Returning to Mystery, Saving Ourselves (A Retrospective)

At our recent event Returning to Mystery, Saving ourselves, we gathered to reflect on something that we don’t have enough space for in “modern” (or post-modern) life, which we can call mystery. We created this space with the help of several guests whose lives have intersected with mystery in diverse and lllustrative ways. We can see our collective yearning for mystery in all of the talk about getting out of our heads, such as mindfulness, which really an ancient mystic meditation. When we let go of what we know we find something new, which is what so many of us are looking for.

Our first guest was Giselle Genillard, who introduced Somatic Experiencing to the UK and France, and was shepherding people through trauma long before it was a buzzword. Giselle told us how healing starts with looking at ourselves anew and the mysterious role of a therapist’s presence in shepherding traumatised people through this process. We also discussed the transition of body-centred trauma therapy from being seen as fringey to being a scientific fascination, and how society can heal itself at scale.

 (photo with Giselle Genillard and Skeena Rathor from XR)

Our second guest was Skeena Rathor, who coordinates vision sensing within Extinction Rebellion, a movement to use civil disobedience to halt carbon emissions. XR sees cultural change as a part of climate change and mystery and ritual play a major role in their culture. I asked Skeena about Extinction Rebellion’s aspiration to tell the truth, and face our collective uncertainty. In order to tell the truth we have to be listened to and believed and so activists, like healers, need to model the bravery required to face the unknown.

 (photo with Nafees Hamid)

Nafees Hamid told us about his work studying the Sacred values of Muslim extremists. The fundamental proposition behind the research of Artis international, with whom Nafees works, is that the west cannot understand radicalisation because it insists on explaining in terms of “rational” motivations. Nafees explained how his interviews with radicals shows that instead they are really motived by devotion and meaning. We have missed this by focusing on what is rationally easy to understand.

 (photo with Sam Winston)

Finally Sam Winston reflected on his path as an artist, which has a lot do with the space for creativity created by emptiness and mystery. As a dyslexic Sam operates from a natural insight into the oddness of human tendency to see words and the objects that the represent the same. He spends weeks in complete blackness, and helps others do the same, and helped us see how this experience of nothingness is a deep metaphor for creativity, how mystery is the start of anything new.

Finally we closed with a ritual lead by artist Sylvie Barbier, which made use of passing water and whispers among the crowd. Like all rituals this was largely beyond words, and you had to be there, but watching our video of the event is the next best thing!

Read more about our past event: