This short autobiography outlines how my life has unfolded thus far.
I was born on 5th September 1950 at a maternity home called Hartfield House, near Forest Row in Sussex, south of London. Before becoming a maternity home it had been the WW2 American Generals' HQ in England, from which D-Day was run. That was an ominous start for a person who was to become a peacemaker!
I was born using relaxation techniques which, then, were unheard of. Later in life I was involved in pushing for home birth - we tend to give birth similarly to the way we ourselves were born. Most of my kids were born at home, and the birth of the one that wasn't convinced me she too should have been born at home.
I've done death and dying too. Had three near-death experiences, which have affected me greatly. The biggest was in 1974: I was unconscious for eight days as a result of food poisoning. My best friend died in my arms. I lost much of my memory of my earlier life. What memory I have of it now is reconstructed - it's not memory but a narrative. This changed my life. It's strange how we need a sense of personal history to define outselves.
At the time of my birth my father had found a new job in Cardiff, Wales, and my mother, brother and I joined him there from Sussex when I was about six months old. My mother had had to struggle on alone in Sussex raising my brother and me. My father was doing his best too, working for our family and having a house built in Cardiff for us to move to. These were post-war years when life was hard but gradually getting better.
I grew up in Cardiff until I was nine. I was always rather a stranger in a strange land, a quiet lad who played alone. I became short-sighted when I was seven - my inner seeing was developing, perhaps - and from then on I was painfully called 'Speccy Foureyes' by other kids. I was quite sickly as a child, but lying in bed ill turned out to be part of my spiritual training, looking at it in retrospect. I had one foot in this world and one in another. In later life this became a gift and asset - and it's also quite a challenge. But at the timeit made me feel like a stranger. It took me till I was 65 to find out that I had Asperger's Syndrome - or 'wrong planet syndrome'.
Strangely, I do remember a few of my early-life deeper experiences, but not the more normal experiences. These memories seem to encompass defining moments, moments of awakening, which must have been imprinted in a part of my brain that wasn't wiped clean. In one case, a magazine called Look and Learn dropped through our letterbox with a picture of a Viking at the prow of a longship. I saw it and fainted. Later in life I spent some time in the Orkney islands and, in the 1970s, in Sweden - two of my daughters are Swedish. So that boyhood experience was perhaps a premonition of my future in Scandinavia. Or a deep memory of another life.
Another memory I have is of sitting high up a mountain with two friends, age 15 or so, after a long climb, looking down on a frozen lake and having what was perhaps my first conscious spiritual experience - beholding the grandeur and wonder of the natural world and seeing this word in a new way. I was gradually realising that I was okay with the natural world, the planet itself, but not okay with the civilisation we live in.
In 1960 our family moved to Formby, near Liverpool, in northwest England, and I went to grammar school in Seaforth, part of Liverpool. I was good at geography, history, economics, languages and general studies. Liverpool was then a violent city - Protestants and Catholics, Mods and Rockers - and, without knowing it, I was already learning about peacemaking, mainly through painful experiences of getting beaten up!
Other notable times were inspiring experiences up mountains in Snowdonia, the Pennines and the Lake District, and working on a nature reserve at Formby, and early experiences of the emerging Liverpool scene of the Sixties. Yes, I was there. I saw the Beatles, Cilla Black and the Mersey Poets, and queued up at Nems to buy advance copies of Sargeant Pepper's.
Deep life-choices were coming up, especially as a result of the occupations and political activities at LSE - peace marches about Ulster and Vietnam, the late-night meetings discussing all and everything, angst over The Bomb, emergent worldviews such as feminism, ecology, New Left thinking, new age mysticism, human rights, the global village and a new sense of what constituted freedom.
By the end of my time at LSE it was clear that my life-path was not to become the professor, diplomat or town planner that I had aspired to become. I also got in trouble with police and authorities, falsely accused of crimes because I was seen as a leader - their approach being to decapitate the movement by taking out the leaders. I was vocal, but I wasn't really a leader, and I wasn't working for the Soviet Communist party - I was a hippy. All I wanted was peace, love and to change the world - quite harmless, really! No, actually we were mapping out the moral direction of the longterm future, a future that today is yet to start developing. We were perceiving the issues that were emerging which, by the early 21st Century, were becoming urgent and too late.
