Author Archives: Fiona Gardner

Taking a Step Back 2


John Eudes Bamberger

Whilst taking on manual work in the monastery at the Abbey of Genesee, Henri Nouwen noted how difficult it was to control his thoughts – not only that they were wandering in different directions, but also that he found himself brooding on many negative feelings including hostility to people who had slighted him and not given him sufficient attention, feelings of jealousy and self-pity, and also regret and guilt about difficult or strained relationships.

‘Once in a while I cursed when the rock was too heavy to carry or fell out of my arms into the water … I tried to convert my curse into a prayer … but nothing spectacular happened … my muscles felt strained, my legs tired…. I realised it was exactly the lack of spiritual attention that caused the heaviness in my heart … How true it is that sadness is often the result of our attachment to the world. … I am impatient, restless, full of preoccupations and easily suspicious.’

Seeking advice from the Abbot John Eudes Bamberger during a spiritual direction meeting, Nouwen is advised to try to be more alone, and perhaps to read and study in his room rather than the library where people come and go. It’s all about finding solitude. Discussing the negative thoughts, Eudes recommends that Nouwen recognise the thoughts and let them pass. The skill is also to do simple manual work that can attract one’s attention. So, while moving rocks he could become interested in the rocks, or the birdsong, or type of tree, but without making a project of it. The advice given was to enjoy and be present to what is going on, and find a rhythm in physical activity; a further suggestion was not to try to do so much as feeling tired prevents prayer. Nouwen noted in his diary: ‘I really must enter that “other side”, the quiet, rhythmic, solid side of life, the deep solid stream moving underneath the restless waves of my sea’.

After more than a month into his 7 months stay Nouwen began to feel able to write about the idea of a sacred rhythm, yet he also felt a deep paradox of both a strong desire to stay as a monastic where he would be living life only for the glory of God, but also to leave and live creatively in the world being open to others.

The spiritual direction meetings with the Abbot covered important subjects such as on one meeting when Nouwen asked: ‘When I pray to whom do I pray?’ ‘When I say “Lord”, what do I mean?’ This Bamberger said was the most important question we can raise; in that we can make it the most important question and the centre of our meditation, which sets us on a long road of discovery:

‘The question, Who is the Lord to whom I pray? leads directly to the question, Who am I who wants to pray to the Lord? And then you will soon wonder, why is the Lord of justice also the Lord of love; the God of fear also the God of gentle compassion? … Is there an answer? Yes and no … You will find out in your meditation. You might some day have a flash of understanding even while the question still remains and pulls you closer to God.’

Taking a Step Back

 

Henri Nouwen

We seem to get easily caught in strange paradoxes: complaining about being too busy, but feeling uneasy when there’s nothing much on and no demands are made. Feeling pressurised by emails, and yet desolate if there aren’t any. Fretting about being asked to do things, but if no one asks what then … tired of company, but what if there was none?

‘The more I became aware of these paradoxes, the more I started to see how much I had indeed fallen in love with my own compulsions and illusions … While realising my growing need to step back, I knew that I could never do it alone.’

This realisation by Henri Nouwen led him to talk with John Eudes Bamberger psychiatrist and theologian and then monk at the Trappist Abbey of Gethsemani, and to visit Bamberger regularly for spiritual direction. After Bamberger became Abbot at the Abbey of the Genesee in upstate New York, Nouwen went to live there for seven months as a temporary Trappist monk. This was in 1974, and Nouwen kept a diary of his experiences.

The paradox of wanting solitude, but also needing others is one that Thomas Merton also knew about. A gregarious personality plus loving his connection with people through mail and books, as well as enjoying people visiting him in the hermitage, led to a constant tension. In the last year of his life, Merton was searching for a place to really be alone with God and held the tension of this with its opposite, which was compassion for those whom he met or heard about.

For Henri Nouwen, a paradox that quickly emerged as he began this step back by taking his extended retreat at the Abbey of Genesee was the desire to live in the presence of God. This was running alongside all the ideas in Nouwen’s head about what else he wanted to do: ideas to write about, books to read, skills to learn, what he wanted to say to others. He calls these wishes ‘ego-climbing’ as distinct from ‘selfless climbing’.

This distinction he got from Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert Pirsig who describes that whilst ego-climbing and selfless climbing may look the same, there is a clear difference:

‘The ego-climber is like an instrument that’s out of adjustment. He puts his foot down an instant too soon or too late … he’s here but he’s not here. He rejects the here, is unhappy with it, wants to be further up the trail but when he gets there will be just as unhappy because then the it will be ‘here’. What he is looking for, what he wants is all around him, but he doesn’t want that because it is all around him. Every step’s an effort both physically and spiritually because he imagines his goal to be external and distant.’

