In searching for new ways to understand the body as a site of creative investigation it becomes clear that how we view the body (as a culture and individually) is shaped by broader forces than Western science alone. Various cultures have developed technologies and practices that define, describe and develop bodies in specific ways which in turn change how their agents develop their bodies as expressions of their philosophical understandings.
Lee Gerrard-Barlow is an author, educator and artist who with over 20 years research into perceptions of the body has amassed an extensive library of work from a variety of cultures. Investigating the history and practice of trance states, meditation, alchemy, Yoga based practices, hypnotherapy, and mesmerism Barlow has been reviving interest in these practices internationally at seminars and lectures to a growing audience of the curious, the sceptical and those open to alternative ways of thinking.
Trebuchet is, of course, all of these things and from such a standpoint we asked him how he saw the body.
Lee Gerrard-Barlow: The ‘body’ regardless of whether it is human or any other point of expression in the form of Animal, vegetable or mineral, is an assemblage of forces, It is a warp and weft of Catabolic and Anabolic forces that are held in place by consciousness. It is a Vector point. In the case of a mineral body the idea of consciousness being an inherent aspect of matter is of course not the commonly accepted viewpoint of science, but in the frame of the elder Alchemists this is the very basis of their works and their philosophies. Certain practices can lead one to a realisation of this view of reality.
In the instance of the human body consciousness experiences these forces and their equilibrium or disequilibrium as a sense of either wellbeing or sickness. The consciousness itself being a continuum with the human body. We may go even further and say it is in fact a continuum that permeates all that also surrounds the human body in the greater environment.
The challenges that are faced by every being in one’s journey through life and the Ageing process is a result of the process of a form of crystallisation’ of the subtle bodily energies and fluids. As one ages, the body generally becomes less supple, less fluidic and less elastic. This is of course due to an increase in the tendency to dehydration but also very importantly this simultaneously generally also occurs as there is also a tendency for our very ideas themselves to become less open and less elastic as we are exposed to what we may call ‘negative’ types of experiences in our lives, we then tend to form paths of least resistance toward the avoidance of various traumas as a result so too do the energies become crystalised or blocked, this in turn manifests itself as ‘dis-ease’ aches and pains and frozen joints or tensions as our ‘fears’ and ‘anxieties’ then set in motion the glandular secretions that encourage such crystallisations. The very process of thinking itself can become cramped.
It is fortunate however that the human body can be galvanised from state to state starting with the pure awareness of being. After this, any imbalances may be detected and further galvanised through unifying a conscious awareness with the body through Meditative practices and especially Yogic methods. The Vedic system of the three Gunas is extremely important in this regard to understand exactly how such energies can work and provide us with a clear idea of the real methods of Alchemical ‘Transmutation’. Ultimately there should be no blockages in the free flow of the bio-energetic system of the human body.
In what way do you feel you’ve pushed your conception and application of the body?
Personally, I have pushed my own body through intensive Yoga, or sometimes long periods without sleep while working on various projects, and at other times while deliberately engaged in exercises where I have experimented with holding an ‘awakened’ sense of awareness while observing the physical body and its reactions in relation to this constant awareness upon it. At such times the body can be experienced as what I indicated it to be earlier, ie: experienced as something seemingly less physical, but rather more of a constant flux of energies which are either of a volatile nature or at other moments of a more stabilised nature. As an example ; sometimes even during times of what would ordinarily be extreme fatigue the body through such an awareness may be instead experienced as a pure and clear sense of light air without any taint of any physical fatigue or heaviness. One becomes aware that it is very much the mind that allows itself to be dominated by aspects of physical heaviness, and that this can become again amplified by the minds attachment or attention to such. In our courses Hypnotic methods easily demonstrate to us that our awareness is dominated by whatever we focus upon, In fact this is the real purpose of our use of any such techniques during our Hermetic courses which aim at self development and illumination.
What potential do you see in bodies?
The potential that I see in the ‘Human’ body derives from its very limitations.
In the practice of Yoga with it’s Asanas, on occasion it is possible to discover that the body itself begins to appear to be something other than what you previously understood it to be.
