The pesky pixies and naughty numens just won’t go away. They have been with us for millennia and they will remain with us, one assumes, for millennia. Ghostly stick beings and therianthropes adorn our ancestors’ cave walls. St Paul admonished the Corinthians to reject demons and pagan idolatry, and Christianity has since then had troubled relationship with sprites and spirits, fairies, elves and goblins. Why elves – why now?
For millennia, images and form in art and architecture have carried meaning, inspired people to accomplish enormous feats and been the medium through which hidden realities could be realised.
Today it may seem an odd concept to move beyond just looking at art to perceiving it as a means with which we can wake up, transform consciousness and be informed with a sense of purpose.
Works of art often only scratch the surface of our thoughts as we fit past them in galleries and museums.
I will begin on a personal note. Monteverdi’s music has been a catalyst in my life, awakening me to a ‘spiritual eros’, as the Platonists would describe the intimation of, and yearning for, an experience of union with an ineffable, and undefinable, ‘other’.I have also been an astrologer for nearly forty years, and a central focus of my academic life has been the challenge of addressing the revelatory function of the symbolic in a world which no longer values poetic metaphor as a primary mode of knowledge. Instead, such knowing is assumed to be ‘merely subjective’, incompatible with the sharp scalpel of the rational mind.
In September 1462, aged almost twenty-nine, Marsilio Ficino wrote to Cosimo de’ Medici in gratitude for his generous patronage:
A few days ago I was celebrating [the hymn to the Cosmos] in an Orphic ritual, when my father brought me some letters, in which the wise Cosimo de’ Medici, most health-giving doctor of my life, said he would reflect on my studies, kindly provide for me, generously favour me, and hospitably and piously welcome me into his sacred dwelling. So it happened that not only your magnificence, but also the ancient prophecy of Orpheus evoked in me the most immense wonder. For he seemed to be directing to you the hymn that he consecrated to the Cosmos,..
The theme of this chapter arose through a strange coincidence and a dream, which I shall briefly relate. Some time ago a friend introduced me to the work of Michael Newton, and I spent a session with my MA students discussing the question of regression therapy and spiritual encounter in relation to Hermetic texts and the mundus imaginalis of Henry Corbin. Shortly after this, I received an email, quite out of the blue, from Michael Newton himself. He was looking for a university department where he could develop his client work into a doctoral thesis, and this initiated a flow of personal communication on the subject of life between lives (LBL) therapy.
It is encouraging to see the current academic interest in therapeutic properties and usages of psychedelics and psycho-active plants. Sociological methods of quantitative data analysis and scientific investigation into the physiology of altered states of consciousness (ASC) are challenging negative and prohibitive attitudes and contributing to a general re-evaluation of legal constraints regarding their use.