“Childhood is not from birth to a certain age and at a certain age the child is grown, and puts away childish things. Childhood is the kingdom where nobody dies. Nobody that matters, that is.”

So says Edna St. Vincent Millay in her poem “Childhood Is the Kingdom Where Nobody Dies”.

Edna uses the word kingdom, and I relate very much to the use of ‘world’ when used in such phrases as ‘the world of childhood’. The strange and wonderful way our mind creates impressions and perceptions is for most of us very different in childhood than when we call ourselves an adult. I remember watching my youngest son Quentin[i] as he stood on the threshold of change as a young teenager. He had lived so intensely in the world of his childhood. He had managed to fill that world with wondrous imagination and deep feelings and fears. It was a world in which he drew, and created in writing, spoke and lived without hesitation and goals, other than perhaps gaining my and his mother’s admiration and entrance into that place.

However, I was witness to an awful enemy that entered that world like a destroying army. It tore down the castles, and put torch to the villages and harvests of his soul. It seemed to me that in his case there was no gradual transition from childhood, only a tearing open and a destruction of all that had been held dear, and was still deeply needed and loved.

If I can put a name to the enemy he was laid low by, if I can point to a form, then I would say it is called by many names, some of them being Cynicism, Despair, Commercialism, Materialism. Whatever its right name is, it robs hope from some children. It tears down their ability to create a world for themselves, and instead forces on them a view of the world – no, not a view, but what feels like a concrete reality – that is barren and where nothing grows except in connection with industrial factories, economic necessities, sexual and social manipulation. It is like a cage in which the soul feels itself trapped. Quentin graphically described this world again and again in his writings. He had been diagnosed as suffering clinical depression, so some of the imagery in his stories is very precise.

“That world could in no ways be described as pleasant. It had been explained to me at quite an early stage in my stay at the sanatorium, that my perception of my environment, and life in general, was tragically flawed. This made me, said the white-coats, prone to behaviour which normal people found frightening. I could not fully grasp this concept, there being no way by which I could experience what was described as a sane view of the world. And so I lived in constant unreality; trusting not a single thing my senses told me, and despising what I supposed was a devilish and insidious contagion that tainted all my thoughts with madness. I became very insular and spoke as little as possible.”

In fact for some years Quentin hardly spoke at all.

Fortunately, most of us do not have a childhood like Quentin’s. The worlds of childhood are in fact endlessly varied. Even different periods of history provide variety in the sort of childhood one might experience. Nevertheless, during early childhood we exist in a way, in a world, that has many differences to adulthood. I clearly recall a period of childhood when I had no sense of time. I didn’t know what it meant. But more important than that, I didn’t experience it either. As an adult this seems difficult for me to believe. Time is time. It’s passing is obvious. So presumably it would be equally obvious to a child as it is to an adult.

‘From the moment of birth’ R D Laing wrote in 1967, ‘the baby is subjected to these forces of violence, called love, as its mother and father have been, and their parents and their parents before them. These forces are mainly concerned with destroying most of its potentialities. This enterprise is on the whole successful.’

Laing theorised that insanity could be understood as a reaction to the divided self. Instead of arising as a purely medical disease, schizophrenia was thus the result of wrestling with two identities: the identity defined for us by our families and our authentic identity, as we experience ourselves to be. When the two are fundamentally different, it triggers an internal fracturing of the self.

It is only because I can remember when it didn’t exist for me that I can question my adult experience of it, and see that my sometimes powerful feelings about the passage of time, about punctuality, about age, about the past, and the future, are all learned responses. I know this because I can remember when I had none of those responses. In fact I remember the very distinct beginning of time, the genesis of my universe of changing continuance, of duration and the span of life extending forwards and backwards.

