My early childhood was spent on the outskirts of a small Suffolk town playing ‘famous five’ with my 2 elder brothers and losing myself in the small scrubby copse of trees opposite our house. I was a quick learner so aged 8, my parents sent me to an academic girls’ school in Cambridge, 30 miles away from my home. I remember feeling like a wild animal taken into captivity for the first time; looking around for a kindred scruffy child in the sea of girls with long plaits, white socks and neat pinafore dresses. I was a complete misfit and in the 8 years of being there, I never overcame this feeling.
I was an early developer and was thrown into an adult world aged 11 after being sought out by an elder teenager who left me with a deep wound and a secret to hold that estranged me even more from my peers. School became an oppressive endurance test and I was sent many times to the headteacher often for reasons unknown to me. I became a ‘problem’ pupil for my difference and the girls around me started to whisper. I had a choice of denying or living up to my reputation so I went with the latter and threw myself into edgy situations; jumping trains to London, shoplifting as a habit and seeking out people living outside society’s norms; the goths and park-bench dwellers of early 90’s Cambridge.
My parents separated, school eventually finished and then out of the blue, I received a cheque in the post; a gift from a deceased relative. 19 years old, I bought a ticket to India and emerged from Calcutta airport to the heat, the smells of spice and rubbish, the traffic mayhem and was enraptured. After 3 weeks of walking the city, I booked myself into a Vipassana retreat in Bodhgaya. Having felt alienated in the ‘human’ world I had grown up in, my longing for spirit and the spiritual life was burning in me. I emerged after 10 days of silence, shaved my head and soft as a baby, I travelled to Varanasi, threw myself into yoga and bought a guitar.
I met a beautiful singer, Katya Moslehner, who was studying classical Indian music in Varanasi and together we travelled to an uninhabited Andaman Island and spent our days bathing in the ocean, gazing at the milky way and singing with her shruti box. It was the first time I had explored my voice or come to know singing as meditation. We parted ways and I found myself alone again travelling to North India. Having been so saturated in the heat and headiness of the India I had come to love, this last part of my journey brought up some deep and familiar feelings of loneliness. My guitar became my loyal companion in this time. I’d hide myself away in concrete guesthouse rooms and tentatively pick out the chords and (quietly quietly) sing.
After 6 months in India, I returned to the UK to study philosophy and literature but was itching to continue travelling. At every opportunity I took off and one summer break I found a tipi community in the mountains in Spain. I deferred my degree studies and spent 2 years immersed in the simple life; growing food, walking barefoot on the earth, bathing in spring pools and singing round the big lodge fire. I learnt many things in this time – how to live in deep connection with the earth, how to find sacredness in simplicity – but I still found it hard to trust people and feel a sense of belonging. One warm spring day whilst walking by a shrubby hedge of hawthorn and brambles, I felt a rekindling of love of my homeland and a desire to return there and pick up the broken pieces of the self I’d left behind.
That time came around after hearing about such a thing as plant medicine ceremonies. I returned to the UK and, armed with my guitar and a small bag of clothes, I took a train from Cambridge down to Penzance and stepped into a whole new chapter of my life. The plants showed me a path on which I could gather up the many fragmented parts of my youth and become whole. I followed the medicine path to Japan, Spain, Italy, Austria, and with my new husband, to South America to deepen our study of the plants and the healing power of song. Together, we crewed on a four-man sailing boat across the Atlantic and it was under the wide starry skies that I began to hear my own songs.
I returned to my community in the UK with the beginnings of my first collection of songs, tied together in a little book called ‘Song of the Earth’. The songs were warmly received and went on to travel far and wide through the network of medicine ceremonies. I took my music out into the wider world for the first time, performing a series of concerts with the Anjali Orchestra – a band of 8 musicians of sacred music. As this period of intense ceremonial work came to an end in 2010, my husband and I returned to India to find our way home within ourselves again and continue the study I had discovered through my friend many years before; Naad yoga.
This trip was a profound time of rebirth for me and I returned in 2011 to begin a new life in West Wales and become a mother for the first time. It is impossible to convey the depth and scale of the changes that parenting brings but the subsequent 12 years of raising 2 children and establishing a home have been an intense process of unmaking and remaking my relationship with music and its mysterious source. Having landed back where we started, in South Devon where we remain today, I have finally entered into a period of more time and space in which I can start recording my music.
“Of Grief and Gratitude”, my 3-song debut EP was released in the spring of 2022. Inspired by the death of a young friend, it is an intimate, heartfelt musical and videographic journey through grief, confusion, hope and the promise of coming home to who we truly are.
The process of recording these songs was wonderful in many ways and a steep learning curve in the sonic arts. Realising that I do know exactly what I want is one thing, but learning how to articulate that in musical language was another. Producer Misha Mullov-Abbado was a great support – translating my slightly cryptic language into musical forms in which my songs could fully come to life.
It was a delight to discover that on the other hand, I felt entirely at home in the world of visual art and videography. I received a vision for my film ‘Across the Veil’, whilst lying awake one night. Knowing it would be quite a videographic feat I sought out the filmmaker Kai Ohio and worked closely with him on the shoot and through the edit to completion. My heart was full to bursting when it received 20k views on Facebook in the first few days of its release and it has steadily built on YouTube since. I have been deeply touched by the messages I have received from all around the world from people that have lost loved ones, thanking me for the healing they’ve received through this song.
Since then I have released various self-made videos including one for my song “All is Love” using rough footage taken by my husband on our ocean crossing and through Brazil. I am now working with various other artists as a creative director on their music videos – not something I planned but it’s work I love!
I am also now co-producing and recording a full-length album of songs. The songs articulate my journey as a spiritual being born into the madness and chaos of this modern world. Inevitably, at the heart of that are my feelings as a mother looking forward into this uncertain future, loving beyond measure my children and having to hold a place of faith for them despite the overwhelming despair that I feel when I witness the demise of our natural world.
My songs provide me with compass for living – lyrically and melodically guiding me forwards and keep the torch of belief alight. They tell me; keep singing, keep praying and keep loving this incredible earth that we live upon. If others can also receive this wisdom through my musical legacy, then I’ll die having completed what I came here for!
I plan to release this first album in the spring of 2024 and will be launching a crowd-funding campaign in the Autumn 2023 to fund its creation. Crowdfunding is one of the unexpected gifts emerging from the technological change affecting musicians. In contrast to the digital distribution giants (Spotify, Tunecore etc.) it’s very real way for people who love music to support its creation and offer something to the artists who inspire them.
If you’d like to see my work and follow my journey, find me on the links below.
Yolanda Barker is an Irish-Polish film director, author and mental health advocate. She’s directed award-winning documentaries like ‘Cereal Killers’.
Born in Limerick city to an Irish father and Polish mother, her film making aspirations began at the age of eight, when she saw ‘The Little Mermaid’, and promptly decided she wanted to make films for Walt Disney.
In her teens, through a deepening understanding of her own mental health struggles, she became drawn to films that captured both the magic and the horror of life, like Roberto Benigni’s ‘Life is Beautiful’.
After moving to Dublin, she studied English Literature at University, and followed this with a one year filmmaking course. Here, she was introduced to the beauty of documentary filmmaking. Inspired by the work of documentary masters like Leo Regan and Nick Broomfield, she saw in documentary the potential to investigate and understand human nature.
After graduating, she immediately got a job as an editor, working for clients like Guinness and Jameson. In her spare time, she directed and edited her first feature documentary, ‘Drawing the Line’, about Irish graffiti artists.
In 2005, a (very unexpected) spiritual awakening changed the course of her life. She began exploring energy healing, yoga and meditation, but it was hard to get the information she wanted. Spiritual practices were very ”alternative” in Ireland at that time, and the internet was not that developed. She continued to work as an editor in Dublin, transitioning to TV and eventually working for R.T.E (the Irish equivalent of the BBC).
After a few years, she burnt out from full time work. She decided to go freelance, travel to India, immerse herself in spirituality, and make a documentary about what she found. She had no idea what she was letting herself in for, or how difficult it would be to make a nuanced film on such a complex topic. 12 years later, the result was ‘India, Calling’: a dark, yet beautiful film about spirituality, healing, and the human condition.
Agonising over ‘India, Calling’ didn’t stop Yolanda from working on other projects. In 2009 she moved to London, UK, and from 2011 to 2020 she directed five more documentaries. Produced by Donal O’Neil, these films focused on different aspects of nutritional science, the food industry, big pharma, and were more activist in nature. Titles included ‘Cereal Killers’, ‘Cereal Killers 2’, ‘The Big Fat Fix’, and ‘Extra Time’.
