Cooks, Crooks and Agape, Midwinter 2023. 


  Midwinter family feasting in is a right and proper thing to do, family as in a range of generations, and as extended family.  For lunch, we were two-dozen-and-two compadres – friends, colleagues and kids about this extraordinary place – feasting, pulling crackers, laughing at the silly jokes, applauding the cooks and some few brief speakers, relaxed and happy, with the end of the working year upon us and two weeks of winter holidays ahead.  Gardeners, eco-teamers, builders, administrators, cooks, domestics, not-really-secretaries, a herbalist, an artist/musician, a sparks, some youngish student-volunteers, and a handful of kids.  A third of us had been part of this place for quarter of a century, or longer.

  Having known ups and downs, highs and lows, we talked about everything and nothing, most of all of our good fortune amidst this collapsing world.  Yes, the portraits on the walls were of ancestors, but, despite their magnificent robes, they had been crooks, mostly : bankers, soldiers, mothers, one, a Lord Chief Justice, in and out of the Tower three times during the Interregnum Civil War period.  Anyone who makes a fortune will have been a crook of some sort, self-evidently.  If this seems to offend, think about it. 

  A tradition has grown since last year : after our lunch, those who wish can smoke small cigars together, sitting in front of the dining-room fire.  Two old men, one youth, one young cookie, and a marvellous middle-aged woman.  An old man found the young cookie’s head resting on his shoulder : family, just as it should be.  

  I watched a festive Christmas service from St. Peter’s Church in Maastricht, first televised 11 years ago, with an orchestra and ladies choir, sopranos, tenors, a school-kids choir in red in the organ loft, and a huge all-male choir stacked behind the altar in uniform white suits and red-ribboned medallions, audience in the pews, all packed-in and conducted by the maestro André Rieu.  The setting, and the carols we were taught as kids, beautifully produced, emoted deep devotional feeling, and something else too; I felt uncomfortably challenged.  Because, while I am certain that Jeshua was a perceptive, caring, enlightened man, an exceptionally profound teacher, and I’m a fan, I am equally certain that the stories that bookend the legend, (virgin birth, stable, star, magi, the trials, via dolorosa, crucifixion, resurrection, ascension, etc), were paraphernalia attached later, (and to other fables of those days, too), to make the fledgling cult appear the more amazing to the bewildered.  Jes was likely born in 6 BCE, possibly around March-Easter time.  As bizarre as anything was the later Greek adoption of an inappropriate epithet – ‘Christos’, a word meaning ‘Messiah’, meaning earthly political warrior-hero like the brilliant Cyrus the Great – propagandized as a longed-for super-hero to combat the then Roman occupation.  The consequently misleading appellation, ‘Christianity’, later cemented by the wobbly Constantine at the chaotic Council of Nicaea in 325 AD, only compiled the confusion.  There are now tens of thousands of different forms of Christianity.  This misleading quasi-religious mythology is the foundation of our ‘way-up-the-Swanee’ Western Culture.  Gulp ! 

  It’s been a strange and difficult year for many at home and abroad.  Daily earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, wildfires, landslips and floods are the least of it for those unfortunates caught-up in beyond-horrific wars.  It is said that in our so-called advanced country, 300,000 souls will be homeless this Christmas, (more than 600,000 in USA); and double those numbers, hungry.  How could we be so careless ?  And yet, national catastrophes cannot be viewed in isolation; the whole world is connected.  People and nations are seen fragmented by the various self-interests of prejudiced, grey, fear-ridden power-brokers, divorced from Life, Love, and the Universe; divorced from fundamental Agape.  

  Agape – Conscious Human Love and Fellowship – the only Real Currency for people who are true. 

  An extraordinary place.  For more than 40 years, we have sought to help the world change itself from patently wrong ways with a new school for kids; with a family farm and riverside park open to the public [1]; and with this college for adults, majoring in ‘getting honest’ with oneself before anything else, concurrent with what we describe as ‘profound learning’.  

  A healthy measure of trust has grown here through the years via straight-forwardness, friendship and laughter, mutual support, and love; just as it should be; challenging for the crazies who have their beings in the modern madness ‘beyond the trees’, largely unable to trust anyone or anything, being themselves largely untrustworthy.  Sometimes, the wicked and wobbly have found their way here, to try to take advantage, and sometimes we have suffered their insanities, wickedness, and expense [2].  

  Yes, we are a vibrant and happy bunch enjoying our togetherness, and the beauty and clean air surrounding this place.  Tomorrow, we’ll plant a ‘standard’ oak tree in the meadows.

  This mixed midwinter message reflects the times we live in, and our continuing search for The Real amongst the crazies, and craziness.  If I may borrow one of His .  .  .   ‘Ye shall know the truth, and the truth will set you free.’ [3]  

  Agape – Conscious Human Love and Fellowship – the only Real Currency for people who are true. 

