Pamela L. Travers Goes By Sea, She Goes By Land

Pamela L. Travers I Go by Sea.PNG

The previous two posts focused on the religious references in Pamela L. Travers’s writings.  One of these posts analysed the story of “Ah Wong” which was written for a private readership in 1943, and then the second one was about the story of “Johnny Delaney” which was also written for a private readership in 1944.

These two stories were composed during Pamela L. Travers’s war time evacuation to the United States. At that time, she was quite depressed and homesick. Her emotional state pushed her to revisit her early childhood memories, probably as an attempt to relieve her from the psychological pain.

In the story of “Ah Wong,” the reader first gets a glimpse of Pamela’s early religious upbringing, and then witnesses the change in the narrator’s beliefs which occurs after her father’s sudden death. There is no longer a reference to a personified benevolent God but a mystic flow of life; a river that sends the narrator into life and Ah Wong to his death.

In the second story, the character, Johnny Delaney, is described as a bitter man with deep seeded feelings of unworthiness. Johnny feels betrayed by God and the Church.  I believe that all of Johnny’s feelings to have been Pamela’s own as well.

In both stories, there is a sense of ambiguity towards God. In the story of the Fox and the Manger published in 1963 (when Pamela was in her sixties), and which will be the subject of next week’s post, the same ambivalence towards her religious upbringing is also apparent.

♥  I was surprised at the religious references in I Go By Sea, I Go By Land, a book written by Pamela L. Travers and published in 1941. This story has an uncharacteristic frame of hope. It possesses an overall sense of trust in a benign providence, something that Pamela L. Travers totally lacked.

It helped me to interpret this peculiar discrepancy when I learned that Pamela herself dismissed the book as a mere bibelot…. written at the request of my publisher…all of us took assignments which weren’t properly in our line.”

The publisher in question was Eugene Reynal from W.W. Norton, and he suggested Pamela write an account of her experience of evacuation to the United States. We can speculate that the motivation behind the writing of this books was not so much a spontaneous self expression; but rather, a conscious effort to write something hopeful for her readers in a time of hopelessness. And this all came about because of her publisher’s demand.

Again, just as in the stories of “Ah Wong” and “Johnny Delaney,” the narrator in this story is a child. In this instance the child’s name is revealed to the reader. The eleven-year-old girl, Sabrina, keeps a diary of her adventure. Sabrina and her brother James, who is nine, are accompanied on this journey by a family friend named Pel, and Pel’s baby Romulus. 

The book is separated in two sections. The first, I Go by Sea, is about the experience of the war, leaving one’s homeland and one’s family, and the actual crossing of the ocean. The second part, I Go by Land, is about the children’s adaptation to their new life in America.

It is interesting to note that the book begins with a religious hymn, a prayer for protection, which reappears a few times in the first part of the story and which has inspired the title of the book. Here it is:

Matthew, Mark, Luke and John,

Bless the bed that I lie on.

Before I lay me down to sleep

I give my soul to Christ to keep.

Four corners to my bed

Four angels round me spread.

Two to foot and two to head

And four to carry me when I’m dead.

I go by sea, I go by land

The Lord made me with His right hand

If any danger come to me,

Sweet Jesus Christ deliver me

He is the branch and I am the flower

Pray God send me a happy hour

And if I die before I wake

I pray that Christ my soul will take.

 

Now, I don’t know much about religion so I had to do a quick search about the religious references in the book, and I found some interesting information.

The hymn’s origin is Thomas Ady’s collection A candle in the Dark (1656) and was written to speak out against the Catholic Church and the atrocities inflicted on witches and other poor souls by the inquisition. Somehow, this hymn, known also as the “black paternoster,” escaped the anti-witchcraft and anti-Catholic sentiments of the 17th century to become a favorite children’s rhyme in England, especially in the 20th century. Some believe that this may be credited to Anglican priest, scholar and hymn-writer, Sabine Baring-Gould. (Pamela was brought up Anglican).