She also directed several short films and short animations. Her most successful of these was ‘After I Saw You’, made with Leah Pearlman, the artist behind the Buddhist comic strip, Dharma Comics. This two minute animation went viral upon release, featuring in dozens of online publications. It made it to film festivals all over the world, including the Oscar-qualifying Encounters Film Festival, and won the ‘Producer’s Choice’ award at the Earl’s Court Film Festival.
Alongside all this, Yolanda continued practising yoga and meditation. In 2011 she qualified as a yoga teacher, and began teaching. Her experiences with yoga, meditation and breathwork became the substance for her first health and wellness book, ‘The Breathing Revolution’. Here, she looked at the connection between breathing, the nervous system and mental health.
This was her most personal work to date, as she shared openly about her struggles with anxiety and depression. Since then she has become a mental health advocate, giving talks about mental health and the benefits of breathing techniques both at online and in-person events. She is particularly interested in breaking stigmas around mental health conditions and has written about this in publications like Elephant Journal.
Yolanda is currently co-writing a TV series with actor Shaun Amos, which she will also direct. She’s directing a new documentary called ‘First, Do No Pharm’, an exposé on the pharmaceutical industry. She’s also writing a new book: a novel about generational trauma.
It’s clear now that my journey with music and spirituality began as a teenager perceiving profundity in the lyrics of my then favourite artists … with my readily pedestalling them as great seers imparting some sort of transcendent knowledge and wisdom via their songs. To my friends, I used say ‘the answer’s in the music’. The challenge for us mortals was to get beyond the layers of lyrical ambiguity … for then we would surely access all those deeper meanings. Growing up in Somerset in the mid-70s, I had my head in the clouds. But the seed of an idea had taken root.
While still at school I formed a band with class mates. ‘Early Daze’ – a nod to a Jimi Hendrix song – we called it. We practiced and played cover-songs, interspersed with a few of our own compositions, and later performed to meagre audiences in local pubs and village halls, and of course dreamt of making it. In writing those early songs, I discovered I instinctively knew how to work my melodies and chord sequences. I’d had no musical training, but somehow it all seemed to make complete sense from the outset. The music was flowing, the songs where coming … then I took a bit of a left turn.
My brother Cliff had come home with a LP and a book. Some guy on the street in Minehead had sold it to him saying something about helping people for something or other. Not sure what. The book ‘The Science of Self Realisation’ waited on a shelf in our bedroom for a year or so, then it pounced.
Long and short, the book was a collection of lecture-transcripts and interviews with the founder of the Hare Krishna movement – the Guru, who I later found out had passed away several years previously. The subject matter was alien to me, but I felt intrigued enough to take a bus trip to London with my sister Dawn, to visit their new temple on Soho Street.
I can only describe my then experience of chanting the Hare Krishna mantra for the first time as an uncovering of something deeply familiar. It was like a resurfacing of a long-buried memory. A coming home. An awakening. I immediately knew this is for me, and within a year I had become a vegetarian, handed in notice to my West Somerset District Council job, given away my guitars and amplifier, shaved my head and joined the movement. I was twenty-one. I found myself living in an old Hertfordshire mock-Tudor mansion-come-temple in the village of Letchmore Heath. The one that George Harrison had donated a few years prior. It was the beginning of a great, often varied, sometimes troubled, adventure that absorbed my enthusiasm for the next fifteen years.
During those years my musical interest was expressed through playing traditional Indian instruments. The clay mridanga drum, the kartal hand cymbals, the harmonium reed organ, and a little dabbling on the sitar. During one kirtan (group mantra chanting) a friend leaned over and said ‘you nitch an mean ivory’ to my slightly inappropriate rasābhāsa rock-n-roll chord progressions on the harmonium. A sign that change was afoot perhaps?
After eight years as a celibate novice (seriously), I got married (yes, that was allowed), and along with children naturally came the need to make a living. So I moved outside the temple, and around this time guitars re-entered my life and I soon resumed song-writing and home-recording. Was I falling away from the pure path? Maybe some judged that I was. I didn’t feel so. Indeed, my fascination with eastern philosophy, and especially the Bhagavad-gita not only remained, but broadened and continued to grow.
Over the coming years I gradually developed a more personalised brand of spirituality, with differences in areas of focus and emphasis to those front-stage in Hare Krishna movement. For example, whereas the movement might characterise this world as primarily a place of misery wherein fallen souls are trapped by karma into a cycle of repeated birth and death, I increasingly preferred to see it as a place where divinity is being expressed and explored by everyone in ways of their own choosing, and I imagined that in so doing we all contribute and serve the completeness of the divine. Even in the dark stuff. Somehow.
Fast forward to the 2020s and my song-writing has gathered momentum to the point of 50+ songs annually. And though my do-it-yourself recordings lack a certain professional sheen, they are intimate, and 99% centred on spiritual subject matters. Sometimes in the form of imagined dialogue with God; sometimes about my striving to celebrate the divinity in all life beyond cultural, political, religious, and species divides; sometime asking hard ‘why’ questions, facing doubt, or pondering apparent philosophical tensions, for example as in karma vs self-divinity, or fallen soul vs sacred collaboration. I routinely rise by 5am and do an awe-ful lot of thinking before the day begins. This means there’s never any shortage of material for my lyrics. For me there exists always the chance for a perfect marriage between soul and mind wherever self-expression is genuine and uncontrived, and this is my endeavour. To my mind that’s the potential beauty of the singer-songwriter genre. Its less about entertainment and more about connection, conversation and relationship with a listener. Some say it has a certain type of purity to it.
Having grown up in the 70s, and with one foot always firmly in the 60s, my musical influences are primarily of that era. Mine is thus a mixture of soft-rock, mellow, acoustic, Beatle-esque, with an occasional smattering of rock-n-roll angst. In spite of this my hope is that through my songs I can connect with people who find something spiritually positive in my offerings. Perhaps something that mirrors existing values and/or outlook, or even something that inspires a listener in their own spiritual journey, or provokes a new positive way of looking at our place in the bigger scheme of things. Or perhaps something that simply helps a spiritual person feel they are less alone in a material world.
HEAR DAVID’S TRACKS
Reflecting on my experience of inexplicable familiarity upon contact with mantra chanting, and my never-learned yet ready-knowledge of melody and chords, I now see all such things as simple resumption of past life cultivations. To me reincarnation persuasively explains many things. All it takes is a timely trigger to bring past passions rushing back to the surface of conscious awareness. To resume, so to speak, from where one last left off. Of course, I’m not saying it’s proven … just it makes sense to me personally.
Has the seed of my teenage wishful thinking now born fruit? Did I become one of those imagined musical seers of my youth? Probably not. After all I’m just a fallible person with a fleeting point of view, looking at something very big and perhaps from time to time some appreciating a very small aspect, as seen from where I presently stand.
Perhaps my music is your cup of tea? I hope so.
All the best
Eva Abraham – Voice, sound vibration healer, songwriter, musician, producer…
Eva, a North Londoner born and bred to eastern European parents. Her Mother of Polish decent and her Father Hungarian decent, was naturally brought up a catholic.
Although not ‘religious’, Eva has definitely always been ’Spiritual’ and drawn to the spiritual life, even if she wasn’t aware of the fact until her early 20’s.
In truth, as a child she couldn’t understand why anyone would ever want to become a priest or nun. To her it seemed a very lonely, stark existence.
During one Sunday mass at a very young age Eva asked her Mum “why do people decide to become priests or nun’s?” her Mum replied “God calls them” to which her literal childs mind took her to a white dial telephone hanging on the church wall ringing and thought “I really hope God doesn’t ring me up!”
In retrospect, Eva has spent much of her life denying her calling because although not a priest or nun of any religion, she is very much a vessel for Spirit, a channel for healing.
Indeed, from day one, Eva has been told her voice makes people cry and sends shivers down their spine, something she initially thought negative and flawed, but soon realised this as a real compliment and a great confirmation of her talent.
The solitary life was always calling, but her upbringing and subsequent fear meant Eva was always looking for herself in another to complete her, to fulfil her.
There was always a yearning – a huge pull and conflict going on inside that has healed and been understood over time through her Music and Spiritual practice.
As a single person these past 12 years, Eva has found she can fully focus and dedicate her life to Spirit absolutely through music and sound.
So the beginning of it all….
The old cliché of hairbrush in-front of the mirror, standing on the coffee table singing to her toys absolutely applies here!
Eva knew she wanted to sing for as long as she can remember. She would sit at the piano making up songs and melodies, sounds, and tears would spring to her eyes, something which she now knows as Spirit coming through and moving her young Soul.
