August seemed to fly by at great speed.
Unusually for me, I had some visitors and this enabled us to get out and explore some of the beautiful English countryside in Dorset: Abbotsbury and Knowlton Rings:
Knowlton Rings is an ancient earthwork – about 4000 years old and in the tradition of Stonehenge. It is also on various important Ley lines. As can be seen – a Church was built in the middle of it: this was a common practice to Christianise pagan and Druid sites. One might conclude that it did not succeed in this case!!!
Weather so-so but generally good.
I then went on what I call a ‘retreat’: this because I switch off all connections: mobile phones, social media, computer, everything. Of course, there is a pile of ‘stuff’ waiting for me upon my return but I am finding it increasingly necessary to disconnect – to regain some of my privacy. This time I went for 2 weeks which was the most substantial time I have managed so far. Certainly time to just be in the present time and place rather than dodging all over the world and in different time zones.
I also got to see Satyananda. Always special for me to catch up with him and attend one of his Satsangs. Anyone who has read my dialogues with him will know what a profound effect encountering his spiritual tradition had on me:
Book and CD of the month both mean a lot to me.
Firstly, the particular short story by Thomas Mann: Mario and the Magician. Mann wrote it in 1929 as an allegory of the rise of fascism in Germany and, sadly, it is still relevant today to the case of Brexit Britain. It tells the story of how a magician comes and intoxicates his audience with his tricks, attitudes and lies. It is really about power and education and ignorance – for personal gain. The story ends in bloodshed and my sense is there will be blood spilt on the streets of the UK before we resolve the present crisis. As another story – Albert Camus’ The Plague (La Peste), it never really goes away: the ‘bacillus’ just goes underground waiting for the right conditions to break out again.
The CD is a recording of the performance given by Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan at the WOMAD festival in 1985. That is over 30 years ago and I was there. I remember it was on Mersea Island near Colchester in Essex and was one of the first of these festivals for me to attend. He went on around midnight and stunned the audience with his intense Qawwali singing – a kind of Sufi praise music of ecstasy.
Quite frankly, we had never seen anything like it. He went on to performance and other WOMADs and in the concert hall, but nothing for me matches the impact of this first encounter. Now, with the aid of modern technology they have been able to produce a good rendition of the concert which, after all, was recorded with just 8 analogue microphones.
He also collaborated with various other musicians; at one time Massive Attack reworked some of his recordings. Also Peter Gabriel: most noticeably in the Passion piece for the soundtrack to the film The Last Temptation of Christ:
These pieces and others from these traditions were incredibly influential and moved me deeply over the years.