During my pre-school years our next-door neighbour, Mrs. Spilstead, looked after me while my mother was at work. One day I was standing by her window looking into the street watching for my mother to appear back from work. It was something I recall doing often, and I asked Mrs. Spilstead if my mother was coming. She told me my mother would arrive “in a minute”. I didn’t understand what this meant, so I asked her what a minute was. The room we were in had a large open fireplace recessed under a big bay chimney. The wall running left from this had a large Welsh dresser against it, and between the fireplace and the dresser was a massive wall clock with large black hands and white face. Mrs. Spilstead pointed to the clock, and I remember the minute hand was somewhere in the ten to or twelve-to position. She said that when the long hand moved from one of the marks on the clock face to the next, that was a minute. I got close to the clock and watched intently as the hand slowly crept from one of what I now know to be the minute divisions to the next. I had never seen this happen before, and with the wide-open mind of a child, information poured into me and a new experience was born. A minute, I understood, was a duration in which a certain amount of events could occur. The most obvious being the period during which the slow moving clock hand could move from one mark to another.

Of course this didn’t mean that my sense of time was fully developed from there on. The experience of being lost in the world of Michaelmas daisies and sticklebacks, shows how slowly the sense of time creeps into our soul, and influences it.  It is difficult to map the gradual encroachment of time into our worldview. Even well into my school years, summer holidays felt like an eternity.  At that period I had no concept of the holiday ending.  Each day was so intensely packed with millions of felt sensations, thoughts, feelings, that a week was like forever. Unfortunately as the sense of time does encroach on us, it puts a filter over virtually all that we experience and feel.  Very few things in adult life lift us beyond that filter, and immerse us again so totally in the present experience.  This immersion in the moment lends it a magic often missing in our adult life.  So much so that we often look back to memories of those times with great fondness.  I remember for instance, playing outside of Mrs Spilstead’s back door with a wind up gramophone. I was allowed to use some of the old style 78s, and these filled me with a wonder that I have seldom ever approached since.  Particularly impressive amongst these records were Ave Maria, Tiptoe Through The Tulips, and Ravel’s Bolero. My experience of these was so intense the music has left a lasting impression in my life.  Although I couldn’t see it at the time, Ave Maria was probably my first religious experience.  The music lifted my feelings towards something that was mysterious and wonderful, something I could not apprehend, did not even try to apprehend.  It was enough to be immersed in it beyond any formed knowing.

Ravel’s Bolero impressed me in quite another way.  As I listened I seemed to be standing in a desert stretching away immensely before my gaze.  Then, gradually coming into sight, a caravan of camels slowly getting closer as the music swelled. At the height of the music, the closeness of the beasts, the colour, the smells filled me, all gradually passing and fading away until there was only the desert and myself.

Such timeless pleasure is wonderful, but timelessness can also be hell. As at three years old I was put in a convalescent home because of my delicate health. The part this played in my life was unknown, and unsuspected, until I started the therapeutic work of self-regulation (SR)[ii].

One evening, I was led into the experience of being a small child, crying in a cot, feeling abandoned in a hospital.  As the experience developed I realised that I was the boy.  I was the child deserted in hospital.

At the time the emotions were very real.  The sobs shook my whole body. The memory was clear that this had happened to me.  So I was led to believe that somehow I had released the pain of my child self left in that hospital. This was a complete misjudgement of the depths of misery a child can feel. Ten or more years later, through a series of events, I was led to revisit my three-year-old self.  The events leading up to it are fascinating, because they were so perfectly tuned to produce the event that followed.  So perfect that I am led to believe such things are not an accident. Also, considering the length of time between the original emergence of my abandoned child feelings, and this new meeting, I believe many such pains cannot be met until we have enough ego strength and skills to sail these rough waters.

This hell, imprinted in so many of us during our childhood, remains unknown in the majority.  It thereby goes on poisoning lives, relationships and society.  The only positive side I can see to it is that if we dare to descend into that hell, and find a way of returning, we gain great strength, we learn great wisdom, we absorb humility and compassion.