I wish I could ask Pamela if she knew about the story behind this hymn. Did her mother use to sing it? Did Pamela herself sing it to her son? Did she sing it on the ship that took her to the United States? It seems like she liked to sing; if not, why would she write:When you sing you feel all the things you don’t want inside you coming out and all the things you do want staying in.”

There are no religious references in the second portion of the story apart from a visit to a Cathedral in Montreal at the evacuee’s arrival in Canada. Pel takes the children to the Cathedral to light some candles even though she mentions they are not Catholics. Then, at the very end of the book, the characters sing the famous Victorian berceuse “Now the day is over” composed by the above-mentioned Anglican priest, Sabine-Baring-Gould.  

Now the day is over

Night is drawing night

Shadows of the evening

Steal across the sky.

Jesus give the weary

Calm and sweet repose

With thy tendering blessing

May our eyelids close.

 

Grant to little children

Visions bright of thee,

Gard the sailors tossing

On the deep blue sea.

 

Through the long night-watches

May thine angels spread

Their white wings above me

Watching round my bed.

 

When the morning wakens

Then may I rise

Pure and fresh and sinless

In the holy eyes.

 

Glory to the Father

Glory to the Son,

And to thee, blessed Spirit,

While the ages run.

♥ Despite the hopeful notes in the story, there are still signs of Pamela’s own lack of faith in an external benevolent force.

Additionaly, I found the character of Pel almost as interesting as Sabrina. Pel is a writer and travels with a baby, in a bassinette, named Romulus. Of course, it is obvious that the name Pel stands for P.L. and the baby Romulus in the story stands for Pamela’s adopted baby Camillus. Once you realize that, then Pel’s advice to Sabrina takes on a new significance: Nobody can help you, you have to do it on your own. And it takes time, I am only learning it now.” So much for faith in a benevolent force.

The character Pel expresses Pamela’s vision of her Higher Self, the ideal she wanted to embody: “She (Pel) makes you laugh and dance inside yourself and at the same time you feel that she is somebody who will always be there and that is a very safe feeling.”

The character Sabrina, on the other hand, is the bearer of Pamela’s emotional scars from her childhood. When you know that Pamela L. Travers’s mother tried to commit suicide when Pamela was ten years old, the following passage about Sabrina’s anxieties (while watching Pel sleep) is heartbreaking because it probably unveils Pamela’s real-life experiences as a child:

I am frightened when I see grown-ups asleep. They look as though they have forgotten everybody and gone right away into themselves. I feel that perhaps they will never wake up again and we shall be left quite alone and I kept going close to Pel to make sure she was still breathing. She has a very small breath just like mother’s. No sound at all and hardly a movement. Mother makes me very anxious. Sometimes when she is asleep I am afraid she is dead and I think of it in the night. Once, I thought of that and went into her room. It was dark and very still and I was afraid to go near the bed.”

I am convinced that this is an autobiographic element. I believe Pamela truly experienced this sort of anxiety. Her father fell ill when she was seven years old and the last time she saw him was before going to bed; he was dead the next morning.

The same split between a vision of a Higher Self and a little girl with painful memories is present in the story Friend Monkey which was written some thirty years later; thus, thus unresolved issues from her childhood followed Pamela L. Travers until her very end.

I have the third edition of the book which was printed in 1967 and contains Pamela L. Travers’s Foreword. The end of the foreword is quite melancholic and it encapsulates Pamela L. Travers’s belief about life:

After childhood, our lives are no longer our very own. The world comes in and demands its share and unless we are cleaver or – lucky, perhaps – we forget a very great deal.”

And there is no mention of a benevolent providence

 

Pamela L. Travers and Johnny Delaney

Pamela L. Travers Johnny Delaney 2

The story of Johnny Delaney, another character from Pamela L. Travers’s Australian childhood, and the meaning of the religious references in that story are the subject of this week’s post.

