Tag Archives: rebirth

The Star Cathedral

Recovering from a serious infection, the accompanying enforced detox and fast resulted in a life-transforming visionary experience with profound implications…

I had been off sick for a week with an unexpected illness. For the first couple of days I didn’t know what it was, and prompted by my fluctuating temperature, I booked a Covid test, which fortunately came back negative. I finally got a diagnosis and some antibiotics, but these turned out to make matters for worse – triggering nausea and nocturnal vomiting. In my weakened state I had to trek into town to get the right meds, but from Saturday my infection started to clear up. I was able to go for a triumphant walk down to the Devil’s Den – our local prehistoric monument all of twenty minutes away, although it felt like a twenty mile hike in my debilitated condition. I was unable to eat anything solid. Sunday I was beginning to feel a lot better, although I was weak from a lack of food and the exhausting night’s I’d been having (Saturday night I purged the last of the previous prescription out of my system). I felt bruised and battered, and relieved to be no longer feeling nauseous. But I felt I needed to lie down. So I lay on the bed, with the lights off, staring at the ceiling. A particular cluster of Artex seemed to contain a matrix of ancient letters, which threatened to coalesce if I focused too long on them – like an alphabet version of the scene from The Queen’s Gambit … sentences in arcane tongues, rather than chess moves, rearranging themselves above me.

            And then it happened.

            It felt like all the lights went on in my head. I was looking at it from the inside, and could see every neuron and synapse, like some kind of encephalogram scan. The ‘brain scan’ pulsated like coral in the endless darkness. I likened it (at the time) to a ‘glass cathedral’ – but it was no longer possible if I was looking at my mind or a map of the universe. Ultimately the distinction seemed to dissolve into irrelevance.  Spellbound, I gazed upon nebula … the birth and death of stars, the auric fields of gas giants, white dwarves and supernova: everyone a world, a civilisation, a consciousness. I felt like I could see into the heart of the universe, into the heart of the Great Creator – and it did strike me that this pervading intelligence was sentient, benign, and compassionate. It cradled its creation with care – a master craftsperson admiring their handiwork. I felt myself rising through my skull towards this cosmic centre – it felt like the most natural thing in the world to simply float ‘upwards’ towards it; but then a voice or sound disturbed me (my partner’s, I think) and I descended once more.

The Glass Cathedral, Kevan Manwaring

            But still I felt bathed by this revelation – electrified by it. I had an incredible clarity, and felt I could turn my consciousness to anything and perceive its inner ‘cathedral’, and if a blockage of any kind occurred, I would want to fix it, to allow the flow to continue – like a cosmic plumber, or perhaps, more profoundly, a physician. Every being had this unique cluster of energies – a grid of life. It is only natural to want to allow it to flow.

I was descended upon my a host of powerful presences, who appeared to me as grotesque faces, gurning at me from the abyss.

            But then, in the next phase I had a somewhat disturbing, but equally as fascinating experience: as soon as I ‘broke through’ to this higher level, as though a space rocket breaking through the stratosphere and other layers of Earth’s atmosphere, I was descended upon my a host of powerful presences, who appeared to me as grotesque faces, gurning at me from the abyss. They seemed curious, but worse, territorial, almost colonizing – if I had let them I felt they would have flooded my consciousness, and taken me over. I had not slept properly all week – I was exhausted, and just wanted to rest – and so I imagined a sphere of hard light, and expanded it infinitely, pushing these presences away. I had to do this two or three times before they finally got the message, and left me in peace. Another time I might have been curious to ask them questions: Who or what are they? What do they want? Yet, I was just relieved I could control, to a certain extent, this giddying revelatory experience. I had experienced enough in that time – how long had passed, who can say? Half an hour? Two or four?  I felt an incredible crystalline clarity, combined with a deep compassion for everything. 

            After this I slept profoundly. There was so much to write down, to record, but I also needed to rest.