Eva would be singing constantly, asking family members to sing so she could harmonise, but sadly more often than not, she was told to be quiet. So Eva would find herself harmonising with the washing machine, or any engine that happened to make a sound!
Eva and her brother Andy began piano lessons from the age of seven, but it was the acoustic guitar she really yearned to play, so she could easily sing and accompany herself, but her parents couldn’t afford both and figured the piano to be the best option.
Her voice was always and still is her first instrument however.
For her 13th birthday, Eva’s parents bought a portable TV radio cassette player which she loved and could now record all her favourite songs straight from the radio and also the TV – everything from Calamity Jane to the 7 up ad (which she can still sing for you if you ask nicely!)
Through this, Eva figured out a very crude but effective way to overdub her voice by using both the house stereo with her new portable combo and two cassettes, harmonising to her hearts content!
And so began her interest in sound recording and production.
Age 16, with school friend Simon accompanying on piano, the two played many church cabarets where Eva met keyboard player and musician Andrew. A few functions later they landed a residency at the legendary Greedy Grape! A tiny cellar in East Barnet.
They had great fun spanning the gamut of genres, from musicals to folk to jazz standards and beyond, often morphing two completely opposite styles at the drop of a hat much to the amusement of the audience.
Slowly Eva began to write her own songs and eventually plucked up the courage to place an ad in Melody Maker and NME (remember when we used to do that?) as a session singer! A few very iffy sessions later, Eva met a group of likeminded musicians, and they formed the band ‘A Girl Called James’.
It was whilst in AGCJ, Eva was given her first acoustic guitar at 20. She quickly learned three chords, wrote her first song, and performed it in the middle of an AGCJ set at the George Robey no less!
However, it was the song ‘Poison Patchwork’ about the environment was the real start to her songwriting.
From day one, a thread of spiritual consciousness began to emerge from her work, even if Eva was not conscious of it herself.
Her songs, of course, were a way of processing, expressing and understanding her thoughts, emotions, conflicts and everything in the world was good when she had written a new song no matter what was going on around her. She had found her sanctuary, a safe place to heal and decipher.
Eva began playing solo gigs when AGCJ came to an end fairly quickly, playing the mean fiddler acoustic room regularly and also the acoustic scene of the time, namely Bunjies and The Troubadour amongst others. Musicians seemed to gravitate to her, which was very natural and a great confirmation, so soon came Eva’s own first band Eva-lution.
Eva-lution played all the London venues of the time from Dingwall’s, Ronnie Scotts, Jazz cafe right through to The Dublin castle. They gained a nice following toured the UK and recorded three albums on their own label Sunflower records.
In 1997, there came a huge shock, when Eva-lution’s guitarist and close friend Jim Thomas became ill and in December of that same year was diagnosed with leukaemia. He was admitted to hospital and sadly died 15 weeks later. He was 28.
This shook Eva tremendously and for a time wished she could join Jim wherever he was.
Needing to feel closer to him, and with the help and guidance of her late Auntie Kasia through Angels, meditation and development groups, she turned more deeply towards the metaphysical realms. Finding Kundalini yoga, runes, tarot, dreaming and journeying, past life regression, life after death, astral projection, all areas of great interest, magic, enlightenment and peace.
A close friend introduced her to the work of Carlos Casteneda just after Jim passed, and without even trying, Eva was dreaming and found herself journeying to meet him. Eva would look forward to going to sleep each night because she knew another adventure awaited her.
This helped heal and so fuelled her first solo album “Shadow Gazing”.
A time of great reflection and an opening into something Eva always felt but never really understood how to access. As time went on, Eva realised she had been shown a glimpse into something immense, something awesome, which she then had to go away and fully learn over time in order to understand access and achieve such states. She now was absolutely on the path!
“Shadow Gazing” made it through a failed record deal with short lived record company ‘City Rockers’ and was eventually released on Big Chill Recordings, to critical acclaim.
Eva continued writing songs and the spiritual thread was becoming ever more apparent. She presented Big Chill recordings with her new collection of songs who found it ‘too Spiritual’ for the label at that time.
Taking this very much to heart, Eva began to write in a way she thought might be more more acceptable, which of course never works, so for a time Eva felt very lost and unsure of her direction.
Listening to others ideas and opinions of what one should do, and how one should be, is never a good idea. However, the whole process was driving Eva further inward towards getting to know her true self, her true voice and sound. So honing her natural gifts, with her music and spirituality going hand in hand side by side always, Eva now needed to find the courage to begin really blending them together.
In late 2005 Eva experienced a fatal burst appendix and peritonitis. She very nearly died, but has no doubt that her Kundalini practice, mantra and meditation saved her by giving her the physical, mental and spiritual strength to realise she wasn’t leaving this way, as she had way more still to do!
Two years later, Eva was diagnosed with Lymphoma. With that knowledge, she became brave enough to admit she had been sadly unhappy in her marriage of 15 years, having come face to face with her mortality more than once, now she knew she had to leave.
In Jan 2011, it became necessary for Eva to undergo chemotherapy. By this time, she was in a very tumultuous, difficult and damaging relationship, which Eva describes as “harder than any illness or treatment I’ve ever had!” However, through all of this Eva never stopped making music. On the contrary, it was her lifeline, and she produced more music than ever, recording and releasing her album “Cold Light” and also writing music for film. Even if she felt, to quote the great Stevie Wonder, “where is my Spirit? I’m nowhere near it”, spirit was always by her side, gently guiding, teaching and inspiring.
Another blow came in Jan 2012 when Eva lost her beloved Auntie Kasia. She had been present as her Auntie passed, along with her two cousins. This was a beautiful, sad and deeply profound privilege for Eva that brought a tremendous insight into her work with spirit.
Soon after, her difficult relationship ended, as it had become intolerable for Eva. A hideous traumatic affair that rendered her mentally and emotionally broken. Awful as is was, she knew she had done the right thing because she had finally freed herself not just from that relationship but all past relationships and could now give her full attention to the relationship with herself and the Divine in a way she was unable to before…true freedom for Eva!
In such a desperate state, Eva found a medium close by who was able to help her initially then later referred her to a therapist who just so happened to be connected to a Spiritualist church, The London Spiritual Mission, in Notting Hill.
Completely unaware of the serendipitous nature of these events, Eva had stumbled across a new world where she would meet many other likeminded people. Eva began to sit in development circles, deepening and expanding her practice and understanding of spirit.
Under the tutelage, love and support of Trance medium Doreen Quinnell, Eva began to develop trance using her voice and sound. The blending of Music and Spirit was fully awakening into consciousness.
Combining voice with crystal bowls, drum and acoustic guitar, Eva currently leads sound healing workshops. She also collaborates with yoga teachers holding wellness retreats, studying sound therapy and the Shamanic way of life.
Sitting with Spirit in trance meditation, Eva finds that a language comes through her – perhaps a light language or an ancient voice before language existed? She does not question this but allows, and has learned to trust – which isn’t always so easy! As she blends daily with her development, which has so far been a very solitary and private process, she is being guided more and more to share the healing qualities and effects this carries.
Her most recent album “Songs For A New Earth”, released in March 2023 is solely her own work from beginning to end, and it is a fine example of that. Eva describes it as a huge learning curve, a labour of love that has lightened and enlightened her soul. “It is a massive achievement for me, and I am very proud of it”. To read the full story for SFANE click here.
Eva is looking forward to what’s next. An album of healing voice and sounds, with crystal bowls. Another album of songs, simply voice, acoustic guitar and minimal harmonies. An album of devotional songs. Developing a new way to perform so that gigs/concerts are more than just performances. The idea is to bring a deeper more inclusive, immersive healing experience to the audience.
And finally…Eva plans to train as a celebrant, so all her skills and gifts are used to celebrate and hold space for life’s most sacred occasions.
Hi everyone, I’m Allie Joy, I’m an artist, entrepreneur, and creative producer. I’m going to share with you about how I ended up writing this article with you today.
It began with two qualities that I have nurtured from the start of my career, which are following my curiosity and walking with courage.
I remember sitting in my college library trying to write my university statement. I couldn’t refine what I wanted to do as I had an interest in science, art and the English language. I was trying to write one statement to study three different degrees! In the end I decided to study art, because my logic led me to realise art gave me the freedom to research and incorporate other subjects, hence why I found my path in creative technology with a conceptual interest in psychology with a mission for wellbeing.
Very quickly, in university I gravitated towards moving image (video) as my medium, using performance and installation as further components to strengthen the concept and exploration for metaphors about human nature.
