People with visions are usually outward looking … determined to transform their business, community or even the world. As a counterpoint, BayBuzz asked Mark Sweet to explore the realm of personal transformation, visiting some practitioners whose aim is to help individuals achieve inner health and harmony.
There is a story told by Ngaio Marsh. She asked the opinion of the director and male lead in her play, Little Housebound, where they thought it would be best performed. “They looked at each other,” she said, “and with one voice ejaculated, Havelock North.”
Little Housebound is a hero’s journey, and it would have been the nature spirits who travel on the wind to visit distressed seekers of truth that triggered the consensus of where the play would flourish.
Havelock North had a reputation. Among Marsh’s memories of her stay was a poetess, and that “yoga regulated many families. Rudolf Steiner was a name to conjure with and handicrafts abounded. The esoteric found a fertile soil there. Eurythmics flourished and psychic research was not ignored.”
‘Psychic research’ was a reference to Whare Ra, whose existence was known, but the ‘goings on’ there were shrouded in mystery. Its members included the ‘who’s who’ of Hawke’s Bay, and at the time of Marsh’s visit in 1920, was led by Dr Robert Felkin.
Felkin first visited Havelock North in 1912 at the invitation of the Society of the Southern Cross, a group of devout seekers, whose practices included ritual chanting and meditation. Their guest had impressive credentials; a former leader of the Order of the Round Table, and presiding Chief of the Order Stella Mundi, he was also a practising physician whose interests embraced colour therapy, homeopathy and herbalism. He was once part of a Freemason’s group, that included Rudolph Steiner, who called themselves the ‘Illuminati’, and he designed a set of Tarot cards.
Ngaio Marsh was bound to observe that Havelock North provided a writer “with wonderful raw material.”
“By night the wizards of Whare Ra meet secretly in an underground room. Dressed in flowing robes they perform their rituals using ancient symbols and incantations. By day they mix with their fellow Villagers who have no clue they are rubbing shoulders with adepts of white magic. And when they visit Dr Felkin they are not to know he may have summoned Pan to assist him.”
The founders of Whare Ra would find Havelock North unrecognisable today, but what remains unchanged is that many people are deeply immersed in the esoteric world of spirit.
Lucinda and Christine
“It’s not a question for me,” says Lucinda Sherratt. “I know there’s a spiritual dimension.”
We are driving to Waipukurau to visit her osteopath. “That’s why I go to Christine. She sees my guides and works on a spiritual level, not just physical. She works in a way that allows my spirit to do the healing.”
Lucinda is a qualified Iyenda yoga teacher. “Mostly I can balance my body through the poses, but sometimes there’s stuff I can’t shift.” She taps her chest.
“I had a congested sternum a while ago. I was going through a difficult period with people I love, and Christine asked right away, ‘What’s up with your heart?’ She looks beyond the physical to how emotions affect my health.”
Christine Thrush had a career in nursing including 13 years as a theatre nurse in Auckland’s Greenlane Hospital. On a recommendation she visited an osteopath for treatment of a long term debilitating back injury. “Suddenly my T4 and T5 slipped into place and I had equilibrium for the first time in ages.”
She asks Lucinda to sit upright on the edge of the bed and to bend her head backwards and forwards. “Any tingling or numbness in your fingers,” she asks.
“Yes.” Lucinda wiggles her fingers. Lying on the bed now Christine cradles Lucinda’s head in her hands. “I’m connecting with the body rhythm – the primary respiratory rhythm – that comes in at conception.” She closes her eyes. “There it is. Eight cycles per minute.”
There’s no manipulating or adjusting. “I’m working with the cranial fluid which is produced in the brain. It’s the most nutrient fluid in the body and runs down the spinal cord. It’s our life-force.”
Her hands move. “The bones of the skull move in the smallest amounts,” Christine says, “I’m just assisting the body back into balance.”
“My passion is healing using spirit,” says Christine.
“Well, as beings we come from light. Lower the frequency of light and it becomes matter.” Her blue eyes are radiant.
Energy equals mass to the speed of light? Albert Einstein? That greatest of men did say, “Great spirits have always encountered opposition from mediocre minds.”
And what about my guide, the grumpy old man, a clairvoyant told me about years ago?
“He’s not too grumpy,” Christine says, “Just impatient.” She smiles. “But he is old.”
Beyond the fences on the road back to Havelock new plantings of squash are creeping across ground bordered by rows of fresh green maize. The hilltops are already beginning to brown.