While practicing certain Yoga Asanas while in an acute awareness of the direct feeling of the bodies energies, energetic ‘openings’ or ‘unlockings may be experienced, which produce heat and other phenomena, through such practice it may become possible to realise that the body is very much an idea. Some Asanas can begin to reveal to the mind that it is the very mind itself that fixes the body and gives it a form which is often preconceived. It is also worth considering how this is akin to the quantum aspect of form being produced or affected through observation.This is the basis of the ‘Siddhis’ that are produced by some ‘Fakirs’. The body becomes purely elastic, but when it is possible to enter into this form of awareness, it is revealed to the mind that the mind is itself constantly crystallising itself. The body and the mind are very much revealed to be a singular continuum but this continuum is normally understood to our western perceptions under the concept of a Cartesian dualism. Vedanta is the eastern philosophy that leads toward the attainment of a non-dual state.
On the other hand, at the opposite end of the spectrum many individuals fully identify themselves with their physical looks and physique to the extent that they are completely enslaved by this identification, such tendencies have historically been well documented to be open to exploitation by unscrupulous advertising corporations and in our present time we also see a great hunger for self validation that is reinforced through our obsessions with social media and such pavlovian devices such as Facebook ‘likes’. Such an over attachment to self identity with our looks and our bodies also allows us an insight into how various psychological and somatic illnesses such as body dysmorphia and Anorexia arise as some chase a sense of not being perfect enough, an Identity crisis clearly evolves from such over identifications where such individuals float in an increasing sense of self doubt and the sound basis of pure being is lost. I am not here encouraging anyone to not take care of themselves and their appearance, on the contrary but all must be in balance, the problem is the current imbalances we are faced with. The body is an essential anchor, it is where we should naturally feel safe and grounded, sadly however if the individual is made to feel insecure through the introduction of ‘ideas’ that truly do not belong to our true nature then certainly various distortions and problems arise.
In Astrology all restrictions both human and beyond human are expressed by the force of the planet Saturn and in its deepest sense as an archetype Saturn is best understood as the essential teacher who must be respected above all else. The very structure of the body is a limitation, the skeleton is the very basis of this and so we see Saturn represented in the Tarot as the skeletal reaper. The skeleton is a very dense state of matter in a slow rate of vibration. The flesh, the blood and the plasma is the next level of the physical that falls away from the bones at death, but subsequently beyond these are the even more subtle levels of the Human bodies. It is this even more subtle level that the practice of ‘Animal Magnetism’ works with.
Are you conscious of your own body in the same way as in your work?
It is an absolutely vital part of the practice of ‘Animal Magnetism’ that one experiences or develops a state whereby the ‘other’ is experienced as a part of the self. It is essential to the highest levels of success that this becomes possible for the practitioner. This entails precisely an equal awareness of your own body at all times during the work. However, through this awareness as I have indicated previously elsewhere in my other writings and articles it may become possible to not only achieve an awareness of the physical body, but also the subtle energetic body that both surrounds and interpenetrates the physical body. One part of this subtle field was a so called part of the soul named ‘the KA’ by the Ancient Egyptians and its functions may be studied in the Egyptian book of the dead of book of ‘Coming forth by day’.
Certainly an athlete may regard their own body in a different way on a day to day basis in contrast to when they are in a period of training, and it is exactly this ‘identification’ of the awareness or Ego structure, or what the Vedic philosophy would name the ‘Amkhara’ ( Ego making faculty ) that I am dealing with throughout my current explorations here on the awareness and its effects upon the ‘thing’ or ‘phenomena’ we call the body. This body may be both the individuals own body or any external type of body.
When observing forms while in a state of acute present awareness the forms themselves can indeed appear to be something wholly other than they may appear ordinarily. This can indeed be the state an artist may be in while they are observing a human form, especially an artists of the abstract type.
What do you see as the greatest challenge to the body?
