… a cartography of the psyche …

Celestial Rose - Gustave Doré

Celestial Rose – Gustave Doré

My novels (yet to be published) are inspired by transpersonal incidents I experienced, even as a child. Learning that I was not alone with my interpretations of what happened to me during so-called non-ordinary states of consciousness was a great relief, when during the 70s and 80s I explored, in practice and theory, the major maps of psychology. Jung’s ideas especially rhymed. After training with Psychosynthesis, my interest turned sharply to innovative transpersonal approaches, myth, archetypal psychology, and contemporary science.

People who inspired me were Abraham Maslow, Gregory Bateson, David Bohm, Joseph Campbell and others, many who happened to be among the same people Stanislav Grof met and was supported by when he devoted his life to map the experiences of non-ordinary states of consciousness.

For the first ten years Grof did psychedelic research in Czechoslovakia. By the 70s he had found a family of open-minded scientists and enthusiastic supporters at the Californian Esalen Institute. Since the use of psychedelics became illegal, he developed the Holotropic Breathwork, together with his with wife, Christina.

Around this time I found my own, smaller family of mind and heart in England, where Fazal Inayat Khan saw the huge potential of what was to be the transpersonal psychology movement initiated in Esalen. Fazal involved his students in experiential approaches to self-development, an endeavour that brought him into conflict with the traditional Chisti Tariqa his grandfather Hazrat Inayat Khan had established in the west as Sufi Movement, which Fazal represented at this point. I co-edited Heart of a Sufi, a prism of reflections on Fazal by his students. Here is a previous post https://courseofmirrors.wordpress.com/2013/03/16/a-rare-book-now-on-line/

Grof sees global consciousness evolving through an increasing number of individuals achieving inner transformation, and considers symptoms of spiritual emergence (often seen as mental illness) as part of a healing process needing to be lived through, not supressed. This totally chimed with me.

Obviously, such a project does not attract investment. Shareholders look to own a brand, a patent, a method, a franchise. Many innovations are lost, since the way ideas and things hang together is not finite, but dance in ever new combinations. Also, in areas of specialised and fast-changing knowledge practitioners can become so absorbed with new discoveries and concept that they tend to forget about lay persons who might not be able to grasp the newly coined language, or won’t take the time to look at other fields of knowledge. A major insight may be broadcasted ahead of its time and spark endless quotes but no understanding. Some messages cry for a new context, where insight, beauty and meaning can be shared through passion, combined with apt metaphors, like a fine tune can travel through the heart and make it shiver with the recognition of new connections. Often it’s a matter of waiting for an idea to fall on fertile ground.

Assuming my readers represent a fertile island in this vast internet ocean, I would be amiss not to share what inspires and influences my writing. Few people are familiar with transpersonal psychology; let alone with the work of Stanislav and Christian Grof, so here a short (promise) introduction.

Born to parents that care for us, or not, into environments that encourage or hinder our development, usually both, we learn (hopefully) to understand that our attitude towards ourselves and the world is coloured by early experiences, and fixed further by our reactions to what happens to us. The psychological maze we lay down is difficult to walk away from, because it pops up from inside wherever we go. An interest in our personal history and the willingness to explore our behaviour certainly help to make life easier.

However, there are memories we can’t access intellectually.

They are perinatal impressions, which don’t necessarily end in a triumph that promise self-confidence and later success in life. Western psychology does not take somatic imprints happening in the womb, during birth, and after birth, serious. The assumption is that the cerebral cortex of an infant lacks the myelin sheaths on neurons, so the brain can’t be sufficiently developed to record experiences, this, irrespective of the fact that memories reside in our cells and muscles.

The powerful non-ordinary states people experience during Grof’s perinatal holotropic sessions often relate to a time before, during and after birth. Participants report strong sensations and images of a mythological and archetypal nature that live in the collective psyche and significantly shape our individual myths.

