Friday, March 25, 2005

Western Daily Press Article

There's an article about me in today's edition of the Western Daily Press, on page 11 in Geoff Ward's Mysterious West section, complete with author mugshot (taken in Heidelberg Castle) and a shot of the cover of the Cathar book. It's funny, I go away to LA for two weeks, and while I'm gone, everything starts happening. Still, things happen for a reason...

Here's the article, minus the photos:

10:07 - 25 March 2005 A Somerset film-maker's fascination with medieval mystery and mayhem has led to his fourth book on those turbulent times. After the Black Death, alchemists and the Knights Templar for the Pocket Essentials series, Sean Martin has now brought out a study of the Cathars, the heretical religious cult brutally liquidated by the Catholic Church in France and Italy in the 13th century. Sean, 38, of Brent Knoll, who took a history degree at university, said it was the "extreme world" of the Middle Ages that drew him to the period.
"Life was much more fragile and short then," he told me. "But there was a greater spiritual life, people were more certain in matters of faith and seemed to be in closer touch with God and the unseen things, myths, and so on.
"It has struck me also how much our modern world is a product of the Middle Ages.
The Middle East was no different then, at the time of the Crusades and the persecution of Muslims, than now. Western society directly resulted from changes around the time of the Cathars."
Sean has just been to Los Angeles for a preview of his second full-length film, The Notebooks Of Cornelius Crow, about a man who uncovers the secret meaning of the geometry of London's layout and architecture.
Crow leaves his findings in a series of cryptic notebooks which his protege, Jack Cade, must decipher before a mysterious organisation finds Cade and exacts an awful vengeance.
A DVD release and film festival screenings are expected in the UK this year, as well as a showing at the Cannes Film Festival. Sean's next Pocket project will be the Gnostics, another sect suppressed by the early Church, and he is also developing a novel, as well as writing poetry.

The Cathars: The Most Successful Heresy Of The Middle Ages is published by Pocket Essentials at £9.99.

Thursday, March 24, 2005

Radio Interview 31 March

I'm on the Morning Programme with Jo Phillips on BBC Somerset Sound on Thursday 31 March at 0900, talking about the Cathars, the Templars and filmmaking. To tune in, set your radio to 1566m, or go to

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Lindsay Clarke in Weston

Last Saturday, Lindsay made an appearance at the Winter Gardens in the Forbidden City (Weston-super-Mare to the uninitiated). It was part of a writers-meeting-readers day, which was organised by Somerset Library Services, and featured local writers (from Bristol, Devon and Dorset, and Lindsay's East Somerset).

Lindsay came on last (at 3.30pm), and proceeded to talk about how he came to write his brace of Trojan novels (The War at Troy and The Return from Troy). In fact, he dwelt mainly on how he wrote The War at Troy - which I'm currently reading - in only 4 months. After a period of crisis, during which he found himself unable to make significant progress on the book, Lindsay admitted to the gods that he was unable to write the book, which was originally intended to be a short retelling of the Trojan war stories. At this moment, inspiration struck: he found himself writing 2500-4000 words a day, but it was not the book as he had planned it. Instead of brief retellings of the Paris/Helen/Troy tales, he found himself writing a novel instead. And a long one, 440 pages. In only 4 months, he had the book finished. As he himself admitted, this was a remarkable, and unexpected, turn of events. But it only serves to remind that we are perhaps not as in charge of our affairs as we would like to think; sometimes surrender is the wiser and stronger option, as Lindsay discovered.

He also spoke about how we live inside stories, in other words that our world views are essentially fictitious. This reminds me of two things: Buddhism, and also Michael Talbot's revolutionary book The Holographic Universe, both of which stress the fact that ordinary solid objective reality is not as solid, or objective, as we are traditionally taught to believe.

It also reinforced for me the importance of - as the great Tibetan Buddhist teacher Chogyam Trungpa used to say - 'stopping the storyline.' What happens when we don't tell ourselves stories? What does our world and lives become then? How big? How strange? How full? How full of mystery? And, having lived through this new state of things, what stories are we then able to tell?

Sunday, March 20, 2005

Good Review for The Cathars

I forgot to mention that last Sunday's Telegraph gave my new book The Cathars a good review. Sales on Amazon shot up as a result. Good old Middle England, wanting to find out about how the church committed a teeny weeny crime against humanity and was never punished for it.

You can buy the book here:

Last Sunday was, funnily enough, the anniversary of Seton's transmutation. I sense the hand of Lady Alchymia at work...

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

An Alchemical Calendar

Sunday, 13 March, was the anniversary of Seton's transmutation in Enkhuizen. 4pm to be exact. I was at the time on the shuttle bus that takes you from Aviation to LAX, so I was not able to get to a computer to post this. Still, I thought of what may or may not have transpired in that house in North Holland 403 years ago. Whatever did happen, I know that we need that kind of magic and mystery; without it, our lives are impoverished.

The other date in the calendar that has come to mean something for me is 27 December, the anniversary of the mysterious stranger who called himself Elias appearing at the house of John Frederick Helvetius in The Hague. Helvetius was later to write a celebrated account of his meeting with Elias, and of how he and his wife successfully performed a transmutation on 19 January 1667.

A good article about the significance of these dates - and a few more besides - can be found here: