally altered from that intended by its progenitor. Take a simple notion such as 'Ley Lines'. Simple? Not any more. Someone who comes to the concept now will find a mishmash of conflicting ideas ranging from sacred ways linking mysterious sites of ancient significance to lines of earthly power and energy, and black ley-lines and white ley-lines, ideas that are guaranteed to produce apoplexy in most archaeologists today. If these same archaeologists were to use the 'ley-line' concept of Alfred Watkins properly, they would find in their hands a tool with which they could open up much relating to human activity stretching back three or four thousand years. "Who on earth," do you ask "is Alfred Watkins, and what did he do?" Well, he is only the bloke who coined the term 'ley-lines', and, if you are interested, you will find all about it in his book The Old straight Track. I shall give details in an addendum. Watkins' ley-lines are a fact, a reality, and I get immense pleasure as, with map and compass, I identify and follow them over the never-ploughed, never-developed terrain with which this area abounds. There are wonderful moments of serendipity as I come across a totally isolated and abandoned little bridge or stepping stones, or see the shadow of a long abandoned track when the sun slants across a slope, or a light fall of snow reveals it. Likewise, the 'earth currents' are a reality, as anyone who wants to read can find out (Encyclopaedia Britannica is a good starting place, and knowledge of them can provide an understanding of the causation of certain serious illnesses, but, as with Watkins' lines, I'll provide more information for the enquiring mind in the addenda or appendices). An interesting reflection is that I find that many people who have come to 'ley-lines' in their mystical, 'earth energy' form are just not interested in the truth of their origin, and indeed, would rather have their mystery than the truth.

But don't you find this to be the case in whatever area of activity or human knowledge that you care to choose? 'Don't give me facts, I've made up my mind'. 'When I've made up my mind nothing will shift me'.

I have related how I came to join the Training Department as a stage in my rehabilitation at work. One of my first tasks in my new post was to become familiar with the newly adopted Système International d'Unities, the SI System, or International System of Measurements, and then, having become familiar, to assess the impact within the Works and produce publicity. Why should this be of such great, or any, significance? Well, the world, i.e. the complete scientific, technological, commercial, industrial community, embracing the whole planet, had agreed upon the exact definition of every function capable of being measured. Thus, a metre is the same in Novaya Zemlya as it is in Wagga Wagga, and likewise, from degrees Celsius to teslas or sieverts, anywhere in the world they are the same. This is the world of the engineer, the scientist, of practicality. If you buy a car, you expect that all the wheels will be round, and of the same diameter, and that the pistons will slide effortlessly in their cylinders whether the car is made in Taiwan or Toulouse. If you tune your radio to a designated frequency of transmission, you will receive your programme whether you use the most sophisticated hi-fi system in your home or a wind-up clockwork radio in the African bush. Would that other realms of human activity were as precise and predictable!

"But", you may say, "what about the world of imagination, of fantasy, of the spirit, even; are they not suppressed, stifled, by your desire for order, definition, predictability; are you not creating a world of automata, robots, without any individuality - removing the ability of individuals to choose for themselves?" Not at all. Does not our society, civilisation, depend upon universally accepted laws, laws which if broken have defined consequences? Is it not obvious to all, that children, to take an example, are far happier, grow more assuredly, when their world is certain, regulated? Whether one likes it or not, the 'natural' laws exist, apply, whether or not one accepts them. Ignore them at your peril. If you disagree, try jumping off a cliff and see whether you can suspend the laws of gravity. But an understanding, recognition of the laws of physical existence can be liberating and certainly do not stifle the imagination, the sheer magic of living.

Running over the fell-side behind my house is a narrow mountain road that I take when heading out of the area. This road at its summit goes through a pass of sorts. One morning some years ago I took the road just before daybreak; a beautiful morning with a strong following breeze blowing in from the sea, and over the pass. When I arrived at the summit and looked over, I just had to stop and gaze in awe and wonder at the literally breathtaking sight that met my eyes. There was the magic. Tendrils and streamers of mist flowed down from the pass, wreathing around the scattered trees and junipers. Every blade of grass, every twig, every frond, had its dewdrop, every hollow its little pool - and every single drop of water held its own personal rainbow. The ridges of the hills and mountains ranged east to the distant Pennines, over which the sun had just emerged, and every ridge was a line of opalescence, of pearl. What it was to be faced with a sea of rubies, diamonds, amethysts, and a backdrop of mother-of-pearl! I simply sat entranced. Yet, in my stillness, the logical 'me' knew that the air coming from the sea was moisture laden, saturated, and that as it was funnelled through the 'venturi' of the pass, it was speeded up and compressed, only to expand and cool on the down slope, just as the gas circulating in a refrigerator system is compressed, expands and cools. The cooler air could not hold the moisture and it settled on all available surfaces, forming drops which then refracted the incident light - and so on. Does that deny or remove the beauty, the magic? Not for me, for I can find a different kind of magic in the order, the functioning of natural phenomena, natural laws.

