Mary Watts Chapel,Surrey,U.K.

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the doors to the chapel

“A painted surface is a real, living form.” – Kazimir Malevich

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Watts Chapel

‘It is no exaggeration to say the Watts Cemetery Chapel is one of the most beautiful, extraordinary, original, marvellous and magical buildings in the whole of the British Isles!’ — Lucinda Lambton

Landscape, art and remembrance are beautifully blended together in this Grade I listed building. Visitors are drawn to the bright red brick of this Arts & Crafts masterpiece. Up close, the extraordinary design and decoration both fascinate and overwhelm all who venture up the winding yew tree paths.

Mary Watts was the artistic force behind the creation of Watts Chapel, and she dedicated it to ‘the loving memory of all who find rest near its walls, and for the comfort and help of those to whom the sorrow of separation remains.’ G F and Mary Watts both rest in Watts Cemetery, as do many other people who have played a role in the Artists’ Village over the years.

In 1895 Mary began to run evening Terracotta Classes at Limnerslease, the Wattses’ nearby residence and studio. At these classes Mary would teach local villagers how to model tiles from local terracotta clay with the beautiful and symbolic patterns that she had designed to decorate the walls of the Chapel.

G F Watts financed the building of the Chapel through painting commissioned portraits, and the Wattses presented it as their gift to the village of Compton. Watts Chapel remains a working village parish chapel to this day.

Further reading

Watts Chapel: A Guide to the Symbols of Mary Watts’s Arts and Crafts Masterpiece

The Making of Mary Seton Watts by Mary McMahon

An Artists’ Village: G F Watts and Mary Watts at Compton by Mark Bills

Compton Parish Church

Watts Cemetery

Watts Cemetery, which surrounds Watts Chapel, is more than 120 years old and was conceived and laid out by Mary Watts between 1895 and 1898 with the help of Compton Parish Council.

Watts Cemetery has been added to the Register of Parks and Gardens at a Grade II* listing by English Heritage, the second highest grade that can be bestowed, meaning it is protected from inappropriate development. The exceptional Arts & Crafts gravestones and cloister give the space a unique and emotive atmosphere. With much thanks to Beauty of the Arts

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Two Spirit People

I’d not  heard of “two spirit people” in native American culture until recently. I found the subject profoundly interesting, and was eager to learn more, although my knowledge about them is still limited. The you tube above is a history of “two spirit people” that covers facts from  both the present and past about  their tragic history.

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We-Wah, a Zuni Berdache, from New Mexico, who was born biologically male but lived as a Two Spirit woman.

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Excerpted from Walter L Williams article on The Two Spirit People

Rather than the physical body, Native Americans emphasized a person’s “spirit”, or character, as being most important. Instead of seeing two-spirit persons as transsexuals who try to make themselves into “the opposite sex”, it is more accurate to understand them as individuals who take on a gender status that is different from both men and women. This alternative gender status offers a range of possibilities, from slightly effeminate males or masculine females, to androgynous or transgender persons, to those who completely cross-dress and act as the other gender. The emphasis of Native Americans is not to force every person into one box, but to allow for the reality of diversity in gender and sexual identities.

Most of the evidence for respectful two-spirit traditions is focused on the native peoples of the Plains, the Great Lakes, the Southwest, and California. With over a thousand vastly different cultural and linguistic backgrounds, it is important not to overgeneralise for the indigenous peoples of North America. Some documentary sources suggest that a minority of societies treated two-spirit persons disrespectfully, by kidding them or discouraging children from taking on a two-spirit role. However, many of the documents that report negative reactions are themselves suspect, and should be evaluated critically in light of the preponderance of evidence that suggests a respectful attitude. Some European commentators, from early frontier explorers to modern anthropologists, also were influenced by their own homophobic prejudices to distort native attitudes.

Two-spirit people were respected by native societies not only due to religious attitudes, but also because of practical concerns. Because their gender roles involved a mixture of both masculine and feminine traits, two-spirit persons could do both the work of men and of women. They were often considered to be hard workers and artistically gifted, of great value to their extended families and community. Among some groups, such as the Navajo, a family was believed to be economically benefited by having a “nadleh” (literally translated as “one who is transformed”) androgynous person as a relative. Two-spirit persons assisted their siblings’ children and took care of elderly relatives, and often served as adoptive parents for homeless children.

A feminine male who preferred to do women’s work (gathering wild plants or farming domestic plants) was logically expected to marry a masculine male, who did men’s work (hunting and warfare). Because a family needed both plant foods and meat, a masculine female hunter, in turn, usually married a feminine female, to provide these complementary gender roles for economic survival. The gender-conforming spouse of two-spirit people did not see themselves as “homosexual” or as anything other than “normal”.