Just as in the story of Ah Wong, which was the subject of last week’s post, the story of Johnny Delaney was written as a Christmas gift for Pamela L. Travers’s friends and was not intended for the public eye. It was only in November 2014 that the story became available for the general reader. Virago Press, with the authorization of Pamela’s estate, published Aunt Sass a compilation of three stories: “Aunt Sass,” “Ah Wong,” and “Johnny Delaney.”

“Johnny Delaney” was published privately during Pamela’s war-time evacuation to the United States. It is dedicated to a mysterious woman by the name of Frieda Heidecke Stern whom Pamela’s biographer, Valerie Lawson, could not identify. Underneath that dedication there is a German sentence which translates to: If one door closes, another opens.

What door had closed back then for Pamela and what door was she hoping would open? Chance did not write that sentence, it meant something. EVERYTHING was a metaphor for Pamela. She even asked once the bizarre question of what a man was a metaphor for.

 ♥ Then it is only logical to ask, what was Johnny Delaney a metaphor for? This post is an attempt to answer that question.

Pamela wrote the story of “Johnny Delaney” at a time when she was profoundly homesick. Likely, it was her longing to return home to a safe and familiar place that prompted her to turn mentally to the earliest memories of her childhood. Probably to the happiest ones, the more magical ones, and the ones that appealed most to her imagination.

The “real” Johnny Delaney worked as a stable boy and a carpenter but to Pamela he appeared as creature from a fairy tale. It is possible that he taught her, just like the children in the story, to spit with artistry, to make whistles from bamboo sticks, and to read the night starry sky. Although small and crippled physically, Johnny’s presence seems to have been magnified by his shadowy personality:

He was before anything else, an antisocial being. He was a man made entirely of blackness and shadow, the quickest-tempered, arrogantest, bitter-heartedest creature that ever stepped out of the County Clare.”

But did the real Johnny have a second sight?  Did he forcefully and unsolicitedly dispense his piece of mind to all who met him? Did he die as told in the story, of binge drinking? And above all, was his “life’s work” real? Somehow that last element in the story feels to me too romantic to have been true. It bears too much of a symbolic resemblance to Pamela’s own relationship with the God from her childhood (see last week’s post). I will get back to that. But first, let me give you a summary of the story itself.

Come to think about it, “Johnny Delaney” is not a genuine story because there is not really a plot in it. It is a character study; a retelling of a childhood memory about a tormented creature.His spirit glared through his dark eyes, a fierce, tormented prisoner.

He was a man who apparently had lost his religion because of some secret pain, and  a man betrayed by God just as Pamela herself felt betrayed by God. Truly, he was a man with His love heavy and silent within him just like Pamela and he also rejected the Church and the priests and kept to himself, just like Pamela:

 “The mere sight of a priest enraged him; and he deliberately pressed his hat a little further on his head when he met Mr. Preston, the vicar.”

 “Ah, what do they know of life at all, them ignorant white angels? Sittin’ an’ sthrummin’ their harps of gold with never a shadow upon them.”

But despite his antisocial behaviours and his heavy drinking, the reader learns at the end of the story that Johnny’s religion was love; love for the family he worked for, love for the people with whom he worked, and love for the wild life that surrounded him. And although he rejected the organised Christian religion, his life’s work (which is discovered only at his death) was a carving of the nativity scene. This is a nativity scene quite different from its traditional representation which dates to 1223 when Saint Francis of Assisi created the very first one to promote the true meaning of Christmas and worship of Jesus Christ.

This is what Johnny’s nativity scene looks like:

There were carved and painted kings and children kneeling beside a stable. No shepherds with flocks of snowy lambs, no angels with folded wings. Instead there were little native creatures – kangaroos, emus, red flamingos; horses and lizards and goats. The kneeling men were cane cutters, offering green cane boughs; …And alone-apart from men and beasts-stood a little bowed hump-backed figure, with a jockey hat in its hand. It seemed to be gazing at the crib…”

Even though his love was strong, Johnny did not believe himself worthy of love. He was forever the observer, the outsider, the misfit: Just like Pamela L. Travers.

The observations about the nature of love in this story have probably more to do with Pamela’s own beliefs than the actual character of Johnny.