Within our childhood certain things are common to most of us in an overall way. This is because this period of our life is given to learning particular skills such as walking and talking. Most of us, as I did when looking at the clock, learn concepts like time, me, death. We also pass through great physical and psychological change. One of the greatest of these changes is often barely considered, and is usually difficult for us to recognise in ourselves. This is the change or development from having no sense of identity, to the forming of a sense of oneself as distinct from other people. We take this so much for granted as adults that we fail to see what was involved in this, and what it means to us. Something that is more obvious and has been written about at great length is the move from dependence toward independence. However, the change from being a sentient baby to becoming a human being with a sense of self is one of the most extraordinary, perhaps miraculous, events that takes place to living creatures on our planet. That it passes almost unnoticed is itself extraordinary. See Programmed

Although what has been written about details of early and late childhood like potty training and learning social skills are of great importance, these pale into insignificance against the emergence of self-awareness.  As someone who has shared in the gaining of identity, a global view of childhood leaves me with a clear vision of the immense impact and influence of the learning of concepts, the gaining of identity, and the move toward independence. Looking at these more closely I can see they are not only major features of childhood, they are among the most important experiences faced by all people at all times. It doesn’t seem far fetched for me to say that the struggle between nations and political or religious groups that so often shapes history through war and persecution, also have their roots in the battle to preserve or further personal, group, or national integrity or identity, and the concepts one holds as real. [iii] The sense of our own individual existence, and the concepts that give shape to the way we see the world, have overwhelming influence in our lives.

Returning to childhood though, it is not only we as individuals who have a childhood. What happens individually also happened or happens collectively. So there is a childhood of the human race, of nations, as well as of individuals. Early human beings had not yet attained self-awareness. How and why they moved to the extraordinary event of selfhood, of developing personal self-awareness, is still not clear. Some of the great myths describing humanity’s childhood express this immense period of change and growth in symbols. The story of the Garden of Eden summarises perfectly the very birthplace of our identity in a state of awareness beyond time and selfhood. It describes a condition in which there is a sense of oneness and harmony between the individual and the creative forces of Life – Reality perhaps. This is how life is still sensed when there is no ego to judge or react personally to events, and no concepts to filter and shape impressions of the world. The story puts words to what we feel if, for one reason or another, our ego, our sense of self, is shattered or fades.

During my marriage to Brenda I had an experience that illustrates this in a lighthearted way. From deep sleep something woke me very early in the morning. I was astonished to see, just a few feet away from me, an extraordinary and unrecognisable creature. My immediate feeling was that it was an alien. There was no fear, just amazement and feelings of wonder, because the creature was trying to communicate something to me. As I attempted to understand what it was trying to tell me a massive change overcame me. Suddenly all the parts of my brain, and the aspects of language that enable me to deal with everyday life, clicked into operation after being dormant. Just as suddenly I could now see that the alien was in fact Brenda, and she was saying to me, “Tony, turn over, you’re snoring.”

This amusing experience was very important. It gave me a direct experience of how our language, along with the countless filters and connections of interpretation our brain makes in dealing with sensory input, shapes and colours how we experience the world around us. If I could repeat at will the configuration of my interpretive mental processes that were operating at the moment I first looked at Brenda, the world would be an innocent place. It would appear completely new and fresh for me each day. It would continually be the ‘first day’ of creation for me.

The experience also suggests there is something like‘software of the brain’ that was not ‘loaded’ at the time I woke. Because the software was not running, it did not shape what my computer/brain produced. If we can accept this analogy, then it is an easy step to see that there is not simply one piece of software our brain has access to and uses, but many.

