I have been researching this long-established center for some time and it was finally the season for me to experience the teachings for myself.
The second part of the trip had me working on creating a series of Sacred Drumming videos for an online course I am creating for beginning frame drum students. The concept will have me filming segments of the course in different interesting and beautiful locations and backgrounds so that as a student is learning to drum in the comfort of their own home they are taken on a visual journey of sorts as part of the sacred curriculum.
Woven through the above was the intention to undertake a personal pilgrimage of discovery. I’ve been feeling a draw lately to the ancient sacred sites and landscapes of Europe. I have spent so much time studying and practicing within Eastern spiritual traditions and have been feeling the desire and even the need to connect with the indigenous wisdom streams of the West. It’s a difficult prospect in many ways given that much of what could be described as Western indigenous wisdom was long ago brutally eradicated during the Inquisitions, Crusades and witch burnings or burning-times as they have been called.
Whereas it's rather easy to find threads of an unbroken and intact lineage of indigenous Eastern spiritual thought and lineage, Western spiritual and ecological wisdom streams tend to be more hidden, small and mysterious.
Some believe there is evidence of a relatively peaceful and egalitarian culture that was spread out in small villages and tribal groups throughout pre-historic Europe before a succession of incursions of warring nomadic thunder-god revering horse and chariot riding tribes came down from the Caucus Mountains North of the Back Sea and into the European mainland and killed off many of the early inhabitants of the fertile lands.
Recent genetic discoveries are proving out the theories set forth by archeologist Maria Gimbutas and others. The research is pointing towards the idea that many of the indigenous men of the regions were killed and the women with their children, were taken as "wives" of the invading tribes. Genetic markers have been found in modern Europeans which were not present in Neolithic Europeans, these unique genetic markers are thought to have been introduced through paternal lineages from the Kurgan and Yamanya invaders.
"Gimbutas believed that the expansions of the Kurgan culture were a series of essentially hostile military incursions where a new warrior culture imposed itself on the peaceful, matrilinear (hereditary through the female line), matrifocal, though egalitarian cultures of "Old Europe", replacing it with a patriarchal warrior society, a process visible in the appearance of fortified settlements and hillforts and the graves of warrior-chieftains:
The process of Indo-Europeanization was a cultural, not a physical, transformation. It must be understood as a military victory in terms of successfully imposing a new administrative system, language, and religion upon the indigenous groups.
In her later life, Gimbutas increasingly emphasized the authoritarian nature of this transition from the egalitarian process of the nature/earth mother goddess (Gaia) to a patriarchal society and the worship of the father/sun/weather god (Zeus, Dyaus). This supposed egalitarian, mother-goddess-worshipping society is not the same as a matriarchy in Gimbutas's view. Matriarchal hierarchy structures in Gimbutas's opinion are the same as a patriarchal society, not the actual opposite: an egalitarian society without hierarchy."
The thought of a relatively peaceful culture that flourished for thousands of years pre-incursions on the soil of Old Europe intrigues me and many others.
Author Riane Eiser provides more compelling evidence in her book The Chalice and the Blade to support the hypothesis that widespread areas of Europe were home to a peaceful, egalitarian culture for thousands of years prior to the invasions.
Underneath layers of a truly brutal history that is part of Europe's past, it seems there was a time of peaceful co-existence, a Golden Age of long lost yesteryear of very ancient lore.
It illuminates one's heart and mind to even imagine such a world yet it seems so, so long ago...To get closer to the roots of the indigenous story of the pre-historic Europe and the Britsih Isles requires a person to reach so far back in time, it becomes an act of willing our imagination - to simply imagine!
Imagine - that is what I spend a concerted part of my time doing, but let's pause this story for a moment to talk about the sheer act of imagination and what a truly bad rap it has in some circles.
I don't know about you, but I definitely don't remember being encouraged much, if at all, to really engage my own imagination in the way that I was educated and schooled.
I believe imagination is a powerful and potent tool in learning, gathering information and even for use as a tool in spiritual practice.
