- PAST, PRESENT, FUTURE: STORIES THAT HAUNT
Interview by Suha Mardelli for Ottawa Independent Writers 2021
“Award winning author Dr. Ian Prattis has just released his 18th book – Past, Present, Future: Stories that Haunt. Ian is a Professor Emeritus at Carleton University and an Ambassador for Peace. Through his numerous public talks and retreats around the world, Ian encourages people to find their true nature, so that humanity and the world may be renewed. Ian’s book is a collection of short stories and poems published by Manor House.
Ian, thank you so much with being here with us tonight.”
“Thank you Suha, I appreciate it.”
“Your new book has already received wonderful reviews. What can you tell us about it?”
With the revenues from this 2021 book – Past, Present, Future; Stories that Haunt – I created the Dr. Ian Prattis Scholarship for Indigenous, Black and Racialized Students, at Carleton University, Ottawa. Value $2,000. It will be awarded annually to outstanding Indigenous, Black or Racialized students. I was a professor there from 1970 – 2007. I present the scholarship to graduates who are outstanding, diligent and intelligent.
I wrote this book Past, Present, Future: Stories that Haunt, because I had to. My responsibility of holding the pen was a mere posture to place words in a sequence that would resonate in the reader’s mind. I had a sense of reciprocity about what I felt was necessary to heal the world from climate emergency and pandemic. The chapters play their part throughout as a sort of call and response meter that leans on kinship and community rather than corporate greed. The chapters become as seeds in the mind of the reader, so my work cannot be buried or lost. There is a strong emphasis on Indigenous Wisdom that pulls chapters together while displaying how easy it is to fall into destruction.
This collection contains stories, personal essays and futuristic writings. They illuminate facets of humanity that are both wholesome and deadly. There is a subtle tapestry from Indigenous Wisdom throughout the three phases that must apply to our damaged planet if homo-sapiens is to have a home.
The Past dwells on the significance of indigenous history and beliefs, a spirituality that crosses centuries to realize redemption and connection. These stories stand in contrast to the ethnocentric illusions of the wider society where violence, fear and betrayal are rampant. Present includes flash fictions to highlight the destructive illusions and the gentle memories of modern society. The remaining chapters seek to mentor and inspire children to save the world. “Respecting Indigenous Wisdom” provides a pause through poetry to outline a different foundation for humanity.
Future is not kind to homo-sapiens and their habitation of Mother Earth. Scientists scramble to provide an exit from the Earth, seeding far away planets. A single person remains in the High Arctic’s last outpost while pioneers who occupy a new planet must fight to prevent terrorists from taking it over. Very little has changed.
Past, Present, Future: Stories that Haunt – is drawing exciting testimonials.
Bob Allen, Founder and CEO of IDEAS has this to say:
“These tales operate at three levels. First, the characters are all of “US.” Their stories are the One Human Story of struggling to live in this world. Dig deeper, and you’ll find the rich metaphor pointing toward truths about the way our species has evolved and why our permanent dominance of the Earth is a fiction that will not stand up to any real scrutiny. At their root, Dr. Ian Prattis has pointed out that “reality” is not action-over-time but it is connectedness. These stories take their place with other great cultural myths as a shaman’s call to the central village fire asking us to listen, engage and imagine.”
Krystina McGuire-Eggins, Therapist says:
“Ian Prattis’ new book, “Past, Present and Future: Stories that Haunt” is a brilliant collection of stories, writings and essays in fiction and non-fiction. The book leads the reader through thought provoking perspectives about the treatment and respect Western society has thus far shown toward Mother Earth. Dr. Prattis presents the current state of our Earth through a lens that is alarming and sobering at moments. In his true fashion, he offers hope by educating the reader on how Indigenous wisdom that has been passed down for generations can provide a pathway that the human race can choose to embrace for a better future. This is an excellent read, very appropriate for our current times.”
