The prefix ‘com’ stems from the Latin to mean ‘with’, pan from the Latin ‘pane’ or ‘bread’. In the Latin-speaking world, your companions were the individuals that you broke bread with and with whom you shared a common table. Wellesley Tudor Pole chose the word ‘companion’ for those who were to work together to safeguard the Chalice Well property. Rarely has companionship seemed so important and so missed. The situation in which the world has found itself over the last year has made it difficult for us to eat; to break bread with those outside of our own households, our loved ones and friends – our companions. And yet, companionship finds a way. Virtually, over the telephone, in writing, in fleeting meetings in public spaces and in snatched conversations, we have managed to engage. As plants weave their way through the darkness of the soil to greet the sunlight above them, so too companions have found a way to link up with each other during the global pandemic in which we have found ourselves.
“On leaving the house my companion and I stood silent for a while…As I stood there, watching, the stars came out and an evening mist arose from the valley below. Dimly from afar I witnessed the arrival of the Master and his ten companions, and saw them entering the house I had so recently and so reluctantly left behind me. It was then that I became aware of a deep but brilliant glow spreading from the house in all directions…”(Tudor Pole 1965: 26)
Through companionship, we find the light by which we may illuminate ‘the darkness of the night’.
The Valour of High Ideals: Purity, Courage, Integrity, Comradeship
Shortly after the creation of the Trust, WTP addressed the newly-formed companionship which was to prove central to the ‘Chalice Well adventure’:
“Less than six months ago this Glastonbury project was still an idea awaiting to be born. Since then the Chalice Well property has been bought and paid for by voluntary donations. It is now securely vested in a Trust and as a result the famous Spring and Well and their surroundings are safeguarded forever and made available for the use of visitors and pilgrims of every creed and race.
The Companionship of the Chalice Well is now in being.”(Tudor Pole 1959 cited in Fletcher 2015: 260)
WTP hoped that companions would study Maltwood’s ‘Temple of the Stars’, the zodiacal circle surrounding Glastonbury, he also hoped that they would always be welcome at the guest house, now called Little St Michael’s. In the spirit of service, he envisaged them helping out and working in the gardens. Companions were asked to keep the Silent Minute at nine o’clock each evening and to ‘pray with intention that Chalice Well and its surroundings may become once more a centre of spiritual Revelation for England and the World.’ (Fletcher 2015: 260).
He also hoped that the ideals of the Holy Grail – purity, courage, integrity and comradeship would guide the companionship as the Chalice Well and its spring moved ‘forward from the Sign of the Cross (Duality and Sorrow) towards the Sign of the Cup (Unity and Joy). These closing comments are particular prescient as we today find ourselves in times of duality and sorrow. Yet Chalice Well teaches us that all things must pass, that we will move forward to a time of unity and joy. Indeed, this expectation and the optimism of better days to come, for me is a central aspect of the companionship of the Chalice Well.
Expectation, Joy, Unity and Service: Companions as Pioneers
“The fundamental Keywords for our Keynote at Chalice Well should therefore be Expectation, Joy, Unity and Service.”
“We are called upon to become pioneers and must therefore face many obstacles and misunderstandings. What do these matter? If indeed they matter to us then we are not worthy to become pioneers. If we can only learn how to live each day, doing the best we know and refusing to be dismayed, then the power of Expectation will strengthen, inspire and guide our every thought, word and deed.”(Tudor Pole 1959 cited in Fletcher 2015: 261)
As we find ourselves facing obstacles and misunderstandings on a global scale, yet also waiting in expectation for the day when we can again meet in companionship, we can empathise with these words. In our daily lives we have become pioneers, as we have faced the new and unprecedented challenges set before us. Indeed, as the global pandemic has often forced Little St Michaels to close its doors and stopped many visitors from making a pilgrimage to Chalice Well, the Trust has also faced many obstacles over the past year. We are reminded that we should not be dismayed but rather use the power of our expectation of better times to strengthen and guide us as we move from the Piscean to Aquarian age, as the turbulent waters of materiality gradually give way to the gentler waters of the Spirit.
The Breakfast after the Supper
The Upper Room in Little St Michaels is a unique and luminous place in which there is a tangible atmosphere of quietude and enlightenment. It may be accessed by companions as a sanctuary of meditation and silence; an oasis for the spirit in which a healing presence may be felt. WTP’s ‘Companions Address of 19th August 1967’ contained the following guidance:
“When meditating, therefore in the Room that Chalice Well has provided, whether there in person or in thought, let your minds turn away from the memory of the Last Supper towards the Breakfast that is destined to follow in its wake. In this way, we shall be helped to prepare for future Service.”(Tudor Pole 1967 cited in Fletcher 2015: 271)
This Easter weekend, let us also turn away from the memories of the past year, to the breakfast that will follow. As we hold the Upper Room and Chalice Well in our thoughts, let us unite once again in companionship and watch the rising sun cast its radiance across the horizon. Remember that together we are kindling a lamp at Chalice Well; we will need to work in unity with courage and comradeship as we navigate the turbulent storms in which we have found ourselves. Yet these storms will abate, ‘the seas will calm and the lamp we are illumining together will shine forth brilliantly’. In doing so the darkness will recede and we will once more come together in joy, in love and in companionship. For, no matter how turbulent the seas, the quiet, pure light of Chalice Well will guide us onwards.
Fletcher, P. 2015. Light upon the Path, The Unpublished Writings of Wellesley Tudor Pole. Glastonbury: Chalice Well.
Tudor Pole, W., and Lehmann, R. 1965. A Man Seen Afar. London: Neville Spearman