Have you ever had one of those moments when you watch someone else speak, someone you don’t know, have never met and yet your words keep tumbling out of their mouth? And, while their story may have different details, the insights are eerily familiar?
This happened to me last night and I feel like I have to mention it because in telling this story, it helps explain some of the Archeus story and why I do what I do. It's not an easy story for me to tell because it has grown out of issues we are conditioned to keep quiet.
Last night I watched a BBC Hardtalk interview with James Rhodes. James decided to become a concert pianist when he was 28. He’s in his mid-40s now and doing very well creating and living that dream. In the interview, he also talked very candidly about how as a young boy of about five his life became ripped apart by serial sexual abuse inflicted upon him by a teacher at his school.
He spoke about how the victim is made complicit in the perpetrator’s plans… the more threats of terrible things: death, punishment and abandonment - the more the victim is made mute and horrifyingly tacit in the crimes. I know that feeling so well. Knowing the knowing that things are wrong, but trying so hard to make everything appear normal so one’s world does not come crashing down.
Knowing the knowing that things are wrong, but trying so hard to make everything appear normal so one’s world does not come crashing down.
I was the same age as James when the abuse started for me. It happened when I was left in the care of other adults: a farm worker or father of school friends here, a family friend there. This is not a story of stranger danger and the actions of one abuser would lay the grounds for the next and a wall of silence was built.
Over time I developed a sliding scale for ranking the physical injustices from “not so invasive” to “very, very bad”. There is one time, the highest on the scale, where I remember floating away from my seven-year-old body and looking down at it through drifting dust motes while it was bound by twine in an English hay barn. I remember everything said. Everything done. I remember the smells. I remained mute.
James said that to escape from the horrors of his life he would lose himself in recordings of Bach played on a cassette recorder under his blankets at night. For me, as an only child growing up on farms, I would lose myself in Nature. I didn’t just hug a tree…. I became the tree.
Of course, the scars from these experiences are never just physical. Life can become the ‘normal’ role you are expected to play, and the ‘real life’ you feel. Fear and shame always prevented me from telling my 'real' story. Humans were kind of tricky, but animals, birds, plants and trees just accepted me for who I was. They let me speak without judging. They showed me love. They became my healers.
James Rhodes’ childhood relationship with Bach’s music was intense, as was my relationship with Nature. His fingers lost themselves following a dizzy trail of beautiful notes and melodies; my fingers would trace stem and limb and the energy that flowed in and out of all things.
These were the things that saved us.
My life hasn't taken the route his has through addiction and incarceration, but I did recognise his fear, his pain and I saw my own absolute faith in the natural world and the gratitude I feel for its role in my healing, in the way James spoke with such child-like joy about his love for music and how it saved him.
All of us at some time or other in our lives face some kind of trauma. It could be abuse, it could be illness, it could be any number of things because life gets like that. It gets messy and we all try and get through it the best we can.
So for those of you reading this who know my business Archeus, when I speak about ‘helping Nature help you’, it is not said as some glib marketing line. I speak directly from the experience of knowing how beautifully Nature has helped me. I speak with my hope that my work with Nature can, even in some small way, add to how it can help you too.
Shamans speak of the Wounded Healer and the Oneness of Things: the deep connectivity between earth, sky, sea, plant, creature, rock. They say that when we can see the sacredness of this connectivity and lose our fear of the ability to journey back and forward through time, great healing can occur.
I sometimes wonder if things had been different, if they had been kinder, whether I would have connected so strongly with that Archeus, that vital force.
The word Archeus was made up by the brilliant and mercurial physician and alchemist, Paracelsus who lived in the late 15th and early 16th Centuries. Paracelsus believed that to heal and to create alchemy, one must work with the Archeus, the vital force, the energy that flows between man, Nature and the universe.
I sometimes wonder if things had been different, if they had been kinder, whether I would have connected so strongly with that Archeus, that vital force. In many ways, I am grateful for being made open to this gift. Nature helped me turn pain into empathy, anger into compassion and experience into words… an alchemy of the soul.
It feels strange to talk about this, I am not used to it, but shamans say that whatever we do or say in this life will ripple down through the next seven generations, and that got me thinking about whether I was OK to keep quiet for that amount of time. Turns out I'm not.
We can’t shake off our stories, but we don't have to be defined by them. We can dream a better future into being. For me, my dreaming has seen me return to that close relationship with Nature, with more knowledge gained and more life lived. I am the shaman now; a wounded but now joyous healer, working with plants and people at the physical and energetic level. I am dreaming a world of connection with, and respect for Nature into being.
We can’t shake off our stories, but we can dream a better future into being
James Rhodes really touched me and I found his candour liberating. We are strangers with different stories but a shared sort of oneness. When he plays piano, the alchemic mix of gratitude, pain and his own healing flows through his fingers, taking the beauty of Bach’s compositions and rendering them even more exquisite.
When I create things from plants or work with energy, my intent is for the alchemic forces of knowledge, past pain, ancient wisdom and simple empathy to blend with the healing power of Nature, to support the healing within this land, sea and sky... and within us.
Music. The smell of autumn leaves. The hum of the piano after the note has played. Hands in the soil. A voice found. Life isn’t always easy and these are just a few of the things that can save us. What have you found that saves you, or that fills your life with beauty when things get messy and life becomes mute?