In the 20th-century, as homophobic European Christian influences increased among many Native Americans, respect for same-sex love and for androgynous persons greatly declined. Two-spirit people were often forced, either by government officials, Christian missionaries or their own community, to conform to standard gender roles. Some, who could not conform, either went underground or committed suicide. With the imposition of Euro-American marriage laws, same-sex marriages between two-spirit people and their spouses were no longer legally recognised. But with the revitalisation of Native American “red power” cultural pride since the 60s, and the rise of gay and lesbian liberation movements at the same time, a new respect for androgyny started slowly re-emerging among American Indian people.

Walter L Williams is the author of The Spirit and the Flesh (Boston: Beacon Press) and is Professor of Anthropology, History and Gender Studies at the University of Southern California. His most recent book, Two Spirits: A Story Of Life With The Navajo has been released.

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Historic photo of Navajo couple from the collection of the Museum of New Mexico, 1866.

Native American notions of identity are communal. They depend upon community context, status and history. In many ways, gender is more fluid in Native American cultures in comparison to the rigid binary concepts of male-female that we know in Western societies.

Navajo scholar Wesley Thomas explains that Navajo culture has four genders:

  1. Given that Navajo culture is matrilineal , the first gender is feminine woman (asdzaan). They are born biologically female and function socially as women;
  2. Masculine man (hastiin), are born biologically male and adopt the role of men;
  3. Feminine man (nádleehí) are born biologically male and function socially as women; and
  4. Masculine woman (dilbaa) are born biologically female but function as men.

http://othersociologist.com/2013/09/09/two-spirit-people/

Love Its Meaning In The World By Rudolf Steiner – Inspirational Quotations

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Rudolf Steiner lived from 1861-1925. The greatest initiate of the 20th Century, he is one of history’s most original thinkers. Rudolf Steiner’s work is largely unknown in the world today.

Rudolf Steiner once said, “people in the future are not going to get much fun out of  development on the physical plane. They will find that further evolution is possible  only through “spiritual forces.”  This can be accomplished only by surveying a lengthy period of evolution and applying what is discovered through our experiences. This process will become more and more general in the future.” ~ The post today is from my young friend, Jake Murray.

LOVE & ITS MEANING IN THE WORLD by Rudolf Steiner

“One could say that the male body now has a female soul, the female
body a male soul. This inner one-sidedness of the human being is
compensated by fertilisation through the spirit, which abolishes the
one-sidedness. Both the male with the female body and the female soul
with its male body become double-sexed again through fructification by
the spirit. Thus, men and women are different outwardly; internally
their spiritual one-sidedness is rounded out to a harmonious whole.
Internally, spirit and soul are fused into a unit. The spirit’s effect
on the male soul in woman is female, rendering it both male and
female; the spirit’s effect on the female soul in man is male, making
it, too, male and female. The double-sexedness of human beings has
retired from the outer world, where it existed in the pre-Lemurian
period.

One can see that the higher essence of a human being has nothing to do
with man or woman. The inner equality, however, does result from a
male soul in woman and from a female soul in man. The union with the
spirit finally brings about equality; but the fact that a difference
exists before the establishment of the equality involves a secret of
human nature. Understanding this secret is of great significance for
all mystery science and is the key to important enigmas of life. For
the present we are not permitted to lift the veil spread over this
secret…

http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/231334.Love_and_Its_Meaning_in_the_World

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There is immense complexity & subtlety here & this passage repays careful scrutiny… The wording is very specific… All I would say is: when talking about subtle bodies – which is what he is doing here when he gets onto spirit & soul – he is not talking about ‘male and female’ in the sense we usually mean…

To me, this passage, which connects with Gnostic, Kabbalist, Alchemical, Platonic, Taoist & Hindu Tantric ideas of the Soul & Body, opens the possibility of understanding ourselves fully as physical men and women, souls and spirits and ultimate something beyond all of that, which preserves the specialness of each domain. It chimes with Jung’s ideas of the Anima & Animus and the universal idea of the Divine Marriage, while preserving the essence of our physical gender in an image of ultimate Wholeness on all levels of our being.

It also, in its vision of the androgynous Self, embraces other combinations of gender- specifically lesbian, gay and transgender. Steiner is saying we are all things, with Wholeness being found in the Divine Union of all of them, but with each unique and special to itself.