But all of us have experienced that First Day. We have all been in the Garden of Eden.  In our baby years we all existed in an experience without concepts formed through language, and without a defined sense of our own identity.  Just as all houses, all mansions, are built upon and from the basic soil, rock and minerals of the earth, and we can find the fundamental substance again by digging through the foundations, so we can also get back to that Garden. The Garden is the primal level of awareness from which our personality grows. Many people return to it at times.  Perhaps a stressful event momentarily turns of the process of thinking and self-awareness.  They may regain it through the disciplines of meditation or prayer.  Sometimes it comes unexpectedly as we stand between sleeping and waking. See Jesse Watkins Enlightenment

I have had the good fortune to stand in that Garden many times.  One of the most memorable occurred while I was participating in a group form of meditation called Enlightenment Intensive.  This was at a centre called CAER at Lamorna Cove near Penzance in Cornwall.  The form of meditation is very one pointed.  In the session I was attending it lasted four days.  I believe the process has the effect of exhausting the mind.  Therefore the structures of thought, along with the view of the world and ourselves we gain through thought and language, drop away.  On the last day of the meditation course this happened to me.  It was very sudden.

In the instant thinking no longer produced the way I saw the world, there was an immediate shift in awareness. I realised I am love. I am Always. I have always existed. Sometimes I try to forget, but I never can. Sometimes I try to hide from myself but am unable for I am everywhere. I had tried to hold back my love by being different to others. It was painful living half a life. I am here again – in this life – trying once more. My real being is like a river that has flowed through all time. I am the Creator learning who I am – learning how I create. I am trying again. I am life. As Life I am an expression in time and space of a timeless moment we give the name of Creation, or The Big Bang. This is almost impossible for me to find words for. I can only say it is the moment in the formation of our universe when time and space existed in a timeless transcendent moment. My experience beyond thinking and concepts is that the Transcendent Moment is continually present in all we do. It is the fundamental reality. To experience it is a radiant and eternal joy. In it all things past present and future exist – now.

This story of our beginning – our racial childhood in the Garden, in the Timeless and Transcendent Moment – has a similar theme throughout the world. Whether we look at the American Indians, the Chinese, the African culture, they all have a creation story. For instance folklorist Herman Baumann says of the African peoples, “In the view of the natives, everything that happened in the primal age was different from today: people lived forever and never died; they understood the language of animals and lived at peace with them; they knew no labour and had food in plenitude, the effortless gathering of which  guaranteed them a life without care; there was no sexuality and no reproduction – in brief, they knew nothing of all those fundamental factors and attitudes which move people today.” [iv]

The Australian native peoples describe their own sense of origins as Dreamtime. Dreamtime refers to an experience and to beliefs that are largely peculiar to the Australian native people. There are at least four aspects to Dreamtime – The beginning of all things; the life and influence of the ancestors; the way of life and death; and sources of power in life.

Dreamtime includes all of these four facets at the same time, being a condition beyond time and space as known in everyday life. The aborigines call it the ‘all-at-once’ time instead of the ‘one-thing-after-another’ time. This is because they experience Dreamtime as the past present and future coexisting. This condition is met when the tribal member lives according to tribal rules, and then is initiated through rituals and hearing the myths of the tribe. The aborigine people believed that each person had a part of their nature that was eternal. This eternal being pre-existed the life of the individual, and only became a living person through being born to a mother. The person then lived a life in time, and at death melted back into the eternal life.

Doesn’t this sound a bit like the womb, and early childhood? Lacking ego, a sense of time and concepts such as approval or disapproval, right and wrong, the infant lives in a paradise where there is no (concept of) death. Without time it lives in eternity, especially while in the womb. It feels itself not an individual but an undivided part of an immense ocean of sentience. It and the animals are one. There is no striving or working to gain survival, no sexual procreation.

The casting out from the Garden of Eden is one of the first and greatest possible shocks the infant faces as it moves into growth. Such immense psychic events are not simply things that happen only once. They are archetypal patterns that express in many ways at many levels. So although the discharge from the womb at birth is the first level of expulsion from Eden, this enormous sense of loss can also be encountered in the loss of a parent or carer through separation or death. It can be met through the loss of the fundamental state of consciousness that exists prior to the arrival of self-awareness as language is learned and the concept of self develops. Self-awareness usually brings with it the loss of innocence – loss of the guiltless, concept-free condition. These may be experienced as separate shocks or shifts.