♥ Throughout the story, there is a feeling of connection between the child narrator and Johnny. It is as if each one of them recognises himself in the other and a connection that lies between their “blackened by love” hearts.

Now, I don’t know how much of Johnny’s story is true and how much of it is the writer’s imagination. What I know for sure is that Pamela’s early childhood years were not spent on a sugar plantation as narrated in both “Ah Wong and “Johnny Delaney.” I also know that Pamela fancied the idea of telling people that that was the case, and that her father was the owner of a sugar plantation. This is what she told Patricia Demers who wrote a short literary analysis of her works in the early nineties, before Valerie Lawson’s biography Mary Poppins, She Wrote. This is also what some newspapers wrote as her obituary in 1996. Here is an example from the obituary that was published in the New York Times :  

Her father was a sugar planter, and Miss Travers recalled growing up near the Great Barrier Reef in a tropical world of sugar cane, shells and mangoes.”

The truth was different. Pamela’s father was a bank clerk who in his youth worked on a tea plantation in Ceylon. During the first three years of her childhood Pamela’s family lived in Maryborough, near the Mary River, in a two-story home from where Pamela could see the town’s sugar factory. So, there is an imaginative and mischievous stretch of reality on Pamela’s part. She did intentionally mislead people but, then again, people asked for it. She never wanted to be known for the facts of her personal life. She wanted to be understood through her art.

♥ I believe her resistance to reveal the personal details of her life were motivated by fear: fear of being judged, fear of being misunderstood, and a fear of being rejected. She needed to surround herself with a cloak of mystery so to appear worthy of people’s attention and, at the same time, to hide behind it as a protective shield. It was all just a defensive mechanism. What she wrote in “Zen Moments,” an article published in Parabola, confirms just that:

“We sit on our heels on the tatami, the Japanese woman and myself, telling the stories of our lives. One can do this with a stranger. Too near, and the perspective is lost. Only the far can be near.” 

So, what was “Johnny Delaney’ a metaphor for?  I believe him to be the expression of Pamela’s emotional inadequacy and her unfulfilled need to belong to a family, and above all, her need for a spiritual life after the loss of her faith.

Pamela L. Travers and Ah Wong

Mary Poppins Ah Wong

Pamela L. Travers stemmed from a religious soil. She heard readings from the Bible and attended church services on Sundays at St. David’s Anglican Church of England in Allora, Queensland, Australia.

Her parents were pious churchgoers; thus, God was an absolute and uncontestable part of Pamela’s reality:

“…God ubiquitously worked among us, forever unespied – playing the organ on Sundays, his feet bare on the pedals…..Once He looked me at through the gap in the fence with the face of a golden sunflower, awesome, quizzical, resolute. I put up my hand and I picked Him.”

Curious enough, despite her parents’ piety, this almost transcendental experience once shared was dismissed as inappropriate:

No one, they said, could pick God and if they could they would not. It was socially, if not ethically, unacceptable and not the kind of thing people did.” 

Yet, it was not these insensitive comments but her father’s sudden death that shook the foundations of Pamela L. Travers’s religious beliefs. She had no choice but to accept her father’s death, even if the process took her several years. What she failed to accept, however, was a God who allowed for such a loss.  By losing her father she also lost her religion.

Alas, she did not lose her spiritual needs. A deep inner void remained to be filled. And that explains her lifelong following of the esoteric teachings of George Ivanovich Gurdjieff (whom she met in her late thirties), as well as her general restlessness and search for spiritual masters.

Strangely, despite her rejection of the God from her childhood, Pamela kept a faint connection to her Christian upbringing. Some of her less known writings (“Ah Wong,” “Johnny Delaney,” “I Go By Sea, I Go By Land,” and “Fox at the Manger”) contain religious references which leave a vague impression of an ambiguous belief system.  And it is to be noted that Gurdjieff himself called his system esoteric Christianity because of his ideas about sacrifice and voluntary suffering. A similar conclusion can be drawn about her interest in the Durkheim’s system (see post from last week) which is a combination of Christian and Zen concepts.  

