An Encounter with the White Brotherhood — Ardella's Foreword to Dance of the Soul
I first encountered PanEuRhythmy in 1983, while running a meditation and personal growth group in London. I heard about a man who was a travel agent. As a travel agent, he was able to travel more easily in Eastern European countries which, at the time, were under the grip of Communist dictatorships and were not easy to explore. This man had discovered a dance which was a meditative dance movement which had been taught there before the Iron Curtain, but then had been squashed and suppressed ever since. As a travel agent he was able to go more freely than most people, and he formed deep connections with the people who danced this PanEuRhythmy.
I heard about him and invited him to our group. We were tremendously impressed by his whole quality. Our first experience of hearing about PanEuRhythmy from Philip Carr-Gomm was like opening a door into a new world we had always dreamed of and never yet tasted.
Philip began by telling us about how he had found out about PanEuRhythmy. It was a spiritual thriller story — an odyssey of danger, daring, trust, guidance, and joy. Philip had chanced on a secondhand book entitled "The Universal White Brotherhood" (which, in modern American idiom, might be transliterated as "The Universal Fellowship of Light" or "The Community of Light Workers in all Dimensions of Being"). His search for this community led him to France and Bulgaria — to the two places indicated in the book — with astonishing synchronicity.
Philip's then wife being French, they were about to vacation in France in the vicinity of the branch community led by Omraam Mikhael Aivanhov, a disciple of Peter Deunov, the adept who originated PanEuRhythmy. There he obtained contact names and addresses in Bulgaria. Then, on his return to England, the Travel Agency he worked for sent him as a tour-guide — to Bulgaria. Americans may need reminding that, in the days of the Cold War and Kruschev's iron rule, travel to the Communist Eastern Block countries was fraught with difficulties and dangers. Contacting the local people could subject them to public suspicion, with possible interrogation, loss of livelihood, and even sometimes imprisonment, torture, and death.
Still, Philip risked showing one of the addresses he had been given in France to Marta, the Bulgarian woman escorting him back to the hotel in a taxi, and asking her for directions. To his alarm, her jaw dropped open and a long silence ensued. Finally she asked, "Who gave you this?"
He answered with studied casualness, "Oh, a man called Aivanhov." Her face broke into a smile. "That's me!" she said, indicating the address.
Immediately he was connected with the mysterious inner circle of the followers of Peter Deunov, the Bulgarian teacher. This trip became the first of many, as he discovered his long-lost spiritual home and family.
Philip returned to our group to teach us the PanEuRhythmy he had learned in secret on those sacred mountains of Orpheus near the capital of Bulgaria, Sofia (meaning Divine Wisdom). We were entranced, and I could not rest until I had found a way of accompanying Philip on his next visit to Bulgaria.
This seemed to be the answer to what I had been looking for. I have always had a love of dance, though we had grown up in a family where dance was frowned upon — we were strict Protestants — but I found sitting meditation very difficult. I needed something which involved my body, my emotions — everything. This is what PanEuRhythmy does. All the differing strands of my life seemed to suddenly come together in that moment and weave into a bright new picture and vision of what life could be. It was also just plain fun to do, like any dance.
I had long been interested in Eastern European countries and how people survived under the challenge of spiritual oppression. How people survive in difficult circumstances has always intrigued me, and this is also what deeply impressed me when I did go over to Bulgaria.
I met people who had been dancing PanEuRhythmy all their lives. They were so strikingly different from the other people in the country who looked gray, oppressed, and heavy, who had just been squashed all their lives. These people had an inner joy, an inner life; they knew a secret. They brought new life and inspiration to us from the West! That struck me, how people who had so much less opportunity to learn, to grow, to expand, to enjoy life on every level, could be an inspiration to me. It was so exciting.
For the first time in a decade of visits, Philip decided to risk taking a group of friends to Bulgaria that summer under the guise of a regular group of tourists visiting the sights. We were to stay three days at a hotel at the foot of the mountains and travel up in the ski lift every day, to join the PanEuRhythmy camp in the highest mountains.