  Happy Midwinter.

[1]  Severely prejudiced by corrupt members of the local council.

[2]  Running into many millions of pounds across the estate.

[3]  Gospel of John, chapter 8.

Time and Again, a midwinter ramble.


  “I haven’t had time to .  .  .  ”, generally means whatever hasn’t been gotten around to was a low priority for that someone, and quite possibly may never be ‘got around to’.  I remember a wise woman in childhood telling, “You’ve got to get your priorities straight”, which essentially means one’s Purpose.  My and our Purpose at Gaunts, and in these ‘Reflections’, has been to try to help people ‘Get Straight’, which in this day and age is tricky, as there’s so much accumulated nonsense out there, confusion for all ages, let alone for young bods pulled this way and that by childhood trauma, misleading muck pedalled by ‘interested-parties’, by parents, by hormones, cell ’phone news-crises, and what-have-you.  They have little ‘time’, and usually don’t know how to manage what time they have; true of my grown-up kids, and so many.  Then again, ‘whose Straight’ ?  Only their own, for-real.  Each has to ‘come right’ for themselves, if they can find the courage and will to step-out of the landscape of modern madness, and seek The Real within. 

  We wish for Vision, which tends to come in peaceful times, free of the hydraic distraction of the modern world, its prejudices, chronic myopia, and crises.  ‘Civilization’ – the creation of towns and cities, sinks for greed and over-populations, power-hierarchies, polis, commercialism, and artificial cultures – has been a disaster for humans, and for all life-forms, consequently.  Where are the birds ?  Fundamental to human life is the recognition that we are Human Beings and Spiritual Beings, both, and the need to get our Spiritual Being and Vision right, individually.  And, insofar as it’s possible, we long to feel Free.  The bonds and chains are our own.

  Around two and a half million years ago, a few families of Early Man trundled around doing their thing amongst other animals and creatures, surviving sensibly enough, mainly in Africa, some in what we think of as India and the East.  Around a million years later, possibly in south-east Africa, and likely somewhere in India too, our ‘animal consciousness’ came to realise a revelatory ‘higher consciousness’, higher than any other species : “I am Conscious that I am Conscious”; “I am aware that I am aware” !

  We can ponder whether this transformative step arose from longtime-growing consciousness, or from a gradually awakening realisation of Agape, (Conscious Human Love and Fellowship), or from familiar, possibly shamanic rituals that had taken hold, or from some ‘sudden explosion’ in the mind.  Best guess, a bit of all of them, together. 

  The Genesis story implies a ‘sudden-ish consciousness explosion’, theory.  It tells that ‘Adam and Eve’ are enticed to a sexual ecstasy greater than the animal imperative by a sudden conscious recognition of their genders, (one imagines not thitherto acknowledged), awakening to an Awareness of Consciousness, and in doing so, the story goes, transgressing some imagined theist boundary.  

  ‘And the serpent said unto the woman, “Ye shall not surely die, (if she ate of the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil) : for God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be of gods, knowing good and evil”’.  Picking the forbidden apple and enticing the other to taste it, is a nice allegory; the role of the serpent, lowly questionable.  

  Confusion between Agape, (Conscious Human Love and Fellowship), Cupid (Romantic Love), and Eros (Mammalian Sex-drive) – and their natural progression – can cause all sorts of upset, sometimes translated as emotional and hormonal imbalance.  The cause is invariably the lack of individual, personal inner-enquiry-searching, and consequent inner instability; the lack too often encouraged by a culture’s religious, or an individual’s acceptance of some prejudicial, or quasi-professional-cum-business-cum-psychological claptrap, which misleading paths have marginalised Parental Love and Care; have characterised so much of the catastrophe that has passed as modern human development.  As our lives have narrowed, and we have become stuck in routine jobs for money, we have blunted our instincts, dimmed our faculty for perception, limited our ‘sixth-sense’, shallowed intuition and our sense of right and wrong, of ‘which way is up’; mislaid our sense of all-embracing intelligent Mind as separate, different, and dominant over robot-Brain. 

  As well as being both Human and Spiritual Beings, our ‘human being’ – corpus and brain – splits physically between the cerebral ‘Limbic’ and ‘Reptilian’ systems; the Reptilian driving our essential life-functions and sex-drive proclivities, which we normally accept as healthy.  