            The next day I woke up ostensibly ‘better’ and able to have breakfast at last – but then I experienced a nosebleed (I used to have them lots as a child). It didn’t last long, but really had an effect on my energy. It felt like the plug had been pulled out of me. I experienced a plummeting blood pressure. My partner had gone off and I was left by myself. Whenever I tried to do something the nosebleed threatened to come back. By midday I was forced back to bed. I can’t remember when I saw the email – something about a job application – but it triggered a galloping panic attack, which was not something I had experienced before and was really horrible. I felt like I went from heaven (on Sunday) to hell (on Monday). I really struggled and seemed to go through an existential crisis. It felt like I was being tested or ‘judged’ in some way by vast forces, and so … I surrendered to the Great Creator. Ultimately I was a leaf on the wind, and not really the captain of my destiny.

I felt ‘held’ by a giant star-bear type energy

As soon as I did so, I felt ‘held’ by a giant star-bear type energy (this is the only way I can describe it, but of course even at the time I knew it nothing so relatable: it was beyond analogy, beyond comprehension even), who embraced me to their warm bosom. I gave myself over to this vaster power. I was nothing. So frail. So easily extinguished. I made vows of pilgrimage, oaths of loyalty to a truthful life. I devised a simply blessing – the quartered cross – to protect myself in this dark night of the soul. Later, after I had tried to relate this to my partner, to my dismay she fled upstairs and shut herself in her room! She had tirelessly looked after me all week, but this was too much. I had glimpsed the half moon and realised that ‘full truth’ was something to work at, and not something one should inflict on another without their consent. I realised I had to be mindful about who I shared my revelations with, and how. I had to be a little circumspect, when my very instinct craved complete clarity and openness. I stared at the whorls in my wooden desk, and realised that in any given situation there are rings of complexity – one could go microcosmic, or macrocosmic. But the other party needs to be willing to participate in this level of scrutiny. I felt a little like Ray Milland, in The Man with the X-Ray Eyes. I could see how one could go mad with such consciousness ‘switched on’ all of the time. Having rocketed from heaven to hell within twenty-four hours I felt I needed to find a healthier, more sustainable balance. And this began with eating good, nourishing food. The first food I really tasted after unexpected ‘fast’ were olives – and they tasted like the food of the gods. I felt all the toxins and cravings had been blasted out of me – I no longer desired coffee, alcohol, stodgy food (anything that would dampen my consciousness). I want to remain fully ‘awake’.  I have had glimpses of this kind of perception before (a long time ago, and fleetingly, on mountain summits, etc) but this feels like the most tangible vision yet. It felt like a bona fide revelation about the true nature of the cosmos. I feel blessed by it, and chastened by what followed: don’t climb too high, too soon, otherwise you risk crashing back to Earth.

Don’t climb too high, too soon, otherwise you risk crashing back to Earth...

            For days afterwards I was haunted by this vision – and I sought out sympathetic, ‘spiritual’ friends to discuss it with. At the time it felt like an intensely visceral, and real confirmation of a transcendental reality. There is no doubt in my mind that what I perceived was the ‘real reality’ – one I had long intuited. The challenge was to live every day as if this was so – while not coming across like some ‘born again’ idiot, keen to evangelise to all and sundry. Whatever I experienced was not something that could be pigeon-holed easily within one religion. It was beyond such narrow divisions. It was felt like a direct encounter with the divine consciousness at the heart of the cosmos – beyond the intercession of priesthoods, liturgies, ceremonies, and rites. Such a transcendental experience has transformed the way I perceive things, and made me reconsider my priorities while in this body, on this Earth, living this life. One of the initial lingering effects was an ego-less compassion for all. The clamouring for status, wealth, materiality, etc, we fill our days with felt so silly. We are here to help each other; and to help every soul find its way home. To return to the stars – not in a literal sense, but by connecting to the cosmic mystery inside all of us: by thinking ‘beyond’ while simultaneously being grounded, fully alive in the moment, in one’s body. Like the whorls of the wood-grain – it is a spiral both outwards and inwards. There is no end or beginning, and after such a revelation the challenge is to continue living in an everyday way. The key is to embody this awareness, while not feeling oneself special. To fully live in the moment. Before enlightenment: chop wood, carry water; after enlightenment: chop wood, carry water.

