Dunkeld Cathedral

Dunkeld Cathedral

An early ancestor, a man called Crínán, was Lay Abbot of Dunkeld, in Perthshire, Scotland at the beginning of the 11th Century. He knew King Macbeth[1], the anti-hero of Shakespeare’s great Scottish play and was probably killed in a battle with him in 1045. Crínán may well have been responsible for minting the silver coins that were Scotland’s currency at that time.

I have seen Crínán’s name commemorated on the walls of the ruins of Dunkeld Cathedral. I have walked beside the River Tay at Dunkeld on the same lawns that he walked a thousand years earlier. I have heard the cry of the osprey over the same Perthshire lochs as he would have done. I have seen the red squirrels gambolling in the trees by the water’s edge as he did. Yet the society in which he lived a thousand years ago and the society within which I live now are vastly alien to each other. Whilst we would recognise each other as men, the changes that have been wrought by humanity are so vast that nearly everything in our Western society would appear alien to him. Not just in terms of technology, but also in the way we approach the world intellectually and in nature.

What has brought about that change? The power of thought – the vision of men and women who saw in their minds the ideals that they wanted to achieve and went out and achieved them. Not everyone succeeded and there have been numerous setbacks on the way. But the computer on which I write this book would be so alien a concept to Crínán that no explanation would likely suffice and it is evidence of the progress that has been made. As the Science Fiction author Arthur C Clarke wrote: “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.”

However, there are only forty generations between Crínán and his wife and myself and my wife.

Imagine for a moment, forty men or women in a queue, the first dressed in fine woollen clerical robes and then each in turn, with a slight change in the fashion, until you see your own grandfather or grandmother and one of your parents standing in-front. It is a short queue, but that small queue of forty fathers and sons, or mothers and daughters, is all that separates my existence from Crínán and you from your ancestors a thousand years ago. There are only twenty people standing between you and Christopher Columbus. Experiments have shown that there are only six people separating you from everyone else in the world. Mathematically, if you go back less than 20 generations then everyone in the world is related. There are only 80 people standing in the queue that separates you and Julius Caesar, or Marc Anthony and Cleopatra, or even Jesus of Nazareth. Because of this closeness, the power and influence of just one individual can be enormous.

This is key to understand your own life, and key to understanding the power that you as an individual hold. If you can try and step outside the everyday world things that appear the main concern of the majority will diminish and it should be possible to start to view the world and your part in it in a different light. There are three parts to this process:

  • To recognize the importance of yourself as an individual expression of the cosmic dance and, through that, come to recognise your own potential to change things and to be aware of the very same potential in every other person on the planet.
  • To break with the fears of the past and the anxieties about the future, to live with the potential of every moment of every day in order to move yourself forward in understanding and achievement. This is a concept known as living in the now and by adopting this process you can discover a much more exciting and sensation rich world.
  • Learn to live in the flow of Ma’at, that is: live in the flow of balance, harmony and justice.

None of these processes are necessarily easy but they will allow you to begin stepping out of the hegemony of the society in which you live and to see the world in a different way and you are most likely, with the understanding this brings, to develop a different set of priorities in your life. They will enable you to critically look at your own actions and to measure them against their effect on others and on the world around you.


[1] Macbeth is now considered by many historians to be a very advanced and enlightened ruler for those times. Macbeth is not known to actually have murdered anyone, although he defeated King Duncan (a 24 year old hot-head) in battle, built the first Scottish Cathedral, visited the court of the Holy Roman Emperor and made a pilgrimage to Rome to meet the Pope. His name, translated into English, means “Son of Life”.