“The aim of art is to represent not the outward appearance of things, but their inward significance”.
A common artist’s mission is how to make the unseen seen, the invisible visible. This is a common driving force for an artist, each expressed in their own unique way. My way to express this was through a variety of creative technologies and using nature as my muse for understanding the abstract nature of behaviour. This rollercoaster ride of conceptual thrills has led me to many interesting projects and to work with some amazing people.
So how did my journey develop from where I was to here today?
A lot of the work I exhibited was video projection installations, this took me to festivals and theatres, however I quickly understood that this was more of a technical than creative role. It was close but not satisfying enough as a career. My search continued…
Then, I was a part of a workshop where we got to build a 3D printer with a Korean artist duo, one of these kits you can buy from eBay. I met a mental health nurse who was a part of the group and we got talking, networking and she invited me to deliver a series of workshops at the Sue Ryder Leckahmpton hospice she was working for.
The project was called ‘Pocket of Laughter’, it was my first experience with palliative care and my first time using the 3D printer within a project. Anyway, they invited a bunch of artists with different skill sets to make with the patients, so I decided that I wanted to turn someone’s sound bite into a 3d printed soundwave that was unique to the individual that their loved ones could keep. We had a brilliant time, patients sang songs, said their favourite phrase, others messages of love. This way of working with technology for me really complimented my constant curiosity for how to make the unseen seen, and how expressing this through technology can allow us to better understand, experience and manage emotions.
“Technology, like art, is a soaring exercise of the human imagination. Art is the aesthetic ordering of experience to express meanings in symbolic terms, and the reordering of nature–the qualities of space and time–in new perceptual and material form.”
I kept going down the rabbit hole to define and refine the purest way for me to create a sanctuary for the viewer to experience positive emotion and I landed in shapes and colour – the building blocks of perception and the fundamentals of abstract art. This journey also landed me at the heart – how can I visualize and interpret heart data, what part of heart data is important for this research, I found it was Heart Rate Variability. Once I knew this was the data I wanted to express, this is where I found my business partner and co-founder of Syntropy States, Gavin Andrews. Gavin is the managing director of Heartmath UK&IRL, they research into heart rate variability and a psychophysiological state called coherence, “Coherence is the state when the heart, mind and emotions are in energetic alignment and cooperation,” that can be induced through a heart-focused breathing meditation that we use with the Syntropy breathe videos. After much conversation, research and creation we decided to create the app Syntropy – a digital platform where we could bring our experience and expertise together. Making mindfulness a quick and effective part of the day, when your head is too busy to ‘empty’ your mind like traditional meditation. This is because abstract art bypasses the meaning-making part of the mind, and does not engage in associative thinking, unlike the real objects and items we see, abstract art is free of these boundaries and limitations. It activates the visual cortex of the brain. The artwork below is an example of one of the videos stored in the app that aids in relaxation. We also hold a further two functions, Elevate and Breathe. I got to work designing and building the app and entered the world of business.
It’s been nearly 2 years since we launched the Syntropy app and began our work collaborating with international artists and musicians who shared our vision for creativity and wellbeing. This means more variety for the user who can choose from over 90 completely different art styles and the artists get international exposure. We are advocates for artists and we hope to close the gap between digital art and wellbeing.
Before I show you where this part of the journey went, you may remember my 3 ‘hats’. Well, an artist cannot live on inspiration alone and must find innovative ways to survive in the world in order to keep making, this is where my creative producer role comes in. I lend my skills of problem solving, time management and leadership to community groups such as Empower Poetry where we put on live poetry events and free workshops for the community around Birmingham. I’m also a tutor at the MAC in Birmingham where I tutor young people how to create VR films using 360 cameras. Being an artist means using any means, workarounds, and hacks to create your vision, to not allow a lack of resources or equipment to stop you from creating. This is the reason why I chose art; it gives you the freedom to grow different skills and then lend these transpersonal skills to reach new ways of expression and new communities, and more paid work!
I’d like to show you one of the breathwork videos here. These were designed to induce a state of coherence, this isn’t relaxation or meditation but a gentle focus, ideal to help reduce anxiety whilst still needing to function. We’ve received amazing feedback on how effective these videos can be from a range of audiences. So, before you get started, here are some basic instructions: breathe through your nose if possible. This video speed is 5 seconds, so that’s inhale for 5 seconds, exhale for 5 seconds, if this speed is uncomfortable, please just breathe at your normal rate. This increases oxygen circulation to your body, focus on your heart center, which is in the center of your chest and a few inches left, breathe into your belly so it expands, and watch/listen to the art and music.
Notice the colours, the sounds and allow the movement and sound be your guide for the next 5 minutes.
Enjoy and stay coherent!
William Blake (1757 to 1827) was a visionary poet, painter, engraver and musician.
He had no formal education, but read widely in Greek philosophy and that of his contemporaries, and studied and challenged the psychological and philosophical theories propounded by Locke and Hume.
He read the Bhagavad Gita, Jacob Boehme, the Jewish Kabbalah, the Swedish philosopher Swedenborg, and he knew the Bible intimately. Apprenticed in his youth to an engraver, Blake later used his engraving skills to invent a new method of printing.
By engraving his texts and image outline backwards in ‘mirror-writing’, he was able to combine word and image on the same page.
This allowed him to create a highly dynamic artwork, with the resonances and dissonances between image and text generating new and unexpected meanings.
With the help of his wife Catherine, who hand-coloured some of the work, he became entirely self-sufficient in the production of his extraordinary, illuminated books. The Blakes’ unique process, in one small room, replaced the necessity for large teams of artisan specialists in two separate workshops.
Blake is a champion of the creative imagination, striving to overcome the alienation between people, and between humanity and the natural world. For Blake “Nature is Imagination itself.” He strove to show us how to throw off our ‘Mind Forg’d Manacles’, both the bondage of social conditioning and the domination of our rational faculty. He shows us how to enter the world of Imagination, and through love and forgiveness to realise our divine nature, as in this line from the major prophecy, Jerusalem:
“Cannot Man exist without mysterious offering of Self for Another?
In sacrificing what Blake calls our selfish ‘Selfhood’ we can also restore the soul of the world, for ‘Everything that lives is Holy.’ The earliest work in which he experimented with his new printing method was All Religions are One, and whilst his core beliefs could be described as a unique form of Christian Hermeticism, he embraces the wisdom of other cultures and other religions.
There is much in Blake that is reminiscent of aspects of Sufism, Buddhism and Hinduism, but the human is always front and present. As he writes in The Marriage of Heaven and Hell: ‘Thus Men forgot that All deities reside in the Human Breast’. This pivotal early text printed in 1790 contains some of Blake’s central concepts:
‘If the doors of perception were cleansed everything would appear to man as it is, Infinite. For man has closed himself up, till he sees all things through narrow chinks of his cavern’.
In the same text Blake overturns the dualistic concept of Body/Mind as separate:
‘Man has no Body distinct from his Soul, for that called Body is a portion of Soul discerned by the five Senses, the chief inlets of Soul in this age’.
Blake created his own mythology, drawing on a number of traditional sources, which enabled him to convey ideas and concepts that had never been expressed in this way before.
‘I must Create a System, or be enslav’d by another Man’s
I will not Reason & Compare: my business is to Create’
Through poetry, prose and image, Blake explores the human soul, psyche and body; ecological, political and social systems, and the scientific thought of Newton and Descartes.
In Donald D. Ault’s book, Visionary Physics: Blake’s response to Newton, Ault, an American physicist and literary critic, demonstrates how Blake brilliantly exposes the limitations of Newton’s and Descartes’ models of the universe and in so doing, anticipates Einstein’s theories of relativity and the New Physics.
To see a World in a Grain of Sand
And a Heaven in a Wild Flower
Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand
And Eternity in an hour
Blake’s evocation of the psyche strongly foreshadows the concepts of both Freud and of the depth psychologist, Carl Jung. Jung describes Blake as one of the few Westerners to have achieved Satori: the inner, intuitive experience of Enlightenment in Zen Buddhism. Blake is profoundly concerned with universal suffering: through his art he deconstructs the mechanisms of patriarchy, politics and power, envisaging the cycles of history that turn revolution into tyranny.
Blake’s work also explores ideas of fluidity of gender and identity, insisting on the balance of the feminine and masculine in the divine and in the human, both fully realised in what he called the Human Form Divine. He taught himself a number of languages including Hebrew and Greek; he learned Italian in a matter of days in order to read Dante, and at the end of his life painted 102 pictures to illustrate the Divine Comedy.
