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Knowth Mound

Spirals within Spirals
Stones have Stories
to Tell


© James Nemec

Spirals

page 8


Buddhist Stupa at SarnathThen I had a flash of my visit to the great Buddhist Stupa at Sarnath, north of New Delhi, two years before. This stupa is near where the Buddha first taught the Dharma in India. The tradition for followers of the Buddha there is to slowly circumnavigate the great Stupa at least three times. However, this place called Knowth was of a different music. I continued to appreciate and feel joy from my visit to Sarnath, and to the numinous Ashoka Pillar there, but this place called Knowth was ancient and very alive. Ancient sites have their unique gifts to share, if we are open to receiving and being. Knowth lacked the debris of worship of the place as an external, soul-corrupting object. In my imagination, these stones were not worshipped, originally, they were touched, beheld. They were beheld as living mirrors, the same way good friends can be mirrors.

Then I thought, what if, all at once, these stones began to sing? What would that chorus be to hear? I closed my eyes. I listened inwardly and outwardly. I listened with my whole being. I could almost hear an infinite choral of harmony in my heart. Hallelujah! Yes, there was much more to discover at Knowth, if “I” didn’t make the place important. That’s what the self does with places like this—self spelled with a little “s.” Knowth had only been discovered in this century and thankfully, no one had had the time to corrupt it, energetically, or turn it into a religious place for controlled worship. Always a bad idea, I’d thought. Recall that I still had, as contrast, the very negative impressions of what had happened at the postholes to the later generation Celts -- or whoever it was!

Later that day, on the drive back to Dublin with Eileen, I couldn’t help but play Irish tunes on my tin whistle! I played them badly. I wondered if there was also a cosmic library within the stones at Knowth, on the order of the great library of Alexandria? I felt buzzed! But perhaps I was getting away with myself, going native?

What are you doing?” It was a woman’s voice in the distance. She was an older woman and supported by a cane. She’d startled me. But she was by herself and tired from the walking and in some pain. I didn’t know what to say to her.

I’m, uh, touching the stones.
Touching them?” she asked.
Yes, I’m using just a very light touch. I do this with the ocean, if that makes any sense.
You can touch them?
Sure.”
Can I do it too?
I don’t know if it’s allowed, but sure. Check it out for yourself.”
I was standing now. “Just pick out a stone and touch it, very lightly, with one or both hands.”

She walked over to the supporting stones. I turned to yet another stone. I stood for a moment. Did this stone have anything to offer? I didn’t know. I glanced toward the older woman to make sure she wasn’t looking at me. After all, this was a bit awkward. I reviewed the few brief minutes I’d spent touching the stones. With each of the stones, it was as if I had been transported to different portions of interstellar space. I didn’t have time to analyze what I was experiencing and perhaps this was in my favor. It seemed each stone had a story to share in a dance with the next. And it was as if I were being shown the journey we had made here from far, far away. The unfolding of the one story into the next formed part of what we were to remember. We were not an isolated group of people on a lost planet in the far reaches of the Milky Way Galaxy. Perhaps it was given to us to remember also to behave ourselves while here.

Knowth Kerbstone K5This new stone had twin spirals carved on it. I still wasn’t sure how to approach it. Then I simply placed the palms of both hands over each of the twin spirals. Again, I trusted whatever information that would arise through my hands as true. My hands became like two radio antennas, listening. It was the sun, not a picture of the sun so much as being inside the sun. I was the light within the sun. I sat with this. I allowed this feeling to arise. The image merged and now there were two suns within each spiral under my hands. Then it was as if each sun softly exploded into light! What could this mean? Anything? I quieted my thinking. I kept my hands on the spirals. The feeling was now of one invisible sun, one light that was shared. My fingertips and thumbs delicately turned inward to my palms and then out again, as if this tiny, spontaneous articulation of fingertips resonated in silent waves, permeating into the far beyond. We have no conception of how far one radiance of love from our hearts can travel or where it can touch. We are surrounded by love. It's too easy to forget that there is a Source beyond any stones, spirals, ideas, theories or resistances in our lives, an infinite invisible and indivisible always available to us all and all connecting. Only Remember. I wanted more time to spend with this stone, rather than the required hour for the tour. In those few brief remaining seconds, somehow I knew the energy that is the Sun. Where was this energy? It was in my own this very human body of bone, muscle, blood, water, cerebrospinal fluid(csf), connective tissue, and yes, energy. Was it in all of our bodies? How could it not be? Why did the ancients spend a whole day walking around the Knowth mound to stop at each stone?