The inevitable official guide was allocated to us — even though Philip knew the country well and was perfectly capable of looking after us. But it was traditional in Communist block countries to always have a guide who would, as it were, keep tabs on us and make sure we didn't become too friendly with local people. Phillip briefed us and told us very strictly to avoid all mention in public of anything spiritual or pertaining to the PanEuRhythmy or Peter Deunov — taboo subjects under the repressive regime of the KGB.
It was important to conceal the real reason for our visit in order to protect the Bulgarians we were meeting with. Fraternizing with people from the West was not allowed, and PanEuRhythmy was considered dangerous by the regime because Karl Marx didn't teach it. Anything that Karl Marx didn't teach was suspect in Communist countries — yoga, the church, Tai Chi, anything. Everything had to be controlled by the government. We simply don't realize in the West the extent to which everything was controlled. Teachers had every lesson drawn up for them. They had to teach exactly according to the book. They would have Marxists listening in; the classrooms were bugged. They would be listening to check that the teachers were teaching exactly from the book and nothing different, to the letter. Bringing color, light, and life into that kind of environment was a miracle in itself.
Phillip went ahead of us to make certain arrangements for us. He arranged that the Bulgarian people who were dancing PanEuRhythmy would be waiting at the top of the ski lift on a particular time on a particular day when we would just come up there. You have to appreciate that he couldn't make any phone calls or write any letters because all phone calls and letters were carefully screened by the secret police. So he had to travel to the country, meet the people, and make the arrangements in person, then come back and fetch us! He couldn't do it in any other way!
Finally, our time came to be in the mountains. We drove as far as the road goes up the mountain, and then we were ushered to a ski hotel. It was rather noisy; there was loud dance music, and smoking and drinking at the bar, and so on. I felt a bit uncomfortable there, but I was looking forward, the following day, to going up the ski lift and meeting the people I had come to visit.
For me it was here that the supernatural intervened. At 5 o-clock, early on the first morning that we were due to go up the mountains, I suddenly jumped out of sleep and sat bolt upright in my bed. There was a loud voice which seemed to be reverberating throughout the hotel, which told me that I needed to be up on those mountains; it was my business to be up there, not in the hotel. I looked around, and my room-mate was fast asleep, so I saw that this voice had not wakened her. Very quickly I realized that the voice was within me; it wasn't an external voice. I knew there was nothing else to do but obey. I packed my ruck-sack while my mind sought very quickly all the implications and decided what I had to do.
This determination to be on the mountains posed obvious problems because of our guide. I didn't dare talk to Philip about it in the hotel as our conversation might have been bugged. I didn't talk to my room-mate about it either, in case our room was bugged. Instead, I wrote a little note which just said, "Can I stay up in the mountains tonight?" I put this note in my pocket to pass to Phillip under the table at breakfast — just in case the dining room was bugged, or even the table was bugged. I knew anything like that might be happening.
Phillip looked at me and raised his eyebrows. He didn't answer, and I knew why he didn't answer. He waited until we were outside the hotel on the way to the ski lift. Then he turned to me and he said, "You know, that's very dangerous."
"Yes," I replied, "but I need to do it."
He could see by the look in my eye that it was important, so he said, "Very well, then. I have already talked to the Bulgarian Communist guide, and told him that I'm very well acquainted with these mountains, and we're going to do some strenuous climbing! I let him understand that we could manage without him if he preferred to stay in the hotel. He's obviously a man who likes drinking and dancing. So it wasn't too hard to convince him.
"We'll ruffle up your bed and we'll make up excuses if he inquires into why you're not around with the party when we come back."
I thanked him very warmly.
When we got to the top of the ski lift, the mountains were bathed in mist. The same Marta whom Phillip had first met very quickly took me and my ruck-sack to her tent, and put it away. The others went on to the place where they danced the PanEuRhythmy together. We then tried to follow them and lost our way because of the mist. So I virtually missed the PanEuRhythmy on that first day, though eventually we found the group.
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