Amanda Painting1, a Cygnus reader, suggested that it would be a lovely idea to describe to you all how Cygnus started, and how it evolved. We’ve never told the first part of the story to anyone except a few very close friends, but my sons tell me it would be good to tell all. So here goes.
Well, the story really began more than 40 years ago, when I had a strange dream. In it, I found myself in a cave with a number of men and women dressed in dark robes. Two of them showed me a huge book with many seals, and then pointed towards an absolutely vast multitude of people – you couldn’t see where it ended – and told me that one day, in the future, they would want me to share with all those people what was in the book. I said, ‘Oh no. I couldn’t possibly be any good at that.’ And pointing to one of the other people there I suggested ‘why don’t you ask him? He would be much better at it than me’. But the answer I received was: ‘Yes, but we want you to do it.’ So I gave them my word.
Then I woke up, and thought with great amazement about the dream, as I had never had one so seemingly portentous in my life before. Soon, though, I dozed off again, and the whole dream repeated itself – identical in every detail. Seems I wasn’t supposed to forget it! This was a defining moment for me, and it has coloured my whole life ever since.
Following a dream
But… I was only sixteen at the time, so had not the slightest clue how to fulfil my promise, and became quite distraught about my ignorance. This perturbation lasted for years, actually, but I decided that the best way forward was to do all I could to prepare myself, and take every opportunity that presented itself to do at least something towards my goal. So, I trained to be a teacher because I thought that might be useful. There, the most important thing I learned was that the role of a good teacher is not to know all the answers, but to empower others to find out the answers for themselves. Later, when I gave up teaching, I learned to type. Then I got involved with publishing. I also joined a spiritual school in Holland, where I met Geoff, and where I hoped I would gain the experience and insight that would allow me to serve the Spirit in others and in myself.
Seeing a sign
Later, when we had our first child and I needed to be able to work at home, Geoff and I started a publishing services company – Cygnus’s first incarnation, as we call it! Why did we name it Cygnus? Well, we had no idea what we were going to call it until one day when – on holiday in Guernsey – we came across a pub sign with a strikingly beautiful swan on it. As soon as we spotted it, we brought the car to a screeching halt in the middle of the road and took a photograph. Afterwards, electrified, we sat together on a grassy cliff-top and shared what we both knew: that our business would be called Cygnus (Latin for ‘swan’), and that it would somehow help to draw us closer to our task.
Feeling already the overlighting, protecting wings of the great swan, we remembered together some deeply impressive words we had read in the Confessio Fraternitatis, one of the manifestos of the 17th century Rosicrucians which contains many prophecies that are said to relate to the times we are living in now2:
God, indeed, hath already sent messengers which should testify His will, to wit some new stars which have appeared in Serpentarius and Cygnus, the which powerful signs of a great Council shew forth how for all things which human ingenuity discovers, God calls upon His hidden knowledge, as likewise the Book of Nature, though it stands open truly before all eyes, can be read or understood by only a very few.
In the 17th century, two supernovae (only eight have ever been seen with the naked eye) really did appear in the constellations of Serpentarius and Cygnus, causing a great stir, since they were considered to be portents heralding a new era of enlightenment. And we believe that these particular constellations genuinely do have special significance for the great, transformative journey we are all making together, which is why our swan logo has a star above its head.
In The Cygnus Mystery, Andrew Collins writes:
There is something very special about the influence of the Cygnus constellation on the human mindset. It was seen in the past as the source of cosmic life and death. Our most distant ancestors actually believed that life came from this region of space, and that the souls of the righteous would return there in death. In many ways it was the first location of heaven.
Returning to our quote from the Confessio Fraternitatis, it also refers to the Book of Nature, and this, too, is significant. Over the years we had become convinced that the great tome I had been shown in my dream was not a book in the conventional sense, but the Book of Life, sometimes known as the Book of Nature or the Book M (standing for Mundi – Latin for ‘world’). And the reason why it ‘can be read or understood by only a very few’is that it is not so much a book as a language, inscribed in the natural world around us and in our own hearts, a language that can only be read with the eyes of the awakening soul, and which tells us everything we need to know to reach our goal of True Humanhood, one step at a time.