“Yes, I did have a tumour in my brain,” Lucinda says, “and the first time I had an epileptic fit was terrifying. It was as if my body was possessed. I just sat looking at my stomach convulsing like you
Sigourney Weaver in Aliens?
“Yeah, and the surgeon said the tumour was too small to operate yet, and I should do yoga and meditation. He was Indian.”
A fresh bunch of yellow flowers lies at the foot of the sacred stone on the roadside at Peka Peka. It’s where bearers rested the dead on the journey to Te Hauke. I nod my head in thanks for a safe journey, just as my mother showed me when I was a boy.
“No, I never thought I was going to die. Never. I was not willing to die. I was very clear about that,” Lucinda says emphatically.
Now the traditional Indian medicine, Ayurveda, is Lucinda’s primary health carer. “We’re all capable of our own self healing and good health, and it starts with what we eat.”
And the tumour?
“Gone. Disappeared. It just went. I think I willed it away.”
I ask Sheila Sutherland-Leyden what she thinks about Lucinda’s tumour experience. “Well, she had faith, didn’t she? She believed she would heal. Mind over matter. It’s very powerful.”
Sheila shares a suite of rooms with a psychotherapist and nutritionist at the Cathedral Lane end of the elegant Sainsbury Logan building in Napier.
As we get acquainted I ask Sheila if she has an opinion about the 12th of the 12th, 2012.
“The end of the Mayan Calendar?”
Doomsday theories are again potent.
“No, not really,” Sheila says, “but I do think that a lot of the old ways of being – those that no longer support us – are falling away fast. It’s no longer a time to live in isolation. There’ve been so many catastrophes, and as awful as they are, they actually bring people together. The spirit of community is what I see rising.”
What I’m most curious about is Sheila’s work with chakras; the seven energy points whose colours correspond to the bands of a rainbow. They are mentioned in the records from Whare Ra, and were incorporated into the painted panelling on the walls of the temple.
When I lie down Sheila’s hands move over my body. “I work intuitively,” she says, “and will draw on whatever tools I feel are needed … maybe Reiki, but it could be crystals, or chakra clearing, or I might include herbs and incense.”
She tells me to breathe deeply – in through the nose, out through the mouth – and to feel for tension or discomfort in my body. My shoulders ache. Her hands hover above my root chakra. It is red and harbours fear. She moves on, and hands linger briefly with guilt in the orange sacral and shame in the navel, but when fingers brush my chest we both know she’s found the spot. Sorrow lies in the heart.
“Breathe into here,” Sheila says, gently tapping my chest. “Go deeply into your feelings. Breathe, breathe.”
My chest heaves and tears flow.
“What are you feeling. Tell me the words.”
They come. Harsh words attaching themselves to hard feelings.
“Now I want you to imagine a column of white light,” Sheila says, “and I want you to let go of the feelings. Give them to the light.”
Easier said than done, but with coaxing from Sheila, I groan like a beast giving birth, and commit my toxic emotions to the light.
“Now lie very quietly and feel.”
The pain in my shoulders has gone, and my body seems weightless, as if it’s hovering above the bed.
As I walk lightly through the town, I’m still trying to feel how I feel, but an irreverent thought sneaks in, and what I think is: that was as good as three Martinis. And I allow myself a wee chuckle. Allowing is a word that comes up a lot.
My tarot card reading with Paula Devine was all about words. She hadn’t heard of Dr Felkin’s tarot, and when I told her that, as well as tarot, the Whare Ra congregation studied alchemy, angel magic, and divination, Paula smiled and said, “Cool.”
We sat around the hearth in her shop. The symbols of her craft were all around. “I follow the Correllian tradition.” It descends from a line of Cherokee shamans who intermarried with a line of Scottish witches. “Do what you will and harm no one,” Paula said.
When she mailed me her e-book, subtitled Self Development in Psychic Abilities, I noticed many corresponding subjects in her introduction were offered at Whare Ra.
Paula asked me to choose six cards. The first represented, ‘Thoughts drive action.’ And the rest were about words. ‘Use of words, changing words, making new words, words creating reality.’ That’s what I heard. And the last card was, ‘The Law of Attraction.’
Several decks of Tarot lay on the table in front of me. I cut the pack that looked most used and pulled a card. The Teacher – Mahachohan Ragoczy – ascended master, and guide to St.Germaine.