But these experiences of punishment and suppression confirmed rather than weakened my beliefs - the authorities were getting things wrong. They had shot down British people in Londonderry, suppressed a movement for peace and love, banged us on the head, implicitly supported a murderous war in Vietnam and then accused us of being Communist sympathisers. Britain, supposedly a bastion of peace, decency and freedom, looked to many of us like a totalitarian state. This was difficult for people of my father's generation, who had fought for our freedom in WW2, to handle. What they didn't realise was that, whether people are controlled by sticks or by carrots, it's still social control. It's still a divergence from the real path our civilisation needs to follow.
Photo by my aunt Hilary Bedford
After leaving LSE and living for a period in London in a squat near Notting Hill Gate, tripping out a lot, I soon needed to leave. My spirit was growing brighter and I was becoming oversensitive to the city. I was also being harassed by police. And the intensity and pollution of London was clouding my soul.
In 1972 I spent a few months in mid-Wales (Radnorshire), then moved to Snowdonia in North Wales, where I lived in a beautiful house by a waterfall in an idyllic mountain valley, Cwm Pennant - sometimes alone, sometimes with a friend. Aaaah, suddenly I had space. I felt as if I were saying goodbye to humanity - I wasn't, but it was a necessary retreat from the world at the time.
Here my inner growth really flowered. I took psychedelics, walked the mountains, chopped wood and carried water, studied sacred texts and teachings, roamed the mountains and lived a simple life. It was a time of awakening, enlightenment - also of recuparation from what had happened in London. I learned astrology, Taoism and Buddhism, waded through esoteric tomes, watched and cooked over the fire, and was bathed by the waterfalls and their music, and watched over by a buzzard hovering overhead as I tramped around the picturesque and atmospheric valley where I lived (thanks to my old friend Charley Barley).
Then came my first death experience in August 1974, through food poisoning. My friend was the first to go, and when he collapsed and I could do no more, I collapsed too, waking up in hospital nine days later with no memory, no sense of time or place. My friend Michael had died. A longterm outcome of this memory-wipe was a shift from intellect toward intuition - left and right brains became more balanced. I lost much of my identity. For some months I was lost and disoriented.
In a coroner's enquiry I was initially suspected of murder (since I was already suspect in the authorities' eyes from my LSE days). But then I was acquitted - it was deemed an accidental death. Though I lost my beautiful home, since the police had accused us of being heroin dealers. By a series of 'chance' happenings, after leaving Cwm Pennant in November 1974 I landed up visiting a Tibetan High Lama, HH Gyalwa Karmapa, who was visiting Samye Ling Dharma centre in Scotland, and my life changed. The Lamas saved me. Their teachings and blessings had a profound healing effect on me. The meditation stabilised my spirit. I had many remarkable experiences with them - though one consequence of the near-death experience I had had was that my memory of many life-experiences since that date, not only before, has always been weak.
I worked as an English-language teacher in Uppsala. We had two children, born in 1977 and 1979. I loved my partner very much, and the birth of my children was wonderful. We lived out in a large clearing in the forest, and I was healing after the traumas of the early 1970s. But things were not right, and this gradually emerged over the years. I was still unstable and not fully recovered from my near-death experience - I think I must have been quite difficult for my partner to deal with. In addition, I was an Aspie without knowing it, and neither did my partner or her family - so I was perhaps incomprehensible to live with, and I was not good at fitting into others' expectations and norms.
By the end of 1980 I returned to Britain - alone and rather a broken man. This was devastating both for me and for my family. I was deeply unhappy about it and I am sure they were too - though my kids quite quickly gained a stepfather who was a good man. Something was pulling me back to Britain - after all, I had left it under pressure, not out of choice. I felt I had to do it. Soon after returning to Britain I landed 'by chance' in Glastonbury, which became my home for 28 years. I then spent two years crying out my grief, uncovering my emotions and vulnerabilities, doing therapy and learning therapeutic methods. Gradually, I retrieved myself.