Lost Manuscript and a Movie 1975
The greatest gift one can receive is that of finding one’s true nature. The human spirit is resilient and can triumph over tragedy and psychological dependence. Learning to find our inner strength can conquer mental illness, alcoholism and depression. It is one factor in the complex reality of modern day suffering.
It took me a while to come to these realizations and the avenue was through a book I wrote some 40 years ago. This novel – Redemption – is in fact an allegory for depression and life difficulties that I once experienced, though I did not realize it at the time. The themes are writ large in this book – a turbulent Hero’s Journey to emancipation. The novel illuminates startling cycles of maturing and downfall experienced by the book’s main character – Callum Mor – a gifted child, master mariner, derelict drunk, who finally gains wisdom from a hard life’s journey.
“Redemption” was a “lost” manuscript, first written in 1975, forgotten until spring 2011. The narrative was vivified and refined with hindsight forty years later. It reads like an extended prose poem reflecting the primal forces of nature and of human nature. Callum Mor takes the reader on a deep Hero’s Journey. This novel moves from the rhapsody of Callum Mor’s idyllic childhood through tragedies to the derelict zone of his alcoholic drowning out of pain and suffering. It opens with his childhood in the Hebrides. He draws wonderful mentors to him; his schoolteacher, who lights the spark of a bard in him, animal friends such as an otter, a brutal fisherman who shields his darkness from the boy as he matures. Callum Mor thrives despite the poverty of his home in an island nurturing with gentle humor and adventure.
He becomes the best fisherman in the region before grave misunderstandings tear his love, Catriona, away from him. This displaces his gifts as he drives himself and his crew to the very limits of endurance. Callum Mor’s sensitivities and mind snap, as he enters the dark zone of alcoholism and withdraws from society. With only his animals keeping him this side of sanity he survives in a bleak solitude. Until a family with a small girl seeking refuge from a storm come to his house. Slowly he edges away from his self-destruction. He saves the girl’s life in a winter blizzard. The glimmer of awakening dawns in him while sheltering in a cave with the child warmly ensconced in a gutted carcass of a sheep he killed to keep her from freezing. He sees his life pass in front of his eyes and this sets the stage for the final drama that illuminates the resilience of the human spirit.
“Redemption” was my fourteenth book and first novel, though actually the first book I ever wrote. In 1975 I was unable to get it published. I found this “lost” manuscript in an old filing cabinet, read it through and could scarce believe it. I requested a couple of friends with critical eyes to read it through, just in case I was dreaming. Modern technology enabled the yellowing typed manuscript to be transformed into a computer ready document. My friends thought it was incredible; one could not put it down and mused about the film to be made; the other friend cried through most of it. All of which encouraged me to bring “Redemption” to life. I was tempted to leave this gem from 1975 in its pristine state, but realized that my insights some forty years later could enhance the narrative and flesh out “Callum Mor” into a character of epic proportions. Redemption caught the interest of an American film maker. A screenplay script was duly commissioned but the exec-producer died from cancer and so the movie is on the shelf at present.
The story is an allegory for the life difficulties I experienced at that time – 40 years ago. The surprise for me was how could I have written such a book while in a miserable state of mind? I was not in a good place physically or mentally – with a failing marriage in the Hebrides and trying to keep a career going at Carleton University in Canada. I was not doing a good job with either. Publishing this book in 2014 was an imperative for me, as a necessary part of my own life-journey.
Lucille Hildesheim, International Harp Artiste had this to say:
“What marks a great work of art is that it touches the heart and soul. Redemption touched mine very deeply. It is so vividly descriptive of both scenery and people, drawing you into the life of Callum Mor, making you cry for him, cheer for him, and wishing you could continue on his journey with him. It is a book to be read over and over again, from which to take away life lessons and inspiration for our own personal journey. This is a book to share with those who touch your life.”
- FAILSAFE: SAVING THE EARTH FROM OURSELVES 2008
Science and rationality can serve a changed consciousness, but they cannot create the structure and organizations needed for a new world order. They can only produce the same old formulas, fight the same old wars, now with newer and more destructive technologies. Changing the collective human consciousness is the key. Once consciousness changes to a foundation of clarity and compassion, then structure and organization will quickly be redefined, as intelligent responses to our social and environmental crises emerge from a different foundation of understanding.
“Can we fix the planet?” I ask. “This is the wrong question. Our present values and patterns of consumption are the architects of the present global emergency. The right question is “Can we fix ourselves?” Failsafe describes how human ignorance will rule until the global situation deteriorates to a breaking point. This breaking point will then act as a catalyst, activating consciousness so it is propelled into expansion, deliberation and change. The book shows that we have the capacity to make positive changes: that there is hope for future generations to occupy a healthy planet and faith in the human consciousness to save a niche on the planet.
Dr. David Suzuki provided a Foreword:
“…..If we no longer perceive the planet as our sacred home, then we will continue to degrade the biosphere. In Failsafe, Ian Prattis offers a way to a perceptual transformation that is absolutely critical if we are to find a truly sustainable future.”
Peter Cutler, writer and artist, Boston USA.
“It’s brilliant, so thoroughly researched, eloquently written and, most of all, so needed. It’s a wonderful book. Frightening to read while observing the band aids and half measures being proposed in the US.”
Several years ago at the beginning of spring after a severe winter in Canada, I participated in a sweat lodge ceremony with respected elders from the Ojibway, Dene and Mohawk First Nations. We made deeply personal and collective commitments to serve the Earth. At the end of the final round of the ceremony we emerged into the pristine beauty of a late snowfall under a clear star studded sky. There had been a two-inch snowfall during the ceremony. As we walked barefoot to where we were camping I turned round and saw our footprints in the snow. It seemed as though these were the first footprints on the new earth. I gestured to my companions to stop and look. They silently shared the same insight with soft smiles. In that instant the stillness and silence renewed our commitments to serve the earth with all our hearts and minds. Failsafe was born from that moment at the end of winter in 2006. I was giving a talk about this experience to an audience in Vancouver. I suddenly found myself talking about two previous books that I had written and the next three books that were ready to dance in the sunlight. I realized that Failsafe was the fulcrum or midpoint between two trilogies. They had been writing me although I did not know it. There was a life work that was in fact writing me!
Failsafe is by no means finished. There are bright minds to take it further, find loopholes in it and re-fashion it. All this I gladly welcome. I look forward to the dialogue as it helps us move on. My hope is that you enjoy the book and share it with friends. https://www.amazon.com/IanPrattis/e/B006CKMW8U%3Fref=dbs_a_mng_rwt_scns_share?tag=askcom05deals-20
- TRAILING SKY SIX FEATHERS 2014
Sacred Stalker – Awakening In Our Times
When I speak to an audience about Trailing Sky Six Feathers: One Man’s Journey With His Muse the first question is usually “Why did you write this?” Here is my reply:
“Global citizens are staring into the abyss, yet instead of being eaten up by it all, I say to them: “Awaken Spiritually,” for that transforms everything. We have made our world an unpredictable beast because we fail to work with it intelligently. Rumi’s wise words are cogent: “Sit down and be quiet. You are drunk and this is the edge of the roof.” We have to take back control of ourselves and this is a spiritual matter. Turning on the switch of awakening seems to be a good idea. We just need to touch the sacred in ordinary experiences of life to find the courage and determination to transform.”
Trailing Sky Six Feathers delivers a vigorous message about personal transformation in order to become different stewards of the earth and society. Extensive shamanic training is highlighted, as it was the instrument to overcome my childhood abuse. The journey of remembering childhood wounds and past lives will draw in people searching for interior solutions. I show in Trailing Sky Six Feathers that we can transform the damage and limitations of the past and step onto a path of enlightenment for all who suffer from road blocks in the mind. People around the world are overwhelmed by distraction, fear, suffering and violence – all of which keeps them frozen in a state of inaction – deeply wounded and unable to make changes within themselves and for the planet. The inner journey that occupies this book demonstrates that we do not have to be caught by our suffering, fear and maladaptive responses to Climate Change and Violence.