From the people bringing alive perinatal imprints during Grof’s workshops, he has mapped the Birth Matrixes, which shed a bright light on symptoms medicine tends to label as psychotic and usually supresses with counterproductive drugs, whereas Grof looked at symptoms as a healing attempt of the psyche.

This fear of the imagination questioning accepted realities also explains the ambivalent attitude of our culture towards the arts, though it’s no secret that the archetypal myths populating our psyche inspire our most renowned artists.

Dore - public-domain-image

Dore – public-domain-image

To guide a person through a phase of psychotic or transpersonal emergency without suppressing drugs requires a paradigm shift that has, as yet, not happened, which is why Grof’s considerable data of experiential work has been tucked away in the transpersonal section of psychotherapy, seemingly too esoteric to grapple with. Early imprints, though decidedly physical, create powerful condensed experiences that draw upon themselves alike situations. Much like self-affirming prophecies, they constellate throughout every phase of life, from infancy to adulthood. Such early imprints are the source of the psychology and psychopathology of ecstasy. Please note – the types of ecstasies I show below, are only clipped markers and in no way convey the richness of the material Grof presents, which he divides into Basic Perinatal Matrixes (BTM 1, 2, 3 and 4) that include related psychosomatic problems and periods of depression people struggle with.

  • Oceanic or Appollonian ecstasy, cosmic consciousness, symbiotic union with mother during intrauterine existence, and during nursing. Expressions of this state in the arts radiate purity and serenity.
  • Volcanic or Dionysion ecstasy, orgastic sexual energies, orgies, pain and rapture. Dangerous activities, sensual and instinctual aspects of life. Think o the surrealist freeing their imagination in ways that powefully speak to us all.
  • Illuminative, Promethean ecstasy, proceeded by agonising struggles and intense yearning for answers, followed by divine lightning that brings entirely unexpected solutions, cosmic inspiration and insight.

When feelings emerge during the remembrance of the birth process, be they nightmarish,like EdgarAlanPoe’s A Descent into the Maelstrom: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A_Descent_into_the_Maelstr%C3%B6m  or blissful, like in Gustave Doré’s Celestial Rose, image above, the opportunity such symbolic images provide for deep psychological work is invaluable. 

Given the complexities around birth, why are not all babies delivered by pre-planned C-section?  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Caesarean_section   A fascinating page, if you have the time to read it. Knowing people whose delivery was pre-planned as C-section, I observe a surprising feature. If in trouble, they shout for help, and usually help comes …  expectation does its magic. When being whisked from the womb before the struggle through the birth canal commences, struggle is simply not familiar, nor, of course, the potential sense of liberation. By contrast, many people have difficulties asking for help, fearing the distress of not getting help. I include myself in this category. A recent comment I left on Jane Alexander’s blog touches upon a personal experience, an early imprint that had a decisive impact on my life. As an example, I elaborate …

… I patiently endure scarcity for long stretches, until the energy switches and everything happens at once. Then I tend to surrender to the flow, or I would feel overwhelmed.

When I was pregnant, I discovered a connection to these periods of extreme scarcity and abundance in my life, leading back to an incident after my birth. Knowing I was breastfed for many months, I asked my mother on the phone to tell me about my birth. She related my birth was long and exhausting. The midwife suggested my mother needed a break. She took me to another room where I cried myself to sleep. ‘It’s good for her voice,’ she insisted. But, of course, I must have missed my mother’s heartbeat.

While listening to this story on the phone, I observed the skin around a silver ring I was wearing turning black. Heat flashed through me, of rage, for which I had no words. By way of apology my mother said it hadn’t felt right and she should have resisted the midwife. Then she went on to describe how, next morning, I was taken to her very full breasts, at first acting stupid but eventually drinking until I could drink no more. 

In later studies I learned about Stanislav Grof’s birth matrix maps, how condensed experiences draw onto themselves alike experiences, like self-affirming prophecies. Certain expectations are set up very early indeed. This made sense and helped to soften the pattern of my extreme life phases somehow. 