Photo: James Burgess
In 1983, along came the mission for which seemingly I had returned. It happened, in a way, by trickery. A good friend, Jamie, asked me to assist him in organising an earth mysteries gathering in Glastonbury. It was a great success, a very moving event. Clearly, we would have to do another. Then Jamie dropped out, saying he was too busy. Suddenly it was down to me to decide. I paced up and down for a few months and then decided to do it.
Most memorable was the 'Chernobyl Camp' in 1986, a camp for people interested in ancient mysteries which took place at the same time as the Chernobyl meltdown. It could have been the end of the world, but this camp was the beginning of many new things, which were taken forward from there by me and many other people - life-changing threads that expanded from there, starting projects, relationships, businesses and other camps.
Photo: Chrissie Ferngrove
The camps had 100-400 people camping together for a week, engaging in large-group processes, workshops and community-building activities. They each had a different subject - music and dance, astrology, ancient mysteries - and they represented a florescence of growth and new methods in the transformation movement.
By 1986 I realised it had to be put on a more sustainable footing, and I founded the OakDragon Camps, taking the camps out of Glastonbury to other parts of Britain from 1987 onwards. In the late eighties we were running seven week-long camps per year. Other camps organisations started up from 1988 onwards, many of them born directly out of the Glastonbury or the OakDragon Camps, taking the phenomenon in a veriety of directions. By 1990 I was burned out and spent, and I left. The whole story is told here.
My third daughter was born in late 1989, by a woman I met during the camps, with whom I had another unsuccesful relationship. I would have liked to raise her myself (I was good at parenting, actually), but this was not to be.
In 1987 my first published book Living in Time, an astrology book about time-cycles, came out - it did quite well. To the extent that, 25 years later, I wrote a new version in 2014 called Power Points in Time. Thirty years later I had written ten books.
The Nineties - my 40s
In the early 1990s I also finally admitted I was quite psychic. I had known this since I was about 23 but I'd always struggled with it. Finally I let go, permitted it and my psychic work lifted off. Not channelling - though I could do it - but in the area of providing insight, problem-solving, healing and simply knowing things - what my friend Sig Lonegren calls 'gnowing'. I don't make a big deal about this, but it is a core part of my work.
Another development was my involvement in crop circle research. I saw them as a kind of close encounter where the energy-fields of other worlds were being imprinted in ours. I pursued this for 20 years from 1990, and it has been a privilege and blessing to play a part in this crucial historic development, the importance of which will probably take decades to emerge. My capacity to handle the contradictions of left- and right-brained perception came very useful here. Many struggled with this, but I and a few others stayed steadily anchored in a deep-level, off-Earth understanding of the meaning of these things.
During the 1980s and 1990s I worked as a counsellor, spiritual teacher, writer and a prominently active person in Glastonbury and further afield. I did speaking tours of USA, Australia and NZ and acted as something of a spokesperson for Glastonbury. I was the town's webmaster from 1996-2005, running the IsleofAvalon website, at the time one of Britain's leading small-town websites. In Glastonbury we also were pioneers in community Internet development.
In 1995-97 I ran a project called the Hundredth Monkey Project - a new kind of camping retreat where we put people to work with consciousness-raising methods to help the world. This was loosely based on the ideas of the Council of Nine, and an upgrade of the community-working techniques of the camps of the 1980s. We worked on such issues as Bosnia, nuclear testing, climatic issues, the influence of 'the oligarchy' and the privileged in world affairs, and for the emergence of truth and realism during a time of almost cultish materialism and corporate globalisation.
Three camps and a few weekend gatherings were held, and the quality of people involved - some 120 - was high. We worked hard, using meditation, talking-stick processes and groupwork of many kinds, applied to the questions of the day. It was successful: there were outcomes in world events that we knew, by dint of synchronicities, we had played a part in (though we cannot rightly say 'we did it'). But there were problems: financing the project was difficult, and issues were arising which could have led us into dangerous territory. So after three years, with regret I closed the project, and everyone knew it was right. A smaller meditation group continued the work up to 2018 (The Flying Squad).
