THE HERETICAL PENTAGRAM: FIVE QUESTIONS FEATURING GEOFF WARD
Jenny Kile, a regular writer for The Heretic Magazine, sits down with Geoff Ward and asks five searching questions…
Geoff Ward enjoys an impressive list of accomplishments and interests. He holds MA and BA degrees in English literature, and to cite a few examples from his long list of endeavors, he mentors in both fiction and non-fiction creative writing, manages the website Colin Wilson World, founded West Cork Literary Society, is a songwriter with a DVD, Bound for Beara, and is the author of, Spirals: Pattern of Existence, and recently released, A Raft of Dreams, which includes some of his poetry and short stories.
You should get the picture. Geoff passionately explores, questions and embraces life. It’s wonderful to be able to chat with him. I think it’s always a pleasure to learn from inspiring works and lives and I’m thrilled to have this opportunity to ask him the following five questions for The Heretic Magazine. Geoff’s website is: www.geoffward.wix.com/geoff-ward
1) In a previous interview, you mentioned that Colin Wilson’s book, The Outsider, was one which first set you ‘on a path of discovery.’ I can imagine it must be such a heartfelt and passionate venture to manage a website dedicated to him. How has Colin touched your life? What do you love most about his work? What do you miss about him?
Colin Wilson’s The Outsider (1956, reissued 1957, 1963, 1967, 1997, 2001, 2016, and never out of print in the UK, USA and Japan) opened my mind in so many ways and set me on a path of personal discovery. I found it a philosophical and literary springboard. I remember clearly a school friend lending me his copy of the Pan 1963 paperback edition. I have to admit I never returned it and, indeed, it’s still in the (very large) Wilson section on my bookshelves, along with some later editions of it.
I identified immediately with Wilson’s inspired study of alienation in the modern world, and how certain writers, poets, artists and other thinkers reflected it in their lives and works. C S Lewis once said: ‘A book sometimes crosses one’s path which is . . . like the sound of one’s native language in a strange country.’ That was it exactly. I have a lot to thank that school friend for. I went on to read as many of Wilson’s books as I could lay my hands on, and I must credit the cumulative effect of his ideas for a huge expansion of my consciousness over the years.
Wilson, who died in December 2013, aged 82, was broadly a humanist thinker in the Romantic tradition, and doubtless this was the basis of his original appeal to me – his assertion of the importance of self and the value of individual experience, his insistence on the ability to realise human potential through the expansion of consciousness, his explorations of the non-rational, his sense of the infinite and the transcendental, and his response to the imperative of the ‘reason why’ of human existence.
It seemed to me that Wilson set out to achieve a balance between the rational and the non-rational, between psychological and philosophical approaches. Because he wove a pattern which resonated with my own perceptions, my experience of the opposing pulls of that same duality, rational/non-rational, I was freely able to internalise the ideas, and begin to understand the vital principles guiding my own development and functioning.
Wilson’s ideas impinge upon all aspects of existence, and offer persuasive explanations of human behaviour and endeavour. His existentialist approach, of course, is the oldest in philosophy, dating back to Plato, and existentialism necessarily embraces all other philosophies, but Wilson’s brand of existentialism is not the pessimistic kind of the Continental school, that of Jean Paul Sartre and Albert Camus – quite the opposite. Wilson’s ‘new existentialism’ provides an optimistic and practicable philosophy, complementing, for me, the Jungian idea of the individuation process and Jung’s view that a deliberate act of will on the part of the individual can select a path of self-development. Wilson wrote a book about Jung, who is another great influence on my thinking and writing.
Wilson was one of the few thinkers who stood out against the endemic pessimism and defeatism of our times, and the tendency to reject substance and meaning in favour of image and ephemera. I have found his stance on these issues inspirational. After The Outsider, Wilson went on to write many books on philosophy, psychology, consciousness theory, literary criticism, criminology, the paranormal and the occult, UFOs, ancient mysteries and biographies, plus 20 novels. But The Outsider remains the cornerstone of his practical, intuitive philosophy for life, the ‘new existentialism’, which surely makes him the first optimistic philosopher in European history.
Importantly, I place Wilson in the Western esoteric tradition which, revealing itself often as the ‘ancient wisdom’, its roots being in Gnosticism, Neoplatonism, Hermeticism and the Kabbalah, is an essentially optimistic body of thought exhibiting a certain practicality and richly creative elements potentially, and actually, helpful for inner well-being. Wilson’s ideas about the process of ‘inner work’ to move towards self-realisation lies within this tradition, I feel.
