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Knowth Mound

Spirals within Spirals
Stones have Stories
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© James Nemec


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It was as if their bodies built it. It seemed it was built out of the wisdom in their bodies, and they knew to follow this wisdom. The cells within our bodies go back tens of thousands of years. Even our thoughts first begin as forms of light, photons. There was more intelligence and wisdom in our bodies than we could ever imagine. After more than 15 years of having worked successfully with patients and/or clients, many previously considered beyond all help, I had found there was a wisdom in our bodies, in our very cells, and memories held in our very tissues. For the ancients, doing this must have been the same feeling of being compelled to watch a sunrise, to eat nourishing food, or to wash in water.

Of course, I wasn’t there, as Eileen would say, but for my tourist’s Euro, it was felt by them all as a communal collective. And because it was from the body, and from the wisdom within the body, it was likely as engaging to perform as it was physically intense. Anyway, no one I’d met or spoken with that day really knew what the place was really about. It seemed my guess was as good as anyone else’s. I wondered, had I felt this tingling after first sensing the nearness of the mound, or before? “Their bodies did it,” I again said to Eileen. “There was nothing else they could do at the time. It was a collective…thing.”

Of course it was.”

What did I know?

For me, in this moment, this was not a slave-driven enterprise but a communal action performed out of sheer necessity. How could I presume to know this? I could only know what was true for me by my being there. One can only find out about what this place is for oneself. My feeling was that the entire enterprise came out of the species of the time as an act of remembering. It was evoked, not enforced. Of course, there must have been some discipline in place to keep the building of the mounds going for so many years, but perhaps the deep, abiding inspiration to do it at all came out of the “race memory” held within those ancient bodies. For some very good reason, they did not want to forget. Their bodies did not want anyone to forget.

Newgrange from a distance

As I walked to the tour bus, I realized that the mound nearest the Visitor Centre was built in the shape of a giant circle, thick on the edges and rounded like an upside-down saucer. What did this shape remind me of? Was this the mound of Knowth, Dowth, or Newgrange? Naturally, along with countless others, I couldn’t help but think of the spacecraft at the end of the movie, Close Encounters of Third Kind, then of the huge craft in the same saucer shape at the shattering climatic end of Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.

I tried to let these cinematic images go.

Then I felt somehow that one or all of these mounds were built by ancients before our wrong thinking took over. What do I mean by wrong thinking? Well, take a look at the mess the human race is in even at the outset of the 21st century! Fortunately, over the centuries, not everyone has been engaged in the pursuit of wrong thinking all at the same time! Nor could I shake the tingling at the back of my head, and the peculiar feeling would set the tone for my adventure to come. My imagination had begun to expand and entertain possibilities that I’m usually best at ignoring. I recalled a show I’d seen at a movie theater in South Florida before I’d landed in Ireland, some kind of a documentary by a fellow named Ben Stein. The movie showed how even the most brash of the current Evolutionists had to concur that they did not know where that first cell on Earth came from, however, when one Richard Dawkins was questioned, the most likely inference he could make was that the human race was seeded here from some other place.

This follows a suggestion made by Nobel Prize winner, Francis Crick, the identifier of the double helix of DNA, made in the 1970s, that an alien species first got things going here on Earth. The only way through this argument was to finally accept it as fact.

I was not particularly concerned with their speculations as, well, a human being, until I arrived at Knowth and checked in, not with my thoughts, but with the very real feelings in my body. Perhaps the ancients deep need to build these structures came from a mythic beyond times, as it were, when the human species was first “seeded” here on this planet Earth? As a visionary artist, I had a niggling sense that they were far descendents of the first ones here and that they were about to forget everything. This is not to say that they consciously knew the details of their own history: it was as if their bodies were about to forget.

Or was it? Or did it? I didn’t know. I dared not mention this out loud to my friend, of course. If any of the tourists heard me, they would have thought I was daft!

Don’t get me wrong. I adore Jane Goodall and her many adventures and contributions and have an abiding respect for the Leakeys, and if we are not all animals, or descended from animals in a clear and logical path of evolution, well, we sure can act like them, or worse! I just feel it’s useful sometimes, at least for exercise of the mind, to not remain forever stuck in one point of view when a new vision might call to us, or compel us somehow. “What does education often do? It makes a straight-cut ditch of a free, meandering brook,” notes the Transcendentalist guru of Walden Pond, Henry David Thoreau.

