I have been writing poetry since about the age of 12.. and early on in my life I knew that what I wanted to do when I grew up was to “be a poet”. My earliest poems, written between the ages of about 12 onwards, grew in depth and intensity over the years, and now, in 2016, I have written and published over 900 poems on a wide variety of themes. Robert graves, Professor of Poetry at Oxford, would say that all poetry has only one theme. The journey of the Bard as they learn the hard craft of diction at the hands of the Muse.
But the delight I took in poetry was a deep, not a trivial thing – this poetry, I decided, was something to live and die for, it was the very word of life – it was a probing into the secret fires of existence themselves. At home, our family library shelves were stocked with more exotic fruit, and I feasted deeply: Rilke, whose Duino Elegies I stumbled on about aged 13, simply blew me away, they sounded like I was thinking, I couldn’t explain them, but I understood them in my depths. T.S. Eliot, whose 4 Quartets and other poems became a constant reference point, and whose work I couldn’t help but aspire towards, especially in my early oeuvre, was to me a complete revelation – even though he also introduced a note of weariness and cynicism into the mental pool – and he showed me that the Romantic tradition had matured, and become more sophisticated, and more critical. At school my favourite teacher (the English master) confirmed to me to the wonders of Shakespeare, Keats, Shelly.. Wallace Stevens was another early love, and I treasured my Collected edition of his poems, finding much there to delight in; Arthur Waley, whose translations from the Chinese continuously gave me food for thought; Yeats, whose music and depth entranced me; Hart Crane, who impassioned sonnets of euphoria and despair, thrilled my ear and mind; Dylan Thomas, whose abilities with language caused me to applaud and wonder; Gerard Manley Hopkins, another master of that genre, who had the ability to stretch the tongue and soul into new perpendiculars… And then modern world poets, Pablo Neruda, Zbiegnew Herbert, and so many others, in those wonderful Penguin editions, and the French (for my mother was a French teacher) – Rimbaud, Lamartine, Verlaine, whose works slowly became comprehensible to me (in part) not least because I spent every Easter as a boy in Paris, staying with a wonderful family of friends, in Orsay, and being immersed into the life and literature of living French culture. Indeed, it was here, in Paris, that I began my career as a poet. Somewhat prematurely, perhaps, aged 13, I decided, in all solemnity, that I was in my soul a poet, and that this was what I wanted to do with my life. I had it all decided, I would write some truly extraordinary poems (nothing but the best you understand) and then die, triumphantly, probably before the age of 18. Wasn’t this what poets were supposed to do ? And so I set to it, I wrote, feverishly – I stayed up countless nights till dawn, I went for long walks, I fell in and in of love (never out), and all this before my 18th birthday, which in my mind was to be my formal cut off time. Given this, I had not enough time for formal schooling, even though I loved learning, so I left school early to “become a poet” and travelled throughout different parts of Britain to pursue my Muse. I gave a poetry reading at the Arts Centre in Kendal, and nearly settled in Grassmere. I spent some weeks in Cornwalll working as an archaeological assistant. Poems came forth constantly. I ended up living in Devon, in a delightful village outside Exeter called Thorverton, in a beautiful thatched cottage, entranced by the beauties of nature, by the stream gushing at the back of the house. Nature had long been the most reliable and constant source of inspiration: whether it was the vistas of the Gower peninsular in Wales, which we visited at Christmas to stay with my aunt and uncle, or the rolling hills of the Long Mynd in Shropshire where I went to Summer camp and where I remember walking all night and through into the mists of dawn, or the magnificent scenery of the Isle of Arran in Scotland, whose beauty astounded me, and where I also first encountered the living Muse as the goddess of death and ecstasy both, or the beauties of the Sussex downs, which we explored constantly as a family, or the deep countryside of rural Auvergne in France, where I went with my French family one wonderful Easter, and saw the truly vast myriads of stars for the first time – all of these vistas and scenes were etched not simply on my sight, but on my soul – confirming in me the wonder of being, the magnificence of creation.
