Thursday, 17 November 2011

RAF Bempton

The Aghori see everything in world as created by Shiva and therefore as beautiful, whether it be flowers, shit, the living or dead human body or any other creation that exists. They live in on the outskirts of society beside the Ganges river in the charnel fields and partake in all that is forbidden in conventional Hindu culture. I became interested in their practices in relation to the spaces we consider taboo or frightening, such as derelict buildings, sites of murders or atrocity and ritual spaces. The female Aghori in this clip laughs when she tells the interviewer that some of the dead bodies which she consumes during cannibalistic rituals get up and attack her. To face the unheimlich with humor, to seek out the frightening and to understand why it was fearful to me became a motif in my personal activities for a time.

When we lose everything of worth to us then we start to realise the beauty in things we were formerly ignorant of, the world becomes born again and bears fruit of which we never could have imagined. To say we only have one life is a fallacy, we live many lives which run concurrent with each other, lives of imagined pasts, futures, dreams and after-lives.  James Hillman suggests in Dream and the Underworld  that 'the scene in a dream' is a metaphorical version of waking life and 'those players of yesterday have now deepened and entered my soul'. My name in Anglo-Saxon would be Twyla or twilight, perhaps I am destined in some way to seek the space between.

Seeking out the literal liminal spaces between the overworld and the underworld can be a tumultuous pastime. I recall the day we walked through the metaphorically loaded blast proof doors of RAF Bempton's cold war bunker, designed much more to keep something terrible in than to hold the nuclear war out so it seemed.

To enter the depths we were to brave asbestos particles which prompted us to wear flimsy paper suits and P3 filter masks to keep mesothelioma at bay. The closeness to death and destruction was hellishly portrayed around us in painted murals, horned demons fornicating with buxom women, hermaphroditic pornography from hell - supposedly painted by a satanic coven in the 1970s who, it is said, squatted the then moth-balled bunker before being evicted.

 The floor did not exist, we trod thin planks of wood over burnt and rotten cable ducts, the huge space where the generator lay was a gaping black hole.

We spent probably less than an hour underground, slowly moving from blackened room to room, the blackness made any details bar the graffiti hard to distinguish and the conditions seemed so treacherous that it was hard not to panic.

As we drove back from the coast homewards we stopped in York for some food. I got a phone call from my Ma telling me that my estranged father had collapsed at home with a ruptured aorta and had lain for many hours alone, unable to reach help until it arrived completely by chance. His chances of surviving the emergency surgery he was about to undergo were very slim, less than 10% at least. It threw our exploration of the imagined underworld into strange perspective, as if I had been acting out some kind of journey into Hades to retrieve him with no knowledge of his real life peril.

The shaft of daylight that had shone down from the disintegrated emergency exit had seemed most surreal of all, having stepped down through the decoy bungalow, down the stairs, down a long sloping tunnel, through an antechamber and past the huge armored doors, the many seals upon this chamber seemed to separate us from the world almost absolutely but then the furthest point into its depths threw on us a mocking beam of bright sunshine, illuminating the rusted skeletal remains of a staircase.

A few years after our visit, a young man vanished after apparently visiting the bunker. His disappearance and apparent death has been linked to an 'occult' (great unintentional pun!) by his parents, as if the paintings and history of the walls of the bunker could have come alive and claimed him. Whether or not the bunker was inhabited by satanists or witches seems debatable, I have seen no proof but the myth alone seems to hold enough power to make it truth in people's minds.

What do we seek from communication with the dead? What secrets do they hold for us? The lives and character of people we know does not cease from the last point we spoke to them, even in dreams they evolve and change, reacting and commenting on new situations in surprising and enlightening ways. To communicate past the point of passing shows that consciousness does not end at that point and our awareness of the afterlife can awaken from slumber, those who are no longer with us return again.

The things I came to fear most were the stifling negative attitudes to a lifestyle free from conventional taboos, often from those who fetishised the notion of abandoning them themselves. My own inelegant attempts to live my life in a more honest way were readily abused by individuals who wanted to gain power over me, since it seemed to them I must be weak-minded and mentally ill for wanting to invoke change at all. I was all too eager to accept counsel from an image of enlightenment with no practice to back it up. I am thankful for the circle of true friends I have that saved me from myself on so many an occasion, as well as mourning deeply for those that I lost, though they live on in so many ways.

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