The tour bus went over the short rise toward Knowth, and I tried out my tin whistle in D. I couldn’t play it at all. There was a boy of 12 who volunteered to play it for me. He almost looked like an elf with red hair. He played classic Irish tunes with ease and won the applause of a few of us on the bus after each tune. What struck me about his playing was the feeling behind the tones. It was a happy, joyous feeling.

He must be a happy kid, I thought.

I glanced over at him. His shoulders moved with the music and his eyes were open. looking out the windows on each side of the bus. It was a good and nourishing music for us all. I reflected upon the aesthetic theory of music as the highest art form because it communicates, not with words, but with feelings. There is a transmission of feeling in all music we hear. We can, for example, hear the same Beethoven sonata by two different, fine symphonies, but enjoy one much more than the other. Leonard Bernstein of the New York Philharmonic and his passion came to mind. Even a conductor can influence the transmission of feeling that will arise from the symphony playing as a whole.

The boy continued to play and I looked at the green countryside. It was a bright sunny day, unlike Ireland, Eileen had said. I was grateful to be here when it wasn’t foggy and raining. I looked around at the other tourists in back of me on the tour bus. Except for the boy, no one really seemed to be fully present but somewhere else. No one would make eye contact. The mood wasn’t all that good. I felt glad I’d given the boy the flute. I closed my eyes and thought of the music that is Ulysses and Finnegan’s Wake. I once more contemplated the opening lines of Ulysses that I’d seen the day before at the Dublin Writer’s museum.

Had James Joyce ever visited this place, I wondered? Had he been here before he wrote the opening of Ulysses? Newgrange had seemed to me to be built as a symbol to remind us all to observe the self, spelled with a little “s.” What I personally, or impersonally, got from Newgrange was that the light comes through a single opening and then passageway to fill the inner chamber of awareness. Then what of Knowth? Was there a connection between the two mounds? Why did everyone at the museum say they were burial mounds? The boy continued to play happy tunes as we went over short rises and rounded corners. They were traditional tunes and since I couldn’t recognize them myself, all I could do was listen.

I had a quiet sense of appreciation. I guess because the little that I had already felt and experienced here could fill a book, or a lifetime.


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  If all of what had happened so far wasn’t enough, I began to contemplate the opening chapter of author, Doris Lessing’s science fiction novel, Shikasta, and the great outer circles of hell that she described around the Earth, circles from which no one could escape, for the way out had been forgotten.

I also thought of her fine Giants in that book and how the Giants were the caretakers of the human species after it was first seeded from a star system far, far away, a system she’d called, Canopus in Argos. In the story, humanity was seeded by Canopus as an experiment in the development of consciousness and conscious awareness. At first, the people only knew perfect harmony, health, and centuries of living. The Giants maintained the first primitive urban centres for people to live and work, the centres having been built in extraordinary shapes which were eco-friendly, some were made in concentric circles, yet others in triangles of various depths.

I thought of how the Giants were the good caretakers until the people lost touch with their essential connection to the beneficial Canopus star system, and like everyone else on the planet called, Shikasta, the Giants fell into ignorance and darkness, the wailing and gnashing of teeth. This happened when a dark force took over the planet in opposition to the Golden Age of goodness and harmony and we-feeling that Canopus in Argos tried to bring to the early seeding experiment. The main corrupting influence and source of the darkness was the wicked Shammat of a satanic empire in another star system, Puttiora, and in Lessing’s tetralogy of books, it continues to this day, the Fall of Man. It’s amazing how far and how deep science fiction stories can go, I thought.

Aerial View of Newgrange
Newgrange Aerial View

All this on a well-kempt, air-conditioned tour bus that held about 20 people. I looked around at the others. Why not time for a joke? Eileen had warned me of the Irish love for humour, and so I thought I’d try out a new joke on the elderly couple across the aisle from me. The man was wearing an Irish Rover hat, just like I was. Anyway, a joke might serve to lighten the mood.