So there – now you know my autogenic secret. In the end, our vastly different conditioning makes us into interesting people :) not mass produced and pre-packed, as it were

Bringing to awareness the unconscious somatic patterns underlying our existence offers us choices to respond rather than react to situation. As a collective, we swim together in a psychic ocean that is both threatening and benign. We regress and progress together, each of us bringing our little light towards the expansion of consciousness. Let’s not buy into the shallowness of our material age, but keep the conversation going.

Here Stanislav Grof speaks for himself – Psychology of the Future –                                  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rI5oG-WNqvM

If you who would like to explore the maps Stan created, and the images that illustrate the in-depth experiences of people who encountered powerful feelings during a typical re-birthing experience – which enlighten the source of our idiosyncrasies and some of the most prevailing human pathologies, I would recommend Grof’s book ‘Beyond the Brain,’ Birth, Death and Transcendence in Psychotherapy, published 1985 by State University of New York. The book does not offer a simplified and popularised version of Grof’s work but significantly challenges our global policies, and the seriously outdated neurophysiological model of the brain, showing the reach of consciousness beyond time and space.

… ultimately we cannot do anything to other people and nature without simultaneously doing it to ourselves …

A post from 2012 that maybe relevant:                               https://courseofmirrors.wordpress.com/2012/05/25/pattern-which-connects/

Incidently, yesterday I attended a talk called ‘the One who cannot die’ given by my dear friend Malcom Stewart, whom I wrote about in 2013 https://courseofmirrors.wordpress.com/2013/10/07/patterns-of-eternity-humbly-opens-your-mind /

 

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… what’s your age again? …

Copy Chair in Spider Hut 2 smallerThe question grates, especially when a round number announces yet another decade looming ahead. While the 40s suggests respectable maturity, the 50s have an aura of old gold best valued by insurance and investment companies. Once you enter the 60s, no matter how rich, poor, active, passive or just blissfully sober, public consensus puts you in line for the moot title ‘retired.’

Once you get over this pesky label, there’s a perk – time slows.

Perceiving life in slow motion has been called wisdom ever since people recognised that slow time reveals hidden dimensions, realities other than those experienced in the speed-lane. Within the present digital pulse of life, days, seasons and years skip ahead at a dizzying velocity. The phenomenon has shortened the shelf life of people, ideas, and objects. A few years ago the motherboard of my laptop crashed. The young man at the IT shop looked amazed. ‘They shouldn’t last that long.’ My laptop was 5 years old. I guess it’s supernatural that my 25 year old Bosch washing machine still works perfectly.

When young, I lifted off, ascended, sped across horizons, acted out and engaged intensely with life. Youth in itself brings of course no guarantee of ascending. Age holds similar uncertainties. Ideally, it allows one to slow down, descent inward, assimilate and integrate experiences, develop patience and insight, re-connect, and grasp the myth of one’s life, and the myth of one’s century.

My point is – descent has a vital function in society. If we can manage to work part-time, or independently during the second half of our lifespan, weRa hand, edit 2 may gain the freedom to reflect, attend to the body’s intelligence, and find our inner rhythm. A thought sculpture may develop, a mood may linger. Communicating may happen along deeper wavelengths. The experience and perception of slow time has a calming influence on the collective psyche, like the prayers and contemplations observed by nuns and monks in monasteries are said to keep the world in balance. I truly believe this.

For those who practice a vocation they love, or develop a passion that keeps them curious and focussed, aging is a side-issue. New technical procedures may not be instantly absorbed, but they provide food for thought. The movie occasionally rolls on silently. Memos reappear, which the younger self, swept along by the speed of progress, may have overlooked, but which in a wider context assume new significance.