The occult, or esoteric, tradition is a coherent intellectual stream rooted in metaphysics, cosmology and religion which has attempted to bring together widely disparate aspects of creation within a complex structure of connections, sympathies and affinities – exactly what Wilson achieved in his prolific writing career. Much within the Western tradition is pragmatic and inspirational and involves working actively to transform not only one’s inner being but the outer realm also – the reformation or redemption of the world as well as personal transformation – as against the generally passive Eastern approaches of self-observation and disengagement from the world. I find Wilson’s ‘new existentialism’ also pragmatic and inspirational in its transformative aspects which, similarly, aim to improve both one’s inner and outer worlds by seeking to give the spur to human evolutionary potential and development, and raise, or widen, the scope of consciousness.
Wilson’s stance is that meaning exists as a reality outside us whether we are there to recognise it or not. It is inherent in the ‘universal organism’, he says, which, to me, places him firmly in the metaphysical camp. The goal of post-structuralist thinkers, such as Derrida, to do away with ‘meaning’ altogether, or at least place it in an infinite regress, and deconstruct the whole tradition of Western metaphysics – with its postulation of a unified presence of meaning, as distinct from a secondary, derivative inscription of that meaning in written language – would have been anathema to Wilson.
I first met Wilson during a holiday in Cornwall, where he lived, in the summer of 1999 and, in 2004, I launched the website (www.colinwilsonworld.net) as an appreciation of his career. I was fortunate to meet and interview him on a number of occasions, a special one being in 2006 when we discussed his feelings as he looked back on The Outsider after 50 years (remarkably, the book was published when he was still only 24 years old). So I do miss my visits and conversations with him.
Wilson is no longer with us but his foremost position in the pantheon of ‘new consciousness’ pioneers was long been assured. The fact that, since his death, no fewer than nine books have been published either about him, or presenting his works, is testimony to this.
2) I love your short story, The Dream Stone, within your newest book, A Raft of Dreams. Although all your stories (and poems) in A Raft of Dreams leave a reader with much to contemplate, The Dream Stone is one which captured me. Maybe because I sometimes sense the gateway between worlds you describe in it. This story, however, speaks of stone circles. What is it you feel is significant about the old stone circles you often visit and capture in photographs today? What do you think was their purpose? Do you think they were casual formations or deeply meaningful structures?
Even as a child I was attracted to, and moved by prehistoric stone circles, standing stones, dolmens and earthworks as well as the patterns which the stars made in the night sky, although at that time, as an 11-year-old, I had no idea how earth and sky were connected at places where the earth forces were concentrated. I have a vivid memory, for example, of, at that young age, climbing under the capstone of a dolmen in North Devon in the west of England, while on holiday with my parents, and lying there, listening to the wind seemingly whispering ancient secrets into my ears.
In dream symbolism, megaliths are often seen as representing the forces of the spirit emerging from the unconscious, or out of the affairs of life. For me, the old stones also stand as reminders – to jog our collective memory, as it were – of something important the human race has lost, or at least forgotten, yet might find again. They are mystical places of ‘earth magic‘ where the veil between the worlds is thin, especially at solstice and equinox sunrises and sunsets, with which many of them are aligned. In my story, The Dream Stone, which you mention, and which is set in the west of Ireland at the time of the summer solstice, the mysterious figure of Annie, who appears in the stone circle, represents the Irish earth goddess Aine who is associated closely with midsummer.
Certainly, stone circles, and other ancient stone monuments, are where they are for very good reasons, as so much convincing research has shown, in the last half-century, particularly. There is no way they were ‘casual formations‘, and for me they are, indeed, deeply meaningful structures. Their locations were not decided merely by whim or foible, and they were not aligned to the heavens simply by chance. They were hallowed places where earth energies were found to accumulate and bestow life-enhancing properties of subtle, regenerative vibrations, and today they should be respected, even venerated, as such.
Their purpose was also to mark the changing seasons and cycles of the sun, moon, planets and stars: ‘temples of eternity‘, as I call them, where ritual could be enacted embracing powerful imagery extending deep into the collective, or communal, imagination (mythologies worldwide are infused with such imagery). Ancient communities, and those with long-surviving traditions, understood the importance of such rituals reflecting the acute human sensitivity towards, and recognition of, patterns in the land and skies.