“I don’t know him, but we can look him up,” says Patricia Iversen. “I’m working with Paul the Venetian at present.”
We’re having lunch at Clearview. It’s a treat. We haven’t seen one another for five years.
“His last embodiment was Paolo Veronese, the painter,” Patricia says.
When I tell her about the spiritual work of Whare Ra she’s surprised to hear it was so extensive as to include Rosicrucian Magic and Chaldean mysteries.
“That’s so interesting,” Patricia says, “because the woman I’m working with at present, Marjorie, has come to live in Havelock from Scotland. She specifically came here, to this place, to do her spiritual work.”
A resonance left over from the outpourings a hundred years ago?
Patricia smiles. She started her work as a physiotherapist. “Just the physical … manipulation, adjustment, usual stuff.” She was married to a doctor. “And I only started looking for other ways of healing when my children had conditions he couldn’t heal, or he could, but only with medication.”
Then living in Palmerston North, Patricia attended lectures and discussions offered by the Theosophical Society.
She read widely and studied deeply.
Dr Felkin was a member of the Theosophical Society in Edinburgh before joining Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn. Many of the Havelock North residents who founded Whare Ra were Theosophists, who believed that humanity’s spiritual evolution co-existed with the evolution of the Universe, and was overseen by a spiritual hierachy, including the ascended Masters. At Whare Ra it was the Sun Masters who presided over the The Temple of the Golden Dawn.
Over the years Patricia Iversen has explored many paths, both in her work as a health professional, and in her quest for spiritual development. Her appointment book is full, and her world is inhabited by a rich plethora of spiritual beliefs, ceremony and ritual, sourced from traditions as familiar as Jesus and Mother Mary, and as exotic as the Vedic period in India, four thousand years ago.
In a glass geodesic dome, in her luxuriant veggie garden, Patricia shows me the frame on which cow dung has been spread to dry. The sheet has been scored, and with ease she breaks off a weetbix size piece. “This is the purest fuel we have. We burn it as part of the Agnihotra work.”
The Agnihotra devotions are performed at sunrise and sunset. Their purpose is to heal and purify the atmosphere.
“There’s a 30 second window when the prana from the sun is most potent. There’s a mantra, and fire, and the prana finds the ash, which we use as a purifier.”
Patricia sees a growing number of people whose health is affected by chemical poisoning in their bodies.
“Now we have electronic pollution which is limiting the function of the electro-magnetic fields. The Agnihotra work is my way of helping the Earth in her healing.”
I suggest some people might find her theories a ‘bit out there’.
“Of course,” Patricia says. “People who don’t want to change can’t abide Agnihotra. If you’re skeptical you immediately block – men in particular – they are scared to feel. It’s fear that holds us back from feeling.”
Before I leave we look up Mahachohan in Patricia’s book on The Masters. He has some relationship with Homer through Palla Athena who’s a central figure in the Illiad and Odyssey, and in The Hierarchy he represents the Holy Spirit of the Mother-Father God, of Alpha and Omega.
“Wow,” says Patricia.
What do I do about it?
“Ask,” she says, “All you have to do is ask.”
By chance I meet Jacki Chambers. Her great-grandfather, Thomas Mason Chambers, helped pay for the Felkin family to come to Havelock, and he gifted the land on which Whare Ra stands. She doesn’t know if her forebear was a Wizard of White Magic, or not.
When I tell her about the people I’ve met who work with spirit in their healing, she says, “I totally accept that. I had an amazing experience a while back with a man who obviously worked with spirit in some way. He didn’t talk about it at all, but I just knew. In the session these memories flooded in from way, way back. It was great.”
If a 21st century Ngaio Marsh visited Havelock North today, she too might remark that it “had become a cultural centre and thought of itself as such.”
And although the outward signs of culture are upmarket boutiques and world class cafés, she could rest assured that underneath the superficial there still runs a current charged a hundred years ago, where seekers of the spiritual dimensions are quietly doing their work, and we are all the richer for their efforts.
Acknowledgements: Grateful thanks to the contributors who generously gave me their time. Sources of historical information were: Havelock North – The History of a Village, by Matthew Wright; Islands of the Dawn, by Robert S Ellwood; Black Beech and Honey Dew, by Ngaio Marsh; The Masters, compiled by Annice Booth, and most of all kimshistory.blogspot.com meticulously compiled by Kim Salamonson.