  Males tend to be more rough and ready, hairy or smooth; females, more aware of their appearance and motherhood potential.  Historically, sexual activity is thought to have increased from shamanic rituals, and in towns and cities from concentrated numbers, boredom, and unnatural divorce from real life.  Nowadays we are led by the nose to an over-emphasis on sexy women and shallow sex for commercial purposes, (and violence), particularly in advertising and the movies, especially for perfume.  [And what is perfume, if not to add to a woman’s allure ?]  The genders are equally sexually excitable; women enjoy a mix of male mastery and their sexual power over men.  Adolescent cock and tit-illation exacerbates a different driver, to ‘get one’s rocks off’, a form of liberation from the greyness, stress, and artificiality of our lives.  While young men may feel a need ‘to spread it around’, later more focussed as attachment, women tend to be both more circumspect and more reckless, and not-unnaturally attracted to the beauty, sorority nonsense and wisdom of their own gentler-gender.  They are willing to use, on one hand, powerful gender-emotion, and on another, sexual and perverse fantasies to manipulate men, to achieve their goals.  Women are naturally more hormonal, and can be a little crazy.  Some, of both genders, can adopt a psycho-emotional sexual habit, masquerading as need, but which smacks more of addiction.  The French appear to differentiate Eros as a habitual, natural pastime, seemingly part of their raison d’être; a back-to-front progression – eros, then cupid, then agape – which ignores the fact that sex can get in the way of healthy, loving Agape; to my mind, a different, confused culture, nevertheless, alluring in its open-door, refined gratification.  What is sex other than the fulfilment of a natural urge to blend the this and that seen in another with one’s own, to procreate ?  So much confusion in something so natural.  

  How early in life do we become ‘programmed’ ?  The experiences of one’s early years may be seen to format the child [1]; but that may not always be true, as different traumas, such as dramatic changes around ages 6 and 13, wrong education, sexual molestation, particularly traumas in adolescence and young adulthood, may alter the course of a life.  While leaders in most fields appear to have their heads on ‘back-to-front’, and while the wrong-programming of kids continues, so will the traumas and disasters that characterise our modern world.  Like children, we long to be Free.

  This December morning, I watched three pigeons courting on the bare branches of a plane tree.  ‘Too early’, I beamed to them, but they paid no attention, the urge being too strong.  And, like many over the aeons, I have watched birds at a distance all my life, sought to understand them, and mourn their disappearance.  Perhaps their love of freedom and their playful and communication skills, senses of light and temperature, and freedom of flight, inspired the dreams of Gustav Whitehead [2], who built gliders and an ornithopter, (bird-like flying machine).  With a friend, he made the first ever recorded flight in a steam-driven monoplane, which crashed in a Pittsburgh Park in 1899.   Officially though, the first flight ever, his, was witnessed and recorded by a newspaper proprietor in Connecticut in 1901 [3].   

  From this joyful achievement, just 122 years ago, an industry arose, promising ordinary mortals dreams of flight, escape, and nowadays tourist holidays abroad.  And another phantasmagorical dream, space-flight, technologically extraordinary, with little purpose beyond scientific folderol, other than escape from the madness of planet Earth.  “It is important for the human race to spread out into space for the survival of the species.” [4]

  “To achieve great things, two things are needed : a plan, and not quite enough time” [5].  

  Better to get things right down here on Earth, if it’s not too late.  Whatever happens, humans will continue the madness wherever they take it, unless they first come right in themselves, and come together.  Love isn’t so hard to understand.  We know it in the warmth of children’s hugs, in our loved-ones, and in the warmth of our everyday exchanges.  We know it in the trust we share.  We know it in Agape.

  Agape must triumph in our lives and in our world.

  It seems to me, the Purpose of Humankind is to Learn to Love, to Celebrate Life, to Procreate and Sustain, to Manage & Care, and to Evolve; and that these are our Priorities.

‘ The Way of heaven is to nurture

Endlessly and benevolently.

The Way for Humans is to Love

and love

     And Love. ’  [6]

  As this year’s end approaches, my feeling is that this raft of ‘Reflections’ have run their course.

  If enough people would like to join a series of informal weekends to discuss these ‘Reflections’, and whatever else crops-up, let us know :   We could arrange it, and will let you know.  Country House stays for retreat purposes are available, too.  Please enquire.

  Blessings, Peace, and Agape.

[1]  “Give me a child until he is seven and I will show you the man.”  Aristotle, later echoed by the Jesuits.

[2]  Gustav Weisskopf – he arrived in USA from Bavaria in 1893, after the death of his parents.

[3]  Predating the Wright Brothers.  [NB.  Early American ‘Fake News’, possibly wishing ‘american-born boys’ to have made the world’s first flight – part of the rise of USA.]

[4]  Stephen Hawkins, warning that Life on Earth could soon be wiped out by global warming or nuclear war, June 2006.

[5]  Leonard Bernstein.

[6]  From stanza 81 ‘Tao Teh Ching’, interpretation Louisa Milne, 1996 & 1999.