The manner that informed wisdom in past cultures and classic times may have remained the same, but elders today have a more complex task in finding apt metaphors for what’s been happening during our single lifetime, poignant lessons that could guide us onwards. When young, our mind feels eternal, we make thing happen, are in sync with the pace of progress and create the future. But what if wisdoms assimilated during inner journeys and the deeper comprehension of present lifetimes are not sufficiently communicated?

The next round of ascent may be hampered by ladders with broken steps, leaving us stuck with unsurmountable problems and senseless social systems. All is not well. The ascending and descending energies working through our present decades are askew. Unless elders have acquired eminence, their voices, their stories, the harvest of their unique experiences, are easily considered useless. Wisdom is not equivalent to the IQ flatland that education systems bank on. Wisdom is more about questions than answers, more like a dance, a tracing of patterns and parallels. Wisdom employs the imagination, re-shuffles knowledge, re-interprets and re-connects ideas to create new meaning.

Image by Yeshen Venema

Image by Yeshen Venema

There’ll always be young ones born old and wise, and old ones who turn young and adventurous. Intangible experiences and the insights of all age groups seek expression and must be circulation, because we are animated by forces not accessible to us. Fate cannot be controlled, but nudges us from the dark. It’s therefor essential to bring our light not only to matter, but to the totality of the psyche, including the unconscious layers of our past and our future, our unknown human potential. We need spaces to make visible what inspires individuals. In this the arts must serve.

The arts need public support in providing free spaces, and funding for everyone, young and old, to engage with and share their imagination in any form that moves their heart. In a culture that prizes speed above all else, the inner journey, the long view, listening, trusting, gratitude, the appreciation of difference, small things, and the cultivation of inner silence from which conflict resolution, intuition and creativity can spring, has never been more important.

*    *    *

Re: Elders … there is a group brought together by Nelson Mandela in 2007 http://www.theelders.org/ Add your support to the eighty thousand follower on twitter –  @TheElders   – This is their mission:

Our vision is of a world where people live in peace, conscious of their common humanity and their shared responsibilities for each other, for the planet and for future generations. We see a world in which there is universal respect for human rights; in which poverty has been eliminated; in which people are free from fear and oppression and are able to fulfil their true potential.

Initially the concept emerged from a conversation between Richard Branson and Peter Gabriel. Together, they took their idea of a group of global elders to Nelson Mandela who agreed to support it.                                                     http://www.virgin.com/unite/leadership-and-advocacy/richard-branson-birth-elders

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… oh my sweet, crushed angel …

Maybe I was inspired by a  dream last night, but for some reason the painting of Tobias and the Angel, its story, and this poem by Hafiz waltzed into my space this morning .

Tobias and the Angel - Andrea del Verrrocchio’s workshop

Tobias and the Angel – Andrea del Verrrocchio’s workshop

   My Sweet, Crushed Angel

You have not danced so badly, my dear,
Trying to hold hands with the Beautiful One.

You have waltzed with great style,
My sweet, crushed angel,
To have ever neared God’s Heart at all.

Our Partner is notoriously difficult to follow,
And even His best musicians are not always easy
To hear.

So what if the music has stopped for a while.

So what
If the price of admission to the Divine
Is out of reach tonight.

So what, my dear,
If you do not have the ante to gamble for Real Love.

The mind and body are famous
For holding the heart ransom,
But Hafiz knows the Beloved’s eternal habits.

Have patience,
For He will not be able to resist your longing
For long.

You have not danced so badly, my dear,
Trying to kiss the Beautiful One.

You have actually waltzed with tremendous style,
O my sweet,
Oh my sweet, crushed angel.

From ‘I Heard God Laughing’ – Renderings of Hafiz by Daniel Ladinsky

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hafez

http://www.nationalgallery.org.uk/learning/teachers-and-schools/teaching-english-and-drama/out-of-art/stories-for-use-in-class/tobias-and-the-angel   – the story of the Tobias and the Angel.

