A Journey to Poland

I have always known that I would one day visit Auschwitz, and that if I visited too soon the experience would destroy me. I have been haunted by ghetto dreams since childhood. I have played the role of ruthless defender many times, battling against impossible odds, and also that of helpless fugitive, too terrified to breathe. This terror held me in its grip for years until I remembered the life of Petra, a Czech girl who died at Auschwitz in 1942, having spent her infancy in hiding, forbidden to speak. For these reasons I have been vigilant since November 2004, when I first presented my ‘Winds of Heaven’ workshop. This deals with inspiration and includes a section devoted to the Vision Quest. Unexpectedly, while holding space for participants, I had a profound vision myself which indicated that I should go to Auschwitz within a year. This was to be a healing journey on which I would be accompanied by my friend and colleague, Tom Grace. I asked Tom to check his guidance and he confirmed that he too would be going. In the event, we went on November 1st 2005, All Saints’ Day. Neither this nor the fact that we travelled with German partners was accidental. My account here is restricted to personal impressions.

Why should an Irishman want to visit such a place, or write about it? I am aware that survivors and their advocates typically urge that people who weren’t directly involved have no right to offer commentary, much less forgiveness. Despite this, I feel impulsed to write now even as I felt impulsed to visit before, in peril of my soul’s devastation. Part of me feared the journey, despite many intimations of synchronicity and Grace. What if all those fine words about Spirit, Love and Light were to wilt in face of the Abyss, sucked into a black hole of humanity’s deepest forgetting? Notwithstanding such apprehension, my highest awareness knew that spiritually everything was in place. I was also conscious of Jung’s observation that Shadow holds our disavowed Gold as well as our rejected pain. Both are always seeking to come Home. Remembering countless Petras, I resolved to give myself fully to the occasion, whatever that might mean.

November 2nd was unexpectedly sunny and bright. Crowds flocked to village cemeteries on the road from Krakow, honouring ancestors on their special day. I found myself acutely sensitive to every sign of civilisation in what I had wrongly thought would be a forbidding landscape. Perhaps the camp itself mightn’t be so grim? What could this possibly mean in regard to a place where over a million people had been deliberately killed? I didn’t know.

Auschwitz I has the outer façade of a State Museum. Apart from sobering notices in the car park – Who would have thought Auschwitz could have a car park? – the approach buildings might be taken for a gallery. Inside the foyer, large notices in many languages commemorate the victims of Nazi genocide, always under the implicit rubric ‘Lest we forget. Lest this should happen again.’ A documentary film compiled from contemporary footage detailed a catalogue of unimaginable atrocities, identifying the perpetrators repeatedly and specifically as Nazis. The many teenagers present knew they were being exhorted not to grow into bad types such as the Nazis had been, long before their time of Benetton and Coke. The impact on a group of Israeli military cadets was more particular.

The camp itself was smaller – more ‘concentrated’ – than I could have imagined. Apart from the deathshead insignia it looked almost cosy and familiar. I gathered myself to pass beneath its infamous gate, leaving my preoccupations aside to serve as an instrument of Grace. I still didn’t know what this might involve.

The energy of the camp was strangely serene, almost beautiful, despite a macabre battery of signs indicating various sites of punishment and execution. This overlay of terror was everywhere apparent. Nonetheless, I felt a distinctly spiritual energy as I walked through the barracks and around the edge, holding my Heart open to all impressions, breathing in and out the Breath of God, admitting floods of recollection as I passed. The human spirit – Spirit – had been ‘concentrated’ here: divided into segments to be confined, contracted, crushed. Why? Sometimes humans must do terrible things in order to remember how much we love one another. Spirit is not exclusive. We are all of One Heart. We remember this when moved. Forgetting, we need to be moved, so that hardened hearts may open beyond frontiers of exclusivity and unity consciousness be restored. Auschwitz is a place where many people have been deeply moved. For every murder committed, a thousand candles have been lit and flowers left. This pattern has been enacted with reverence over sixty years. It is particularly evident on this All Souls’ Day at the execution wall. Moved – really moved – to pray, human beings transform reality. This is why Auschwitz has become a sacred place, beyond the agony and despair of those who offered themselves as part of a great sacrifice to return a supposedly rational, functional world to the awareness of Love; to make it holy (sacer facere) again.