For Nouwen came the realisation that he did not SEE that God was all around as he was too busy trying to look ahead, overlooking the God who is so close to each one of us. And perhaps being stuck with this tension was the way to really understand it.

 

Experiencing religion as a child 5 – John Cornwell

The river at Aylesford Priory

Following a shocking sexual assault at the age of 10 from a stranger, John Cornwell, author of Seminary Boy, describes how the church teaching on ‘the Evil One’ as he who ‘wanders through the world for the ruin of souls’ began to give him a language to help him find some way to make sense of the abusive experience. The words filled Cornwell with dread, especially at night, but by serving at Mass and becoming an altar boy, he found that the rituals and rhythm of the service gave him an unexpected sense of satisfaction and helped him.

‘The murmured words of the Latin echoing to the church rafters, the bell chimes, the devout movements by candlelight in the cool of dawn filled me with wonder. Lighting candles before the statue of the Virgin, reverently making the sign of the Cross with Holy Water on entering and leaving church, carrying rosary beads on my persona at all times, genuflecting with reverence, crossing my forehead, lips and heart in the correct manner at the Gospel, calmed and soothed me.’

Here is the sense of ‘other’ and mystery that children can respond to – nothing about morals or behaviour, but something altogether different. As he became increasingly attached to the church, Cornwell as an adult, could see that looking back there was an element of narcissism and self-importance in his adoption of his position as ‘an angelic child surrounded with sacred light; a glowing little saint’. This he felt gave him what he calls ‘holy power’ over the rest of his family as he basked in his mother’s approval. It also consciously or unconsciously gave him a sense of being protected against dark forces.

When a group of sixty boys from ‘poor’ families were taken from the East End for a summer camp near Aylesford priory in Kent, Cornwell’s attachment deepened further:

‘I watched the brown-and-white-robed friars singing in their renovated church, and walking prayerfully among the cloisters. I was enraptured by the view of weeping willows through clear Gothic windows, the dawn chorus, the tolling of bells marking out the monastic day, river waters lapping below ragstone walls, the smell of baking bread in the kitchens. Aylesford was a haven from the degrading everyday realities of parental discord, the school at Ilford, and dangerous men who lurk near toilets in South Kensington.’

The monks singing resonated deeply for Cornwell, and he felt what he calls ‘an inclining’ of his heart and soul ‘like the opening of a flower in warm sunlight.’ The whole experience of nature deepened his sense of transformation after the suburbs of London, with the scent of the river plus the incense, and the swooping of the house martins filling him with happiness.

After leaving the seminary where he went from the age of 13, and with all the mixed experiences and events that happened there, Cornwell had many years absence from the church. He eventually returned, seeing that what he had escaped was not God at all, as he had originally thought, but rather the false representations of God. Religion had saved him as a boy from serious difficulties, but as we all do, he needed to find an authentic faith later in adulthood.

Experiencing Religion as a child – Thomas Merton

 

Oakham school memorial chapel interior in 1927

In his autobiography The Seven Storey Mountain, Thomas Merton wonders why his parents, given their scrupulousness about keeping their sons’ minds uncontaminated by ugliness and sham hadn’t bothered to give any formal religious training. Merton remembers one day wanting to go to church. He could hear church bells and the sounds of the birds singing.

‘I cried out to my father:

“Father, all the birds are in their church.” And then I said: “Why don’t we go to church?” My father looked up and said: “We will.” “Now?” said I. “No, it is too late. But we will go some other Sunday.”’

Merton’s mother went to Quaker meeting and on one occasion, after she had gone to hospital, Merton went to the Quaker meeting house with his father. His father explained that people sat in silence until the spirit moved someone to speak. He also explained that the founder of the Boy Scout movement in the US – called Dan Beard would be there.

‘I sat among the Quakers with three more or less equal preoccupations running through my mind. Where was Dan Beard? Would he not only be called Beard, but have one on his chin? And what was the Holy Spirit going to move all these people to do or say.’

Staying with his grandparents whilst his mother was so ill, Merton did finally get to church: ‘One came out of church with a kind of comfortable and satisfied feeling that something had been done that needed to be done, and that was all that I knew about it.’