On an even grander, more immense, scale, who can look at the pictures received from the Hubble Space Telescope and not be amazed? One that I remember in particular is of a gas cloud trillions upon trillions of light-years in length, in one corner of which a completely new galaxy was forming. Yet even here, in this immensity, one can marvel at the skill of the astronomer-scientists who can, by the application of universal and natural laws, identify and quantify the component gases and measure, for instance, the speed of movement of surrounding stars. But, and more amazingly, in the face of that immeasurable immensity of uncertain origin, a neuroscientist at a very recent international conference on research into the human brain could say that, with its billion, trillion connections, the human brain is the most complex unit in the whole Universe!

But more than that, and here is the awesome thought, every brain is contained in a unique human being, and each being is at the centre of its own universe. A universe made up of the material composition and the - what? Whatever it takes to make that individual unique. Whatever it takes to make me gaze transfixed at the beauty of a mountain dawn, while around me the sheep continue grazing or ruminating, completely unmoved. I will not even begin to try to take the thought any further, but think instead of the dedicated work of the brain-scientists, the neuroscientists as they struggle to understand the totality of this 'universe within a universe', the human brain. With my own experience in the world of measurement, I can marvel at the skill and ingenuity of the measuring techniques, devices, without necessarily understanding the complexity of what it is that is being studied, measured; just as these same scientists might have equivalent difficulty in appreciating the complexity of measurement within a nuclear reactor.

On the other hand, why should we not, just for a little while, pause and consider this wonder of wonders, the human brain, and the unique vehicle, the human body in which it finds itself? Unique in that its fingerprints have no duplicate worldwide, neither is there matching DNA anywhere on the planet, so we are told - six thousand million and still counting and expanding exponentially. And yet this brain, this body, are in one gigantic lottery. How else can you explain, for instance, to a cretinous dwarf in Bangladesh that if someone had provided a modicum of iodine to replace that which his native soil lacked, he would have a mind which functioned properly and a body which grew to a normal size? Or what about these brains, which are not going to live more than a year or so because they are in diseased or starving children 'living' in what is so easily written off as the 'Third World'? Or these that will be programmed from birth to carry on a warring, family or religious feud whether in Afghanistan, Sicily, Northern Ireland or wherever? Happy and fortunate these brains, which are being nourished physically and lovingly fed knowledge, in what are going to be well rounded people. Most unhappy and unfortunate these brains, which started off so well and hopefully, but which became polluted and destroyed by alcohol and drugs; or equally unfortunate these others which, because they or their owners show some aberration, difference from the accepted norm, are destined to be invaded and possibly warped by prescribed drugs, some of whose very side-effects can be so alarming just to read about, or, Heaven forbid, shocked into submission by a bizarre 'therapy', that is not understood and is administered by practitioners, some of whom are not fully trained in its application and who would not submit to it themselves.

Many people, if they consider it at all, are happy to let the lottery be administered by God or Allah. Believers in reincarnation put it all down to past lives and the carry-over of karma there from. Others believe that they arrive back into the new brain-body combination complete with a worked out plan of action. David Icke, in one of his books, when considering the tragedy of cot-death, suggests that maybe the infant had just to go through the birth process to finish off its overall development as a well-rounded spirit, or that the parents had to go through the trauma of bereavement to complete their full development.

Astrologers have their own way of looking at the origins and future of each unique brain-body-spirit combination. But in which, oh where, in what system do I find my own raison d'être? Do I join the other five hundred million people worldwide who are Sagittarians, or do I throw in my lot with the slightly smaller number who are, to use Chinese astrology, Wind Buffaloes? My date and time of birth, according to the Mayan calendar, are so auspicious as to make me a possible candidate for some celestial high office; so do I settle for that? If I should read my 'horoscope', courtesy of some newspaper or magazine, do I reflect upon the idea that in Ulan Bator or on the shores of Hudson Bay, other Sagittarians are having, have had or are going to have a similar day to mine?