And even here, he is tentative. Note he says ‘One could say’ in the first sentence and not ‘The male body has a female soul etc’. Right from the start he is talking not in literal but in metaphorical terms…

~Jake Murray.


Irina Tweedie, The Law of Yogic and Divine Powers – Vimeo Talk / Transcript

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Irina Tweedie, a Russian Lady, decided sometime way back in the early 1960′s to study yoga with a Naqshbandi Sufi teacher. (He was actually Hindu but took up Sufism and studied for many years under a Sufi Master, until his enlightenment.)


Irina Tweedie’s books “Daughter of Fire” and “Chasm of Fire,” tell clearly the story of a Woman’s experience of liberation through the teachings of a Sufi Master. The books  are written in the form of a diary. Her dear teacher had told her to keep a diary on their first meeting. He also told her she would one day write a book that would help enlighten seekers on the spiritual path. During her training, guruji, did not give her any specific spiritual practices. Her teachings consisted largely of her sitting in his courtyard or house, observing his interaction with other disciples and family, with occasional terse conversations with him. She was at one time thrown out of the house and had to return to England with no money. Also at one time she contemplated suicide but her guruji said, “I have not brought you this far to let you do that!” She was never treated as special on the contrary, she was often treated harshly.  Her  guriji did not treat anyone more speical than others. Yet, he gave each what they asked for and in most cases, they were not after things of a spiritual nature.

The result was one of intense stress, the cultural differences, the heat,smells, physical illnesses, and her own emotional deprivation seemed to cause a progressive emptying of her personality. Her ‘guruji’. who felt she had travelled so far for truth, gave her the highest possible teaching because she proved to be ready.  Her teacher described his method of instruction in the following way:

“..we do not teach but quicken. I am stronger than you so your currents adjust themselves to mine.” Thus causing, the stronger magnetic field to affect, quicken and weaken.”

This combination of suffering so that she would lose herself in every way, and her guruji’s continued presence and influence resulted in a very different type of spiritual experience. Her guru was not in anyway famous outside his own region of India. He was a married man with a family. Yet, his teaching was not only masterful but also thorough and majestic. The book Irina Tweedie eventually wrote, some eleven years after his death, is now considered a spiritual classic, along with those books written by Sri Yogananda. I thoroughly recommend ‘Daughter of Fire’ to seekers of all traditions.


Irina with guruji and other disciples




The Talk begins: (in her own words.)

The subject for tonight is, I think, rather interesting, it deals with the powers latent in man. There are two great powers which we can achieve or  which are rather our Divine heritage. It is the Divine power from God and it is the Power of Yoga. Yoga is really union. The Sanskrit word Yoga means Union, union with God. How the yogic or Divine powers is acquired,  there are slight differences and slight difference in working.

The divine power is given. It is a state of grace. It is given only when the person has surrendered to the light within, which is One with God. Because we in the Theosophy, we believe that the soul of man is  one ray of infinite truth. Or God. I use the word God deliberately because it is short and everyone knows what I mean. The word truth or infinite light is not always familiar to people. It is all the same thing. It is all light. It is all God within and without. Like fish in water, we are in him and he is in our form. Now the divine power is given when the human being is completely surrendered to his maker. The yogic power is acquired, by the yogi or aspirant, through concentration, meditation and stilling of the mind. It is a very, very difficult process.

My dear teacher, who was a very, very great yogi of India…. I have just returned from India…. He died on the 21st of July. He left his physical body. I had to go to the Himalayan Mountains to recuperate in solitude. It was a shock, a great shock to us disciples.

My dear teacher worked with both the divine and the yogic powers. You see the working of the divine power and yogic power are a little bit different. For divine power you need faith. For yogic power you don’t need faith. And you don’t need faith for magic. But magic is a very low subject. I won’t touch that subject tonight, I am only going to speak about the yogic and divine powers.

I always remember the words of Christ when St. Peter wanted to walk on water, when he suddenly lost faith and became afraid and began to sink. Christ pulled him up and asked him where was his faith.
If you have no faith, the divine power will not work with you. In other words, if you come to a great yogi for a healing or anything. If you do not believe in him, the power will not work.

People came to my teacher for healings and others for help with the process in the law court. They want to win the case. People come to the yogi for all sorts of things and if, like my teacher, the yogi is great, if he is one with God, he will know which human being can be helped and which cannot. You see, we in the Theosophy believe in the laws of karma. Karma is the law of cause and effect. If I did evil, then evil will come to me. If I did something which is  considered good, then something good will come to me too. If the human being is sick and has great troubles and cannot be helped, this is something the person themselves have created. The yogi cannot help you. He will not hurt your feelings. He will not say I cannot help you. We disciples, we noticed one day, that our teacher use to sometimes say, “I can only pray.” This is a refusal.