However, the major difference between her earlier religious training and the Gurdjieff’s and Durkheim’s teachings is that in these teachings the divine is described in a more mystical manner. There is also a strong emphasis on physical exercises as a gateway to a higher level of consciousness; ritual dances in the case of Gurdjieff and yoga and breathing exercises with Durkheim. In both systems, the process of personal growth is entirely the individual’s responsibility; an experiential inner process to be discovered by the individual on the spiritual path. Truth is to be experienced not known.

In 1943, Pamela L. Travers (at that time already a follower of Gurdjieff) wrote the story of “Ah Wong” as a Christmas present for her friends. She did not intend the story for the public eye and it was only in November 2014 that it became available for the general reader. Virago Press, with the authorization of Pamela’s estate, published Aunt Sass a compilation of three stories: “Aunt Sass,” “Ah Wong,” and “Johnny Delaney.” The story of “Aunt Sass” was previously discussed on this blog. It features Pamela L. Travers’s great-aunt Ellie (under the name of Aunt Sass) who was, to a certain extent, the inspiration of the character of Mary Poppins.

Also, just as in “Aunt Sass,” a child’s voice tells the story of “Ah Wong” and again, as in “Aunt Sass,” it contains some biographical elements form Pamela’s Australian childhood.

The Travers’s household in the early years, before her father’s death, employed a Chinese cook who left a lifelong impression on Pamela’s heart.

In the story, Ah Wong arrives out of nowhere, as an angel of providence, just at the right time when the family has lost their incompetent Chinese cook to a work-related injury.  Ah Wong, thin and wrinkled with a long, black pigtail swinging underneath his hat, is described as a benevolent, energetic, and caring force:

 For Ah Wong did not merely cook for the family. It soon became apparent that he owned the family. He darted like lightning about the house, dusting, making beds, sweeping and polishing.”

Ah Wang was the ultimate house elf:

 “Flowers bloomed, green rows of vegetables appeared, watermelons swelled like balloons. It was our belief that Ah Wong blew them up at night.”    

Now, this sweet man remained profoundly engraved in Pamela’s memory not only because of his loving care for the family, but also and probably more so, because he was different in a time and place of Christian homogeneity. Something mysterious was hidden behind a beaded curtain in his room; Ah Wong was bowing to a heathen idol.

Mary Poppins Ah Wong 2.PNG

Thus, Pamela and her siblings found themselves on a quest:

We were going to convert Ah Wang. At this period, we were immersed in those old stories wherein small children of extreme physical debility set so saintly an example that grown-up sinners were thereby brought to repentance.

The rest of the story goes on in a humorous way to describe the children’s efforts to teach Ah Wong the basics of Christianity and get him christened, of course, all without any success. It is in this story of Ay Wong that we glean Pamela L. Travers’s early religious education:

First, she mentions The Book of Common Prayers which I learned is a compilation of related prayer books used in the Anglican Communion, as well as by the Continuing Anglican, the “Anglican realignment,” and other Anglican churches. The book also includes the complete forms of service for daily and Sunday worship.

Book_of_Common_Prayer_1760.jpg

Then, she tells us that her Bible primer was the Peep of Day and that Ah Wong succeeded in learning the prayers. So, I looked it up, and Peep of Day turns out to be a series of religious instructions for young children with illustrative verses written by Favell Lee Mortimer.

