I am eldest of 7 children. My dad was a mental health nurse. My mum was a keen Church goer. When we lived in Northern Ireland, every Sunday we were hauled off to church. The church was close to our little primary school so we were regularly single filed to it during festivals. I marched to the local Catholic Church as a Boy Scout.
As a little boy, I was inspired by Jesus. I still am. I just couldn’t reconcile the story of his life with what happened in church. He taught in nature. His credo seemed simple – Love God and love everything else as yourself. So why were the Catholics and Protestants fighting? Why was it OK for a poor woman to put her pay packet in the collection box at the Catholic Church in Tuam? Why did the richest families sit in the front pews while the people who did all the work in the church sat at the back?
My mums rule was that you had to go to church until you were confirmed. I was confirmed at 15 and didn’t go to church regularly after that!
Inspired by Jesus I used to visualise helping people and talking them into having a good life, from when I was 6. I called my alter-ego King David until I thought that was a bit too much and I then changed it to Michael Jackson when I was 8, 60 years ago. Michael Jackson would make passionate speeches to convince people to be peaceful and loving. He would sing to them to get them into a good mood. He had limitless money and limitless knowledge and skills. How weird it was later to come across the other Michael Jackson.
So there I was from 15, with a pretty good moral compass and a close connection to Jesus but nowhere to take it and share it apart from in my imagination.
I did my ‘O’ and ‘A’ levels. My family moved from Northern Ireland to Sussex. I went to Liverpool University to study Pure Maths. I hated it! I wanted to change to Psychology but to do that I found I had to pass the first year of Maths and that was not an option. I couldn’t afford to pay the grant back so I attended the minimum number of lectures, took the minimum time in exams and left.
While at university I enjoyed playing football, snooker and cards. I had a good group of friends, went to parties and met girls. I lost half a term’s grant in one hand of three card brag, so had to work in a Yates Wine Lodge for six weeks to fill up the coffers again. I smoked dope. I took LSD. I drank. It all sounds like a lot of fun, and on one level it was, but I was deeply depressed.
I had all these good intentions in me but I wasn’t doing any thing meaningful with them. When I came to our new family home in Sussex I made new friends. I became a Scout Leader. I still smoked dope and drank, even though I wasn’t that keen on either. I just did it to be part of the crowd of people that I liked. In the main, I enjoyed myself but there was still something missing.
At Easter when I was 21, I volunteered to help the father of one of my girl friends to paint their house. I was training to be an Accountant (didn’t last long) and earning a pittance, so this offered a bit of extra spending money. As we painted we talked. He was a lovely inspiring man who was a diplomat. I cannot remember anything we talked about during the four days but it prompted me to be truly myself!
I immediately stopped drinking and drugs, which was easy because I didn’t like either of them. I drifted away from the crowd I used to mix with. It felt good to do it but lonely as well and I was very grateful to meet some new friends who meditated and talked about things that were meaningful to me.
One of the people they introduced me to was a medium, who had a cafe in Battersea, and used to come to Kent regularly for meetings. I met him and liked him, and I liked what he was talking about. In November of that year he sold his cafe and decided to buy a house in Kent and use it to form a small spiritual community. I volunteered to paint it and ended up joining the community.
To be continued……