These were not intellectual realisations. My Heart was broken open with every step and absorbed ever deeper impressions the more it opened. In the depths of my soul I was crying. The Sorrow of the World was in full flow and I a hapless instrument of Grace. I moved through various exhibitions, noting horror upon horror, hearing different guides recount hideous things Nazis had done. All spoke in controlled tones of tacit dissociation. My soul was crying out ‘But there is more! Spirit is not exclusive. This is not a place for judgment. To judge is to reinforce the split we come here to heal.’ I walked past rows of photographs, images of victims drawn from many countries, calling every one into my Heart. I saw an outline map with Auschwitz at its centre. Energy lines poured into it from every direction, marking the routes followed by death trains from transit camps all over Europe. I stood before this map a long time, transfixed, as if contemplating a mandala.

I found the Romany exhibition especially moving. I studied it reverently, absorbing every image, inviting each of these beloveds into my Heart. Then I found myself privy to another world: well-fed Himmler, polished Heydrich and other leading Nazis sit, plotting their ‘Final Solution’. I hesitated. My Heart froze. Could I invite these perpetrators in for healing also? Spirit is not exclusive. To judge a part is to cripple the whole. These judges were in grave need of healing. No flowers have been left for them. I opened and a dam of sorrow burst deeper still inside me. Then I was drawn, unwittingly but as if by irresistible momentum, to the gas chamber. An impromptu shrine of wreathes and candles honoured the sacrifice of those who had released their spirits in order that we might remember ours, exactly, here. I recognised the spot where Petra died, led there by an old man who saw she was afraid and alone. I stood in that corner, back against the wall, breathing in and out the Breath of God, moved beyond tears by the beauty of what human Spirit can endure and transmute. For me, the power of Grace was tangible here.

Now outside the camp perimeter, I approached the entrance again to meet with Tom. Pausing at the gate, I felt a surge of energy pouring down from above. It passed through my body into Earth. I recognised this energy as Sophia (Holy Spirit). Tom was a hundred meters away, similarly engaged. We stood facing each other for about twenty minutes, anchoring what Tom later called a Pyramid of Light into Auschwitz I.

Later we went to Auschwitz II, or Birkenau, a much larger camp designed specifically as an extermination centre. The culminating manifestation of humanity’s deranged Nazi dream, Birkenau was built by slave labour on an open plain. Only chillingly deliberate placements of barbed wire separate its interior from beautiful sunsets and memories of Nature as abundant. It is absolutely soulless, a totally functional space conceived with murderous intent. And yet it is heavy with Spirit, subdued perhaps, not yet expressive, but pregnant with gifts of the utmost sanctity and devotion, the opposite of what its creators had envisaged. For me there could be no mistaking this. Here was a place designed to crush Spirit. Over a million people died here between 1942 and 45, mostly within hours of arrival. What could possibly have motivated and sustained this enormity?

A chill enters the air as the sun begins receding in pale beauty. I am struck by a sense of spaciousness and how difficult it must have been for people so ‘concentrated’ even to notice this. I experience a searing, momentary realisation of brutal cruelties inflicted here, of back-breaking labours and savage punishments assigned with manic zeal, constricting awareness so that everything human might fall away from victims as well as perpetrators. This had a perverse effect of equalisation, given Nazi attitudes towards Jews as ‘chosen people’, aloof in their arcane mysteries while also showing signs of excellence in other, more worldly pursuits. Here, in a manufactured scramble for survival, rabbis, professors and first violins could be shown to have no more dignity than their tormentors or, failing that, extinguished. Here proof might be brought forth that the ‘chosen people’ were no better than their captors, themselves fragile aspirants to racial supremacy. The whole scenario was born of a vast inferiority complex!  Power over had been taken as a sign of superiority by human beings who chose without awareness to project rather than clarify their shadow content. Never having admitted wounds which kept their Hearts closed and Spirits imprisoned, they needed to create a world which reflected this inner condition, in which Spirit was imprisoned and evidence of other possibilities destroyed. Auschwitz I and II was such a world. Our calling now is not to judge its architects nor dissociate ourselves from them but to learn what they have taught and then open our Hearts beyond what they were able to achieve.

This awareness was not born of clever thinking. My whole time in the camp was spent in focused meditation, admitting all impressions that arose into my Heart, allowing them to receive whatever healing was available there before releasing them to go wherever they must, perhaps back into my Heart for further healing. This is a practice I have refined over years, a particular form of breathing in and out the Breath of God. It is now almost a reflex for me to activate Source consciousness when faced with impressions of disorder. The impressions noted above came all at once, as if they had erupted from the Body of the Goddess; from an Earth which had been stricken and in recoil but was seeking now to shake herself free of mortification. They burst upon awareness whole, forcefully and beyond equivocation. I felt as if my Heart and mind had been blown open; also as if Earth and I could breathe more easily as a result.