We are very much reaching a point where advances in technology reinforced by philosophical advances into such movements as Trans-humanism and trans genderism is now coming to the fore. I have already spoken about the value of limitations and restrictions and of course such limitations are anathema to such movements. In this sense the greatest challenge will be not necessarily for the body itself and how far the body may be modified but rather how human psychology may adapt itself to such new and emerging trans-human or trans-gendering forms. Consciousness, or perhaps more correctly the ‘Ahamkara’ feels the weight of and rebels against the restricted form that we are embodied within and It is possible that something beyond our individual choices such as self replicating nano and bio technologies will cause this shift for the majority of the human population in the future. In other cases drug and alcohol abuse may be another way to rebel against our perceived limitations and this is another matter. Some may argue that we are awakening to the fact we are about to emerge into a completely new form as from a chrysalis, all these themes are very much related to the age of science and technology that we are now supposed to be entered into under the supposed Astrological aeon or age of Aquarius but we must not forget that despite it being an influence for the scientific advancement of humanity and awakening, that Aquarius was always anciently ruled by Saturn, and so the restrictions I speak of will also very much display themselves. I understand that the age of aquarius is not the free hippy ethos that is normally in many people’s minds but something wholly other.
Whose work regarding the physical human body do you admire?
Regarding the work of the actual physical body I admire the work of B.K.S Iyengar. He was a truly incredible Yogi, If you take a look at any of the films of him in practice especially from the 1960’s his control of the body is formidable.
But regarding the body In the realm of Art for me it is Alberto Giacometti that has always appealed. Even as a young art student just after leaving school I experienced his sculptures in the Tate and they had an immediate effect upon me. I received a feeling as though these sculptures were imbued with a strong and primitive vital presence, almost as if they had more of an energy and a presence than many ‘real’ people of flesh and blood. In his paintings and drawings, although like his sculpture the body is always abstracted, the face and especially the eyes particularly in his drawings are ’emphasised’. Once again, this speaks to me of that special quality of the ‘Perception’ or ‘Awareness’ which has the power to pierce through the ever changing form and flux of the body. It is this Awareness focussed in the eyes of the human representations of Giacometti that truly deliver this sense of ‘Presence’ in his works. It is as if his works are inseparable from himself,as if he has truly imbued them with his soul. This is completely the work of a spiritually embodied form as used in the representations of deities in the temples, especially vibrant in Hinduism and many of the Egyptian statues that I often show to people during my tours in the British Museum, but in fact we can often find this essence also actually present in many forms of religious iconography.
Why and when did you choose the body as a medium for your work?
Over 25 years ago I would always engage in long distance walking, undertaking such persuits as Mountain climbing and England’s Northern coast to coast walk.These experiences even at that time gave me a direct insight into the relationship between the mind and the body and what I instinctively felt to be the extended mind and body, perhaps I always had a sensitivity to such things, but it was during these experiences that such awareness came to the fore. One very simple example was during climbing mountains, often these would be a full days walk uphill until mid day from early morning. I would notice that if I placed my awareness upon each step fully in the present moment I would very suddenly find myself at the peak without having suffered any fatigue along the way, but if I thought of reaching the mountain peak then the journey became much more difficult with a very strong awareness of the physical fatigue. There are various exercises I teach others that give a direct awareness and control over such internal attitudes which can be very useful in many applications in daily life.
Describe your technique?
If we are here speaking about the various forms of working with ‘Magnetism’ or ‘Mesmerism’ then that is based primarily in an intense awareness of the Physical body, which eventually shifts itself into an awareness of the subtle fields of bodily energies, to be done correctly this must be guided for a sufficient period of time. These same states of awareness come through long term practice of Yoga or Meditation as I have mentioned previously. Once these have been accessed then they may be worked with or manipulated in some manner. On the other hand, If we are speaking of my work within the context of more traditional forms of Hypnosis then this technique works on various other factors such as subtly matching the movements of the other person I am working with and working with suggestion on the mental plane. This must all of course be done strictly under the consent of the individual I am working with. I do not commend anything done against the will of the individual concerned.
Where do you find inspiration?
