In its early stages the outline of the foetus in the womb resembles the path of a simple labyrinth curling and curving in on itself. The labyrinth and the spiral are, as we have seen, among the earliest intuitions of man about his life and death cycle. They contain the first apprehensions of the possibility of some sort of eternity and some idea of the processes of creation. The labyrinth is the archetypal puzzle. It, by implication, deals with the observed progression of time and the seasons as set against another and different scale. The Dream Time, as the Australian Aborigines called it, a place where all being and becoming are in waiting. Dreaming has no set scale to our sense of time, all things being latent in the dreamer. Events are displayed, to his no surprise, wildly out of sequence, where indeed one can dream separate events simultaneously.
To some the dream is almost as important as the life experience. There is ordinary dreaming where we rearrange and recover from the shocks our flesh is heir to; and there are the big dreams, powerful statements that foreshadow and comment on important psychological events in the waking world. It is in this maze world of the dream that we often can find our way to wholeness of personality. Our treading the maze in our dances, and particularly the spiral maze is part of emulation and mimickry of the Cosmic Dance. One of its purposes is to put us in touch with the eternal ground behind our apparent being. Dreaming to go beyond dreams. In the dance we contact our other selves and the greater self underlying appearance. The dance is a technique.
Traditionally many of our dances go widdershins, i.e. anti-clockwise. In popular fancy such movement is connected with witchcraft, particularly the malevolent sort. So much has this idea taken root that some modern Witch Cultists, dedicated, as they put it to White Magic, do not dance at all in this fashion, but always perambulate sunwise. The thinking behind this is that anti-clockwise movement goes from order to chaos. This is only half the story. True, such motion does, as C. G. Jung notes, activate the unconscious mind, and therefore the deeper and more primitive parts of our psyche. These are also the more instinctive areas of mind. But surely it is our business to know them, for they have great force and importance to our healthy being. Ballroom dances go this way, anti-clockwise round the dancing floor. So do all circus riding acts, these latter generally about a five pointed star or pentagram. This five pointed star we know very well. We saw it at the Promise, and noted it in the apple of wisdom. It symbolises the fivefold path of our lives from Birth, to Initiation, Consummation, Rest and finally Repose. This is ancient magic and the circus still has its archetypal fascination. Of course our friend the Fool is there with his irreverent and apparently uncoordinated companions. All this implies contact with spontaneity and joyful serendipity. The circus can be a microcosm of the eternal dance; and the dancers at the ball move in harmony with their instinctual being producing grace and elegance.
Widdershins motion is used by the Dervishes, a Mohammedan* sect, the object of their exercise being to contact just that ground of deep being and through its realisation to unify the mind, not emphasise its parts. Our motion has the same purpose. We need the bright sun of the intellect for necessary order, but this cannot go unchecked else it becomes too much a monitor of our instinctual mind. We need some base line for our brain waves. Some great discoveries have been found when the unconscious, given its chance, comes to the surface with the insight or solution to a hitherto baffling problem. It is said in our sermons that we must learn to walk from top to bottom of our minds and be not afraid of what we find there. All parts of our mind have their place. Our dances and many of them are sunwise, attempt to focus these factors, to bring what in some people are felt to be different personalities even, together into a unity making a fulfilled and truly individual person, confident and assured.
Both of our dance movements have their rationale. We dance Moonwise for the Goddess, who is archetypal in all things even the Gods, whose active, thinking and logical aspects we recognise in our sunwise dances.
One of the known effects of anti-clockwise motion, if prolonged is a sense of displacement. Generally we temper one movement with its opposite, the object being unity where the strata of the mind surrender their sense of separateness and cease to comment endlessly upon each other. Although it could seem outside this study, the results of displacement are important enough to merit some consideration. Our normal sensorium** is one of linear time. We have already divined that this is not always the case. Odd things do happen. As at the Hallows, where because of its nature the festival asks a large amount of Moonwise motion, it is no strange matter to experience a sudden temperature drop, or to notice tiny fire-flies of light. A high pitched whistle which often occurs spontaneously among the dancers at a festival is often answered with a rising breeze. This phenomenon was widely known and accepted among sailors who ‘whistled for a wind’ when becalmed. It must have worked sufficiently often or they wouldn’t have bothered to do it. Occurrences like these are often held to be ‘occult’ and to indicate a connection with another order of being. I prefer to consider them as part of the natural order of things, although I do agree that they indicate an impingement of our linear time with another order of being. To everyone who has studied the matter it seems that there is some sort of flux where all events are held latent and waiting for the correct triggering. Those that manifest are dependent on our history and character. Much of so-called occult phenomena, like prevision, seeing events taking place at a distance, the appearance of ghosts and the atmospheric changes surrounding certain ‘haunted’ places, are markers that these two dimensions, linear and latent are interacting.