Although much of his work was neglected and even scorned in his lifetime, Blake had some very eminent admirers, including Coleridge, and in later years a group of young artists including Samuel Palmer, who described Blake as ‘A man without a mask’. Blake died singing.
The current Blake Society was founded in 1985 and is a fast-growing community of members from all over the world, across six continents. Whether you are just beginning to be curious about the Blakes’ work, or have been enjoying and studying it for decades, we will welcome you into our Society. The Society’s aim is to celebrate the work of William and Catherine Blake in all manifestations of their poetry, prose, and artwork.
We also strive to inspire, to encourage and to give a platform to work arising from Blake’s incredible influence on artists, scientist, writers, musicians, performers and academics around the globe. We invite you to join us in this endeavour, exploring Blake’s work through live and online events of every kind.
Recent events have included; an art exhibition, readings and performances in Lambeth, where Blake use to live; three authors referencing Blake and a book launch of a lovely letterpress edition of Auguries of Innocence; Billy Bragg talking about Blake and the Dissident tradition; a live concert with Mike and Kate Westbrook and a seven-piece jazz ensemble performing The Westbrook Blake; a new multimedia play about Blake called Albion, Awake!; Patrick Harpur, author of The Philosopher’s Secret Fire, Daimonic Reality and Mercurius in conversation about Blake and esoteric traditions.
As a registered charity, we charge a minimal amount for the many benefits of membership. These include free access to the majority of events, a regular, free email newsletter with news of Blakean events and publications, and a copy of the beautiful Blake Society journal, Vala.
The Society has a distinguished pantheon of past Presidents and Patrons, including Philip Pullman and Kathleen Raine. Our current president is the celebrated poet, author, performer and playwright Kae Tempest and our patrons are Neil Gaiman, Alan Moore, and Mike and Kate Westbrook.
We are in a direct line of descent from the Blake Society founded in 1912 by Thomas Wright, a schoolmaster in Olney, Buckinghamshire. This earlier incarnation of our current Society was inspired by a suggestion made by the Irish poet W.B.Yeats and Edwin Ellis, British poet and illustrator, both members of the Society and editors of the first full edition of Blake’s work.
Yeats, with his esoteric interests and extensive occult knowledge wrote extensive commentaries on the poetry. Members included other early Titans of Blake studies: Geoffrey Keynes, Joseph Wicksteed, Dr Greville MacDonald, and the president Sir William Blake Richmond K.B. Women were strongly represented in the membership although, unlike the Society today, noticeably absent from the Trustees of 1912. Miss E. Harnden was a member, giving her address as ‘Blake’s Cottage, Felpham, Sussex’. Members hailed from England, Scotland, France, Portugal, South Africa, Canada and Tokyo.
Below is a picture of the 1912 Society. We warmly invite you to join the Blake Society:
Do join us here https://blakesociety.org/
The Blake Society is a Registered Charity, No 1106130.
With thanks to the following for the use of the images:
The New York Public Library: Blake’s autograph
Yale Center for British Art: The Marriage of Heaven and Hell, Jerusalem: The Emanation of the Giant Albion
Wikimedia commons: Newton
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, Australia: Dante’s Inferno
All human beings contain an inner scientist and an inner artist, in varying degrees and forms. The scientist in us seeks evidence, hard facts and rational frameworks. The artist in us seeks nonverbal means of expression and connections with aesthetics and sublimity. My life has involved an ongoing attempt to find a balance of these, and to use them together to inform my spiritual development.
I would argue there is typically more balance between these two aspects of human nature in childhood than there is in adult life. For example, my daughter Leila is 7, and her school education includes a balanced mix of reading, writing, factual learning, art, music and physical education. This mix is almost universal across education systems; it is broadly understood that for children to be well-rounded and happy, they need art, music and movement as well as intellectual learning. When children express themselves through all of these, they cultivate the many sides of their being, like a diamond refracting light through every plane, and this is vital for their development.
The word holy comes from the Latin word holus, which means whole, and by being in touch with all sides of their nature, children express their natural holiness. Children don’t need spirituality bolted on to this, for they are spiritual enough already when expressing themselves in this multifaceted way. It is of relevance, in relation to this, that a recent major study found that mindfulness meditation was not helpful for schoolchildren. This didn’t surprise me at all – I think that art, music and sport are the ways that children can be fully present. They don’t need meditation, and if anything it may inhibit their natural spontaneity.
While the idea that children should have a balance of art, music, intellect and exercise in their life remains widely held, the idea that adults need such a balance is more rarely grasped. The transition to adulthood typically involves a funnelling of activity into specific channels. As young people transition to university or work, life comes to be dominated by work, which in turn can lead to a narrowness of being that is in notable contrast to the range of expressive modes available to children. I venture that not many young adults maintain a healthy balance of art, physical exercise, music and intellectual work, but many may feel called to get it back. It is at this time in the life cycle that many people start to explore what it means to lead a spiritual life in ways that extend beyond the conventions and dogmas of established religion. The psychologist Fowler referred to this as the individual-reflective stage of faith development.
Reflecting on my own life, as I moved into a career after university, my life was imbalanced, and this needed fixing. In the rush to be a ‘success’ in academic and work pursuits, my passion for art that defined much of my life up to that point was getting little expression. I had lost my wholeness, and my mental health was suffering as a result. I did occasional art and movement workshops, as punctuation marks in an otherwise imbalanced life. If I was not in work, I was mostly either tired, drinking alcohol, or both. It took a lot of effort to shift my mindset out of that rather emaciated worldview and toxic lifestyle, and into something new.
For me, spiritual searching started in earnest at around the age of 25, and involved reading, art, music and movement. I read all kind of books that talked of different ways of encountering the spiritual or mystical, and how this connects to the post-Enlightenment scientific-philosophical culture. I found an organisation called the Art and Spirituality Network and went to a range of workshops that they ran in which visual media, movement and the spiritual quest were fused. I started practicing Five Rhythms, which is a spiritual movement practice, and I listened to music that I experienced as a whisper of the great mystery behind physical existence. I also started a folk band.
My thirties became an expression of that seeking effort, and the outcome was the writing of a book called Paths Between Head and Heart, about the complementary nature of science and spirituality. It was published when I was 39. My life now, as a forty something, is a pretty good balance between painting, music, intellectual work (I am an academic psychologist) and time in nature. There is room for improvement in the movement domain, and I’m working on that.
Why do I think music, art and movement practices are so important for mental health and the spiritual life? One central reason is that they provide ways of expressing ourselves, and interacting with reality, beyond the confines of word-based language.
Language provides us with a way of communicating and reasoning, but it is a limited sign system and can neither describe nor express the fullness of ourselves and the cosmos. If our means of expression becomes limited to words, we become a partial human, increasingly afraid of the portion of our being, and of reality at large, that cannot be captured in this way. It matters not how seemingly artistic a person is, it matters that they are active in non-verbal domains, exploring ineffable, non-linguistic ways of relating to the existence around us that lives without language – plants, animals and nature at large.
Such activities connect us to the numinous source of the known world. It is my belief that this source of the physical world is intelligent in ways that are beyond the capacity of the human to grasp. We can see evidence of this intelligence everywhere, but we can’t grasp its operations rationally any more than a fruit fly can make sense of human intelligence. Where understanding and discursive rationality fall short in the spiritual quest, the arts can step as ways of providing a sense of connection to the Great Mystery and a way of representing it in symbolic form.
Degard is a pioneering British ‘Painter of Auras’. Degard is a visionary artist, writer, researcher, curator, and founder of the genre Contemporary Visionary.
Degard sees auras, trace energy around people, animals, and places. She can intuit people who are long gone and through her art create spirit portraits. Spirit portraiture is a wonderful method to meet people who have passed. Degard’s latest paintings aim to capture the lives of lost family – family who were killed in concentration camps who she never had a chance to meet. In fact, Degard’s current family had no idea these ancestors even existed. Degard is bringing them to life and giving them a place in society today.
Degard says “It all started when I ‘saw’ a blue square around the chest of a man who I discovered had just had triple by-pass surgery. I suddenly understood what these flashes of light were; they were his Aura, his conscious energy. The square indicated surgical human impact, the colour blue- healing – I could see the experience of the whole operation in his energies.”
All of Degard’s current work has followed from this experience which led to painting the auras of people, places, and things in the hope of understanding our lives in more depth.