The issue with imagination is of course that a person can get "caught up" in it and people have been known, and some will be especially prone - to believing in their own imaginings. And we all know what happens then...
Just kidding, I really don't know, not sure if I've ever had it happen, but can only imagine!
For those drawn to engaging proactive periods of indulging their imagination, it can be a wise path to simultaneously engage some sort of practice or contemplation of conscientious discernment as to what is actually real and what is simply a figment of one's imagination.
Mindfulness practice, present moment awareness, scholarly research, peer review and engaging in metacognition (thinking about one's thinking) are all tried and true ways of balancing the effects on the body/mind/brain that can result from the practice of actively engaging one's imagination.
I believe engaging one's imagination is the secret ingredient towards deeper understanding and insight into many subjects, including the study of archeology, ancient history, science, and natural phenomena.
I believe there are yet to be discovered knowledge codes that lie just beneath the surface of certain landscapes and states of consciousness that require the use of imagination to learn to unlock and enter in (or enter into?).
There are some of you out there that will be especially well suited for actively engaging one's imagination to garner insight and gnosis for a few key reasons.
It is the relatively rare human of recent Western generations who will have either never owned and have rarely watched television. Those people will tend to be especially well suited for active exploration into the realms of truly novel and even revelatory usages of imagination.
While many Westerners have been voraciously consumed with media-driven entertainment there are among us a rare breed of modern humans that have consciously opted out of what some believe to be in part mass hypnosis and a grand experiment played out on almost an entire generation of Western people. (For the record, I don't believe this has been some kind of orchestrated conspiracy rather I think it has evolved through an organic process that has snowballed quite remarkably. Along the way, there have surely been some unscrupulous people and entities (read corporate) that have taken advantage of the trend of media addiction for their own dubious agendas and gains.
Lest this sounds like an active judgment on those who find pleasure, interest or comfort in consuming media for entertainment and gathering information let's just say it's mostly a matter of fascination though at times I do find the whole reality of mass brainwashing for consumerism and cultural indoctrination downright perplexing.
We all are aware that television, social media and other types of technology can be highly addictive and hypnotizing. The addiction and hypnosis can have a profound effect on a person's ability to actively engage their own sovereign imagination and creative expression.
Many have been taught to regard their imagination as something to be feared or mistrusted. People who employ high levels of creative imagination have often been labeled as being iconoclastic, ungovernable and even downright edgy. Some are afraid to engage their imagination for fear of being labeled as the above and others fear what they might discover or uncover if they were to reach deep enough into the caverns of creative exploration. Some people are afraid they may go so far out in their own imagination as to never come back...
I actually do think these are valid fears for some and getting lost in the labyrinth of one's own imagination can happen.
For the majority of high functioning and mentally stable humans though, the proper engagement of one's own imagination is one of the most healthy things we can engage in and has become something of a lost art.
My own experience with the active and conscious use of imagination is that it is an incredible tool to aid in everything from physical healing to conscious life design, to deepening embodied wisdom and gnosis, along with so many other obvious things such as creating new works of art and uncovering scientific theories and breakthroughs.
Even accessing profound states of inner ecstasy and freeing up indwelling states of deep satisfaction can be at least initially triggered by the conscious use of imagination.
The gift of human imagination and our unique capacities for engaging it is after all one of the main things that differentiate us from other sentient beings.
So, that is some of what I was doing in the British Isles for those that may have been wondering - I was walking the ancient lands among the stone people and Memory Palaces of old and hanging out in the British pubs using my imagination to conjure states of inner ecstasy and creativity. I imagined what the fertile land was like way, way back in the day when humans lived together in peaceful, egalitarian tribes and communities.
I'll be planning future trips to the land of the ancient stargazing stone temple raising regions to visit the sacred sites for small groups in the near future as part of my invisible school of learning, ceremony, and embodiment practice.
Here's to deeper awakening and the honing of one's imagination and discernment, simultaneously.
What do you think? Can you imagine? Did the Golden Age ever really exist, or was I just imagining it?