It all began for me one Christmas morning, some time in the 1950s. My two younger sisters and I had woken early – it was still dark outside. So of course, we quickly remembered what day it was and then we instantly set to, frantically unwrapping all our presents.
I will never forget our parents’ faces when they finally woke up, and saw the crumpled mass of hastily discarded, torn wrapping paper spread across our bedrooms, with each sheet completely divorced from its original label or any kind of indication as to who which present was for and who it came from.
After that, Christmas mornings became much more regulated. No presents could be opened until after breakfast and, even then, only one at a time. As the eldest, it was my job to keep a list of which gift came from which relative and to which daughter, and then to write letters to thank them afterwards, for each one.
So it was those thank-you letters which soon alerted all our relatives that I had the gift of writing. In those days, long before the internet and social media, my thank-you letters became in effect newsletters. I used them to tell everyone how we were all getting on and, apparently, they soon became much looked forward to.
But my mother was the one who most encouraged me… and it was she who most wondered about how to harness this gift so that it could become of benefit to the family, and it was she who decided eventually that I should become a journalist, and so that is what happened.
However, I didn’t really want to be a journalist; I couldn’t think of anything more boring than being trapped at a desk writing all day.
Instead, I was much more interested in discovering the meaning of life. In fact, I couldn’t understand how anyone could even think about any kind of career or life path until they found out why they were here on Earth. My enquiries on the matter, though, usually led to ridicule and certainly, anyway, to dead ends. So I eventually found a way to repurpose my journalistic career into the path of the spiritual seeker.
I started off writing articles for the Sunday Times about the newly discovered – or newly rediscovered anyway – area of alternative health. This gave me the perfect excuse and licence to travel off to various exotic climes in pursuit of the latest ayurvedic or traditional Chinese cure.
Crucially, I learned about the link between good physical health and good emotional and spiritual health. This newly unearthed concept from Vedic lore gave me permission, in effect, to spend time imbibing a vast amount of esoteric teachings from a variety of guides, gurus, swamis and shamans. And I am grateful to all of them in helping me to develop in my understanding about the spiritual evolution of the human being as the pursuit of moksha, or liberation.
My shamanic training first began on a Greek island in 1995, when I was initiated into huna kane: Polynesian shamanism. It continued at a south Indian ashram, three years later, with shamans from Mexico who had been trained by the same nagual that had taught “Carlos Castenada”.
Finally, back home, I followed an intensive two-year course in Dorset, England, in which I was trained to become a teacher of shamanism. This was the key to a transformation in my thinking. It was here that I learned how to plug myself into my ancestors’ wisdom, and so I eventually realised that I was not a genuine seeker of moksha at all. I was then able to admit to what I really wanted. I didn’t want to go to Heaven; I wanted to be among those artists and creatives who, through their creations, bring Heaven down to Earth. By this, I mean those who create living yantras – spiritual devices which bring us closer to our own inner divinity – through writings, paintings, sculptures, architecture, music, dance and so on, and which give human life meaning.
Since then, I have been able to show in my books how the role of the mythological dragon-slayers was to give that meaning and depth to human existence. Whether it is St Michael, Gwythyr, Llud, Hercules, Zeus or Indra, their very lives mark out the alchemical and cosmological coordinates for bringing Heaven down to Earth. I wrote about them because I believe that’s what most people want too. After all, what is the point in going to all the trouble to take a human body when then all you want to do is dissolve into nothingness? The solution to life is not dissolution … not yet for me, anyway.