I can feel electricity!” It was the woman’s voice. She was still some distance away from me.
What?
When I touch the stone, I feel…electricity in my arms!
Good for you!” I said.
Why is that?
I don’t know. I really don’t know.
Thank you for telling me this,” she said.
Sure.” I then placed my hand to my forehead. Whoa, I thought, what was that? The Sun? What stories, what energies, were held within these stones? And she says, ‘electricity!’ I wished I could get my friend over here to check this out with me, but she was nowhere to be seen. Each stone, the interaction with each stone was an awakening, fresh and sharp. When open to it, each stone could contribute the feeling of being with a great presence, a light, or a highly refined-no-bullshit-spiritual teacher.

The tour guide called out, “To the bus now, everybody! Time to leave!

I walked slowly. I fell into the back of the line with the others. The woman with the cane looked ecstatic. I felt happy for her. But something else was mixing together within me, under the surface, an alchemy that I could not recognize. Something else stirred in my whole body and being that I had never known before. This was new. As I stood in the back of the line of tourists, I contemplated time and the likliehood of simultaneity and the feeling within my body was that it seemed as if all time, past, present, and future were happening simultaneously. It seemed I was there just a few moments ago, and now here. I knew it had been suggested by the Sufis, dating back beyond Rumi, and by others in our own age, from the great, J. Krishnamurti to Douglas Adams of The Hitchikers Guide to the Galaxy, that this very real experiencing of time is part of, no, not a physical, but a spiritual maturation. There didn’t seem to be any separation now. I was there at the mound of Knowth just a few moments ago, now in front of a tour bus. But it was also as if I was still touching the stones. The experience of touching the stones stayed with me, and the sense of time not existing as a linear structure is with me even now. There were no mechanical clocks when Knowth was built. There was the movement of the sun, the moon, the heavens. There was the outer then too, and the inner world of man.

Bus

The boy with red hair got into the bus long before I did. It seemed he’d wanted to sit with me on the ride back, and later I’d heard he’d saved a seat next to him. I was the last to get on. When I saw him, I tossed him the Irish tin whistle. He caught it in the air and began to play. The bus started up and moved past the hedgerows. There was a good feeling in the small bus. People began to chat with each other in the afterglow of the visit. Some people began to sing along with the Irish tunes the boy played and everyone applauded at the end of each tune. He was quite deft and talented with the tin whistle in the key of “D.” The alchemy of feelings began to surface through me my body and mind again. It was a growing sense that this site called Knowth was not ancient at all, but that it was very here and now, fresh and new. It was as if past and present were occurring in one field of NOW awareness. All I could do was allow this feeling to arise. I closed my eyes for a moment and listened to the music. We hit a bump in the road. It woke me up. “Where were you?” I said to Eileen over the noise of the bus. She was in the seat behind me.

Lying down in the grass.

I smiled. Wow, I thought, why didn’t I think of that? But there was nothing I could say, nothing I could articulate about this new feeling. I’m seldom at a loss for words. It was more than just a feeling, it was an event. I looked over at the older woman with the cane. Her face continued to be radiant. I wondered if the old woman was experiencing something of what I was experiencing too. It seemed this event of NOW awareness was available, had been available, and always would be available to any one open to it.

Did you happen to touch the stones?” I said to Eileen.
What?
Did you touch the stones?”’
Of course not,” she answered. “I’ve done that a million times at Newgrange.
It’s not the same,” I said.
What?” We were going over another hill.
I said, “I’ll bet it’s not the same.
Nothing ever is,” she said above the noise.