A railway line runs from the main gate to the ruins of gas chambers and crematoria at the rear of the camp. We walked its length in reverse, back towards the gate. As we did, I felt like we were walking the Middle Pillar of the Kabbalistic Tree of Life. (Kabbalah is a mystical tradition within Judaism. The Tree of Life is an esoteric map which God is said to have given Adam following expulsion from Eden in order that humanity might find its way back Home.) The Heart Centre on this line coincides with the spot where Nazi doctors selected which of the new arrivals were fit for work and which must die. Many hearts were broken in this place, torn from loved ones under conditions of high anxiety and mistrust. We walked a little of the path the ‘unfit’ followed to their deaths. The way is marked by the most poignant photograph I have ever seen, taken by the SS. An old woman accompanied by four children shuffles towards Eternity. I cannot say which of them embodies or elicits the most love. The making of this image surely represents a turning point in humanity’s fall from innocence? I thought this more in yearning than belief. Then I felt many souls who had walked this way stream through my Heart and into Light. I gave myself to this process for as long as it took. A couple passed from the opposite direction, eyes lowered to avoid my greeting. I noticed a similar tendency in all who let themselves be engaged by the complex, harrowing energies of this place. 

Despite the compassion it evokes, Auschwitz is presented as a monument to shame, a warning of depths to which humanity can sink if… If what? If Nazis were ever to regain power? This attribution is too specific. There is nothing one wo/man can accomplish that any other, in principle, is incapable of. It’s a question of how deeply we realise our Love. Spirit is not exclusive. We are of One Heart. Because we know this ‘unconsciously’, we feel deeply shamed by any failure to live accordingly. Yet we can’t achieve this as long as subconscious wounds prevent us from relinquishing ego control and taking the risks involved in opening our hearts. Instead, like traumatised children, we are afraid to let go of old memories for fear that reduced vigilance will permit a repetition of patterns that induced our ancient hurt. Auschwitz reminds us of our shame as well as our compassion; our fears as well as our grief. And so we mistrust ourselves, not knowing what might happen if we were ever to slip our leash again, not realising that it is the unhealed condition of our wounds that impels us to destroy. This is true of all human beings. Fearing the image of humanity Auschwitz presents, we cling tightly to it. This keeps us trapped at the level of Nazi survival consciousness where the only fulfilment available, in the end, is to be the one/group with most control so that it can never happen (to me/us) again. We repress our spontaneity and longing in favour of a soulless, functional world characterised by isolation, uniformity and suspicion.

I left the camp unsure of what had been accomplished, or even set in motion. Then, later, I had some dreams: 

My Heart, pink and swollen with love, opens softly. A large stone is pushed out. There is no struggle. It is something dead, the relic of a past now fully lived. In its place a new seed has been planted, born of the old, delicate and fine, pregnant with the promise of new times. My pink Heart closes easily around it, incubating, hopeful and warm.


I am on the edge of Birkenau, alone. All barbed wire has been removed and it is winter. I stand before a vast expanse of snow. My gaze is drawn to a clearing between two groups of trees. My soul urges me to move towards this but part of me stays rooted, fearful of being shot if I dare to move outside camp boundaries. I know I must step out and do so tentatively, feeling very exposed against the snow. I make my way slowly, still waiting to be shot. Step after step I continue and still there is no shooting. My pace quickens. I feel a huge weight lifting from me as I walk, as if my soul were being unburdened. Then, just as I reach the clearing, a cattle truck appears before me, one of those used to transport Jews. I know I must go in. As I enter it transforms into the Ark, burning in pure white fire. Letters of the sacred alphabet rise up on the flames and with them my Spirit is set free.


God and Goddess are making love, creating worlds over and over. A mighty wave comes crashing. Their orgasm rips through the Cosmos, birthing stars. A corridor of golden light is opened in my Heart. It runs straight to the Heart of the Goddess, my Beloved, at Auschwitz II. All Souls who ever walked the Paths of the Holy Tree there stream into my Heart and through it into the Sacred Heart of Birkenau, the Heartpoint (Tiphareth) on its Kabbalistic Tree of Life, where hearts were torn apart for those lost years. I am amazed to see such brightly clarified souls, SS among them, re-entering the consciousness of Earth, restored to awareness of the Mother’s Love. Earth grows brighter and more vibrant as they enter. Suddenly, the influx is complete. The Goddess erupts to send waves of shimmering light, pale gold, cascading out in all directions. When the energy of this first eruption fades, a Fountain of Light pours radiantly from the Heart of Auschwitz II, honouring the alchemy of all that human Spirit can endure and transmute, sending waves of Grace back over Europe.



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