Then my father died, (when I was 17, he beat me to it) and I returned to live in Sussex to be with the family again, and I decided to review my life. I swore an oath on his dead body that I would dedicate my life to finish his own work of trying to sort out the chaos the world was in, because by then I had realised what he himself had been trying to do – as a philosopher of management, working at senior levels in industry. So I decided to go back into formal education – for one thing, for by then I had discovered my second great intellectual love of my life, namely, philosophy. I had discovered Plato, Socrates, Aristotle, Epicurus, by studying for an Ancient History A level. I marveled at those early Greek thinkers. I had been reading about Spinoza – about his life and devotion to ultimate truth, his uncompromising love of learning and his belief that it might be possible to work out a logic for being, in which everything, all time and space, all nature, all that is, could be comprehended within one great scheme of being, and that God himself/herself might be so encompassed, as a rational living reality, beyond the God of the tribe or national deity that we seemed to have reduced God to, and also even beyond the God of atheism, that atheists so fiercely rejected yet paradoxically sustained (for atheists too have their God, the one they don’t believe in). It seemed to me that philosophy offered the possibility of a middle way, a rational spirituality which could be intellectually coherent and also spiritually satisfying. But to me, philosophy was therefore an extension of poetry – it was the same urge, the same design – to paint a schema reality that could explain itself to itself; it was an art form, in which the stakes were enormous, no less than the universe itself.
Henceforth, my life story has been the tale of these two loves the one poetry, my first and earliest love, and the other – philosophy, which I came to later. By philosophy I am meaning the term in its ancient sense of the quintessence of learning and wisdom, the Queen and goal of Gnosis, thus to me it includes history (always a deep passion of mine – for history is the route to true philosophy), the humanities, the social and natural sciences etc. I have told at length the story of these love affairs, and the many and diverse places in the world to which they have led me, in the volumes of my autobiography, so the details need not detain us here. Suffice to say, however, that in my later intellectual pursuits, as a teacher and scholar of philosophy, religious studies and peace studies, I have never forgotten my first calling, my first Muse. Indeed, were I to die tomorrow, I would ask that the words Poet and Philosopher be inscribed on my tomb, in that order, not due to a differentiation in my relative estimation of their significance, but simply out of due respect for the order of their first inhabitation in my heart.
Now to this poem.. it was channeled, for I know not another word to describe it, on the evening of December 20, 2016 – and arose after long mulling over in my heart about the significance of Druidry, which has become in my later years, another of my passions and delights. As a Peace Druid, that is, one devoted to the revival of the ancient skills of mediation and reconciliation which was essential to the work of Druidry from the earliest times, I have founded an order devoted to this work, called the Order of Peace Poets, Bards and Druids. There are many Druid orders around the world, many in Britain and Ireland, in Wales and Scotland, and some in France, and I have met friends from them in diverse places, for ritual sharing and mutual edification. Often Druidry is an individual calling, and one practices alone or with a small group of like-minded friends. Many Druids combine Druidry with the practice of Christianity, but it is an esoteric form of Christianity they take delight in. Others will combine elements of Sufism, or Qabalah, or Tantric Buddhism and Yoga, or other ancient pagan and primal paths. Ultimately these paths all stem from one source, as Sir Isaac Newton pointed out, just as colored light stems from white light.
