I spent too much of the day twiddling my thumbs in hospital waiting rooms far from home, thanks to the economic logic that sends patients to distant towns, not just for the specialist units…which is understandable… but for routine appointments…which is not. As a reward for managing not to mutter imprecations under my breath all day, I decided to call at one of those places where the adventures of ‘Don’ and ‘Wen’ first began. Although we have a fair few pictures of Little Missenden, we have never managed to do the church or the village justice… and hospital or not, I had the camera.
Little Missenden is a tiny, Buckinghamshire village that you would miss if you blinked. It is, however, well known across the world by another name as its homes and streets have featured many times in Midsomer Murders. At its heart is a lovely old church and I pulled up outside only to leave two minutes later, thwarted by the restoration work that has closed its doors to visitors.
It is not as if I haven’t written about the place before. It has featured in our adventures several times since that first day and we have taken friends there too to show them the medieval wall paintings and the simple pilgrims crosses, carved into the wall. Even so, I was disappointed. It is a lovely place just to sit and be…and as we seem to be back on the trail again, it would have been good to go back to the start…
“Back in my room I cannot shake the church at Little Missenden from my head…
You may as well know now you are far more likely to see the spiritual than you are to read it. The spirit came first and we learned to see before we learned to read. It is nigh on impossible to alter the ramifications of all that and no one really wants to but it is easy to forget. You can look at something for years without seeing it. I suppose I had better check out the traditional account of St Christopher if only in order to fully understand how way off track I am.
The Golden Legend tells of a giant ogre… and fear… and more fear…and a hermit… and the inability to fast or pray…and of lifelong service to an ideal… I can see why the church authorities insisted on showing it to labourers… In Medieval times the workers on their way to the fields were expected to peer in through the door of the Church and genuflect before commencing their days work. The story is essentially a Christian re-working of David and Goliath, so maybe I was not so far off beam after all… David takes five smooth stones from a brook and with one stone from the five he slays the Giant. Five of anything in traditional stories usually refers to the senses. The senses here though are ‘smooth’, that is they are interior and any of the interior senses overcome the body for they operate without it. The inner vision needs not the bodily eyes. The inner voice is heard without the use of ears… etc. In point of fact in this particular case it is probably inner vision which does for Goliath for the stone caves in the third eye region of his skull before David decapitates him with the Giant’s own sword.
If neither of these ‘religious’ stories speak to your sensibilities, then try Jack and the Beanstalk; five magic beans cause the stalk to grow. The ‘magical’ inner senses again. So that growth up is really growth in. With the aid of the Giant’s wife who may or may not represent the Earth, Jack dupes the Giant three times to divest him of, three bags of gold, a hen that lays golden eggs, and a harp that plays itself… These are all ‘other-worldly’ treasures which secure guaranteed success in the material world. When the Giant comes down the stalk after Jack he ‘breaks his crown’… that is, he breaks the Calvaria region of his skull which is the one much beloved of many an oriental iconographer…
The key to understanding these tales is to ask yourself questions. If you are alone do not be afraid to address thin air. If you ask your self enough questions your soul eventually answers and before long you will no longer be talking to air you will be walking on it:
How big is the body?
Big and cumbersome as a Giant
How small is the spirit?
Small and playful as a Child”
Extract from The Initiate