a meeting point between sun and earth

On the afternoon of Sunday 9th February, a group of us met to hold a celebration of the life of Stanley Messenger in Glastonbury, on the anniversary of what would have been his 97th birthday.

I first met Stanley in the late 1980s. He was in his 70s – inspiring, agile of mind and foot, passionate, informed, interesting, and chasing all things joining the material and spiritual, questioning, questing. I aim to start good friendships in my 70s. Having lost my own grandparents at a young age, he was a kind of grandfather to me, but a very different kind of older person than any one else I had met: fantastic abundant white hair, contemporary, unusual, an informed reader, passionate about philosophy and the paranormal.  He stayed up way past bedtime, wore a huge mohair rainbow jumper and made up extraordinarily explicit and funny limericks. Performance and theatre brought us together.  I loved hearing about his stories of working in ENSA as a result of him being a conscientious objector during the Second World War.

Why I bring him to this blog is his relationship to the environment and his utter devotion to the life process of butterflies – his connection and identification with the natural world has made a profound and lasting imprint on me.

In 1999, I made a radio programme about his interest about butterflies, and we went looking for a Duke of Burgundy. (Forgive the overzealous use of illustrative sound ….an aurally decorative phase of making ….)

Duke of Burgundy caterpillar

“In the link between butterflies and flowers we see the meeting point between the paranormal and the normal most vividly because that is where the living sun and the living earth meet. 

If you look at the radiating petals of a flower, they’re not radiating out from the plant, they’re radiating into it from the sun, and this is not recognised at all in biology. The same is true of the butterfly the other way round… The butterfly apparently is coming out of the animal kingdom in a very simple form – the chrysalis corresponds to the bud of a flower, it contracts down into a certain realm out of which the butterfly apparently comes. But if you really observe the process, you can actually see the form of the butterfly appears on the chrysalis not from inside out but from outside in – you can actually see the form of the wing on the surface of the chrysalis before it actually appears from inside the chrysalis.

You’ve got form actually in a process of total dissolution and chaos. It’s going back into a pre-cosmic state… before the spirits separated the waters above from the waters below! … it’s going back into primeval chaos. There’s nothing there but a sort of soup, a kind of black hole in cosmic terms. And the pressure is colossal.  The physical pressure bursts the chrysalis open – a loud crack. And a lid opens. 

The metamorphosis has analogies for the human of course ….. the Greeks called the butterfly psyche, the same word as for the soul.”

Duke of Burgundy Pupa

We often talked about being able to communicate still after death. Stanley said bright eyes and firm: “Just because I don’t respond doesn’t mean I’m not listening”.

And during an interview I did with him about life after death, “…..for heavens sake try and keep in touch with me if I die.”  But I haven’t had any communication, not a sniff of anything, no sense of him. Of course, I still speak and think with the notion that he might well be listening.  He also said during that interview:

Another way to put the whole thing, what do I think will happen to me after I die is that I will become a future being, I will become a Pleiadian…..

That may explain the sense of distance.

Duke of Burgundy Fritillary Butterfly, Hamearis lucina, pupae or chrysalis in moss, cocoon United Kingdom

Images are the Duke of Burgundy butterfly in all its forms, and this one is web-nicked from Robert Pickett – it’s such a clear photo of the wing-appearing process to which Stanley refers.

Duke of Burgundy Butterfly

About inquiline

Contemporary artist making live performance, sound, video and digital artworks, with people and places. Often nature is involved. Parks and other urban green spaces and networks are at the centre of my current research interests beside a long term general interest in the meeting points between the human and non-human.

2 comments

  1. Oh! I just listened to that exquisite “Between Sun & Earth” piece, and among its many evocations came this one — the sound of the butterfly’s wings flapping against some surface brought to mind the intense memory of watching with my three-year-old daughter (she is now 39) a Painted Lady emerge from its chrysalis, pump fluid into its wings, and flap them. . . Thank you!

  2. I was so curious to know if Stanley “spoke” with butterflies. From this post (and his “Butterflies and Paranormality” article, it sounds as if the Duke of Burgundy butterfly is speaking to him. . . Can you speak about this? Thanks! (you can email me at kevin@drdann.com)

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