Degard has founded the genre Contemporary Visionary which further discusses a number of notions. One of these notions is about scientific understanding. In the past the Visionary has sought to justify its existence by associating itself with scientific methodology. Visionary methodology is however a stand-alone knowledge system which needs no justification. The Visionary can describe through the arts both life and consciousness which is impossible through scientific empiricism! Seems extraordinary but science can open a brain, but it cannot find the mind inside! Artistic practice shows the mind at work. Contemporary Visionary can reveal through channelling aura the vortex of that aura and what a person’s self is and can be.
Contemporary Visionary also associates itself with political notions which need redefining. The current political paradigm relies on a ‘dog eat dog’ version of life. The issue with ‘dog eat dog’ is the lack of inclusivity this idea generates. This we all know is problematic and creates a harsh society for us all. The Aura and its energies are without compromise inclusive – as the air we breathe includes us all so does the auric light. This auric, radiant light is filled with presence, vibrancy, intelligence, consciousness, our personalities, our life plans, our free will, and our intent. These aspects of our lives are not involved in ‘dog-eat-dog’ and need to be understood as such. We don’t need to attack each other to get our fair share of Aura. Aura is beneficent and energy is generous.
Lastly Contemporary Visionary as an artistic practice critiques the barrenness and bleakness of post-modernist art. In 1966 Carl Andre put bricks on the floor and one of these sculptures in The Tate is Equivalence VIII. It is a series of rectangular bricks and that is all there is to it.
‘Andre’s Equivalent series consists of a rectangular arrangement of 120 firebricks. Although the shape of each sculpture is different, they all have the same height, mass and volume, and are therefore ‘equivalent’ to each other’ (Tate)
Degard with her latest series is exploring the bricks of The Western/Wailing Wall in Jerusalem. She acknowledges from a pantheistic and visionary point of view the depth of meaning that bricks can have. Each brick of her painting series known as The Visionary Wall contains powerful significance; none of these bricks are the same as each other. Post-modern work attempts to strip out all richness of meaning, exuberance of thought, even explanation of the art itself. This is a situation Degard wishes to change.
This painting above shows the Aura of Walter Benjamin as he would have become if he had not taken his life due to Nazi persecution. Benjamin was one of the most powerful thinkers of the 20th century and wrote extensively on why and how the atrocities of the 20th century could come about. As a Jewish thinker he understood the persecution ahead of him at a concentration camp and decided to take his own life. This painting commemorates his life and shows us in his aura the man he would have become. The circles represent the scientific diagrams which are shown to represent human life simply composed of six elements. This comparison is intended to show the vast discrepancy between scientific thinking and the visionary i.e., life itself. The Auric patterning, colour, form, and light shows a man with a love of the natural, a simple symbolic landscape. Further the ladder type structure underneath his head reveals a desire to ascend; he was after all an intellectual giant. There are also two or three significant people in his aura.
Degard highlights the value of Contemporary Visionary art and all Visionary artists at The Visionary Brit Museum at https://www.visionarybritmuseum.co.uk.
The Visionary Brit Museum is a red heritage telephone box outside of the British Museum which hosts Visionary art exhibitions exclusively. Degard says, ‘We often receive up to 3000 visitors who take photos of the work inside the Vis Brit weekly!’ This is a statement that the visionary in art is no longer an aspect of an artist’s practice that needs to be hidden.
Degard is also doing a Doctorate in Fine Art on the Visionary in Art which she finds very challenging and exhilarating. Degard explains.
‘Defining the visionary in art as a methodology in its own right is so thrilling. I am creating an index of terms which can be referred to by all future visionary artists.”.
Degard has exhibited extensively with recent exhibitions, Aura II at Brook Street Gallery opposite Claridge’s, London, Quintessence of Consciousness at The Royal College of Art, solo show at Museum Al Zubair, Oman, and Saatchi Art. She has hosted and arranged talks ‘Art with…’, at the Royal Society of Art, where she is a Fellow. Degard works alongside Anxiety UK to bring Art into mental health. Degard has recently published a paper with The Astropolitics Institute ‘Space and Art’. Degard is represented by Laura I Gallery, London.
Degard has written four books all of which can be found in The British Library, is a committee member of The Colour Group and a fellow of The Galileo Commission for the Scientific and Medical Network. Degard graduated from The Royal College of Art. She received awards from the Alan Davie Foundation.
Degard’s Art joins a long history into the study of consciousness, perception, cognition studies interwoven with visionary experience; as exemplified by visionary artists, Susan Hiller, Kandinsky, Hilma af Klint and William Blake. Degard’s Art brings this visionary and mystical genre, into a contemporary, socio-political context.
Molly Hackney, writer of The Medium’s Medium (written for an exhibition at Frieze, London 2019) says of one of Degard’s recent exhibitions, The Power of Things, Drip: Still Lifes https://my.matterport.com/show/?m=HgyLejEty25
‘The canvases at Drip enchant the viewer with this glimpse into spirit connection. It is her choice of objects that give this exhibition such magnetism.’
I was born during the war and very early in my life had a sense of the Divine watching over me. My parents’ garden and early life in the New Forest fostered my relationship with the natural world and I fell in love with its sounds and scents.
I had visionary experiences and tended an altar next to my bed. I created small songs in my playing which was largely on my own. When I started the piano at seven, again I loved creating new pieces. The one I still have is called The Still Lake – an inspiration from the natural world.
I was taken regularly to church and can still sing much of the hymn repertoire by heart. As a teenager I encountered the Anglican choral tradition – singing in a classical church choir. These pieces did move me into another way of knowing – in the incredible white space of St Mary’s Southampton and the rich acoustics and the impressive organ.
At Oxford University I was responsible for chapel music; this in the end led to embracing the growing folk traditions in worship such as Sydney Carter who was then regarded as relatively radical with songs such as the now very familiar Lord of Dance.
My interest in the joining of spirituality with justice persisted in the heady days of working in Notting Hill just after the race riots. I became not only the writer of anthems (for women’s voices) but also folk songs with the five chords I had learned. In my repertoire, Bob Dylan rubbed shoulders with Estelle White and women who were finding their feet as song writers. I was in a community that wrote songs around current events – developing a spirituality born out of the injustices of that time.
In my teaching in schools, these traditions coexisted, and youngsters started writing their own material. My doctoral research included spirituality as an important part of the process. This research into children’s musical development was translated into five languages and I was delighted to explore this in lecture tours and in-service training. I received an MBE for my work in music and education.
I have published widely on music education, including an edited book on spirituality and music education. With the two children that I bore in my marriage I became fascinated by how connection was made with babies which engaged me using improvising chanting and creating material.
Following a serious illness, I entered the world of shamanism and the so –called New Age where I found a different spirituality filled with drums, rattles, journeys, chakras and general appreciation of resonance. Ideas of embodiment and dance often drawing on various drumming traditions filled this exciting world which opened up new areas within me. I was healed by this world of musicking, ritual, meditation and started to compose in a new style acknowledging systems such as chakras and energies in the natural world.
At this point my academic research took a new turn on the work of Hildegard of Bingen (1098-1179) the medieval mystic and visionary – song writer, theologian, healer, and so on. I caught her connections between music and spirituality, and I started to perform pieces about her using her music around the world. It initiated many discussions of spirituality and gave me sufficient confidence to realise my own performing skills. I became a hymn writer, and my work is used internationally – a collection published by Stainer and Bell of inclusive language and ecological hymns – A Rainbow to Heaven.
Around this time there arose a massive interest in spirituality – in education, in religion, in business, in psychotherapy. I attended various groups and was fascinated about how they overlapped and yet were also distinct. As Professor of Applied Music at Winchester University and an Extra-ordinary Professor at North West University, South Africa I initiated arts projects especially those involving wellbeing with various groups of people.
These community arts events included interfaith dialogue through music. These continued on the ZOOM platform. Others included diverse people. Radical musical inclusion resulted in composed pieces for various cathedrals including professional musicians, community choirs, adults and children with learning difficulties and school children.
I began supervising research into music and spirituality in various contexts. I still lecture internationally on wellbeing, spirituality, and radical musical inclusion culturally and personally. I initiated a considerable series of books on music and spirituality for the publisher Peter Lang drawing on these diverse worlds and the experience of many people from five continents.
These include my own book, Experiencing Music-Restoring the Spiritual; Music as Wellbeing, the edited collection Queering Freedom: Music, Identity and Spirituality: Perspectives from Ten Countries and my own autobiography Freedom Song: Faith, Abuse, Music and Spirituality: A Lived Experience.
I founded MSW – Music, Spirituality and Wellbeing – an international network sharing expertise and experience in this area with members in five continents (website link below).