In 1996 my last child was born - this time a boy, with my partner Sheila - we lived together from 1993 onwards. I have been so blessed with wonderful children. What pleases me most is that I believe they all are net contributors to this world, good people with their hearts in the right place. I now have three grandchildren by my two Swedish daughters.
Something in my heart and spirit was getting tired by the late 1990s. There seemed to be so much giving out, with such little return. I had been treading the edge and doing quite momentous things for thirty years. I had committed my life to healing the world of its darkness, and in 1999 it seemed to me as if things were in fact going backwards. I wondered if it was too late for the world to change. I wondered whether I had got things thoroughly wrong. I wondered whether the battle was lost.
The New Millennium - my 50s
I fell ill in 2000, around my 50th birthday, with a fever and flu-like infection that raked my body, lasting for months, taking me again to death's door. My naturopathic doctor told me that I had a illness of the spirit, and he couldn't really help me. I went down and down, by now a pile of bones. I felt like giving up, though I also felt duty-bound to continue with my family life and my work. Always an optimist, my positivity collapsed. I offered myself up and asked either to be taken away or returned back - wherever I was most valued. My son, then four, woke me up one day and I knew I was alive. I was weak and ragged, but alive.
I knew I had to start again. This was gradual - it really happened after seven years in 2008. I was constrained by the need to keep my business going, support my family and continue my community and civic duties in Glastonbury.
In 1998 I had taken on the running of Glastonbury's biggest town website, Isle of Avalon, an honour, a significant creative project and also a burden, unsupported by authorities or local business. It was a civic duty which wasn't easy to drop. When I eventually left it in 2005, no one took it on. It's still online and rather out of date.
I worked hard at reconstructing my life but things didn't really work. Increasingly, I felt Glastonbury and I were no longer nourishing one another. I applied for many jobs and reached the shortlist in many cases, but I was too adventurous a candidate to be taken on - I had a good track-record but my CV was perhaps too rich and unconventional. I wasn't a system man and never was to be so.
Struggling on through the early 2000s, life was okay but, again, not right. By 2006-7 I was going downhill again. I needed encouragement and it wasn't forthcoming. But one thing had been developing, starting in 1997 and gaining steam in 2002: my involvement with Palestine and the Holy Land.
It was Pam Perry who got me into it - a wizard hustler for good causes, a disabled woman who worked from her wheelchair and bed. She worked the phones and I ran Internet operations, with another friend worked on financing for people and projects in the Holy Land. In 2003 we helped found Jerusalem Peacemakers, a group of spiritual peacemakers from both sides. We publicised them, arranged speaking tours in the West and helped finance them. One of the peacemakers came from Bethlehem - he ran a school that was a pioneer in trauma-recovery for children and adults. We clicked, almost like brothers, and I started getting increasingly involved with the Hope Flowers School and Center in Bethlehem.
Meanwhile, by 2006, Pam died, the Jerusalem Peacemakers went their own way and I gravitated toward the Hope Flowers School. I became their webmaster, foreign outreach person and adviser. From 2005 onwards I stayed in Bethlehem for periods of months at a time, making many friends, developing many involvements and becoming an 'honorary Palestinian'. This gave me new life and vigour - my life-purpose seemed to be restoring itself with the Palestinians. But now it no longer worked to live in Glastonbury. Palestine and Glastonbury are both very intense places and something had to shift - I couldn't live in both.
By 2007 things came clear. I had to shed a load, leave Glastonbury and re-start my life. Palestine was paramount now. By now my son was old enough to manage with less of me, and my partner and I, having got on well, had grown apart. My growing radicalism and Palestine involvement had become incompatible with her professional career-path. My life and business (as a webmaster, counsellor, book-editor and author) were disintegrating. I knew that, if I didn't make a move, my life would peter out. I had to do something to revive my spirits.