Yet, if a person of faith came to him, and said, “my child is dying of smallpox or cholera” which happens often. People just die away. They cannot be helped with these cases. They die. My teacher would look at the child and say ’go home’ and give him a glass of water. The father would say, “but he cannot keep the water down”. My teacher would say “he can take the water and he will be fine. Just go home and let him sleep for twenty four hours and he will be fine“. The next day the child would be well.

I saw in my teacher’s house, a servant falling ill with smallpox. One day I arrived in his garden. There was no one there. This was very unusual. Someone came to me and said, “Mrs. Tweedie, our servant is ill with smallpox. You may be a afraid to stay.” I was not afraid as I had been vaccinated against smallpox for my journey to India. I stayed in the garden. After sometime, my dear teacher came out, he was a very old man, with a snowy white beard. He was all dressed in white. He said, “Mrs. Tweedie, you may like to leave because our servant is ill.” I said, “No I want to stay, I have had a vaccination“. He said, “our servant has smallpox.” I said, “would it not be better to send her to the hospital.” He replied, “Oh no she will be alright. I gave her a glass of water. And tomorrow she will be well.” Now this was a little bit too much for me quite frankly. Coming from the West, I had faith in my dear teacher but this was a little bit too much. I said nothing because I could not believe it, The next day the servant was washing dishes and she was full of smallpox marks. I asked, “For goodness sake is she not contagious!” My teacher said, “Oh no, I gave her a glass of water and that was that.”

I have seen the case of a mad dog who had bitten six people. Five of those died. The one who got the glass of water from guruji was alright. We called him guruji because that is the term used in India. The word ‘guru’ is teacher. The ‘ji’ is used as a term of endearment. It is like saying Sir guru….It is a Sanskrit word. Guru means the light and the dark…. Gu – ru.  He gave her a glass of water and she was alright. Like Christ he did this work.

Here in the west, I have not seen anyone cast out spirits. I have been told that some priest do it. The R.C. church has priest trained to do this work. I have never seen it. I have seen my teacher cast out an evil spirit from a boy. It was a horrific sight. The boy was rolling on the floor, foaming at the mouth. He looked like he was suffering from an epileptic fit. My teacher said it is not a fit but a spirit. He then ordered the spirit to go out.  It is was a terrific sight. My teacher was all dressed in white and very majestic. He pointed with his finger to the outline of the boy and drew an invisible line around him. The boy was lying on the floor, foaming and shouting. My teacher was saying very sternly to the spirit. “Go out or I will burn thee and all thy family”. Now, I did not know he was talking to the spirit. I thought he was speaking to the boy, and in my ignorance, I thought was a terrible way to talk to this boy when he is in this condition, then suddenly the boy became sort of blackish in his face, or blue rather and stopped shouting and was completely calm.  I said to myself, the boy has died, guruji has killed him! But after a few minutes, the boy sat up, with a perfectly normal expression on his face. He folded his hands in India salute and said, “thank you.” It was so beautiful to see the boy well. He rose and left with his father. He was from one of the local villages and he went home. I turned to my guruji and said, “well I never saw anything like this in the West.” He said, “Oh! this is nothing. When you stay with me you will see many such cases and much more of this sort of thing, It is nothing. It is the grace of God. We are given that. But we don’t care for these powers, we are not after these things.”

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“We Yogis can do anything but we cannot heal everyone.”

 

In the afternoon, when in his garden, I asked him what he meant by the words,“I will burn thee and all thy relations“. He said, “Well those evil spirits are part of evolution, just as we are part of evolution. There are human beings, there are evil spirits, there are angels, there are all sorts of things. There are birds, and animals. These spirits are of a group soul. They are never alone. They are like a whole family. So when one is killed the others die too. I have no rights to kill a spirit. When an evil spirit enters a human being then I have a duty to help the human being because he is one of my own kind. So I cast out the spirit. But if the spirit disobeys me and comes again, I have the right to kill it.  Although I will not kill it without warning. I have to give it a warning. But if the spirit is disobedient then I have the right to kill it. I first have to give the evil spirit a warning and I give it three times. But with me it never happens! I give the warning once, it is enough. When a saint has great powers, the spirits dare not return“.  Actually the young man and his father never returned.

This is the end of part one of the lengthy talk given by Ms. Irina Tweedie on her return from India sometime in the late 1960’s. I will be translating more of the speech in the next few days and will post it when it is ready.