Ritual triggers the imaginative processes and has strong symbolic elements and, in ancient times, it was frequently devised to accompany important turning points in the lives of individuals, or in the experiences of whole communities, which often involved issues of birth, death and rebirth. ‘Without rituals we may as well be dead,’ Confucius remarked. Sensitivity to the ancient megaliths reconnects us with our distant ancestors, and returns us to relationships with the earth and the stars, vital links with nature that have been lost.
The old stones signify a lost knowledge encoded in the geometry underlying the positioning of them. It’s as if there’s a kind of ‘sacred line’ of thought and knowledge coming down to us from ancient times, but that it’s been intercepted and disrupted, driven underground, and is waiting to be rediscovered. What is meant, after all, by the adjective ‘sacred’ when applied to geometry? Surely it’s the idea of its fundamental principles being passed down through history so as to provide an understanding of how the universe is ordered, and how the structures of the ancient monuments reflected this order: ‘as above, so below’.
In fact, the history of geometry is being rewritten today, its origins being pushed ever further back in time. Latest research proves that it was used comprehensively in the neolithic period (and probably before), at least 2,500 years before the time it was supposed to have been developed by the Ancient Greeks from about the middle of the first millennium BC. If one combines science, consciousness studies, metaphysics, ancient symbolism and prophecy, one can conclude that we are on the verge of a rediscovery of an ancient system of physics and spirituality known to our ‘stone-age’ ancestors. Positive and negative ‘vibrations’ discussed for centuries in the western esoteric tradition are turning out not only to exist but have geometric structures.
In the neolithic revolution, our ancestors became aware of a creative and timeless energy pervading the cosmos and supporting human existence, and the idea inherent in mythology subsequently was to tap into this energy. We need myths today to help us venerate the earth as sacred once again, instead of merely using it as a ‘resource’.
I do believe there was an ancient intuitive science, represented by the megalith builders, which could be useful for us to endeavour to rediscover, to step back and look at the wider picture in the way that the ancient philosophers did, and to see the numinous qualities of the universe. I don’t know how most people would respond to this, or whether they would be able to take the opportunity. Certainly, there are the beginnings of a movement in society, but it still has a long way to go to overcome the forces of materialism. I also think that you need a pragmatic approach towards these things. Somehow you’ve got to be sure that they can be channelled to definite goals and purposes and work out how these ideas can or will actually have a benefit to humanity, in the short term and the long term.
3) I admire your stance with writing. Will you share more of your thoughts about acquiring your own voice through craft and form? Why do you feel this is important? Do you feel, we as a people, have lost something ancient which brought out or allowed each person’s own voice to be realized? Are there signs of this missing? Are you making it your mission to help others discover their voice?
My view, or working assumption, is that writing is a process that must include the imaginative and inner self of the writer, as well as logic, rhetoric, structure and style. I see writing as an inner struggle, an inward journey, a discovery of the self, a higher self, an unbound self. The great spiritual traditions are unanimous that beyond the limited egoic consciousness lies a more spacious selfhood, a limitless selfhood, even, the attainment of which is the true fulfilment of our human journey, or quest.
It is out of the approach to craft and form that ‘voice’ arises, I believe. Mine is clearly a metaphysical approach – not merely in the way of the Metaphysical poets of the 17th century, with their high-flown conceits and what Dr Johnson called the ‘discordia concours’ (their, to him, ‘discordant’ approach), nor in terms of analytic philosophy where there are too many vexed issues. It’s a universalist approach, one that would restore the universe to literature – and to philosophy after a century of it concentrating on language and logic. Where is the universe in today’s poetry, or the poetry of the last half-century or more, for example? It’s not very evident. The metaphysical element, so prevalent in Western literature for centuries hitherto, went missing, and needs to be restored.
Now, you won’t find universalism listed in the latest dictionaries or histories of philosophy, but it takes us back to the metaphysical world-view of the pre-Socratic Greeks, and to the later philosophers Plato and Aristotle. Holistically, it sees humanity as having arisen from an interlinked unity, and identifies a universal principle of order, as in the original meaning of the Greek word kosmos,which was ‘order’, with shades of ‘harmony’ and ‘orderly’ attached – the word was first used in this way by the mathematician and philosopher Pythagoras – and signifies quite the opposite of chaos. Metaphysics asks what infinite condition lies behind, and brings order to, the physical universe, and opposes the idea that the universe has come about by accident and is governed by random chance. Put another way, the physical universe which we see all about us masks a metaphysical infinite order which gives it form; our western attitude of separating the physical and metaphysical arises from the limitation of our abilities – according to our range of consciousness – to sense and relate to different kinds of energy events.