OPPBD however is essentially a new / old initiative taken to advance the cause of peace, to help uncover the wisdom of the ancient world at its best, to help usher in an era of harmony between men and women, between science, spirituality and technology, and between humanity, nature and the divine worlds. Druidry is an open ended religious and spiritual faith which puts love, freedom, beauty, kindness, and an emphasis on oral teaching above the worship of scriptures, texts, liturgies, buildings, rituals etc. Druids tend to worship the Spirit of Wisdom out of doors surrounded by the mystery of the sun and the moon and the stars, and above all by the wisdom of the natural world of trees, plants, animals, landscape temples and stone circles. It is the ancient and eternal religion and philosophical teaching of the early inhabitants of the British Isles and the rest of Celtic Europe, which at various times has stretched throughout Gaul, Switzerland, Northern Italy, Spain, Portugal, Central Europe, the Northern Balkans and as far as Anatolia. Later Druidry has spread worldwide with British, Irish, French, European and Celtic civilisation. Celtic spiritual teachings concerned the nature of reincarnation, non violence, truth, honesty, loyalty, love for the beauty of nature, the celebration of life in the arts, in music and dance, feasting & the enjoyment of loving sacred sexuality. Druids were forbidden from serving in battle, or from carrying weapons or fighting or striking an enemy. They sought to use gentle means of persuasion, of song, or example, to turn people to righteous actions. Druids served as mediators, lawyers, judges and counsellors to the Celtic Kings and nobles. Druidry lived on until the Roman conquest of Gaul and Britain all but extinguished it. The key Druid schools of Mona (Isle of Anglesey) were attacked and largely destroyed by the power of the sword. Druid teachings were enshrined in the Bardic schools of the Middle Ages and the legends of King Arthur and the search for the Holy Grail. It lived on in the work of Feinius Farsaidh, Amergin, Bladud, Abaris, Pythagoras, Plato, Taliesin, Myrddin, Ossian, & played a role in the rebirth of philosophy and learning in the early renaissance: Abelard had Druid links. Many Druids accepted Christian esoteric teachings as a continuation and confirmation of their own sublime teachings on peace and non violence. Druidry always had at its core a strong commitment to healing. Druid philosophy largely went underground during the religious wars and tribulations of the Medieval and early modern period of history, but something resurfaced in the work of the great seers, poets and bards of Britain, Ireland, Wales, Scotland, Cornwall, Brittany, France, Europe, Russia, America, Australia, New Zealand, Africa, India and elsewhere. Druids believe their views to be in harmony with universal theosophical and philosophical traditions at their best worldwide: Buddhism, Sufism, Kabbalah, Taoism, Vedanta, Tantra, Wicca, Magick, Slavic, Balkan, Baltic, Asian and Germanic spirituality, Amerindian traditions, classical philosophy, Bahaism, Zoroastrianism: all have an overlap with Druid teachings, which is not surprising since they all seem to derive from one ultimate source. OPPBD believes that ultimate source wants peace on earth and that the time for peace is now.
In the Renaissance, Enlightenment, Romantic & Modern periods, Druidry resurfaced in the writings and life’s work of figures such as Dee, Postel, Bacon, Fludd, , Sir Philip Sidney, Shakespeare, John Aubrey, John Selden, William Lloyd, John Locke, Hupay de Fuvea, William Stukeley, John Toland, Thomas Paine, Chevalier Ramsay, John Anderson, Elias Ashmole, Sir Robert Moray, Wilkins, Thomas Jefferson, William Blake, Nicholas Bonneville, Iolo Morganwg, Robert Owen, Godfrey Higgins, Mathers, Gardner, Bailey, Gandhi; poets and bards like Blake, Wordsworth, Shelley, Yeats; philosophers like Hegel, Herbert; Hume; esotericists & historians like Keating, Graves, Nichols, Hyde, Steiner, Gurdjieff, Bennett, Shah; scientists like Newton, Boyle, Faraday, Jung, Fleming, Marx, Bell; women mystics….. such as Annie Besant, Anna Kingsford, Dion Fortune, Blavatsky, Alice Bailey, Flora Tristan, Beatrice Ensor & Doreen Valiente, the women behind the Golden Dawn such as Mina Bergson (Moina Mathers), Annie Horniman, plus Olivia Robertson, Doreen Valiente, and ecologists such as Robert Hart, H.J. Massingham, Richard St Barbe Baker, Ruskin, and Thoreau – all have contributed to the evolution of Druid philosophy. Freemasonry, alchemy and various schools of theosophy and esotericism have also contributed to the revival of Druidry but tended to become too secretive and restrictive in their practices. The revival of Druidry was accompanied at this time by a rejection of religious and social and economic corruption and a heartfelt appeal to peace, wisdom, the celebration of the beauties of nature, and a reaffirmation of the wisdom of the eternal feminine and masculine energies working in harmony. Womens’ rights were advanced by the return of the Goddess traditions and the campaigns for the emancipation of women, socialism & human rights was supported by Druids. Communism was also connected to Druidry but it sadly left out the spiritual dimension with catastrophic consequences, although wisely stressed poverty alleviation and the advancement of gender and racial equality.