Wanna hear a joke?
What?” he said.
He didn’t seem American but from a different part of Ireland.
A joke. Are you from Ireland?
Yes,” he said. “Of course.”

In so many words, I said that a little girl went to her Mom and asked, “Mommy? Where did we come from and why are we here?” Her mom answered, “Well, there was once a beautiful garden with a man and woman in the garden named Adam and Eve, and that’s why you are here.” The little girl was satisfied for a while, but then she asked her Dad, “Daddy, where did we come from and why are we here?” And her Dad answered, “There was once a jungle and a lot of hairy apes doing this and that to each other, and that’s why you are here now.” The little girl became confused. She went back to her mother. “You say we’re from a beautiful garden with a man and woman, and Daddy says we’re from a jungle with a lot of hairy apes.” Her mother paused and said, “Well, your Daddy was talking about his side of the family, and I was talking about mine.

Eileen laughed. “He’s good craic!” she said to the elderly couple. “Isn’t he?
It’s all in the way you see it,” I said to Eileen.
Yes!” she said. I felt glad she laughed at the joke, for she’d been looking at me as if I were about to make a grave mistake. The elderly man and his wife heartily enjoyed it too.

Things became quiet.

I noticed that the notion of burial had surfaced for contemplation on our pleasant tour bus ride, for we were now fast approaching burial mounds. The one thing that everyone seemed to agree upon was that these were, in fact, burial grounds, for a few remains of some of those who had lived here, not all, had been found deep inside the chambers. Why so few? No one seemed to know. What if even the notion of burial was a intended as a symbol somehow? I thought of how death is a sharp reminder of the preciousness of life. When we are in inner conflict, we could be said to be as one what is dead, not alive. Conflict, the wailing and gnashing of teeth in outer darkness, happens when we can no longer observe that same self, spelled with a little “s,” and when we have all but forgotten to remember. When we can self observe, the tiny point of awareness within becomes filled with light; with this there is a death, as in Christian Evangelist, Saint Paul’s, “I die daily.” There is an inner death. We die to the conflict within, to the wailing and gnashing of teeth, and in dying are renewed. Then what of physical death? These ancient builders were also physical. When we can remember the ever-present reality of physical death, we can remember the privilege that is our lives and that time is short for us all. This too is a form of remembering.

Was I feeling religious today or what?

Naturally, this was all quite intuitive, on my part. None of what I had been thinking or feeling had any basis in authority now. Thoughts, flashes of insight were coming and going, as if spiralling through me. My brain stem was continuing to tingle and be tickled as I let the insights and intuitions arise as they would, freely experiencing them without censor or judgment. As the tour bus came to a stop, I flashed on yet another Biblical verse, this one about the Giants near the opening of the Book of Genesis. Was it Genesis 6:4?

There were giants in the earth in those days; and also after that, when the Sons of God came in unto the daughters of men, and they bare children to them, the same became mighty men which were of old, men of renown.

My image of this passage seemed to fulcrum around yet another interpretation of the Giants offered by others, namely, by American, kaleidoscopic philosopher, Roger Weir, who proposed that these Giants had showed up on the scene after a cycle of time and were not friendly at all. The Giants were the hybrid but very powerful offspring of Aliens who had coupled with only the wayward woman on Planet Earth. And that was where the trouble started, so long ago.

I felt a chill. Who knew? Where did Doris Lessing source her ideas for her soft science fiction series? Was it really, as some believed, from her teacher and friend, the illustrious Idries Shah? Idries Shah was said to be in a direct line of those descended from the most ancient wisdom traditions, the Sufis. He maintained in his prescient and humorous writings that much of Western psychology was originally engineered by this wisdom tradition. Why James Joyce’s literary choice of a spiral staircase for his opening of Ulysses? Something started to patch together as true for me, I just didn’t know what.

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Boyne Valley Tours Private Tour with pick up and return to your accommodation. Newgrange World Heritage site, the 10th century High Crosses at Monasterboice, Hill of Tara the seat of the High Kings, Hill of Tara the seat of the High Kings and the Hill of Slane where St. Patrick let a Paschal fire in 433 More ...

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