The description that I like best about Merton’s experiences of religion as a child is when he is at Oakham School in England, where there was daily chapel and one hour a week of religious instruction, “Buggy” Jerwood is the school chaplain: ‘… his religious teaching consisted mostly in more or less vague ethical remarks, an obscure mixture of ideals of English gentlemanliness and his favourite notions of personal hygiene.’ His very appearance encapsulated standing for ‘fair- play and good sportsmanship’. Merton describes Buggy Jerwood’s greatest sermon on Corinthians chapter 13 as typical of him and his whole church.

‘” Buggy’s” interpretation of the word “charity” … was that it stood for “all that we mean when we call a chap a ‘gentleman’”. In other words, charity meant good-sportsmanship, cricket, the decent thing, wearing the right kind of clothes, using the proper spoon, not being a cad or a bounder.

And so, Buggy Jerwood substituted the word gentleman for charity whenever it occurs …’

Merton describes how all the boys listened tolerantly to this, but adds that St Paul and the apostles would have been surprised that Christ had gone through the entire torture and torment of the Passion just so that all the boys at Oakham might become gentlemen.

Experiences of religion in childhood 3

 

Inside a Catholic church – ‘the distant altar’

The descriptions by the psychoanalyst Wilfred Bion in the last two posts raise questions about what does religion mean, and how is it understood when we are under five, aged seven, and even adolescent. What does religion do to our sense of ourselves and our attitudes to others – so are we more loving and inclusive or more judgemental and exclusive? Does it increase our guilt and sense of wrong doing or does it make us rigid, or the opposite are we more creative? This is of course so different from spiritual or mystical experiences of wonder and awe that many children experience outside of any religious frame.

Despite all that Bion experienced in terms of critical religion and injunctions about deception, shameful bodies, and being a very good boy, as an adult he became someone able to think outside convention. In his later years he wrote about an almost mystical philosophy on what can sometimes happen in the consulting room when transformations occur between and within two people – a state he called ‘O’. In 1965 he writes:

“O is not good or evil, it cannot be known, loved or hated. It can be represented by terms such as ultimate reality or truth. The most, and the least that the individual person can do is to be it”.

Monica Furlong, a British writer, with a great interest in spirituality and religion compiled a book of what it used to be like to grow up Christian. The world she describes – mostly from people growing up before the 1970s – is no longer present in 2024. Some was good: ‘the strength and beauty, the depth, and influence’, some bad: ‘stuffy and constricting propriety’. Most was incomprehensible to a child. Old conflicts between different Christian groups were rife, with each one convinced their beliefs were right and the others wrong, and there was inbuilt antisemitism. The Muslim religion, Hinduism and Buddhism were barely recognised. Most schools held religious assemblies with daily bible readings, hymns and prayers. Furlong herself remembers how the whole thing felt like a bland façade that deadened any enthusiasm she might have for religions as it seemed so fatally linked with ‘being proper’. It wasn’t until later, as an adult, that she had another look at religion, and stayed on to look more.

One of the contributors in her book is the priest Angela Tilby whose earliest memory is of going into a Catholic church with her mother and brother – they never went back because one of the priests rebuked Angela’s mother. The priest had spotted that Angela’s brother, was wearing school uniform that wasn’t from a Catholic school. However, the visit had a lasting effect on the small girl:

‘My impression of the catholic Church remained vague, huge and mysterious throughout my childhood. The green dome and the singing sensation of space, the dark clusters of sacred images and the distant altar made an ineradicable impression on me. This was nothing to do with religion or morality. I had no formed language in which to understand or respond. It had nothing to do with Jesus or with the stories from the Bible. It was … pure awe …’

In her later childhood Tilby experimented with a range of Anglican churches, a Congregational church, the possibility of atheism when she felt ‘embarrassed by all forms of worship’, and, then, as a teenager making a decision against her family experience and the ethos of the school she went to, to become an evangelist and ‘a baptized Christian’ – the decision ‘to become what I was’- an adolescent assertion of freedom. Searching for true religion lasts a lifetime.

Making sense of religion as a child

Wilfred Bion, brought up as a child in a religious household at the beginning of the twentieth century, shows how very little of the religion he took in made any sense. ‘Our Father’ he heard as ‘Arf, Arfer’ but knowing that whatever ‘Arf Arfer’ was – it was not to be trifled with.