I find inspiration whenever I come across a method that taps directly into a change of state, in fact these changes of state are in themselves portals for yet further inspiration because they are the state needed for inspiration. It is an openness in the ‘now’ where possibilities are endless and where a state of awareness of the possibility of ‘play’ that we could enter as a child is once again open to us. In that place many answers will present themselves to us for things which we found impossible, this is a remedy against the cramped thinking I spoke of at the start of this interview. This is a non-restrictive state which should be accompanied in a sense of complete safety and trust as it is the non-dual state.
Do you see the body as a place of permanence or change?
The image immediately comes to my mind of the supreme Oriental symbol of the Yin-Yang. If the Body is the whole represented by the whole symbol, then the body represents exactly the same principle. That fact that change is permanent and that permanence is change. What we may call the ‘Homo Totus’ or the complete being is a microcosmic representation of this law. It is in ourselves and we are composed of this law or TAO. The physical body may pass away but we are only a small part of the greater whole and so we are simply passed back to the greater cycle from the lesser cycle. The symbol of the Yin Yang represents all of this and is in my opinion one of the most illuminating truths embodied in a simple symbol that was ever presented to the limited conceptions of the human mind. The non- rational or the symbolic realm presents us with an opportunity to glimpse such truths beyond language. If we indeed allow ourselves to be linked to this universal language of symbolism then we can communicate concepts that exist beyond language which tap into the very collective soul of humanity within any culture that we may wish to travel.
If you could change one thing about how humans are constructed what would it be?
I would not change a thing. This attitude goes back to where I said earlier that the potential that I see in the ‘Human’ body derives from its very limitations. The journey through challenge is the meaning itself. To me it appears that all of our problems and all of our issues are exactly the way they are supposed to be but it is our short-sightedness that deems it to be otherwise. A balanced form of acceptance is key. As an ancient Egyptian proverb says “ With your right eye create all in the world, and with your left eye accept all that is created otherwise”. All of our physical constructs are there to both assist and challenge us and we evolve as a result of these challenges. On the mental plane which is also a part of how humans are constructed all of our mental constructs are also similarly to be regarded as obstacles that can be met as challenges but always to be treat with respect. All obstacles enable us to discover what is truly within us. We can only be aware through being able to ‘stop’ and take notice of our awareness in the process of being aware. I believe we are always growing beyond what we believe ourselves to be, we are also always evolving into the greater cycle of what we truly are through the gate of our ‘root’ in the now. Our tendency to be swept up into meaningless pursuits is a challenge. The rewards for awareness are great. A sleeping awareness is both a comfort and a seduction.
With developments like Virtual Reality (VR) changing the way we view our bodies, do you think this will affect your work?
I covered some of this earlier, but essentially right now my work is about bringing awareness back to what we have already right here and now, what we ‘are’ which is rooted in the human body as it was designed. In my opinion the more abstracted we become from the form we naturally inhabit the more difficult it will be for us to find a sense of peace or harmony nor be ready to accept what we already have in our natural body which in my understanding holds the traces of our route to rediscover our true essence like returning to the centre of the labyrinth and in this way my view is truly Traditional. Our so called advances always come from a desire to project ever further out into abstraction and it is only a very advanced form of non-dual awareness that could ever reconcile the abstract forms of our future selves which may not even resemble what we currently are and which may even appear to be completely alien to us now. I doubt that such awareness would be the possession of any but a very small amount of the Earth’s population at any given time. We are moving very fast, even in the last five to seven years we have witnessed such mediums as Facebook to have rewritten the fabric of Western society. Behaviour and values are changing rapidly and it is more of a danger now than ever that the majority will lose their chance to regain their own centres or maintain any sense of peace. This is the purpose of my work, is to help counterbalance this trend toward a kind of psychic cultural disintegration, and In some cases maybe some individuals may possibly take that path even further toward a full attainment of some kind.
“Man is firmly convinced that he is awake ; in reality he is caught in a net of sleep and dreams that he has woven himself” – Gustav Meyrink (The Green Face)
Lee Gerrard-Barlow will be presenting the following events :
Mesmerism – Fascination- Presence
& Hermetic Magnetism –
July 27th July to 1st August 2018
Regular tours at the British Museum :
‘Egyptian Magic & Enlightenment’.