My life as a global traveler stretched my attention beyond any limits I could have placed on it. From teenage volunteering in Borneo with Britain’s Peace Corps to being a Yogi in India and a Zen teacher in Canada – expansion of mind was inescapable. My challenging journey navigates shamanic healing of childhood abuse, guru training as well as a near death experience in an ashram in India. From this vast range of experience I found an ability to sculpt narrative in a novel way. I certainly stumbled through the first part of life, but then stood strong in my own sovereignty in the latter part. In India, Arizona, France and Canada’s wilderness, I went to extraordinary lengths to transform karma. Over a period of thirty years, extraordinary medicine people enhanced my process of remembering. I learned how to reconfigure my understanding of time, place and consciousness. I chose to listen to the feminine voice of Earth Wisdom rather than to the multitude of competing voices in my deep unconscious.
In Trailing Sky Six Feathers readers may be inspired as they watch my intention and strength of purpose to transcend patterns carried since childhood. Past life memories collide head on with the present, all thanks to the Muse who refused to give up on me. Karma is reversed; the internal battles are over as I begin to live life as a Meditation for Gaia. The relentless shadowing by this engaging Muse brings understanding not only to me, but to anyone engaged in overcoming the darkness of their past.
This book caps my long-term fascination with consciousness. As a Professor of Anthropology and Religion I taught courses on Ecology, Symbols, Engaged Buddhism and Meditation Systems. I am a healer, mentor and educator, able to encourage people to find their true nature so that humanity and the world may be renewed. I am a Zen teacher, also a recognized guru in India. My initial task is to refine my own consciousness, so that I can be an authentic vehicle to chart a path for spiritual friends. Trailing Sky Six Feathers is a screenplay-worthy epic that weaves together seamlessly to create inspiration for a wide range of fellow spiritual seekers, environmentalists, generation X, feminists, students and academics alike.
Blue Ink Review has this to say;
“Though this fantastic tale leaves room for wonder, readers will be swept up in this saga of self-examination, revelation and indeed, exhilarating global adventure. Prattis writes with erudition, charm and humor, ridiculing his own blunders as much as he praises his teachers.Prattis presents a unique viewpoint hewn from hard won exploration of traditional wisdom, offering all of us the overarching advice to “awaken spiritually” so that we may create a stable economy and way of life on Mother Earth.”
- PAINTING WITH WORDS: POETRY FOR A NEW ERA 2018
The Foreword by Jana Begovic provides the opening to my book of poetry:
“This collection of poems features six thematically distinct parts displaying a full spectrum of human emotions, and capturing in verse the shared aspects of our experience…..His poetry aims directly for the heart speaking to the reader in clear and loud words, sometimes screaming the truth; it is incisive, devoid of redundant imagery and heavy-handed symbolism that might obscure the truth, both the poetic and human one….. With the multi-layered quality of the poems, Prattis takes the reader through the immensities of joy and pain, through the infinite and the mysterious. He dissects the dissonance of the modern world with the scalpel of his poetic musings, and describes the interflow between the human soul and the spirit of earth, paving his quest for spiritual evolution and higher meaning.
Prattis’ poetry is a poetic narrative of our basest attributes as a species, our greed and propensity toward a savage violence, as well as our ability to love beyond the telling power of words. His verses awaken the sense of the infinite within us surging our hearts with the power of their message. They restore the possibility of the ancient dialogue between humans and nature, and most of all they restore a sense of optimism.”
A Five Star Review from Kathryn Bennet brings this thread home. She wrote:
“I read this book three times before settling in to write this review. Each time I felt that I uncovered another layer with the collection of poems that I had missed the last time through. To me there is something truly magical about a work that can do that…….The poems strike right at the heart of the journey the author himself has taken in life, and yet it also has an ability to resound with others. The title Painting with Words is truly a perfect description of this poetry collection; you can see the images come to life before your eyes as you read….This collection of poems takes the reader through the full gamut of human emotions. The author has masterfully used his own life experience to transport the reader through this journey, while striving to leave a mark directly on the reader’s heart.”
