Originally published in Immrama magazine, June 2004
The spiritual life comes without maps, without any plan or itinerary; sometimes just when you think you know where you are going you realise that the whole thing has been turned on its head or that you are being brought to places that you never expected. I am writing this at just one of those moments, a moment of inner discovery and realization that has brought together a multitude of disparate events and emtions through to one clear focal point. As is often the case, these things taken in isolation are without meaning but the increased frequency of this phenomena in my life, culminating in a profound physical experience has very recently brought these to that focal point, a kind of critical mass of spiritual material that has forced a reaction.
As a child I was nominally raised as a Catholic, in fact my Father having relapsed and become an atheist brought me up in the same manner and all matters of religion or spirituality were as a result pretty much taboo in our household. Despite this, the spiritual life is a thread that has run throughout my life in various forms and as time has passed has become of greater significance. Having recently had my Mother to visit from England, it has given me the opportunity to talk with her and tie together many of these strands and develop a greater understanding of where I am and where I have come from. This might not have occurred had I not had a strange, almost catalytic experience during her stay with me here in Ireland.
During her visit I attended a druidic grove meeting, this was the first of a new grove that has been established and I went into it with no expectations, but I was not ready for what I experienced. Having had an interest in druidic practices for some years and for a far longer time Buddhist and Vedic spirituality I am not a stranger to astral travel and encountering inhabitants of that dimension. However, maybe as a result of my conditioning as I child I now realise how little I have been able to see. My spirit guides have always communicated with me is whispers or thoughts popping into my head like a letter dropping into a mail box. I have only once glimpsed them but in a very unclear silhouetted form. I often wondered why this was the case and I had not been able to understand why I have in effect been 'blinkered'.
On the night of the meeting, for the first time since I was a child, I experienced a spiritual manifestation actually here in the physical real world, wide awake and with my eyes open and it is this event that the focal point or catalyst that I have been talking about. What actually happened is that as the druidess was calling in the elements in the west an entity, for want of a better word, passed into or through our circle. As she was speaking the wind soundly picked up and the flaming torch in the west suddenly began to flicker at incredible speed, creating a strobe effect and an enormous pattern of light, much brighter than before was cast across the ground in the circle. During this happening I felt a strong sensation of something physically coming into the circle with us and after say ten seconds the sensation was gone and with it the spectacular light show!
At the end of the meeting I mentioned to the others what I'd experienced and each one confirmed my experience in their own way, the most specific being the druidess who was invoking the elements and the gods and goddesses, who said that she had seen Bran come into our circle. Later on that night I discussed my evening with my Mother and it opened an area of conversation that we had almost never touched on. As a result of what I had actually physically felt and seen that night I was reminded of similar sensations as a child and without explaining my reason I quizzed her about some of these events. After leaving Scotland as a small boy we moved to several places in England, including an old house in Kent, England. At night I distinctly remember hearing voices and footsteps as I tried to sleep, in fact they were so invasive that I could not sleep. In addition to this I would regularly experience a visit from what I could only describe as a ghost. At a certain point in the night a man dressed in a red uniform with a tall black hat would walk through the wall into my room and sit down in the chair opposite my bed, he would stay a while and then just get walk out again. At the time I never mentioned any of this to my Mother or Father, the only thing that she was aware of was that I was often frightened of going to sleep.
Only in discussing the 'spiritual' or 'paranormal' that night had we come to talk about it, as given my parents' views, the opportunity never arose before. She expalined to me that my bedroom was in the top of the house and that after I was in bed they had no reason to come up the stairs again and the certainly would not have talked loudly within earshot of me. As for the man, she explained that the house dated from the end of the Stuart era and is within a few miles of Chatham, which in that period was a major port used by the British army. I had up until this night convinced myself that the whole experience was some kind of childish fancy or even a dream, but in the light of my experience earlier that night and what my Mother had said, I began to re-evaluate it. This triggered more memories of such experiences including déja vu and a strange kind of 'intuition' that I've often ignored at great cost.
Strangely my questions prompted my Mother to volunteer all kinds of information that I had not imagined in my wildest dreams - both my Grandmother and Uncle had on many occasions experienced physical manifestations of ghosts. Also I have lived here for some years but had not been very aware of any ancestral ties to this country, however it turns out that some of my ancestors were Irish tinkers (well known for the second sight), very much living in the traditional way that has now more-or-less disappeared, they emigrated to the UK around the turn of the century and the subsequent generations of our family became settled and forgot that way of life. This seemed in a strange way to tie in with my experiences and those of my Uncle, my Grandmother and indeed my 6 year old Daughter. I have noticed in her the same 'intuition' that I have always been aware of but neglected. Very recently at an Imbolc celebration she was told by a high priestess, without any previous conversation or instigation, that she is a psychic and it appears to some degree to be the case.
Taken as individual strands, all of what I have just mentioned makes no sense, however connecting these things together, I realised that a veril had suddenly been lifted from in front of my eyes. All these experiences and sensations throughout my life were not an illusion, they are real, in fact I believe that many of my family has and does experience to some extent the world of the spirit, the sidhe or whatever you may wish to call it and we are, for want of a better word, to some degree psychic.
What I have not realised until now is that this has always been there, it is only that my conditioning had made it impossibel for me to see what was right under my nose. What is also clear to me is that my spirit guides have only spoken to me because I have not been ready to experience them in any other way, that the veil over what I call my inner eye had to be removed before I could progress any further. I am also convinced that I have been unknowingly steered or guided by them to reach this point. What this experience has also done has given me a deeply personal insight as to who I am and where I fit into the world, my family and what I am here for. Above all it has taught me that I must trust in what I believe and feel and to totally disregard the voice, created by years of mental programming, that tells me that I might be imagining the whole thing.
I believe I am in no way exceptional, I think that we all possess psychic ability and that we all are able to connect with the spiritual world in a much deeper sense than we realise; the problem is that we have become blinkered and desensitized to such an extent that this world ceases to be visible to most of us. Once this veil of skepticism and faithlessness has been removed the spiritual landscape becomes truly visible for the first time, it is at this point that I feel I am standing now, and it is at this point that my real journey begins.