‘Sometimes in my dreams I thought I heard Arf Arfer arfing. It was a terribly frightening noise … Arf Arfer was related, though distantly to Jesus who was also mixed up with our evening hymns. “Geesus loves me this I know, For the Bible tells me so” … I felt Gee-sus had the right idea, but I had no faith in his power to deal with Arf Arfer. Nor did I feel sure of God whose attribute seemed to be that he gave his ‘only forgotten’ son to redeem our sins. By this time, I had become wary of probing too deeply … secretly I felt the green hill city and Geesus were ill-treated.’

Every night the small boy said his prayers in front of his father: ‘Pity my Simply City”.  Once Bion asked his mother what had happened to his Simply City but she didn’t know what he was talking about. The parents, part of the colonial white imperialists in India, were worried that the children might ‘get ideas’ if they had any contact with ‘pagan superstition’ and anything to do with eastern spiritual practices; they were parents of what he describes as an uncompromising mould.

After a tiger was cruelly shot on a Big Game Shoot the tigress came to the camp for three nights to claim her murdered mate, Bion remembers that: ‘That night Arf Arfer came in terror like the King of Kings’. He later asked his mother whether the tigress was loved by Jesus … and how would the tiger get to where ‘Saints in Glory stand, bright as day’ …and what was the tiger who had been shot doing now, was he chasing the lamb? His mother – scarcely listening cannot answer. ‘Following this it was agreed that it was time to go to school ‘to knock this nonsense out of my head – I hadn’t a mind then only a “head”.’

Bion’s account of school is pretty grim and religion comes out of it very badly. Bion was left believing:

‘I knew I was a horrible child and God would never make me a good boy however hard I prayed. I don’t think he ever listened. I really don’t … Church was all right … a respite from tormentors … When Church was over … the trouble started. For half an hour we did “Search the Scriptures”. These were booklets in which texts from a book in the Bible were printed with blank spaces; we were to fill in the chapter and the verse where they were to be found. I could not find them; other boys could. God was worse than useless. I used to pray. One day, in a sermon, the mystery was solved. “Sometimes we think”, said the preacher, “that God has not answered our prayers but he has”. I pricked up my ears at this. “It means”, he went on, “that the answer is ‘No’”. I unpricked my ears.’

The only relief for Bion were some of the hymns and hymn singing practice. A favourite: ‘Art thou weary, art thou languid?’ with a lovely sad tune brought much comfort. ‘I found out that five or six little boys liked it and were just as weary and languid and sore distressed as I was.’

Experiencing religion as a child

Wilfred Bion aged about 6 and his sister 

How we experience religion as children, or not, plays an influential part in our later spiritual development as adults. I know myself that the Congregational minister leaning over the edge of the pulpit and yelling, (probably speaking loudly), about not provoking the wrath of God had a long-term effect on me. This was compounded by having been told that the sound of thunder was God walking up and down in heaven very cross – with me. It’s easy to see how the idea of the punishing God became firmly embedded. But, then there was Jesus who wasn’t cross, but instead meek and mild, and to whom I prayed every night to make me a good girl and to bless everyone I knew, even those I didn’t like. What to make of it all?

It’s easy to see why it’s a relief to let go of that sort of messaging as soon as possible. But it does mean that to develop an authentic religious faith and a meaningful spiritual life most of the old early messages have to be confronted and reworked – seen for what they are, and why they were so powerfully taken in. Then new experiences can be integrated, and so faith and spirituality as an adult start to look a bit different.

In the next few posts, I am going to look at different people’s experiences of their childhood religion and spirituality. The influential psychoanalyst Wilfred Bion, who died in 1979, shared his deep, almost mystical insights into the human condition and what can happen between people in intensive psychotherapy. In his autobiography, he describes some of his early religious (mis)understandings. Brought up in India in the days of the British Raj, he was largely looked after as a small child by an ayah (an Indian nanny), before being sent back to England to boarding school at the age of 8.

Bion begins his autobiography with the family crest: Nisi dominus frustra – without God there is no purpose. Underneath he quotes from Psalm 127 verse 1: ‘Except the Lord build the house, they labour in vain that build it; except the Lord keep the city, the watchman waketh but in vain.’ He remembers singing in the evening with his mother and sister the hymn ‘there is a green hill far away, without a city wall’. He writes:

‘– so green compared with the parched burning India of the daylight that had just finished – and its tiny jewelled city wall. Poor little green hill; why hadn’t it got a city wall? It took me a long time to realize that the wretched poet meant it had no city wall, and longer still to realize he meant – incredible though it seemed – that it was outside the city wall.’