There is endless wisdom to digest and reflect upon here – perhaps a lifetime’s worth – but the key lessons I take away from this are ones that were encoded into me in an intensely visceral, embodied way (a ‘system reset’ as my friend put it that I shall never forget): we are an infinitesimal but significant filament of cosmic consciousness and the more fully we are truly awake in the world, the better we serve this higher purpose; and to surrender to the grace of this humbling realisation — that despite all of our hubristic self-determination we are never fully in control – and you will be held.

‘…he finds himself in the infinite room that lies inside the axis of our wheeling space. Space, like the world, cannot but move. And like the world, there is an axis. And the axis of our worldly space, when you enter, is a vastness where even the trees come and go, and the soul is at home in its own dream, noble and unquestioned.’ DH Lawrence, The Plumed Serpent

Copyright (c) Kevan Manwaring 2021

Snowdrops

Snowdrops
27th February

When the snows cleared a couple of weeks ago the snowdrops were there. They had already raised their timorous heads before this Cold Snap and had survived its harshness, despite, or maybe because of their small frailty. Too insignificant to be noticed by the frost giant? The snow gods? And yet easily trod underfoot.
Snowdrops are a welcome sight – the first tenuous signs of Spring, although that may be weeks away. Their white petals add a bright firmament to the gloomy days of winter. There is a collective yearning for the light at this time – in the Northern Hemisphere – as we slowly escape the point of singularity of the solstice. Imbolc seems to be its particular event horizon – once we have crossed it, we are free of winter’s gravity. Snowdrops cluster around its edges like stars pulled into a black hole. And yet they reach in the opposite direction, pushing up from the dark earth. Growing out of death, like the Simbelmynë flowers that grow on the barrow graves by Edoras of the Rohan in The Two Towers, called in the common speech of men ‘Evermind’: ‘They blossomed in all the seasons, like the bright eyes of Elves, glinting in the starlight.’ (A Tolkien Bestiary, David Day, p215)
At the weekend I met up with a friend at Nympsfield long barrow, high up on the Cotswold escarpment overlooking the Severn plain. Returning for tea and cake to her lovely cottage, similarly situated, we passed a country churchyard at Edge filled with white flowers amongst the stones.
Life determinedly returns, however transient, though its roots cling to mortal clay. Something makes it grow, despite its brief life. Or perhaps because of it. It feels the impulse more urgently. Every day is more precious, sweeter the dew. Whatever may have befallen us in the past, whatever ‘slings and arrows of outrageous fortune’ it is hard not to feel some sense of renewal, of a new chance, with the virgin year before us. All things are possible on its tabula rasa. Snowdrops are a symbol of that most precious commodity, hope. In these bleak times, when the economic house of cards crashes down around us, it seems foolhardy to be hopeful and yet more imperative than ever – if we are not succumb to the riptide of gloom. In a speech made by President Obama in the light of the economic crsis, the Guardian said that ‘he has undammed the springs of hope.’ (‘The Springs of Hope’, Guardian, 26.02.09) If we listened to the news every day, with its tales of ‘toxic debt’, banks going bust, big firms going under, fat cat payoffs, nuclear folly and celebrity cancer, it would be hard not to surrender to despair. But nature quietly, insistently, tells us, not to give up. That the world will keep turning whatever we do to it, or ourselves.
To feel better, all one has to do is walk out into the garden of Spring and enjoy the morning of the year. The world is still beautiful.
‘Sing cucu, sing cucu now.’

