What wond’rous life in this I lead! Ripe apples drop about my head; The luscious clusters of the vine Upon my mouth do crush their wine; The nectarine and curious peach Into my hands themselves do reach; Stumbling on melons as I pass, Ensnar’d with flow’rs, I fall on grass. (Andrew Marvell, The Garden)
I find myself walking though a cool green tunnel of foliage. As I emerge into the bright morning I see a lake sparkling ahead of me in the middle distance. I am standing at the top of a steep grassy bank covered in myriads of daffodils, all in full bloom and gleaming yellow gold in the sunlight. The place looks familiar yet altered, enhanced. Turning round I see a garden planted with flowering shrubs, glowing in the sunlight and scenting the air with their heady fragrance. Suddenly I recognize where I am: rus in urbe; a garden which is also a public park, where Basil and I have often walked and enjoyed its salubrious beauty. I walk down the bank of daffodils into a glade of trees surrounding a spring. I stand there for a moment drinking in the cool tranquillity of this oasis.
As the boat glides gently down the river I sink once more into a light trance in which time seems to be suspended. It is too dark to make out anything beyond the banks, though occasionally vague shapes seem to flit past.
Suddenly I am aware that the boat has stopped and is moored to the riverbank. The Boatman raises his hand and indicates that I should disembark. The sky is lightening, colour returning to the scenery, and I step out carefully.
The riverbank is covered with beautiful, tall, lily-white flowers, which emit a subtle fragrance as I brush through them and emerge into a lush meadow. Meanwhile my ear is caught by the sweetest sounds of music.
One midsummer day in midlife, I found myself in a dark wood. It is a yew forest, nestled into a vale amid the rolling hills of the South Downs in Sussex. Cultivated yew trees are usually clipped and trimmed, but in this ancient wildwood the trees spread their branches wide, intertwining with each other and canopying the forest into an arboreal cathedral. Their green shade is cooling and soothing on a warm summer day, while their resinous aroma is gently soporific.
We’re gonna take a little ride on the Solar Boat
Bring your scepter, bring your thunderbolt
We’ll see the eye in the canopy, the morning star
The edge of the void, it’s not too far…
Fascinated by the vivid colour, complexity and power of the ancient Egyptian bardo, as depicted on papyrus and stone, I did further research into this lost world. My most astonishing revelation was that the Egyptian paradise was not a fixed location but had undergone a radical transformation over the course of history.
Since Pharaoh is the Son of God, his exalted status must be recognized in the afterlife as in life. Instead of toiling with the peasants in the Field of Reeds, surely a more fitting destination is the abode of the Gods in the Stellar Realms. Of course he needs a suitable mode of transport and the most magnificent vehicle in existence is the barque of the Sun God Ra, who sails it every day on a round trip through the known universe.
Homage to thee, O RA… Thou art adored. Thou goest to thy setting in the Solar Boat with fair winds, and thy heart is glad… Thou stridest over the heavens in peace, all thy foes being cast down. The stars which never rest hymn thee, and the stars which never vanish glorify thee as thou sinkest to rest… Thou art beautiful at morn and at eve, O thou Living Lord, the Unchanging One, my Lord. (“Papyrus of Ani”, A Hymn to Ra when he rises on the horizon and when he sets in the Land of Life)
It begins in Egypt.
The first voyage was up the river Nile. We were a group of four friends in search of artistic and spiritual inspiration, and winter sun. It was the Arab Spring, a time of great hope but also unrest in Egypt. The resulting dearth of visitors was tough on the tourist industry but fortunate for us, allowing us access to the sites without queues or crowds; a rare opportunity to tune into the spirit of Ancient Egypt, where it all began.Continue reading →