Much of my writing is influenced also by the occult tradition, an occult quality being one that is generally hidden, or occluded, from the everyday senses, as opposed to a manifest quality that is clearly apprehended. The existence of universal energies hidden from normal human perception has long been a belief of the esoteric traditions of both East and West. I am also in agreement with Colin Wilson that the paranormal indicates the (re-)developmental direction of human consciousness. In this sense, we have lost ‘something ancient’, in that I believe that paranormal abilities – telepathy, clairvoyance and psychokinesis, and so on – were the norm for our ancestors of 5,000 years ago or more. That paranormal studies are now regarded as ‘proto-science’ in some quarters suggests to me that we might regain these abilities in the future at a more general level. These are the kinds of areas where my voice as a writer is determined.
I also see the writing process as analagous to the dream, in two ways: first, a movement towards articulating and clarifying one’s feelings and thoughts that draws upon the resources of the unconscious mind and of the writer’s inner life. Second, writing is dream-related in the sense of a dream being a sustained vision, a hope or aspiration. I think the best writing comes from a strong sense of commitment to an experience, an idea or a belief. A consistent focus on a theme as personal as dreams and inward journeys helps a writer develop and sustain his or her voice.
Although I wouldn’t put it as strongly as a ‘mission’ to convey these ideas, I do introduce writers to them in my creative writing tuition, mentoring and workshops because I feel they are of the highest importance.
Well, shouldn’t literature be able to raise the reader’s consciousness significantly – just as it did when the novel was invented nearly 300 years ago, and as it attempted to do again (by different means) in the early 20th century under the ‘modernist’ pens of James Joyce, Virginia Woolf, Dorothy Richardson and others? I see the two most important issues, or questions, in literature today as consciousness and purpose. Neither are much considered in academic circles, nor by critics or reviewers, if at all. Fiction, the novel, in particular, and poetry can be viewed as instruments of intentionality with the capacity to extend us in the direction of selfhood – that quality that constitutes one’s individuality – and of consciousness regarded as a universal, participatory field from which inspiration arises and in which our participation can be increased.
4) Spirals: The Pattern of Existence is a book you first published in 2006, with a second edition released in 2013. It brilliantly explores the miraculous nature of this ever-occurring form. Prevalent, yet often missed, and sadly, sometimes forgotten, the spiral is mysterious indeed. Do you continue your research of the spiral? Or do you feel you have discovered all there is you can know?
I still maintain an interest in the spiral, of course, because I’m sure we have plenty more to discover about this universal form and pattern. I haven’t been continuing my research, as such, since 2013 because I’ve moved on to other areas of interest. But in the ten years since Spirals: The Pattern of Existence was first published, I’ve noticed an increasing interest in the subject of ‘sacred geometry’, within which the spiral is pre-eminent, and that a few other books have appeared on the subject of the spiral.
This is interesting because, in 2006, my book was the first popular study of the spiral to appear since 1974 when Jill Purce published The Mystic Spiral: Journey of the Soul. Before that, there had been no study since 1917 (D’Arcy Wentworth Thompson’s On Growth and Form) and 1914 (Theodore Andrea Cook’s The Curves of Life) – I consider all three works in my book – so why the attraction to the subject in the last decade? I think the answer lies in the development of a new and higher consciousness in the world which is beginning to detect, or ‘tune in’ to, the (geometric) inner essence of reality where the spiral form is generated (see my answer to the Colin Wilson question, above, regarding human evolutionary potential).
I realised very early on in my research for Spirals: The Pattern of Existence that the spiral was ubiquitous. This realisation has been borne out strikingly by Russian scientific research involving torsion field theory, a relatively new branch of physics. This speculates that consciousness and DNA (couched in its double-helix molecule, of course) arise from torsion energy, the quantum twist of space-time – the macro outcome of the micro interaction of sub-atomic particles.
If torsion fields and consciousness are inter-related, then it is of great significance for the various field theories of consciousness; such theories, in my view, offer the best explanation of the nature of consciousness in the current state of our knowledge – and not just because of the obvious spiral implications, my belief being that the spiral curve is the shape of time and the trajectory of consciousness, and a key to the riddle of existence.
The pioneering work in torsion field physics was carried out by Albert Einstein and the French mathematician Élie Cartan in the 1920s, resulting in the Einstein-Cartan theory, a classical theory of gravitation in which interest has been revived as theorists try to incorporate torsion into quantum theories, or as they explore its cosmological ramifications.
