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" The Holy Land is everywhere "

Black Elk

Transpersonal History

May 18th, 2010

Order member Dr Thomas Daffern offers:


This special 2010-2011 course of lectures is being given by Dr. Thomas C Daffern, an academic specialist in interfaith research and comparative global philosophy. It is taking place in West Sussex, close to the Buddhist monastery at Chithurst, and is being given to an invited audience. The cost of admission is by donation. The talks will be taking place on Sunday afternoons, on the last Sunday of each month, from 3-5.30 starting in May 2010. They will be followed by questions and discussion of the issues raised. The course is based partly on the unique Periodic Table of the World’s Religious and Philosophical Traditions devised by Dr Daffern ( The course is also based on Dr Daffern’s doctoral thesis, entitled Toward a Transpersonal History of the Search for Peace 1945-2001 If you wish to attend please contact for an invitation and exact travel details. More details of Dr Daffern’s work are on while his publications are available from The course is taking place under the auspices of the International Institute of Peace Studies and Global Philosophy. Thomas has also been awarded the Mt Haemus Scholarship from the Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids for 2010, and there is considerable overlap between this course and his work in that regard. Limited places so please book your place early by applying by email or in writing to: IIPSGP, 4 Nursery Cottages, Trotton, Chithurst Lane, Near Midhurst, West Sussex,  GU31 5ET, 01730 716496.

1 May 30 – Introduction: Transpersonal history – defining a new discipline
2 June 27 – Jung, Freud and the founding of the transpersonal approach in depth psychology and psychohistory
3 July 25 – Jungians and the transpersonal: Hillman, Joseph Campbell and beyond
4 August 29 – Maslow, Assagioli, Groff, and transpersonal history
5 September 26 – Ken Wilber, Integral theory, Don Beck and transpersonal history
6 October 31 – Intellectual history and transpersonal history
7 November 28 – The periodic table of religions and philosophies and transpersonal history
8 December 19 – Genres of history – diplomatic, political, social, economic, gender, cultural, materialist,  and transpersonal history
9 Jan 30 – Psychohistories and transpersonal history: De Mause, Erikson etc
10 Feb 27 – Theosophy, Anthroposophy, esotericism and historiography and transpersonal history
11 March 27 – History of religions and spirituality – Eliade, Smart etc. Sufism, Kabbalah, Christianity, Buddhism, Druidry, Jainism, Hinduism, New Age, gnosis and transpersonal history
12 April 24 – History of sciences and transpersonal history
13 May 29 – History of global philosophies  and transpersonal history
14 June 26 – History of the Arts, inspiration and transpersonal history
15 July 31 – Peace history, conflict resolution, the Middle East, the Afghan War and transpersonal history – by way of a conclusion which is not the end…

Solve et Coagula: Reflections on the Spiritual Path

June 9th, 2009

A spiritual way needs to both hold and guide you, and open and free you. Sometimes these can appear to be contradictory functions, but when they work there is a dance between the two processes that helps you to reach your goals: in Druid terms the illuminations of wisdom, creativity and love.
When either dynamic moves to its extreme, it challenges you to identify your boundaries and claim your power. In other words, when a spiritual way seems to be confining you, restricting you, the gift hidden in this experience lies in the opportunity it offers to identify what you really need and to move towards this, rather than being submissive or ‘obedient’.
But here’s the subtlety that needs to be appreciated: some limitation is necessary. Restriction serves its purpose in the scheme of things, and so you must be attentive to not being reactive, and simply acting out ‘the rebel’. Instead of prematurely rejecting the limitations of a system, idea, practice, doctrine or group, it is worth exploring the way in which the perceived constriction may actually be a valuable part of your journey.
Likewise the sense of ‘lostness’, of lack of boundaries, of yearning for definition and guidance, brings its own gifts of an opening-out-to-the-new, of transformation in the face of the Mystery, of Not-Knowing,
Again, rather than acting out of fear, and going for premature ‘containment’ by following external prescriptions, it is helpful (when one can) to allow the process to occur. Like the movement of the tides, after a while one’s psyche will naturally be drawn back to the other pole and will find containment and direction.
In this way we can both follow traditional spiritual paths and be open to the Spirit, can learn from the ideas and practices of teachers and teachings and can be empowered individuals who follow their own star too.

Should you Follow just one Spiritual Path?

February 15th, 2009

Should you choose just one spiritual path or religion and follow only that one, or can you combine paths and still reach your desired goal – of liberation, enlightenment or whatever it is you believe to be the aim of spirituality?

The purists offer the image of paths that work their way towards the summit of a mountain. Their advice is to choose just one path and keep at it! Otherwise you simply waste your time and energy switching paths and exploring false trails. Like all analogies it has its limitations. Anyone who has been trekking knows that sometimes you can deviate from a well-worn path and take a short-cut which gets you to your destination quicker, or which later joins the original path and took you on an interesting route, and that anyway enlightenment is best seen as a process rather than as a state to be achieved: a journey rather than a destination.

Another analogy offered is of sinking bore holes for water. If you are seeking water, goes the advice, you don’t sink lots of bore-holes you just sink one and focus on that. Likewise with spirituality, don’t dissipate your focus: concentrate on one path, one meditation technique, and stick to that. A Buddhist friend, who is also a Druid, told me of the problem with this analogy. He is a hydrologist and he said that apparently to get the best results when extracting water you should sink at least two bore holes.

The third analogy I’ve come across was given to me by my Druid teacher, Nuinn. He said ‘Don’t mix your drinks’, and yet he was a Universalist, who was fascinated by the common threads in all religions and was a practicing Druid, Martinist and Christian, who drew upon the inspiration of the Kabbalah, Wicca, and Jainism amongst many other influences.