White Rainbow

Snow on Bathwick Hill, 5th Jan 09

Snow on Bathwick Hill, 5th Jan 09

5th February

Just walked back from the station through heavy snow – the world turned into a snow-dome.  Heavy snowfall in the Bath area over last couple of  days. The first wave came on Monday and brought the nation to a standstill – a flurry of snow and it all grinds to a halt! We just can’t cope, it seems. I can hear my Icelandic and Finnish friends laughing. But I think it’s more than just Anglo-Saxon ineptitude. I think it’s just a secret excuse to bunk off work and go and have a snow ball fight. Snow brings out the child in all of us (perhaps because, for people my generation, most memories of decent snow are related to childhood, when we used to have ‘proper winters’). Monday saw a wave of ‘mass-skiving’ strike the country – as evidenced by Facebook confessionals, photoes, videos, texting, twittering, etc. A adultlescent dawn chorus. A snowfall seems to turned even the hardest cynic goofy. It was wonderful, going for an amble up the hill this afternoon – usually a quiet loop around the National Trust slopes overlooking the city – to see it populated by a swathe of snow-junkies, young and old, making snowmen, sledding, throwing snowballs, juggling snowballs, rolling about in it giggling – high on snow. Toddlers pulled on tiny sledges by parents. Teenagers on tea-trays. Three men on a binlid. Snowfolk of various sizes and skill. An inevitable snow-penis – like a white May-pole – around which the snow-children played. We are made innocent again. The world is reminted, layered in broken slabs of Kendal mint cake.

Leaving the slope of fun, I headed for virgin fields to leave my Man Friday prints, the compacting snow making a polystyrene sound.  The familiar had become a film set. A special effect. I had to take photoes to remind myself what I was seeing – my neck of the woods, re-rendered as a Brueghel painting. 

I saw other snow art on the way to London later that afternoon. A snow-couple – the snowman and his wife, sitting watching the 15:13 to Paddington. Other spirits of the snow sat stoically considering their inevitable dissolution in backyards and parks. Michelin families rolled up winter into a ball, leaving negative slug-trails of naked grass. In Hyde Park, by the Serpentine Gallery, someone had sculpted an impressive snow-head, like the head of Bran the Blessed, singing still, stopping time – as snow seems to – until the strong door of reality is opened once again. Bran’s head was taken to London by the heart-weary seven who survived and buried beneath the White Mount, where now the Tower of London stands. The ravens (Bran’s bird) there have their wings clipped, because it is prophesied that if they were to ever leave, the country would fall. Bran’s head was buried facing France to protect the land from invaders, like the striking oil refinery workers who wished they could hold back the inevitable tide of market forces. ‘British jobs for British workers’ and yet even Bran’s role as tutelary guardian was usurped by another ‘foreign’ incomer, Arthur, who dug him up. Even magical protectionism can fail. As I passed the statue of Peter Pan, a raven landed nearby and looked at me with its black Odin eye. I doffed my cap to both – the forces of joy and death – and continued onto my evening class at Imperial College, a session on genre-busting with my writing students.

I returned home late. Tired. The night turned into a swirling flurry of TV screen static, stuck between stations, whispering from its glass world.

Exactly a year ago on this day, my Dad was cremated. In the summer, just before what would have been his 70th, my mother, sister and myself took the urn (heavy as mortality) over to one of his favourite haunts – where he used to take us walking the dogs as children. There, on a perfect sunny day we scattered the ashes. They made a summer frost on the green blades. I picked some up and let it run through my fingers, watching the particles dissipate in the light breeze. Then gently, so, so gently, I brushed the dust of my father into the earth, leaving no sign of his passing visible to the world. Only a white absence remained inside of us, as cold and as silent as snow.

Now we have planted a silver birch tree for him there (the first tree to establish itself after the icesheets withdraw) and the whiteness has taken on a new significance – a white of potential, for it is the colour that contains all colours. It is the beginning of the spectrum. A white rainbow.