OPPBD was founded in the UK in the last decade of the second millennium to regather and focus the commitment of Druid traditions to the advancement of peace in our own troubled world. With the troubles in Ireland not yet completely solved, and many communities and individuals in Britain and Europe, the Commonwealth, the Americas and worldwide, continuing to experience violence in their lives, whether overt physical violence, or subtle mental and spiritual violence, OPPBD seeks nothing less than a non violent revolution in the way that our society functions. We have always urged the transmutation of our weapons of war into the tools of peace; the establishment of a UK Ministry for Peace, an Inter-Parliamentary Network for Peace and Reconciliation in the Commonwealth and in other world parliamentary bodies and the strengthening and democratisation of the United Nations. We have also urged the European Union to found a European Union Mediation Service. OPPBD looks forward to a time when the ancient wisdom of peace will shine again as a force for truth, freedom and nonviolence in the world. OPPBD also campaigns for a more spiritual and holistic approach to health and medical healing services and for the availability of spiritual healing, medical herbalism, naturopathy, therapeutic massage, hypnotherapy, past life regression and other ancient Druidic healing arts on the National Health Service and other equivalents worldwide. We advocate a reform of the world of work and the introduction of a citizens wage and the ending of unemployment and poverty, war and the arms race and the dedication of the peace dividend towards education, healing, social justice, alternative energies and an end to reliance on fossil fuels for energy – for which we urge the best minds of the scientific and technological community to work for alternative energy solutions. We urge a non-violent, ecological lifestyle based on love and social justice, an end to fear, terror, ignorance and violence, and an acceptance of an ethic of peace, pleasure, wisdom and Joyism instead.
So with that as my manifesto, so to speak,. this poem speaks to the question of what actually is a Druid – how does one become one ? It outlines the various stages, ways and paths that one might become a Druid by. but it is a paradoxical poem. It is a door, an opening, a hypnotic visualisation, a channeling…
I hope you enjoy it, at this magical Winter Solstice time, December 21st, 2016.
And above all let us pray for a more peaceful world in 2017 than we have seen; let us pray that the conflicts in the Middle East get sorted and that the continuous terrorism going on around the planet falls away as when one awakens from a bad dream and the false ideologies that are causing these outbreaks become quietened and restored to wholeness. Some terrorism groups derive from a form of pseudo-gnosis, as if their practitioners have the right to destroy others to impose their own views. For these I have coined a new word: Esoterrorists.. But truth is never like this, in the famous words of St Paul, love is kinder, gentler and more patient than the use of violence indicates. Whoever uses violence to advance their creed, has not found yet the true creed. This is the teaching of the ancient Jains, as of the Buddhists and the Yogis of India, and it was also the teaching of the Ancient Druids, the Celtic priests and priestesses of Ancient Britain, Ireland and Europe. Ankara, where the Russian Ambassador has just been shot, was originally a Celtic foundation. So was Berlin, and many of the other great cities of North Western Europe where terrorist incidents have been occurring. We have to replace the faith of the esoterrorists with than of esojoyism – the taking delight together in the secret beauties of Existence and Being. So let us share this wonder of life together, the sun, the moon and the stars – and not destroy each other’s chance to live, just because we peer into the dark halls of ultimate reality through a different window…