Sheila and I separated amicably and I ripped up my roots and left Glastonbury, saying goodbye to so many good friends. No answer had arisen about where to head, so I just head out, pretty penniless, with all my remaining possessions in my small car.
Then it was 2010
I travelled around for three months, crashing on sofas and staying in caravans. I landed up in a car park in the Forest of Dean crying my eyes out, feeling lost and rootless - on the dump. My cousin rang up to invite me to Cornwall for a week while she visited there - I went, staying with some old friends, Hamish and Ba Miller.
I never left. Every time the time came to go - though where to, I didn't know - it felt right to stay or something conspired to stop my leaving. The unexpected death of Hamish sealed it - I stayed to stand by Ba, his widow. My own mother had died at the same time - I needed to sit and reflect awhile. I stayed two years in a caravan under Trencrom Hill in Cornwall.
I returned to Palestine and deepened my involvement there. This story is told in my 2012 book Pictures of Palestine. I returned twice more, once visit lasting five months. I have now settled in Cornwall at Botrea Farm near St Just, and I am very happy to be here - it's right for me. Living at 'the end of the world' suits me well.
In February 2012 I was in Palestine, freezing my ass off in a particularly cold winter there. I looked out over the Israeli separation wall, there in front of me, outside the window of my apartment at the school in Bethlehem. This is not just a wall preventing physical movement and apartheid, but also a psychological barrier, a line across reality, separating realities into an irreconcilable divide between peoples, cultures, the developed and developing worlds.
Suddenly, a catchphrase came up: from the end of the world to the edge of reality. It seemed to sum up my life in 2012 - living on the edge, yet strangely at the centre of things too.
During my time in Cornwall I have written the book Power Points in Time (2014). Also I have done a lot of research into the ancient sites of West Penwith, presenting a new view of their significance, presented on the Ancient Penwith website.
I like Cornwall (see some pics here). It has a great atmosphere: if you want fame and money, you don't live here. This makes the social atmosphere quite coherent for those of us who live here - we all agree on certain of life's basics. With its seafaring and mining traditions, the Cornish can understand someone who goes to a conflict zone, Palestine, and invests so much in it. It's all about living a bit dangerously, 'treading the edge'. Except it isn't really dangerous if you keep your wits about you.
My Palestine involvement will continue. I shall always be an astrologer, an adviser and seer, an editor, author and communicator and what I call a 'social healer'. Yet I don't know what happens next. Now in my 60s I feel I'm reaching my proper age. I go by my instructions and somehow get by. Sometimes it worries me, and I wish there were more support for pioneers like me, but I always get by. I've always had food in my belly and a roof over my head.
I have failed in some things, succeeded in others and learned so much in the process. Life has at times been very painful, and I survived, forgave and, I hope, in the end, am forgiven.
People see me as a leading light, an articulator of thoughts they never knew they had. By many I'm seen as a fair, just and highly principled person. Some say they wish their lives were like mine. All I can say to that is, why is this not more common, and how much destruction does the world have to go through before we all take The Big Step?
In some respects I've been a thorn in some people's side, in many others' a bringer of light and breakthrough. Make your choice. For the reality we feed is the reality that prevails - until, of course, it falls down and a greater reality overrides it. Which it does quite often.
We have entered a time of force majeure. The global change is now happening, and it's no longer driven by idealism and principle - it's pragmatic and expedient. Peace, healing humanity, healing the Earth and a fundamental change in society and civilisation is happening, right now. It's an historical process that is going as fast as it can.
I have no idea how long I shall live but I've had a full life so it doesn't matter greatly. This is quite liberating. If I ever become a burden, I know how to die. But this gives renewed aliveness too - relieved of that burden of fear most people aren't aware that they carry.
When in Palestine in late 2011 I remarked to a friend that I didn't feel I was contributing much during that trip. She turned to me and said quite firmly: "Palden, when you're here, we feel safe". Right, good: perhaps there's less of a need for me to do and more of a need for me simply to be there.
And life goes on. I have a feeling there's one more major mission to carry out before I hit the armchair and earn my keep as a storyteller. Inshallah.