Sunday, 6 December 2015

Jocelyn Chaplin - The Serpent Institute

Jocelyn Chaplin
Bettany Hughes acclaimed series 'Divine Women' on prime time TV offers a full appreciation of ancient goddess worship and the role of women in the ancient times. Many women writers and speakers are introducing her various paths and how their worship was practised. As a psychotherapist and artist, I have been bringing her into my work, as goddess in various forms and also as the abstract force of rhythmic equalizing flow.

My first book ‘Feminist Counselling in Action’ was reviewed for the Guardian (15.11.88) as showing how 'the goddess can be an allegory giving shape and form to the feminine principle' and it can be used to empower women today. My most recent book (published in 2008 by O Books) is entitled 'Deep Equality - Living in the Flow of Natural Rhythm'. This is a tapestry of examples, quotes, exercises, thoughts and pictures on the subject of reducing hierarchical structures and replacing them with rhythmic ones, linked to the goddess as flow.

I was brought up in Southern Sudan and Ghana. As a small child, I was impressed by the immense beauty and variety of the natural world, its vigour, colour and creativity - and its rhythms. As a privileged white child in a country of mainly black people, at a young age, I became aware of inequalities that were to influence my future life and work. In my mid-teens, I left Africa to attend sixth form college in the UK and then attended Durham University where I studied anthropology and psychology, returning to Uganda to research painting and psychology at Makerere University.

In my 20s and early 30s, I taught social anthropology but my life changed in 1988, when I travelled to Crete to study the ancient philosophers and to explore the ancient Minoan civilisation. It was here that I rediscovered a deep attunement to the rhythms of nature and I learnt of the divine feminine where stories of the nature and fertility Goddesses date back to earliest recorded times. I discovered the beautifully decorated palace with its powerful solid stone bull statue and three years later I took a group of Goddess seekers to Malta to explore the huge pre-patriarchal temples to the Earth Mother within the landscape. On the island of Gozo, there is a statue of the Goddess where the midsummer sun shines through a hole in the base plinth.

These and other visits to ancient sites inspired my artwork, based upon the great goddesses, which I describe as 'prayers'. These ancient matriarchal societies were based on equality, caring and co-operation and were therefore more spiritually advanced than under patriarchal types of religious worship. Women as nurturers, would care for the weak and infirm and have greater ability to avoid confrontation, competition and war.

More recently my journeys led to me becoming an ordained priestess of Elen, a Goddess connected to Rhea, the Greek Goddess of Flow. "Being a priestess of Rhea is not like officiating in a temple. Everywhere is holy ground or can be made into sacred space. The priesthood is about remembering the Goddess in the breath and in every flow of life, honouring her with words and a smile as well as in rituals."

In 1988, I co-founded 'the Serpent Institute' which trained therapists within a framework of goddess spirituality. I was led to develop a rhythmic philosophy that embraces a flowing movement based on the awareness of planetary and personal rhythms, and these explain how we can move from the present mind sets - which will eventually destroy the planet - such as consumerism and hierarchy, to a more holistic, natural and organic understanding of life without harming each other or the planet.

I spent some time with Eckhart Tolle in Glastonbury and he impressed me greatly. I recommend Starhawks's books as they combine pagan spirituality with activist and radical politics, subjects that are at the centre of my view of the world of tomorrow. I consider that the Tao Te Ching by Lao Tsu is still one of the wisest books available today. Each day I live to share my life, trying to equalise the opposing forces and the hierarchies and patriarchies that are inbuilt into our Western lives.

Today, my spiritual path as a priestess is of one who remembers the flow and rhythms of life in my meditations and in routine moments of my day. My artwork depicts the energies of Mother Nature personified as the Divine Feminine. I am a ritual practitioner and psychotherapist and sometimes use ritual in personal development work with my clients. I feel deeply honoured to be able to accompany others on part of their journey towards personal and spiritual maturity. 

My philosophy is based on the rhythms of nature. The human body has heartbeats, brain rhythms, breath, peristalsis, and many other natural rhythms. Women, of course, have a monthly cycle. Plants have a rhythm which oxygenates the air; trees shed leaves in seasonal manner, providing rest and recuperation after flowering and fruiting. One rhythm is not 'better than' another, each aspect of the rhythm, the hard and soft, quick and slow, high and low notes, is natural and necessary to overall wellbeing. 

Throughout our life, we have rhythms, of weakness and strength, success and failure, ease and difficulty, energy and inactivity, joy and sadness, life and death. Each level, value and experience is part of a natural rhythm and a time of learning and experiencing. By accepting the variety of rhythms and allowing for them, we can move from a direction of striving for perpetual attainment of possessions, to a greater resonance with nature, allowing happiness and health, which flow from contentment, self-acceptance and a union of opposites. 

I believe our world is dangerously unbalanced and needs a new paradigm to provide movement towards a less competitive society that can flow between opposites and maintain the tension between them without creating distress. This ability would include bringing back the feminine to balance the masculine, not just with a few ambitious women, but with a renewed respect and love for all forms of planetary life.

Please visit my website for further details of courses, artwork and articles.
Interviewer: Wendy Stokes

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