Peep of Day

The book is separated in sections as follows:

Section 1: My Family and Me – Body, Parents, Soul

Section 2: Angels – Good Angels, Wicked Angels

Section 3: God’s World – The World (3 lessons), Adam & Eve, The first sin, The Son of God

Section 4: Jesus has Arrived – Virgin Mary, Birth of Jesus, Shepherds, Wise Men, King Herod

Section 5: Jesus at Work – The Temptation, 12 disciples, First miracle, Several miracles, Sinner & Simon, Storm at Sea, Jairus’ daughter, Loaves and fishes, Kindness of Jesus, Lord’s prayer, Jesus foretells his death, Lazarus, Jesus in Jerusalem, The Temple, Judas

Section 6: The Last Meal – The Last Supper (3 lessons)

Section 7: The Final Night – The Garden, Peter’s denial, Pontius Pilate, Death of Judas

Section 8: Jesus Dies – The Cross (3 lessons), The Soldiers, The Grave

And here is a verse from the Peep of Day which we can imagine Ah Wong and the Children sang together:

My little body’s made by God

Of soft warm flesh and crimson blood;

The slender bones are placed within,

And over all is laid the skin

My little body’s very weak;

A fall or blow my bones might break;

The water soon might stop my breath;

The fire might close my eyes in death.

 But God can keep me by his care.

 Ah Wong indulged the children by playing and listening to their stories, but when they described to him the glorious picture of their father at the Church service, trying to convince him to come with them, Ah Wong found the idea of giving money at the end of the service completely ludicrous.

 “….our father, in his white silk suit with the crimson cummerbund, taking round the plate. This, to us, was a sight ever glorious. Sunday after Sunday we thrilled with pride as, singing the last hymn in a roaring baritone, Father took up the collection.”

Whassa dam-silly-fellow nonsins? he shouted wrathfull. ‘Boss take-im money? I don’t tink so. Boss not take-im Ah Wong’s money.”  

After this incident, we learn that Ah Wong is saving his money to return to China. Soon after that, the tone of the story abruptly changes and becomes darker. The father suddenly dies and the family must leave its sugar plantation and its Chinese cook. Many years later, the child narrator, now a young journalist, meets Ah Wong on board of a ship sailing to China. Ah Wong is part of the ship’s cargo, a dying stock of old Chinese men on the way to their homeland. The story ends on a somewhat lyrical reflection about life and death being one river:

The same flood that was flinging me into life was taking Ah Wong home…

Next week we’ll talk about Johnny Delaney and the Nativity scene.

Pamela L. Travers and the Rebel Archetype (Part II)

way-of-transformation

When it happens that a human being grows up under difficult circumstances, or from lack of loving and understanding he inevitably becomes distorted. He is thrown back upon himself. Inevitably, he reacts to such conditions by developing postures which are the result of continuous adaptation. By means of this he protects its natural ego, but always at the expense of the growth of his individual essence.

                                                                         Karlfreid von Dürckheim, The Way of Transformation

We know now that Pamela L. Travers did grow up in difficult circumstances and that she never felt loved nor understood by her family. And, as discussed in last week’s post, one of the major causes for Pamela’s psychological blockages stems from her repressed feelings of resentment towards her mother.

A bothersome question now arises.

Did Dürckheim, who was aware of the consequential dynamics of the unresolved relationships between a child and a mother, identify the issue? This is quite possible, if we assume that during their meetings Pamela opened up about her childhood experiences, something that she was reluctant to do, at least in her writings, until she was in her seventies and eighties.

But if he did identify the cause of her blockages, did he point them out to her? Or did he choose to “…. call him (her) to enter upon his (her) innate Way in order that his (her) essential self may begin its struggle towards the light?” 

Translated in ordinary language, did he encourage her to recognize her inner nature by delving deeply into herself by means of breathing and meditating exercises, hoping that she would eventually experience healing inner insights? He seems to have privileged that route: The man who feels himself lost in utter darkness in the world which, so long as he is caught in his ego, thrusts him into fear, despair and loneliness, may be the one uniquely ready to hear the call of his essential being -ready to respond to the summons that, breaking through his ego-shell, brings him to awareness of his inner core.” Did he feel that Pamela was ready to break through her Dark Night of the Soul? Did he anticipate that a more directive approach would only strengthen the defense mechanisms of her ego?

Of course, there are no certain answers to these questions; no answers at all actually. There can only be speculations.  Although, judging by the continuality of Pamela’s tormented mental and physical states until her death, at the venerable age of 97, it is not so futile of an assumption that regardless of his chosen approach, the treatment failed.  But why?