His parents kept absolute religious principles that included tolerating no deception, and as a child Bion was often reproached for telling lies. In one incident, he describes fighting with his sister, and replying with a lie that he was doing ‘nothing’ – though it was quite clear that he had boxed her ears as she was ‘bawling’ and blaming her brother.

‘“These children’ said my mother … you’re both as bad as each other!” Up to that point I had fancied that her screams were abating. “Renew a right spirit within me”, but if that was my unspoken prayer it had been wrongly addressed. Her screams were renewed. We were separated.’

Unable to remember why he had decided to punish his sister for earlier wrong doing, which was actually the girl repeating the word ‘lavatory’ in a ‘rude’ way, and, in Bion’s view as the elder brother, not getting sufficiently told off, Bion was given ‘a good beating’ by his father, who was angry with the boy, turning his eyes fiercely on him.

‘From that day on I hated them both “with all my heart and all my soul for ever and ever. Amen.” A few minutes? Seconds? Years? Later I had forgotten all about it; so had they. But as no doubt they suspected I had learned my lesson and so had my sister. So had my parents for they too seemed uneasy, especially when I shrank from them and kept as far away from my sister as possible. “Why don’t you two play together?” my mother would ask in a puzzled way.’

Crying as a spiritual experience – the grace of tears 2

St Peter weeping by Jusepe de Ribera early 17th century

Crying sometimes feels like letting go of self-control – it can be awkward in public – that’s why it’s easier to cry on one’s own. As a spiritual practice it is directly linked to giving up this fantasy of self-control, for although we might think that we are in control that is illusory, yet giving up the idea of being control is real, and so we weep.

Isaac of Ninevah, also known as Isaac the Syrian, wrote about the three causes of tears as: love of God; awestruck wonders at God’s mysteries, and humility of heart. He saw these ‘holy tears’ as progressing from one stage to another and acting as a sign of our transformation. The tears show that we are being born into sacred time which Maggie Ross describes as, ‘not only the interpenetration of time and eternity, but even a reversal of time as we know it’. I think this means we are somehow being moved into a different level of consciousness, something definitely outside of self-control.

There’s quite a bit of crying in the bible: in the Old Testament tears of repentance, tears of lamentation, tears of sorrow. The prophets weep: Isaiah “drenching” with tears those for whom he prays, Jeremiah who was known as the weeping prophet comparing his eyes to a fountain. Yahweh weeps over His errant people. Israel weeps in repentance, and then God cannot resist. In the New Testament, Christ weeps, touched by the sorrow of Martha and Mary at the death of Lazarus. Jesus’ feet are washed with tears of repentance and love. Peter weeps bitterly after denying his Lord three times and meeting Jesus’ sorrowful gaze. Paul tells the Ephesians he has been crying continuously for three years over their behaviour.

Many saints also describe their crying: Catherine of Siena whilst in ecstasy wrote what Christ told her about tears, and Ignatius was advised that his copious tears could harm his eyesight. Ephrem was said to weep continuously, and Thomas Aquinas insisted tears relieved pain. “Tears are the heart’s blood,” said St. Augustine, referring to the tears of his mother Monica, tears which purchased his conversion. St. Augustine, in his Confessions wrote:

“When deep reflection had dredged out of the secret recesses of my soul all my misery and heaped it up in full view of my heart, there arose a mighty storm, bringing with it a mighty downpour of tears”.

More recently Padre Pio says that tears are “the work of God in you”, and as a novice, took to placing a large handkerchief on the floor in front of him: his constant tears were leaving traces on the stone floor of the choir where he prayed. Pope Francis says the gift of tears “prepare the eyes to look, to see the Lord.” “It is a beautiful grace,” he says, “to weep praying for everything: for what is good, for our sins, for graces, for joy itself… it prepares us to see Jesus.” St. John Vianney could not speak of sinners and sins without weeping and when asked, “Fr. Vianney, why do you cry so much?” The answer was given, “Because you don’t cry enough.”

This links to therapy where crying by the person being seen is common – a safe place to express sadness and hurt, but a study shows that a significant proportion of trainee therapists also reported crying in support of the therapeutic process. However, as experience develops the therapist is usually able to feel the suppressed emotion, but in a way that it can be held and then later conveyed to the client when they are ready to open themselves to the feeling themselves.