I have also noted that whenever some possibility of important change is in the offing that strange coincidences start to occur. Things, as it were, happen out of sequence. Sometimes we are absolutely certain of quite chancy matters. We know that someone is going to phone and lo! they do. Sometimes whole blocks of events are delivered out of linear sequence. The effect comes first, the cause afterwards. These things are what C. G. Jung called ‘acausal coincidences’. Portents and omens come into the same category. Arguing as it seems, we must, that all things affect each other and are affected by them, animals and birds have quite reasonably been used for centuries as objects of augury. To learn the language of birds, (birds being readily associated with the spirit, vide the dove), was considered a necessity for the Mage. It is also an art that may repay rediscovery.
While on this point of the interdependence of all things in a different continuum than that normally considered, it is noteworthy that there is some good evidence to suggest that lessons learnt by creatures in Europe, influence the speedier acquisition of the same knowledge by others in America. Rupert Sheldrake, an American scientist, has done interesting work on this hypothesis, and discusses it in his book A New Science of Life.
There is it seems an acausal world available to us if we learn how to set about it. Perhaps this may explain why some people are ‘lucky’. They seem to have an inbuilt ability to profit by the acausal world, knowing instinctively when the ground is favourable for action. The concept of serendipity is similar, it being that wonderful moment when, without trying, all things seem to flow together of their own accord.
Omens then are signs that ‘acausal triggering’ has taken place. They are themselves acausal coincidences.
From all this, however, it is unwise to assume the success or otherwise of an enterprise because of the presence of favourable or unfavourable omens. They merely indicate the possibilities of the situation that has arisen.
It is for us, like the Mage, to interpret them aright and then to act on them. Things may be latent elsewhere, but they will only become apparent here if their possibilities are accepted with right action. It may be a lucky day, but if you do nothing, nothing will happen. After all it’s up to you. The possibility is there. And as far as the limitations of your character, history and mental and physical make-up permit, you do have Free Will.
It seems then, that in the ever shifting lattice beneath the appearance of our being; and in A Step in The Dark, T. C. Lethbridge has produced some interesting evidence for such a world where our type of time does not exist; all things are present at once. As in my text I have called this the Lattice. A computer analogy may help. All is there, but until called for or triggered remains latent. The Lattice is non-¬dimensional, non-spatial and in our sense non-temporal. When we use the technique of displacement, becoming in contact with more of ourselves, we are able, however dimly, to appreciate ourselves in relation to that lattice and its extra-ordinary continuum. In a way it is our path to sharing in the great mystery of the Universe and the Goddess.
I believe that this is the prime material of magic; but it is a study requiring a cool head and a stable psyche, for we must continue to deal with our temporal life on a causal basis. Ordinary situations must be coped with in their own terms of causality.
It will have been noticed that from the foregoing the New Pagan is trying to adapt to a new world view, even though much of it is ancient matter being now rephrased for a modern time and fitting marvellously well with the new knowledge of the macro- and microcosmos of the Universe. Its patterns are both geomantic and psychic and interact to produce that lattice in which and with which everything past and present and future exists.
Our maze patterns reflect this lattice: our spirals of life, death and rebirth are patterns of its ever regenerative power. In our dances we become aware of these patterns as charts of a new Universe where our fragmentary selves can unite, and in such discoveries become Lords of the Dance ourselves.
For many this is a new environment. It leads, because the sense of isolation drops away, (no one is ever really alone), to understanding and love of all creation. With such a comprehension goes compassion and care for all life and all being.
So it is up to us to strive for our own unity in ourselves, and in that unity to meet with the Goddess in Her Universal ground of all being. And that means still being aware of the Fool, the Trickster, the Magician, for after all he is reputed to have the last word and the last magic before even he vanishes into the direct consuming presence of Her Being.
*The Oxford English Dictionary notes that the term ‘Mohammedan’ is now considered offensive. However, the earliest reference it gives in support of this warning dates from 1992. There can be no doubt that Ronald M. White, who last revised this text in the mid-nineteen-eighties, did not in the least intend to cause offence by his use of this word. It is quite commonly used with the meaning ‘Muslim’ in the Victorian and twentieth century works on anthropology, mythology, folklore and religion in which he had read so extensively.
**sensorium, marked in OED as ‘alien or non-naturalized’, is a Latin word usually meaning ‘The seat of sensation in the brain of man and other animals; the percipient centre to which sense-impressions are transmitted by the nerves.’ However, this does not seem to be the precise sense in which Ronald M. White is using it here.
Next section: Notes for Suggested Reading
© The Estate of Ronald M. White