- SHATTERED EARTH: APPROACHING EXTINCTION 2019
This book review by Susan C. Morris says more than I can!
“Yet there is always a glimpse, a possibility of stepping through the darkness and touching a warm knowing light that spurs us on.”
“Educator, prolific writer, spiritualist, and environmentalist, Prattis delivers an SOS to the world to save the earth and its inhabitants from destruction. The work draws upon written accounts from scientists, philosophers, social activists and spiritual thinkers, including the wisdom of First Nation communities, all who make a convincing case for the need to take immediate action to rescue the planet. His futuristic scenarios are a wake-up call to honor the Paris Climate Agreement and the horrific physical, environmental and social consequences that civilizations will face should the earth fall further into demise. Prattis elucidates the dangers of corporate carbon emissions and their contributions to the destabilization of the earth. He emphasizes that the continuous search for wealth accumulation has come at the sacrifice of the planet. His compelling personal narratives take readers to the Canadian wilderness, the Hebrides in Scotland, and to an Ashram in India, where he writes of his near-death experience.
Throughout the book, the author reaches beyond the scientific to the spiritual, emphasizing humankind’s oneness with the earth. Most notable is his example of the environmental activist Greta Thunberg and the global Children’s Movement, which recommends such alternative, earth-friendly ways as “not having children, living car-free, and taking trains instead of planes.” In particular, the author’s experience with White Eagle woman, his shaman mentor, is an exceptional narrative on how her wisdom helped him to heal sexual abuse during his childhood. Prattis’s volume is an opus on the healing of humanity’s inner soul, together with the healing of the earth, so that both can live harmoniously.”
It happens – that moment when unexpectedly your writing receives glowing confirmation. Luckily I have had a taste of that. At a writer’s retreat, the facilitator who had read my book Redemptionspoke that it was not so much a read but as if she were listening to music. The cadence of the writing struck her forcibly. I often describe Redemption as an extended prose poem but like her musical note more. Then a phone call that Trailing Sky Six Feathers had received the Quill Award from Focus on Women Magazine, an advocacy group for women’s issues worldwide. I was delighted that the first award for this book came from a women’s group. Other awards include Gold for Redemption at the 2015 Florida Book Festival, Silver for Environment from the 2014 Living Now Literary Awards for Failsafe: Saving the Earth From Ourselves – also the 2019 Gold from the eLit Excellence Awards. Shattered Earth received the 2020 Gold Medal from the eLit Excellence Awards. Past, Present, Future: Stories that Haunt got the 2021 Silver Medal Winner from the eLit Excellence Awards. I also received the 2011 Ottawa Earth Day Environment Award and in 2018 the Yellow Lotus award from the Vesak Project for spiritual guidance and teaching dharma.
When a reviewer hits the mark it is a big wow when they seem to read your mind. Julia Ann Charpentier in her review must have been sitting right there. She describes Redemption,
“An admirable command of language brings to every scene a striking visual clarity… The novel falls into the realm of timeless storytelling… This eye-opening book will be a memorable experience for anyone who enjoys reading about primordial tendencies. Beneath a polished urban facade remains a part of human nature that few want to acknowledge, either due to fear or simply because it is easier to deny the basic instincts that have kept us alive on an unforgiving earth.”
A wonderful cap to all this musing was recent when I went to send some books through the Post Office. The young woman at the counter had posted many of the packages of books I had sent to competitions and I always gave a copy to her to read. She gave me a big hug and told me that the book – Trailing Sky Six Feathers– had changed her life. This is really why I write. I told her that the final bookend of this trilogy takes characters from the book she has read and places them on a new planet in the immediate future. I gave her those two books. My expeditions to the post office are a highlight for me these days.
You can find my work at www.ianprattis.com