The closest that I could come to remembering anything like this feeling was when I was visiting Machu Picchu with my Dad in the mid-1990s. The sense of using the body to interact with the stones was similar to my sitting on what was called, for short, “The Needle.” The actual name of the stone is the Intihuatana, or "hitching post for the sun." The Needle was an ancient stone structure that looked like a giant seat and roped off from the tourists with thin, pale ropes on temporary wooden posts. The most important shrine at Machu Picchu, it was used by Inca astronomers to predict solstices and played into the mythology of the ancient Incas. I thought of the way the high priests of Machu Picchu would gather around this Needle while the common people prayed on the wide grounds below, but to me, it was just a big rock that looked like a seat.

The Intihuatana stone at Machu PicchuAfter two days of being there, with that sense of temptation that adventurous tourists can feel, I slipped in under the ropes and sat down on the smooth part. There wasn't anyone around. My mind quieted. I began to feel a spine-tingling and sudden, powerful resonance. It was so strong as a focal point for the surrounding mountains and lands that it alarmed me. My peripheral vision began to vibrate with a quality of darkness in the bright day. The World around me began to divide apart within my inner seeing and separate into Two Worlds. It was a visceral feeling in my whole body and I began to feel dizzy with nausea. I felt if I sat longer the sky would open and split apart, or my brain tissue would! After a minute or so, I got up from The Needle and went back under the ropes, and looked at it from there like a good tourist. What would have happened if I had sat there longer? The stones that I’d touched with a light touch at Knowth had the same kind of deep resonance, but unlike the Intihuatana, the Kerbstones felt clean and present and NOW. The Kerbstones extended an invitation to others, whereas The Needle compelled. I just couldn’t place it. At Knowth, my body felt safe, and this feeling of safety, even of reassurance, perhaps from the deep center of our star system, was very unlike the feeling I’d had while sitting on the powerful Intihuatana at Machu Picchu. This said, I'd warmly suggest that anyone traveling on the Inca Trail or visiting Machu Picchu by the tourist train along the winding Urubamba River, take a few moments to sit on the flat surface of the Intihuatana, provided you can get past the ropes! It's interesting what can happen when we can trust the feelings in our bodies at such World Heritage sites, not just the tourist brochures. Check it out for yourself.

Now, on the tour bus, I breathed a quiet sigh of relief. My body had about freaked out while sitting on that Needle at Machu Picchu, and yes, there was still a small piece of visceral fearfulness that remained and it was highly emotionally charged. Now is not then, I reminded myself. Then is not now. I felt a sense of quiet healing wash over my body and mind. How could this be? And how could all of time be simultaneous if 'now is not the same as then?' This was a paradox of a higher order. All of time exists simultaneously and not all at the same time? Later, I remembered that the spiritual teacher, J. Krishnamurti, referred to something he called, psychological time. I shrugged my shoulders and took in the passing view of the hedgerows and well kempt fields.

Now is not the same as then.

     


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  FlowerThe tour bus pulled up to the shelter. We all got off and made our way toward the Visitor Centre. I stopped just under an overhanging arch and motioned my friend to the side. I wasn’t ready to go into the museum yet. I wanted more time here. And I knew I wanted to go back. I wanted to see if what I had experienced there would happen to me again if I returned. I would have to put that aside now, for Eileen said we had to get back to Dublin and to the Alfa Romeo in the parking lot. I said, “No, just another moment.” Ever agreeable, she laid down on the grass next to a small garden there.
It was just amazing,” I said to her.
Yes, it was,” she said.

“It was just amazing,” I said to her. “Yes, it was,” she said. All I could say was, “Amazing.” I thought of those who visit here each year and of those who try to. If the stones were so generous with me in revealing their secrets with the use of only a light touch, then what of those who gather here without touching the stones? If they were just around the stones as tourists, that might well be enough. It could be that each stone, and the stones together, the part and the whole, emanate a special presence that is felt, shared. Could it be felt by osmosis? Was it a continuous transmission? Those who had put time in, I thought, the diggers, the archeologists, even the groundskeepers of today, must have something special going on, a sense of connection with this place. What would it be if they could gather here on special tours with intention? Intention changes everything. Intention, and the waiting for a sense of invitation. Had their feelings here been the same that I was feeling? I couldn’t know. And what was this feeling? Words failed me then. Later, from the comfort of my journal, I would ask, what was the experience for me? What could I really learn?

