A Tribute to Ronald Beasley MBE
Member of SIHR
The day before his 83rd birthday, on 24 October 2006, Ronald delivered the Third Annual Wester Hailes Community Lecture. He died a month later on 28 November 2006 at the end of a prolific year of writing. ‘Letters to God from the Wilderness’ was completed that year and published posthumously by the Shoving Leopard Press.
We include below an article Ronald wrote for the SIHR newsletter in 2006, an atmospheric piece reflecting on the view from his window in Edinburgh and his thoughts about his counselling practice [What Do I See When I Look?].
Ronald was a fellow, trustee and governor of the British Association of Counselling and Psychotherapy and a contributor to couple counselling and counsellor training. In 1979 he became the first head of community affairs at Wester Hailes Education Centre, one of Scotland’s pioneering community schools. He served as the first Chair of the Edinburgh Children’s Panel and for 25 years was vice chair of the visiting committee of the Young Offenders’ Institution at Polmont.
His obituary, published in the Scotsman, 17 January 2007, described Ronald as ‘a man of honesty, integrity and imagination, who opened doors and challenged boundaries to bring people together’.
What Do I See When I Look?
From the sitting room window of my flat in Edinburgh I have a panoramic view of Arthur’s Seat to the East, and then right round the visual perimeter to the strong and conspicuous Spire of Barclay Church in the West. Passing the Castle on the way, the green Links of Bruntsfield, with the Meadows receding in the further distance. This view is ever changing, even though it remains essentially the same. Over the years I have, as it were, kept vigil with the Spire pointing skyward, with its seeming invulnerability to the weather and the passing seasons.
Over the last twenty years whatever has been my mood, day and night, I’ve observed the hazards of the seasons- the thunder storms, gales, the fresh showers of Spring, and the crisp frosty mornings. I remember the pure light of the full moon in the West playing on the the Spire, as well as the hard glare of the midday sun in high summer. And I recall too the Spire transformed by the soft gleam from the dusting of virgin snow and frost. My own ups and downs over the years have been disciplined and enlightened by continuous anticipation. Looking at the Spire on occasion, I hold my breath. It stands there foursquare, and yes, it goes on standing! From this daily introspection the Spire has come to feel like a loyal companion.
It is my pleasure to stand at my window and gaze at the Spire as it appears to shoot out from its solid earthy and concrete base- heavenwards some would suggest. It has its own vigour which is garnished with a silent presence. As the sea mist, and the fret rolls in from the East Coast, the Spire becomes ensconced in what feels like a quiet mystery, poised within a veil. But then on occasion out of the sun-lit blue unblemished sky it casts its long slender shadow, not of doubt, but of assurance. Its appointed place has its own safeguards. This grace of an inner certainty infiltrates my mind, promising that there will be a tomorrow, followed by others. When night beckons, the enfolding blanket of dusk around the Spire softens its touch, revealing a changed profile within its own muted strength.
Over the years, largely unconsciously, I have come to trust and to know that this Spire is not just any old spire, but rather it holds many perspectives of experience, and each one has its own moment of insight. The Spire holds my attention, and on occasion I feel my senses are accentuated, rewarding me with fertile images that probe and test my questioning ego. I seem to be caught up in a dance - watching, waiting, and reflecting within what becomes a panorama of enticing wonder.
This soliloquy has shaken my days and nights. But I’m able to internalise something of this fertile image of the Spire- a creative model with cloistered phallic notions, alert, and pointing forward with a strength that heartens me. Simultaneously it also provides an intangible and seemingly ethereal base, with deep foundations, into which I can project my intentions for tomorrow. This Spire has now become my in-spire-ation!
SO WHAT DO I SEE THEN, WHEN I LOOK DEEPLY?
Years and even decades have passed as my clients have come and gone. Some of them on their weekly visit to my consulting room will have been aware of the Spire. I know that counselling and therapy point somewhere, though it may not be heavenwards! But the Spire holds for me the hope that in any journey of discovery we begin to learn to appreciate the furniture of living, which clients can then use more creatively, with a fruitful imagination. The therapy of dawning dialogue, of deep listening, of honest and alert observation and contemplation, draw counsellor and client into a bond with its own revealing insight. In a turbulent world, with angry clients I have been able to lay my vocation, as it were, at the feet of those who have stumbled. With unconscious influence from the image of the Spire, perhaps I have been able to project foursquare, a picture of potential resolution and peace. This in itself is a fresh perspective of what life can be for clients and therapists alike. My own inner journey with its deepening perception of truth has also enabled clients to come to know themselves, discovering a sound foundation when session following session transforms and invigorates. So it is clear to me that a visual image may be worth many words, and seeing, at least potentially, can initiate understanding. No matter which model of therapy is practised, each of them will thrive better if the imagination has the opportunity to assist in transposing the clients’ pain through the use of myth, metaphor, and allegory. The one-to-one and face-to-face engagement for clients nurtured within an awareness of the Spire will, I believe, strengthen their heart and liberate their mind, so that they can begin again to learn how to trust and be nourished.
Recently, a friend of mine reminded me of the slogan that stretched across the citadel of the Sorbonne in Paris in 1968. It read L’Imagination au Pouvoir- Power to the Imagination! As counsellors and therapists offering a therapeutic revolution for clients, we face an exciting future with this cri de coeur. Our vocation, profession, and ministry will enhance our clients beyond recognition as with our fertile imagination, our looking enables their seeing. The hidden will not remain hidden any longer.
M.B.E., D.P.S., Fellow of the British Association of Counselling and Psychotherapy