The grace of tears, crying as a spiritual experience

Isaac of Ninevah, also known as Isaac the Syrian

‘Blessed, therefore, are the pure in heart who at all times enjoy this delight of tears and through it see our Lord continually.’ Isaac of Ninevah

Sometimes, in times of stillness, tears do come – whether for oneself, or for someone else, or what Isaac of Ninevah calls the delight or grace of tears – when we don’t really know why we are crying. Certainly in Isaac of Ninevah’s time, the 4th century, tears were seen as part of a spiritual practice, and were even considered essential. They were seen as representing our inner fragmentation, and then our reintegration accomplished by our tears. In this way the spontaneous crying that can happen when we are in deep silence and stillness is a sign of our soul calling for a greater relationship with the divine. This is then a grace, but usually in our contemporary culture most crying is seen as an embarrassment and a sign of weakness.

In therapeutic work our weeping can be a huge release – people who have been unable to cry about what has happened to them can, in the safety of the relationship with the therapist, allow themselves to soften and be in touch with a deep sadness and grief from way back.

The solitary and theologian Maggie Ross sees that tears signify losing or letting go of one’s life, or what she calls our pseudo-life in order to gain true life, where tears are at the heart of receiving God’s love. Our tears are at the border of our bodily and spiritual state.

‘Those tears which pour forth as a result of some insight provide the body with a kind of unction; they flow spontaneously and there is no compulsion in them. They also anoint the body and the appearance of the face is changed. For a joyful heart renders the body beautiful’.

Holy tears are not quite the same as tears in therapy, where the tears are prompted by a conscious feeling or memory and tend to stop after a while when the person feels better for crying. Maggie Ross says that holy tears are potentially unending, because our relationship with God is never ending. As we move closer to God the process of being changed is continuous:

‘More and more sense of counterfeit power and control is lost, and holy tears are evidence of catharsis. These tears are the sign both of the Holy Spirit at work in a willing person and of the willingness itself. They signify … exchange of love between God and the person. They have nothing to do with melancholy or masochism.’

And, what if we don’t weep? Apparently, this might be a genetic disposition or cultural conditioning … or … is it that we are reluctant to be transfigured. Isaac of Ninevah, perhaps harshly, says he will not believe that someone has repented and changed unless they weep, but the monastic John Climacus says that he prizes the single tear of someone who finds it nearly impossible to weep. So the tears are a sign of our transfiguration, evidence of glimpsing deepest reality, and whilst the first stage of tears is about an inward focus as we change then compassion grows.

‘This compassion grows because of the revelation of one’s own wounds. These in turn are recognised to be the wounds of all humanity, and of all creation.’

 

Darkness and light in therapy 2

 

Two of the tapestries – the top one called The Dancer and the lower The Bridge

One of the ways in which Marika Henriques began to be able to balance the light and the darkness that arose in the therapy was through embroidery. She had initially drawn and painted, and she had written too, but she writes that she wanted to repair by working through the fragments of her experience stitching things together to make into one.

‘Change can sometimes be sudden and swift or it can be imperceptibly slow. Like my tapestries where each final image appeared (I counted once) through twenty-four thousand small stitches, similarly my becoming more myself came about with small, hardly discernible movements. In my case, change took time. Two decades.’

All was done through image, and this confirmed for her that healing happened through the imagination. The whole experience of creativity – drawing, writing, stitching became healing and transformative, so that Marika Henriques could say: ‘The effects of hiding no longer ruled my life. … When I finished stitching, I felt that I had fulfilled a scared responsibility’.

However, five years after completing the tapestries and believing that she had completed her personal healing journey Marika Henriques began to have Holocaust dreams again. The dreams became part of a sequence – they were instructive dreams with a clear thread running through them; often there were themes forgetting and remembering and losing and finding. In one there was a stark message:

‘I have to return home from abroad, I am in great danger. A rescue operation is organised by two Jewish people. In the dream a voice was saying “this is a wake-up call, it is the Holocaust”’

The next dream gave a clear instruction:

‘Two men turned away from me, saying “We won’t talk to you, because you don’t have a soul.’

The dreams instructed a spiritual path and for Marika Henriques to come out of hiding and rejoin the Jewish community – this would be the final part of the healing for her to ‘become a complete person’.

In the final dream she is returned to a place where she is not hidden ‘a Jewish place’ where she joins in a dance with others who have all survived the terrible times.

‘I am in an open place. There is a lake. There are many, mainly elderly people there. Most of them went through terrible times in 1944, but they had all survived. It is a Jewish place. I am standing somewhat apart from them. A tall, old, good-looking man asks me for a dance. Somewhat reluctantly I accept. I am surprised how pleasant it was, how well we danced together.’