Dürckheim held that to go trough the Wheel of Transformation (his model of spiritual and psychological growth which will not be discussed in this post) a person must first be firmly grounded in himself and in life.

And proper grounding begins with a proper nurturing. He also believed that the body needs to adapt a proper posture so to allow the life energy from the earth to circulate through the body and allow a person to adapt to the forces from above.

The physical grounding center, the gravity center of a person according to a concept Dürckheim borrowed from Zen teachings, is located in the belly.

This is what he writes about that center: That power which enables us to be truly centered lies, physically, in the middle of the body, in Hara, or more accurately, in the pelvic region. Hara refers to an attitude by means of which man is anchored ‘below’ in such a way that he is freed from habitual restrictions brought about by being tip-heavily centered ‘above’ in his world-ego. This setting-down into strength within man’s own being to support and mould him, and to give direction to his life.”

Curious enough, Pamela L. Travers experienced health issues related to the lower parts of her body. She had digestive troubles and bowel problems which affected her throughout her life. She also wrote notes to herself about the fear she experienced in her body. Her biographer, who was so fortunate to read her personal papers reports:

“…the fear within often felt impenetrable, solid, separating the upper parts and lower parts of her body. She felt as if she was becoming this black fear, which at its worst extended dark rays into the other parts of her. Even when she wrote of the fear, to herself, her breath came up too quickly to her chest.”

(I must say, I do envy Valerie Lawson for having the chance to look at Pamela’s personal papers. Maybe one day I will have the opportunity to go to Australia and look at her papers which are now preserved in the Mitchell Library in Sydney. It is on my Bucket list for sure!)

I heard an excerpt from an interview Pamela gave once in 1988 in which she tells the interviewer, in an old woman’s shivering voice: “I was born I think saying get me out of here, because I knew from the very beginning that I was not going to stay there.” Obviously, her father’s Celtic fantasies had something to do with it.  

♥ Then as she grew older the ungrounding process continued to operate and climaxed with Pamela’s rejection of her mother and her decision to leave her homeland and family to establish herself in England.

♥  There is also another aspect to her blockages and that is the shattering of her faith in a benevolent God.   

Her biographer reports that after her father’s sudden death, young Pamela searched the night sky waiting for his return. It took Pamela a few years to accept her father’s death. Her son Camillus said in an interview that his mother never understood as a child why God would take away the most loved person in her life. Obviously, God had betrayed her.

♥ In the Way of Transformation, Durkcheim gives the example of a female client (without disclosing his patient’s identity) who is reluctant to pray. Could that have been Pamela? Never in her writings does she pray for God’s help. Never does she give herself up completely. She wrote that there was nothing to be expected from life; that life was a trickster who must be faced. She also liked to say that one has to carry one’s full cup without spilling it over.

It is plausible to assert that Pamela’s spiritual search and her lifelong fascination with the Gurdjieff teachings had to do with that early experience of loss. She had lost at once, her father and her religion, although some remnants of her Christian upbringing do come out in some of her writings.

♥  It is probably not so much Dürckheim’s failure to help her ground herself as her own obstinate following of the Gurdjieff’s teachings that caused the failure of the treatment. In my opinion, the Gurdjieff’s teachings were intentionally designed to keep troubled minds ever more confused about their own identity. Something she wrote about the symbol of the inverted tree in relation to Gurdjieff’s teachings comes to mind and is most significant in the context of the questions of this week’s post since it is in total contradiction with the grounding in the earth principle of Dürckheim:

Clearly the message of this many faceted symbol (the inverted tree) is that the roots of man are not on earth but in Heaven and his meaning is that of the Prodigal Son, who, once he arrives at the lowest level, must, if he is to save his life, arise and go to his Father.”

So here it is again (see reference to Joseph Campbell in last week’s post), this motif of the male initiation into manhood: the journey of finding the father and disengaging from the mother. Pamela was clearly on the wrong spiritual path.