I became ordained as an Anglican priest with a desire to bridge the various worlds I inhabit in music and spirituality. I am now nearly retired from paid work but with more and more work in composing, performing, and writing and am exploring the resonance of the natural world through the digital technology of The Music of the Plants working with my friends in Living with Harmony and recording improvised music for meditation. I am moving further and further into this world. The visions, the chants, the liturgy, the rituals are brought together in new and (I hope) healing ways.
I am an Indian born New Zealand citizen who presents myself as an actor, author of ‘Seeking the Spirit Within’ and ’29 Seasons’. I came to New Zealand when I were 18 to pursue a BSc in Physics from the University of Auckland.
In 2018, I proudly received the ‘Award of Distinction’ at the Plain English Awards in Wellington, New Zealand and the Rotary Youth Leadership Awards in the same year. I have also featured in Riverside radio as a guest in London recently.
My passion for writing stems from my father who is himself a voracious reader and an eloquent writer. I learnt reiki healing at the age of 15. My love for the healing arts was introduced by my mother who is herself a Reiki Master.
My profound eclectic experiences in New Zealand led me to spiritualist practices such as shamanism and varied other healing modalities.
I also have had deep spiritual journeys in New Zealand with the acclaimed Medicine Woman program for spiritual seekers which led me to self-discovery and enhanced psychic abilities.
My other features include an excerpt in a book titled ‘Echo, Untitled III – page 48’.
One must look beyond the physical into the spiritual…
…which can only take place when one is receptive to all that is good.
In a melodramatic multidimensional world that we reside in, it has taken a potpourri of spiritual experiences to bring me to a point of summing up all that I have been exposed to in my spiritual book.
I was brought up in Hinduism all my 18 years of life, after high school, I moved to New Zealand which brought forth a whole new world of change. I made Christian friends in the university which thereby made me curious enough to imbibe Christian values and seek baptism in an ocean.
Once I got baptized at the age of 22 to a world of unknown, I became a staunch fanatic of new age Christianity. One afternoon, I was contemplating on the vagaries of life which made me feel melancholic about the way human life is limited in its potential. That was the day of Easter.
After the Easter church service, I was going back home when I felt the touch of the Holy Ghost in my spirit. That was the most surreal spiritual experience of my life so far. It purged me out of the dimmed lights of despondency and enlivened my spirits to the zenith. I was so ecstatic beyond words that I could never imagine I was even depressed a moment ago. The fire of the Holy Spirit was what touched my spirit within. I became jubilant, fiery, and overjoyed by this sudden breakthrough.
I wanted to immediately go preach the Gospel to all the ends of the world…I have never been happier and more exuberant in my life.
The touch of the Holy Ghost lasted for a week, almost keeping me wide awake at night with spiritual elation, it felt like nirvana.
The book sums up my eastern and western views as to what it takes to inculcate spiritual values that humans in a physical world take for granted.
The seven years of Christian life I led were interspersed with the excitement of a new life, new ways of living and worshipping, a whole new way of being and creating…albeit it lasted only so long due to other inferior and unforeseen circumstances.
In my heart of hearts today, I still pray to Jesus, but I have been exposed to Buddhism before I did become a Christian and all these vivid memories of who I was and who I aspire to be became somewhat mystical.
I believe in transcendence after all. The one supreme force that binds the mass and elementary particles of this universe together. The omniscient being that traverses its own course in this big wide star system. Although we are blinded by our ego to the point we ignore our inner truth or see ourselves for what we truly are, the laws of the universe are intricate and inescapable.
Karma has its own laws and what we need is a law-abiding force to be fair and square to each and every being. The whole human existence and the reasons behind our daily mundane life are like little stories that we co-create together. How good or bad a life is not always determined by our actions, but in a whole grand scheme of things, left to the universal forces of nature.
Sometimes, a mere mortal life seems mundane but intrinsic to the spiritual growth of a human life. The only way to break this monotony and seemingly endless problems in life is to meditate and become one with the Almighty.
Spiritual values such as love, kindness, bravery, compassion is all highlighted in my book that highlight the importance of becoming as pure as God, but in a mundane life, it can be challenging to imbibe such core values. My personal mantra is to do your best and be at your best and leave the rest to God. The good actions shall reap good rewards, whereas the bad deeds will sow what they reap. It is as simple as that.
Even our thoughts, our words have little karmic consequences which ultimately teach us to become better spiritual versions of ourselves. It Is the ego that separates us from the spiritual truth and all we need is an open mind and a receptive heart to understand the spiritual laws of the universe and attract the very best.
We would not take our wealth to the heavens, but it is only our actions and the consequences thereof that are counted when we return to heaven. Whatever good we have put in, will always come back in one form or the other, whether it is the current life or the next, but we must endeavour to always be good. God truly perceives every word, every action, every inaction, and every little detail that resides in us.
My connection with spiritual art has been a gradual journey of discovery, which began when I was a child growing up in West Yorkshire. I was an imaginative and creative child with an inclination to drift away into my own imaginary world.
I recall drawing and painting from an early age, and credit my father for helping lay the foundations for my interest and abilities in art. He would encourage me to copy drawings from illustrations in books, such as Dean’s Nursery Rhymes, which was often an escape into a magical world.
When I was sixteen years old, I found a friend and mentor named Mr Gooding, a gifted artist who studied at the Slade School of Fine Art. He was the first who recognised my abilities, and helped nurture my artistic skills. Another important figure in my life was Brian Needham, an artist with a studio and gallery in Manor Row in Bradford, West Yorkshire. He was very interested in my art and could see I had potential. He took me under his wing and invited me to his weekly watercolour classes.
During this period, I found employment as a self-employed picture framer, which lasted for seven-years. I then decided to leave my hometown because I wanted to travel further and explore different places.
This is when I received a call to relocate to a natural region. I found the perfect location, with a small cottage, nestled in a dense oak forest, overlooking a secluded cove in Exmoor. It was time to develop my creativity and I had many visions, and psychic experiences, which inspired my art.
Later, I moved to Glastonbury, which was an important period in my life as it acted as a powerful catalyst for spiritual growth. I found the energies to be highly transformative and curative. It was an intensely healing journey, which also opened me to many spiritual experiences.
During this period, I started to specialise in oil painting because it is slow drying and lends itself to my channelled approach to art. I have developed and utilised the technique, which is applied in a combination of thin opaque and translucent layers.
In 2016, I had a solo exhibition at Glastonbury Galleries, Glastonbury. In 2017, I was invited to become a member of a private network by Austrian artist Otto Rapp, who is founder of Visionary Art Gallery (vagallery.com) – which includes some of the most renowned Visionary, Surrealistic and Fantastic Realist artists worldwide. My art is also featured in an Encyclopaedia of women artists within the Visionary and Fantastic art tradition. The publication is called: The Lexicon of Fantastic Artists by Professor Gerhard Habarta: ISBN 9783746035307.
During my time in Glastonbury, my interests developed, including my artistic leanings, which were in the esoteric, spirituality, Jungian psychology and healing. In parallel, both dreams and the hypnagogic state began to play a part in facilitating my creative approach.
My art is a reflection of my own inner world, which transcends that of the physical dimension. I believe art is an offshoot of our deepest innermost self, which often manifests in the form of dreams, symbols and visions.
I believe that it is our challenge, as artists, to find a new direction, which honours art and spirit. It is a calling to all Spiritual and Visionary artists to infuse their natural creativity and imagination, and to follow their own original and unique vision. This is the essence of what spiritual art is, it is an expression of the higher self.
I am an open channel for energies and this can sometimes be intense, but it is what inspires me to paint! I ‘see’ and sense the presence of angels, spirit guides, and elementals. They appear to me as impressions and in clear visions, often in glowing and radiant detail.
I am also influenced, in a creative way by the hypnagogic state, which is like being a receptor to different frequencies, which coalesce and overlap at the transitional state between wakefulness and sleep. Hypnagogic visions are of a radiant, hyper real heightened reality. It is like experiencing a multitude of hallucinatory visions – such as colourful and illuminated scenes, humans, animals or strange composite creatures, abstracted forms, geometric shapes, bright lights and a full range of auditory sensory perceptions like sounds and voices. This is the fertile borderline half asleep state that instils flashes of insight and inspiration. It is this hypnagogic process, which has birthed many of my creations.
It is my belief that whenever we are in a relaxed state of reverie, we are receptive to the spirit realm. Spirits watch over us and inspire us to create beautiful art, writing and music. They are often silently present, and guiding us, not only in visions, but also giving us creative insights and inspiration.
I have always followed a creative path, and have been met with many challenges along the way. There have been times of sheer struggle, where I have been tested to the limits. Art is my passion, and despite all the setbacks, I have always been dedicated to my craft.