So, back to the story. We chuntered on with our publishing services efforts for a few years, and then in 1991 a friend was visiting and happened to mention an old occult novel we had heard was good and wanted to read. Called The Angel of the West Window, it was all about the Elizabethan magus John Dee, who, through his trials and tribulations, miscalculations and mistakes eventually made a living, vibrant connection with Truth, and with the shining, eternal community of other souls who have made that same connection. Well, the book was available in German and other European languages but not, as far as we knew, in English. So our friend said, ‘Why don’t you publish it?’. To which we replied, ‘Well, we wouldn’t want to publish something unless we knew we could sell it. How could we be sure there would be a market for the book? Shops probably wouldn’t want many. We would have to find some way of making direct contact with the public.’ None of us could think of a way to do that, so the subject was dropped.
A moment we will never forget
But Geoff carried on thinking about it and that evening pronounced the fateful words: ‘Why don’t we start a book club?’ In the silence that followed, we both realised that we had gathered all the skills we would need to do it, that we could do it, that we would do it, and that it would be the best way yet of helping to fulfil the task we had always felt was calling us. It was an ‘Aha’ moment we will never forget.
Anyway, just a couple of weeks later, as we ploughed through piles of catalogues looking for books we could sell in our embryonic ‘book club’, we saw that, by coincidence, another publisher had just thought of publishing The Angel of the West Window in English. So all we would have to do was sell it! Dedalus was the name of the publisher, and its owner, George Barrington, has kept the book in print throughout the last twenty years, which is why we are able to offer it to you in this magazine.
For the first few years, the Cygnus Review was just twelve pages of black and white, with very few books and fewer features, but it seemed that, right from the start, people really did feel something special when they opened it. We often used to look at the magazine and wonder why that was – given that there was so little in it and it didn’t look particularly marvellous. We came to the conclusion that the inspiration and comfort our members have always received from the magazine, while partially stimulated by its actual content, was also fed and warmed by something quite intangible – the energy of the overlighting swan itself (we’ll say more about the swan another time).
Then, in the late 90s, Book Club Associates, the Readers’ Digest and Time Life all decided it would be a brilliant plan to start mind, body, spirit book clubs. Suddenly, we were competing with the big boys! That’s when we learned how good competition is for businesses. It forces you to stand on tiptoe – to grow, improve, and learn. And that was why, in 1999, the Cygnus Review became a colour magazine with a lot more content.
In the palm of a great hand
And then, along came Amazon, and within a few years, all three competing book clubs had folded, unable to withstand Amazon’s policy of putting market share above all else. Little Cygnus, however, remained – partly because our small size allowed us to be more flexible, but mainly because of our determination not to swerve from our task. It has not been easy, however, and it does not get easier, which is why 2012 will at last be the year in which Cygnus is reborn in a form that takes into account all the changes in the world and the book trade, but that allows us to continue with our most important goal – to share with you what we have read in the Book of Nature, and to help you to learn to read it yourself, to find out all you need to know for the next step of your journey, even if there were no books, even if there were no one else on earth who could guide you.
For, as we wrote in our 2012 calendar,
‘We rest in the palm of a great hand. Eternally safe, we can never be lost or go astray, however things may seem. Give thanks then, every day, for life’s utter perfection.’
In a year that promises to be full of upheaval, we hope these words will help you to remember how very safe and protected you actually are, and to keep the ship of your life absolutely on course.
No storm shall toss her, nor tempest turn her,
for strong are her oarsmen and steady their oars.
The good star shall guide her, peace be beside her,
as swiftly she sails to the other shore.
With all our love,
Ann, Geoff, and the Cygnus Team
1 Take a peek at www.amandapainting.co.uk to discover Amanda’s passion for helping people to follow their dreams and enjoy her singing, too.
2 See ‘The Secret Teachings of All Ages’ .