And I just re-found this lovely post about the ‘Tobias and the Angel’ painting …. posted some time ago by Katia  https://scribedoll.wordpress.com/2011/08/21/odds-ends-trust/

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… the tulip – haiku moment …

A little Haiku arrived in a flash and together with its timely image struck a chord with many of my facebook and twitter friends. It’s the beautiful message of one tulip in my garden, whose eleven companion bulbs were eaten up by hungry rodents.

P1070196 - smaller

a lone tulip splays
its red mantle to the sun
there you have my heart

*    *    *

A Haiku can arrive in a flash or take its time to unfold. Here is  an article by Jane Reichhold to inspire. She shares a little history and a number of techniques.

http://www.ahapoetry.com/haiartjr.htm

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… give the poor ego a break …

Image by Daphne Jo Grant, created for my  poetry collection in 1993 -Gapsy Truth.

Image by Daphne Jo Grant, created for my poetry collection in 1993 -Gapsy Truth.

I’m all for shielding the Ego from moral experts who succumb to counter-transference. Proverbs, turned inner voices, instruct: Put yourself last, be considerate, don’t let people down, adapt, respect trade-off laws, keep promises – the inner voices more or less prescribe what’s in your best interest to feel, think and do.

Noisy commotions, muddling any sense of ‘I.’

The poor ego not only holds awareness of our multifaceted reality, but is driven to distraction by conflicting demands, assumptions, chimeras of grandeur, bouts of doubt, all drowning the whisper deep down – ‘Who or what am I really ?’

‘Part of me suspects that I’m a loser, and the other part of me thinks I’m God Almighty.’  – John Lennon

John summed up the typical seesaw compensation attempt. Adding insult to injury, self interest is blamed for our social ills. Even astute spiritual wisdom falls flat when it fails to appreciate the ego’s task – to daily create new order out of chaos, attempting a compromise with reality. No wonder people become nervous wrecks when their temporary identifications are threatened, no wonder fierce defences are constellated. The battered ego-agent screams silently – I’m only loyal to my familiars.

Some familiar rituals guarantee a  child experiencing rejection, physically, emotionally or intellectually, will self-reject for failing the expectations of its superiors. Welcoming or neglecting, early responses by adults we depend upon set foundation for our personality. Break that mirror and you’re on your own.

Maps serve us as orientation, they don’t convey territory. S. Freud’s map of the psyche is powerful. Think of the Id as a Launchpad to stars. What Freud omitted is a higher unconsciousness, our inner guidance and intuition, later introduced by C. G. Jung and A. Assagioly

Freud’s ideas deserve studying. His terms slipped into common speech like brands and became tangled.

Leviathan

Leviathan

Take the ego construct. Sandwiched between the powerful gratification-force of the Id, in need of gentle and firm boundaries, and a cultural Super-ego, with its rules and regulations, the Ego has the unrewarding task of mediator. The Id, at worst, is a heap of misery dragged along, withholding its energy, while the Super-ego, at worst, hijacks personalities like a psycho terrorist, know–it-all, manipulator, fanatic …  having abandoned the powerless inner child with its distressing and embarrassing need for acceptance and love.

And let’s not fool ourselves, distorted ideals attach themselves to well-disguised tyrants in the collective psyche, slumbering, until the day when circumstances conspire.

Children who grow up anxious to placate, or are bent against authority, invent ingenious strategies for survival. Fragile or strong, balanced or torn by extremes, developing a personality is an art form, assembled from layers upon layers of impressions and accumulated memories. Only increased awareness lessens over-identification and softens defences.

‘The paradox of the arts is that they are all made up and yet they allow us to get at truths about who, and what we are or might be’. –   Seamus Heaney

creative recycling

creative recycling

creative recycling

creative recycling

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Young children need space to playact, and adolescents need safe outlets for their natural aggression, opportunities for intense experiences, and encouragement to explore their self-image. The houses of identity we create, however basic or twisted, position us in space and time. They have windows allowing a view, and doors through which to venture into a wider world and align our personal myth to a greater myth.

