Subsequently, I was employed by the college and designed and taught a course The Spiritual Significance of the Arts that became the basis of my book Prodigal Daughters.
Becoming an author was a culmination, the re-emergence of youthful talents and a new creative adventure. Articles and books have become a major way of communicating themes close to my heart. I recognise that people have an inherent spirituality, even those who say they aren’t religious. It’s a spirituality based on what Carl Jung aptly called ‘individuation’. In some way, most of us are on a journey to discover true individuality. Avoiding or rejecting that journey has ramifications for individuals and for the world—the evidence for this is all around us. In that sense, I am also a social activist with an interest in politics and world events.
The philosopher, linguist and poet Jean Gebser (1905–1973) envisaged what he named as an integral structure of consciousness, where dualistically opposed categories give way to a more holistic kind of knowing. It is happening, and in my work I explore the possibilities of such a world, where as genuine individuals we do become free of the dichotomies that bedevil all facets of society, and from the perspective of the essence of self, participate in that integral revolution.
I have two children from my marriage to theatre director and painter, the late Peter Oyston. My daughter Dominique is a classically trained singer and my son Ben an environmental geologist, and I have four grandchildren. I live and work in leafy and cosmopolitan urban Melbourne with my husband, writer, mathematician and spiritual scientist, Stephen Cugley. We enjoy travel and regularly attend concerts and exhibitions in the rich cultural life of this city. I nurture our courtyard garden which connects me with nature. It’s an oasis where I can delight in the birds making fountains as they splash in the birdbath.
I have always wondered about the relatedness of things. For me this implies interconnection that is more than physical. My enquiries about the meaning, or meanings, of our existence began in fairly typical fashion for a mid-twentieth century Australian child —in church. I was baptized, signed a few pledges and took my efforts to be a good Christian seriously. Typically too, I became dissatisfied with over-simplistic answers to life’s profound questions—or no answers at all.
This led me to delve into various spiritually based philosophies, ranging across ancient religions and myths to Jungian archetypes and nature-based spirituality that necessarily involves care for this earth. I found universal ethical values and truths at the heart of wisdom teachings in many traditions. Through my keen interest in deep history I also became aware of the creative inspirations that have initiated shifts in human consciousness.
The other major influence in my life has been artistic. As a child I drew endlessly, wrote poems and stories and made up ballets to the few LPs my parents owned. I trained in dance and visual art, and in England as a young mother completed a Bachelor of Arts through the Open University. My powerful responses to music led me to learn classical guitar and sing in a choir. I enjoyed a varied and fruitful career as a performer and choreographer, as well teaching at different times, English, history, art and creative movement. In my role as a community arts worker I collaborated with musicians, actors, writers and the occasional film maker. Over the course of this multi-faceted journey the arts have become an integral part of my spiritual quest. I experienced many small epiphanies while hankering for that ‘aha’ moment when everything comes alive.
The opportunity to go deeper into the spiritual opened up in 1984 when I met Mario Schoenmaker (1929–1997). He had founded the Church of the Mystic Christ with a college offering courses drawing on the esoteric philosophy of Rudolf Steiner and exploring humanity’s inner evolution across ages and cultures (just my cup of tea). The lifeblood of the community, called The Centre, was Mario’s own inspiring vision of a life lived in harmony with the spiritual aspect of self—the I AM referred to in John’s Gospel.
Mario lived the gospel. And The Centre was a place that encouraged freedom of expression and complexity rather than dogmas that confine so many human systems, religious or secular. My thirteen years in the community were personally transforming. I studied formally in the college and graduated with an honours diploma.