Who is right? The teacher who advises you to stick to just one path/religion/practice or the teacher who advocates, or simply practices, an eclectic path?

My feeling is that it is not a question of one approach being right and the other wrong. Instead it is a question of being sensitive to what is right for you, what it is that you need, at any given point on your spiritual journey. There are times when the simplicity of following one practice, of feeding from just one stream of inspiration, is just what your soul needs. But at other times, or for other people, nourishment from a number of sources, and practices drawn from a number of traditions, may be just what the soul needs.

I have discovered that this blog has a poll facility. I would be really interested to find out how others feel about this subject, so if you could take a few moments to take this poll I’d very grateful! (NB This discussion – and a poll – with many interesting comments is also going on in ‘The Philosopher’s Roundhouse’ forum of the Order of Bards Ovates & Druids Message Board.)

Solve et Coagula

January 23rd, 2008

In working with spiritual ideas it seems to me that we need to both elaborate and distill essential ideas and beliefs.

We need to elaborate them by teasing apart and ‘unpacking’ apparently simple statements to explore their depth and allow their potential to blossom like flowers. And yet we also need to distill all the teachings we receive, all that we read and come to know – to achieve clarity, and to help steer ourselves through life. A while back I tried to make a distillation of various key ideas about life, and spiritual development in particular, that I’ve just unearthed in my notes and I thought I’d share them with you. If you can think of other ‘distillations’ I’d love to hear them:

The source of Life is pure limitless love.
You are meant to be here. Life is meaningful and your life has a purpose.
All religions and spiritual paths are leading towards the same goal. You can choose to follow an already established path, or you can choose to create your own path out of a combination of ideas and methods from different paths.
At the heart of the spiritual life is the search for wisdom and compassion. You need to actively seek these qualities. You can relax and have fun too, but you do need to work at the Quest.
Seeking personal fulfilment isn’t enough. Spirituality isn’t just self-serving – it’s about being of value to other people and the world too. You can make a difference.
These are critical times – the Earth and humanity face challenges they have never faced before. These challenges offer great potential for you to learn and grow and give. You don’t need to worry about these challenges, but you shouldn’t ignore them either.
The world is more mysterious and magical than you can possibly imagine. You are not alone.
None of this belongs to you, but that is very cool.
You are whole and you are free. Only sometimes you think or feel you are not.
You are the creator of your destiny. The more you understand about how life works the more you can be of use to yourself and others.
You create your reality, but other people help create it too, just as you help to create their reality. We’re in this together.
Everything is connected.
You need to learn how to be focussed, and how to develop goals, and you need to learn how to let go, how to be open and relaxed and unattached.
Your heart knows. Deep down you know where you should be headed, and what you need to do. Spiritual practice can help you hear the still small voice of your heart so that you can follow your bliss.
You don’t need to wait to do any of this. Life isn’t a rehearsal. This is it. Be here now.

Words are clothes

November 3rd, 2007

The idea that through writing you can somehow undress and reveal the ‘real you’, the ‘naked you’ , your True Self, is of course a sham. Words are clothes. Writers are fashion designers, models or tramps, flamboyant or boring…

Even so, I believe it is worth following the advice of the sculptor Henry Moore who said one should always have an unachievable ambition, and the ambition of using words to reveal the unrevealable, the known to speak of the Unknown, seems a worthwhile ‘hopeless ambition’.

Nakedness Again

November 2nd, 2007

I’ve got this Winter planned – I have a stack of ancient Naturist Magazines (most of which, in the 1930’s were proudly subtitled ‘The Official Organ of the Sunbathing Society/The Canadian Naturists and so on) and I shall study these organs by the warmth of the fire with mugs of cocoa laced with whisky.

Lest you should think this a trivial way to pass the time I must stress that this is serious research for a book called ‘A Brief History of Nakedness’ that I am writing. It will deal with the philosophical, psychological and spiritual dimensions of nakedness, as well as including some of the sillier aspects of human behaviour.

Since I need to focus on the book I’m going to use this blog as a common-place book mainly over the next few months. A place to put film clips, odd bits of research and so on, such as this short clip pasted below.

All very silly I know but we all need a break from the gloom of the economic and political situation and the art of healthy living involves the ability to explore both profound and trivial issues – to be fully human we need to be able to be serious and silly!

[vodpod id=ExternalVideo.437929&w=425&h=350&fv=]


October 12th, 2007

A spirituality or religion should offer us an anchor in a world of change. When it does it connects us to an awareness that however much the world outside us changes, there is the Changeless that stands at the centre of the wheel. This awareness fosters equanimity.

I remember when I was a teenager reading the I-Ching how struck I was by the idea of cyclicity – of how things in the world of appearances and Nature change cyclically. Then with studying Druidry the observance of the eightfold seasonal year brought this home even more.

Looking back I can see how this understanding has helped me weather the ups and downs of life, and as I watch the news with stories about the economy going into a downturn, I can remember a lifetime of news broadcasts, which can be summarised as ‘Things are looking up! Things are looking bleak! Things are looking up!’ and so on.

The sense of inner calm or equanimity that accepting the cyclical nature of reality brings is one of the gifts spirituality can give to the world. Why? Because without that sense of inner poise, connection, equilibrium, we are pulled this way and that by our feelings and anxieties. In a word we suffer. A spiritual way that fosters equanimity offers a means to overcome suffering.

It would be fruitful to contemplate the distinction between fostering detachment and fostering equanimity, but that’s enough for today!