But now, there was no separation between the past time of the ancients and the moment I was experiencing now, nor of the future. Between then and now, the whole protracted history of humankind felt like a blip or a wave. What had happened between then and now? Anything? I tried to consider the centuries it took for these people to carry and to place each of these stones, yet even this effort felt somehow like a palpable teaching symbol, not like the passage of history or time. I knew there was a history of events that we had gone through over thousands of years to reach homo sapiens, and then homo sapiens-sapiens, where man is wise about being wise, even to homo-sapiens stellaris, a term offered by the kaleidoscopic philosopher, Roger Weir, where man will now begin to venture into the star system with great interstellar vehicles to refuel on planets surrounding our own star, the Sun, but now, all of that rolling, gnashing spinning history of the family of man did not seem to exist. Nada. It felt faraway, unimportant. For me, in this moment, the ancient and current-future were all and only the present NOW. We were unified. Not in time but in the depths of the Cosmos.

Beyond even this, call it the Real.

Had I ever felt this way with the dolphins I’d worked with in the Bahamas? If there was anything at all I would take away from this prismatic experience, it would be this, and this was one thing I could say to my friend out loud, “I know it sounds corny, but we are not alone and isolated. We are one. We are one with all life.

Apple BlossomYes,” she said.
Um, what did you feel or experience there?” I asked.
She said, “After getting away from those pillars…
Right,” I said. “They were gnarly.
Yes. All I wanted to do there was lie down under the apple tree there.
I hadn’t seen the apple tree. I asked, “There was an apple tree?
Yes, it was beautiful.
How could I have missed that? “Did you feel anything else? Or do you now?
A sense of peace.
Wow, that’s…that’s everything, isn’t it?
Of course.
Of course,” I answered.
It seemed so simple to say that now, so easy and Irish. Of course!
Her eyes smiled from deep within. “I remember wondering if, like Sir Issac Newton, I could have an apple fall on my head and get more understanding. Of course this is impossible as it’s only apple blossom time now!” She laughed.

I felt a dark sense of self-pity, almost of shame. Maybe she got more out of the place than I did. I breathed. I bent down to touch one of the colorful flowers along the fence in the small garden. Was it all in my own imagination? But I couldn’t shake this deeper feeling of being at one, unified, joined in time with the ancient builders. It was a deep down in the body feeling. And I don’t mean this in the sense of reincarnation, or “past lives,” for I’m still not convinced through my own experience that there are past lives, beyond my past life called high school, which was mostly a bummer past life. It was then I thought of James Joyce and the opening scene of Ulysses that takes place in the Tower. “Eileen, does the James Joyce Tower have a winding, or spiral, staircase? Like in Ulysses?” Eileen said that the Joyce Tower was the one place in Ireland she’d never been in all her life.

This realization came to her as a sad surprise. She promised to take me there. “Great,” I said. Since she was all Irish, I so wanted to ask her if she felt that Newgrange and Knowth inspired the spiraling structure of the opening of Ulysses. And I wanted to find out if the myth of Ulysses by Homer was a myth shared by us all. What if we were in fact a colony on a planet called Earth? What if we were all on a never-ending but very present journey through the vastness of the Cosmos? And all LIGHT. It would be no use to say any of this out loud. She was again delighting in the afternoon sunlight, lying on the grass.

Did you ever read Ulysses?” she asked with an enquiring smile.
I’ve read enough of it.
Good answer,” she said.
Did the words and the scenes of Joyce’s master work keep spiralling from the opening of the book through a psychological time? I wondered. The Irish playwright Samuel Beckett, who wrote the modern existentialist play, Waiting for Godot, admired his fellow expatriate Irishman, Joyce, and spent time with Joyce, doing office work, editing for him and running errands. Now, I could get it, I could get why such a masterful playwright as Samuel Beckett would want to be around this mentor, Joyce. As a playwright myself, both these men became very real in this moment and very human. Was James Joyce a mentor for other aspiring playwrights in the West? Had Beckett visited Knowth?

I couldn’t know.

Why didn’t I just hug a tree?


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