Part of my development is to open up and share my inner world with others. It has taken many years to understand this, and it has gradually been realised through my own inner guidance and learning.
I also have an avid interest in the fertile world of the imagination where we can access the strange and powerful images within the unconscious. This inner world is latent with endless creative potential, forming a wellspring of ideas and visions. Imagination and fantasies form the creative interplay between our inner and outer world. Many artists enhance their creativity by tapping into this ‘inner realm’, which provides an endless source of inspiration.
When I was going through an intensely challenging time in Glastonbury, I experienced a ‘visitation’ while in a very relaxed hypnagogic state. The entity bore the name of ‘White Hawk’ who came to me as a spiritual messenger and guide, and hovered above, while wrapping his protective wings around me. He had the features of a hawk and a human body, and was adorned with white feathers. I was reassured that there was a way forward and I needed to rise to a higher vantage point in order to find clarity and a solution. I did a drawing of the vision, which was later used as a blueprint for an oil painting.
Angels often feature in my art, and they are such a source of inspiration! I see them as beings of light that act as a powerful, guiding influence in my life. I always sense their presence and often see speckles and flashes of vivid colours, whenever they are present.
I was recently commissioned to paint an Angel of Healing for The Birmingham Holistic Health Centre. Stuart Morris, the founder and director said to me:“I believe you were meant to paint this and channel the presence of the angel that will bring light to many at the centre.” It is a place that has been described as a “portal for angels,” and it has a special energy where both practitioners and visitors have had many different sightings of bright illuminated orbs.
More recently, I have formed a close connection with Mother Mary, and she now plays an important part in my spiritual and devotional practice. She came to me in an unexpected way, while I was going through a very difficult time, which I can only describe as a Dark Night of The Soul. She has blessed me with visions of white and golden roses, and has appeared in a dream where she was adorned with a bright luminous star. My experiences with Mary and the visions that I have seen have inspired me to paint, and write in her honour.
My future plans are to continue with my paintings, which are very much in alignment with my spiritual practices. In addition, I am working on a book, which is a synthesis of my spiritual and creative interests. I am also very interested in connecting with other Visionary and Spiritual artists. I hope to develop more of an affiliation with creative people – from all different backgrounds – and genres. I am especially interested in participating in events, exhibitions and other venues such as workshops, and in engaging with like-minded people through social gatherings.
Founder Sarida Brown recalls the beginnings of Caduceus and, together with current editor Simon Best, remembers some special issues.
As I began to recall the early days, the reality of ‘Caduceus Journal’ flooded into my awareness as constellations of remarkable contributors, advisers and designers flowed through my heart’s memory.
Initiators, explorers, teachers and communicators of transformation in consciousness, healing, science, ecology, arts – all touched by the yearning to resolve apparent paradoxes into deeper/higher knowledge and unity, both in their particular fields and in service to humanity and the planet.
How did Caduceus start? In summer, 1985, I was on a 6-day, individual retreat, camping high in the French Alps, guided personally by Pir Vilayat Khan. On the last day he asked me to contemplate how I could serve in life. The answer came clear: to create a magazine about healing that represented all traditions, holistic and scientific, of all ages and regions (an innovative approach for that time); it was puzzling because I’d never written, nor edited, nor run any business.
New Year, 1986: a gathering of about eight friends at my Sufi guide, Rabia Joyce Purcell’s centre, Barton Farm in Bradford-on-Avon. Still puzzled, I recounted my guidance and the group said, ‘We’ll do it’. A wonderful designer, Charles Hill, offered to design a leaflet and the template. June, 1987, around a garden table at David Lorimer’s, Lyn Macwhinnie proposed the name Caduceus, in part because it denoted freedom from any specific group. I had no idea what a house editing style was, so editor Ian Macwhinnie designed one.I had no idea what a business plan was, so we managed without one – in pre-publication subscriptions we received exactly the amount needed for the first issue, which came out in August, 1987.
This was before computers: Carol typed the copy on a typewriter and Roy pasted columns and graphics onto pages to be photographed at the press. There was no Internet: people relied on us for information about leading edge topics and luminaries, courses, events and books.
Caduceus was soon valued for its pioneering exploration of themes that had been ignored or considered taboo. For example, in Issue 9, Leo Sides (a wonderful, heart-full man) broke through the silence about AIDS, at that time still a disease for which there was no medical alleviation or cure – Leo, and his friends, subsequently died of it.
Issue 13, Intuition. Issue 14, Dying – at that time, summer 1991, death was a no-go subject; the quality of articles and quotes are still riveting and relevant. Issue 18, Surviving and Transcending Abuse – again, definitely at the time an unmentionable subject. Issue 20, Birth. Issue 25, Anger. Issue 26, Love. His Holiness the Dalai Lama wrote an article, World Peace, to celebrate our 50th issue (actually in issue 51). Issue 54 (Winter, 2001-2), The Spirit of Afghanistan. So many great contributors to honour, from all holistic fields. Issue 12 (Winter, ‘90-91) was our first colour cover, but it was not until no 65 (Winter, ‘04-05) that we produced our first, full-colour issue. Just before that, in 2002, we launched our website.
I called Caduceus Journal my dervish, who required that I stay awake at all hours, on many levels, giving me the richest dervish teaching. I feel awe at the privilege I have been given in this lifetime of editing Caduceus, gratitude to the spirit of Pir Vilayat who opened this opportunity for me, humility when I think of such wonderful people who have contributed to the Journal over the years, and admiration and deep appreciation for Simon, editor since 2006, for his skill, intelligence and dedication.
I took over the reins from Sarida with issue 67, after she had decided she wanted more time to pursue her other interests. At first it continued to be produced at her house in Leamington Spa, but in due course I carried on producing it from my then home in Midhurst, W Sussex.
Among some special issues, I recall issue 71, which highlighted tributes to Eileen Caddy, co-founder of the Findhorn community, among which were two articles by Mike Scott, of The Waterboys, who had lived next to her at Findhorn in the early days – and now here, in issue 100, also remembers Jay (p 5). No 71 also featured the stunning revelations of cymatics, which we have continued to cover in articles by pioneer John Stuart Reid.
EMR hazards are a long-term interest of mine and so have featured in many issues, including this one. Similarly, we have covered many health areas including vitamin D, iodine, raw milk, seaweed, cholesterol and statins, vaccines, Fukushima radiation and ozone therapy. Issue 97 was devoted to the latest theories and research into cancer, one of our most important issues. On the spiritual side, subjects have included Jesus’ family and its Glastonbury connections, Yogananda and Kriya Yoga, the warnings of the Kogi Indians, the mysteries of Rosslyn Chapel, sacred geometry, shamanism and the spiritual effects of sound and light.
The way forward
This issue is a watershed in many ways. When I took it over in 2006 its finances and prospects were buoyant but the ‘08/’09 recession undermined the situation significantly, as it did for many niche market publications. Some went online only to save costs, others simply ceased. Caduceus could have gone digital only, but readers made it clear that most preferred to read a print version. So, it continued in that form, but it came at a cost – letting go the advertising manager, subscriptions/diary secretary and other help. This was a struggle but I was determined to keep it going.
And so it has continued to be; we have no wealthy donors nor business sponsors, unlike some other publications. But the effort has finally culminated in this 100th issue which, with gathering the tributes to Jay, has involved a huge amount of time and work to make it one of our best issues to date.
But the way forward has to be to ask each reader to become more actively involved in helping to promote Caduceus if it is to survive and expand. This means asking you to promote it on all social media available to you. Caduceus has limited resources to promote itself online, but certainly wants and needs to increase its presence; this would be multiplied many, many fold if you, the reader, helped in as many ways available to you. After each issue Jay would email his entire network about it, which always resulted in new subscriptions. I would ask you to follow his example and do what you can to help Caduceus to thrive again.
Since writing the above in issue 100, we have covered many topics, up to the current issue, 108, that include: Sleep; Vitamin C preventing infant vax damage; Vitamin D benefits to prevent Covid (issue 104); glyphosate damage; Ivermectin treats Covid; Water (issue 106), including Deuterium-Depleted water to treat cancer, 4th Phase water, and Molecular Hydrogen health benefits; Spike protein detox, Importance of IR in sunshine, and Sadguru Sri Sharavana Baba (issue 107); Weaponizing the weather (issue 108), how the heart really works and the Open Air Factor.
Full current and back issue contents can be viewed on our website below and from the free, downloadable PDF under the Back Issues menu on the site. For more information on Caduceus please contact Simon Best on 01373 455260.