Torsion fields (also called spin fields, or axion fields) are envisaged as spiral manifestations of subtle energy which can curve to the left or right, as spirals do in nature where the bias is to right-turning curves. Studies by the Russian astronomer and astrophysicist Nikolai Kozyrev, who died in 1983, and other studies by Russian scientists subsequently, have suggested that matter harnesses torsion waves to sustain its existence.
According to the Russian research, torsion-wave energy pervades space at varying degrees of concentration. As star and planetary systems move through, and rotate with, the galaxy they encounter different concentrations in specific time intervals, in cycles varying from thousands to millions of years. It is speculated that a high density of torsion waves could have transformative effects on DNA on Earth, causing more highly evolved forms of life to replicate more rapidly than less evolved forms. Evolution certainly seems to have taken place in sudden leaps and bounds rather than in a gradual and uniform way.
When torsion energy peaks, it is alleged, DNA can be restructured, resulting in an evolutionary development – which we might well be seeing now in the ‘new consciousness’. Only about three per cent of human DNA is required for genome purposes, the other 97 per cent being referred to by scientists rather dismissively as ‘junk DNA’, as they do not understand the purpose of it. However, it is the ‘junk’, evidently, that could be reorganised by the influx of torsion energy waves.
Of course, if torsion fields are the ultimate underlying stratum of the universe, it is not surprising that they should be reflected in spirality – the condition of being spiral – at every other level of existence. Indeed, they have been described as constituting the ‘spiralling life-force’.
5) You are such an inspiration, Geoff. I was recently reading the book Notes to Myself by Hugh Prather of which the following note was included: ‘There is a part of me that wants to write, a part that wants to theorize, a part that wants to sculpt, a part that wants to teach . . . To force myself into a single role, to decide to be just one thing in life, would kill off large parts of me.’ This hit a strong chord with myself. I love so many things, and it seems you do as well. Some say you must focus on ‘one area’ in order to feel like you fully excelled in that one area. The ‘jack of all trades, master of none’ phrase hints towards this. But I’m not so sure. I feel, and it seems you are proving it, that you can have success doing many things. What do you think? What helps you to effectively juggle so much? Would you be able to cut out anything you are doing and feel whole? Would that make more of a success then if you did? I can’t imagine it would.
No, I couldn’t cut out any of my artistic endeavours, whether in writing or in music. I couldn’t ‘force myself into a single role’, assuming I’d even want to. Concentrating on one field wouldn’t make me feel any more successful; less so, in fact, because I would be suppressing other aspects of my creativity.
Words and music have always been my passion; sometimes I find one is on the ascendant, then the other; and, of course, words and music come together in song. I really have no sense of ‘juggling’ these interests. It seems quite natural to me that the various elements of them are always in play. I am simply responsive and faithful to my muse, whether it be Euterpe or Erato, or both at the same time!
Receiving inspiration is the key, and the issue of literary or musical genesis – how or why inspiration comes to the writer or musician – is an intriguing subject. One might be short of inspiration sometimes, but you can’t stop it making contact when it’s ready to communicate – to open the portal, so to speak – whether it’s for a poem, a story or a song.
My theory is that as we are all connected by a quantum substrate, which reveals a participatory structure of energy fields, including our conscious and unconscious minds, inspiration arises from the collective unconscious, or the ‘obfuscated consciousness’ as Bernardo Kastrup (one of my favourite writers at the moment) would prefer to put it, and can lead to either artistic or scientific genesis or discovery.
Could there be any better metaphor for the flow of inspiration into the human imagination than the quantum realm, which is quite magical in its ‘dance’ of unpredictability and indeterminacy. Quantum science has also come up with the idea that we live in a holographic universe, the implication of which is that all information is everywhere at the same time, in a state of ‘zero separation’.
So to be inspired is surely to connect with that divine cosmic energy, replete with potential and creativity, that envelops us. Mystics and sages have long spoken of an interconnecting cosmic field behind reality – for example, the Akashic record, after ‘akasha’, the Sanskrit and Vedic term for space – that conserves and conveys information, and comprises all knowledge and history.
Most people have little inkling of the existence of a higher mind. Some of us might become aware of it through intuition, or in moments of heightened or ‘breakthrough’ consciousness – in the ‘peak experience’ studied by the psychologist Abraham Maslow, for example, or ‘epiphany’ in the revelatory sense – or in fleeting mystical experience. In such instances, some kind of cosmic information field becomes accessible to us, albeit briefly, which might just explain creativity and inspiration, as well as the divinatory arts and such things as synchronicity and ‘second sight’.
You can find out more about Geoff and his work at his website: www.geoffward.wix.com/geoff-ward