One of the classic meditation questions or koans used in Zen Buddhism is – ‘Who were you before you were born?’ Or ‘What was your face before you were born?’ In this form of meditation one seeks to directly re-experience the condition of awareness prior to what I have calling the expulsion from Eden. This is reasonably easy to do by using a technique that tricks the mind into attempting to respond to a question that is impossible to answer with thoughts or words. When the mind becomes exhausted it collapses and what has always existed underneath the noise of thoughts and emotions becomes known. In this state we become a being empty of the massive structure of concepts and thoughts built over a lifetime. We suddenly find that the world we created out of our learned responses and ideas melts away, and we are in the Garden.

The story of the Garden of Eden is a wonderful description of this fundamental state of awareness. In the fundamental state there is little or no sense of self; there is a certainty that this blissful awareness is eternal, and that this is the real self. Along with this there is usually a direct experience of some kind that all creatures, all history, all beings, are part of your existence in the eternal now. Sometimes a jump beyond paradox occurs in a conviction that what you experience in this oneness is the source of all existence (God), and you and it are one and the same. Along with this is the sense that the blissful self-existent consciousness is the fundamental stuff of what we know through our senses as the physical universe.

Unfortunately our culture does not encourage young children to report their awareness of the Garden, of oneness. We often completely misunderstand their meeting with it, and with the shocks of losing it. Edwin Coppard, the musician, gives a wonderful example of his own son becoming aware of such a loss.

My son Leon met a loss of innocence in a very dramatic way. While still young he saw a dead cat in the road outside our home. Days later he left England with his mother to visit an aunt in America. While he was away my father suddenly and unexpectedly died of a heart attack. On that very day Leon, not knowing of my father’s death, wept most of the day. He told his mother that everything was dying. He said that everything died – animals, people, even the sun was dying, and there was nothing that could avoid this colossal and final loss. After many hours Leon’s weeping stopped as he found acceptance of death. The fundamental awareness of eternal life had been knocked away by the external reality of the lifeless body. The fact this tied in with the day of my father’s death is one of those impressive coincidences.

There is also a completely opposite side to this in descriptions of paradise regained. Ramakrishna, who later became an Indian sage, said that when he was six, while wandering along between rice fields, eating puffed rice, “I raised my eyes to the sky as I munched my rice. I saw a great black cloud spreading rapidly until it covered the heavens. Suddenly at the edge of the cloud a flight of snow-white cranes passed over my head. The contrast was so beautiful that my spirit wandered far away. I lost consciousness and fell to the ground. The puffed rice was scattered. Somebody picked me up and carried me home.” [v]

There is more in the book End User.



[i] My wife Brenda and I chose the name Quentin because he was our fifth child (Quentin means the fifth.) We did not at that time know of the writer Quentin Crisp.


[ii] SR has also been named various things in my writings. For instance we originally called it Relaxation Therapy, then Self-Regulation. On writing about it in Mind and Movement I called it Coex, short for consciousness-expansion. Still later, in Liberating The Body, my editor suggested I find a more appropriate name, and we used Inner Directed Movement.


[iii] In his book Memories And Visions of Paradise, (The Aquarian Press 1990) Richard Heinberg says – “The great enterprises of history – the Crusades, the millenarian revolts of the Middle Ages, the search for the Grail, the discovery and colonisation of the New World, utopian movements in literature and politics, Marxism and the cult of progress – all are in some way rooted in the soil of the original mythic Garden. The more familiar we are with the essence of the story, the more frequently we recognise its reflection in the nostalgic reveries and fervent aspirations of every culture in every era.


[iv] Schopfung und Urzeit des Menschen im Mythus der Afrikanischen Volker (Creation and the Primal Era of Mankind in the Mythology of African Peoples) by Herman Baumann. 1936. Quoted from Memories And Visions Of Paradise by Richard Heinberg. Published by Aquarian Oress,1989. ISBN0-85030-955-7.


[v] See The Life of Ramakrishna, R. Rolland. Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna, by Swami Nikhilananda, published by Ramakrishna-Vivekananda Center; ISBN: 0911206027. See also –

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