It is into this gigantic lottery, with the dice forever being thrown, the wheels forever being spun, through this minefield of human beliefs and practices, that the mainly white, middle-class males who make up the bulk of practising psychiatrists and psychologists must make their way. It is the minds that are the products of these origins, beliefs and life-styles, minds that are not behaving as their owners or the society in which they live would have them behave, which have to be regulated, mended. But first, they have to be categorised, and here we enter an entirely different and additional lottery, a lottery with so many possible variables, variables that are as numerous as the practitioners. The practitioners are as varied as their own origins, upbringing, the school of psychiatry or psychology in which they were trained, or to which they adhere -, schools that may spawn closed minds and tunnel-visionaries equally with the brilliant, the caring; practitioners who find it necessary to use an esoteric language that might give Humpty-Dumpty some problems, so subjective are its interpretations. One psychiatrist, for instance, writes of the 'private language and idiosyncratic narratives glorifying or obfuscating disorders of the mind'. Well, he wrote it; who am I to disagree?

I wrote earlier of the definitions and standards that governed the work and communication of my own profession. Would that there were similar standards and points of reference in the professions of the mind. But, on what scale and from what point zero do you place, for instance, an individual who is 'manic depressive'? The Clinical Psychologist who became my neighbour when I took up residence in a farmhouse flat after leaving my home, had analysed herself and concluded that she was manic-depressive. Over a period of four years we became friends, and I can promise you that she demonstrated nothing other than the expected and frequently observed mood swings of her gender. I sometimes wonder just how she would have characterised Harry (obviously not his real name) who used to come and stay with me from time to time, seeking the sort of sanctuary that my house and surroundings provide. Now Harry was a manic-depressive! Did he not have a total of nineteen months, and still counting, of 'voluntary' incarceration to his credit? He was a general practitioner who could no longer practice, but who had many insights into what had happened, was being done to himself. He wrote a diatribe against psychiatry and the prostitution, as he saw it, of true medicine, by doctors who engaged in psychiatry. He could not get his essay published, so, having the only copy extant, I shall include it in my writings should they ever see the light of public day. Posthumously as it turns out, for Harry died young from the accumulation of all that he had received or inflicted on himself.

It is perhaps not surprising that one of Harry's heroes was Philippus Aureolus Theophrastus Bombastus von Hohenheim, who preferred to be known, and who can blame him, as Paracelsus. Having read the account of the latter's life and work in Encyclopaedia Britannica, he could definitely become one of my heroes. Beginning his education in the Bergschule in Austria, the young Paracelsus was being trained to become an overseer and analyst for mining operations in gold, tin and mercury and other metals and ores, gaining knowledge and experience that laid some of the foundations of his later discoveries in the field of chemotherapy, which, for someone born when Columbus was discovering the New World, was most remarkable. He attended the Universities of Basel, Tübingen, Wittenberg, Vienna, Leipzig and Heidelberg and along the way graduated in medicine. But, in spite of, or because of this experience, he rejected much of the, then, traditional education and medicine - which is perhaps the rebel spirit with which Harry identified. Paracelsus wrote "The universities do not teach all things, so a doctor must seek out old wives, gypsies, sorcerers, wandering tribes, old robbers and such outlaws and take lessons from them. A doctor must be a traveller… Knowledge is experience." We are a bit short on sorcerers, wandering tribes and outlaws these days, but in spite of that I find much in the spirit of Paracelsus to which I warm, and I would far rather find my own remedies in natural herbs and substances than in neatly packaged capsules in a bottle. It is interesting to reflect that many of these self-same capsules will contain in refined form the very remedies that had been used and dispensed during numerous past centuries by the old wives, gypsies and sorcerers. In the refining, much will have been lost, for often within a plant and discarded in the refining are the buffers and catalysts that aided the process of healing and minimised adverse side effects.

It is all too easy to conjure up in one's mind pictures of a Golden Age of caring, of dedicated nuns, monks and friars issuing forth from their monasteries and priories, dispensing unqualified love and tinctures and salves made from the herbs and simples grown in the physick garden, with no thought other than the physical and spiritual well-being of the sick, the mentally afflicted, the halt and the lame, the paupers (although William Cobbet insists that pauperism did not exist before the dissolution of the monasteries - provocative thought!). Doubtless such an Age never existed as such, but isn't it a lovely concept to reflect upon, particularly in respect of the mentally disturbed? It is so difficult to understand and tolerate, let alone to care for (and love(?) someone whose mind is out of kilter. In some cultures, such are seen as being precious to God; the practising Christian will try to see the suffering Christ in each one; others will reach out in care through such organisations as the Samaritans. As I write elsewhere, one longs for the actual concept of 'asylum' - not the buildings but the 'benevolent affording of shelter and support to some class of the afflicted, the unfortunate' - as an attitude, a reality, not the reality of the medico-commercial industry, which seems to direct, control, dominate and profit from, make a career structure from, the treatment and management of the misfortunes of the nervously disturbed and mentally ill.

 

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