The problem is clearly not the personal ego, but its cultural super-edition, coloured, at least in the west, by mechanistic templates that regard nature as enemy to be conquered and controlled.

Reprimands like selfish stem from a period when inducing guilt was a convenient social formula. Today this approach is counterproductive. Educational practices must catch up with the nuclear age and the fresh metaphors for space and time. New dimensions arise in our consciousness, compelling us to re-think:

Escher's Relativity

Escher’s Relativity

Relativity theories freed perspectives and brought a climate of moral liberty. In a psychological sense, moral advice became repugnant, which explains why western minds begun to question aspects of religious dogma. A way was opened towards looking inside, and individuation, in a Jungian sense.

Quantum physics has widened our vision further, and brought deep spiritual turmoil through new speculations that suggest a symbolic reality of consciousness that over a hundred years ago would only have been imagined by a minority – mainly mystics.

The Digital revolution has upset linear time and is gradually transforming our relationship with time and space, leading us to ask, ‘What is real?’

A mould, no matter how inadequate, is necessary for any new-born. Judging behaviour without acknowledging the initial and well-meaning intentions underlying the formation of personality will only strengthens neuroses, instead of allowing the acceptance of one’s imperfect self-creation, with a nudge towards a gradual softening of defences.

‘Form is a relic of eternal potential.’ – Fazal Inayat-Khan

This post contains excerpts pulled from past articles that were never published.

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How do I read?

one of my notebooks

one of my notebooks

I jotted this question in my notebook a while ago. How do I read, in the widest sense? There is plenty of observation and advice on the art of writing, composing music, painting, photography, film. Less is said about on the art of reading, perceiving, interpreting, or how we reject or embrace what is expressed by others, and ourselves, even how we read our dreams.

I conclude there’s no difference between, let’s say writing, and reading, other than visibility, since any creative composition derives from an inner process of reading, the picking and shuffling of impressions into our frame of reference in relation to the larger myth of reality.

One could say the secret of being read lies in one’s talent and ability to read one’s inner psychic world, even when filtered through one’s most personal and eccentric imagination.

Long before communication was easily reproducible and reached greater audiences, people were reading the world, though only a tiny fraction of inspirations and inventions was circulated. Today’s media channels swamp us with communications. It’s confusing. We must choose.

In reading novels, I follow my intuition. The gimmick of an instant attention grabbing action scene puts me off. A proposal may be impossibly fantastic, but if I detect an authentic voice, rhythm and movement, I travel along. Invited into a mind, an atmosphere, a time, a place, I want to be absorbed in this other world and experience myself anew in a conflict between light and shadow from within the heart of another consciousness.

Whether meaning is intended or not, I read my own meaning into what has been imagined by another mind. An insight, a memory may surprise. Some books I treasure for one or two illuminating sentences, so I guess reading for me is a bit of a treasure hunt, which begs a question. What am I hunting for?

world objects for sandtray work

world objects for sandtray work

My interest is fleeting when events are contrived, plucked from the air. Characters convince me when they are embodied and grow around obstacles, reaching towards the light, while spreading roots and producing seeds (new thoughts,) even when they come from mythical creatures, kings and slaves of the past, or explorers of distant futures. As long as events happen in a believable psychological setting, I engage.

Then again, I’ve been convinced by writing that made no sense at all, until, with a little patience, I discovered a new comprehension shining through an abstract form. It’s a wonderful feeling, and important feedback for writers, who may be surprised by what is evoked in readers. Once I finished my present project, I intent to spend more time on reviewing – a most giving art of reading.

Stories for stories sake can be dull, while stories in which nothing much happens outwardly can be riveting when they resonate with the human condition, where, quite often, what seems true becomes false, and what seems false becomes true.

It is said we write the books we want to read. When writing, I search to combine words that convince intellectually and emotionally, until something true is mirrored back. Maybe what I’m hunting for in my reading and writing are fitting metaphors for the miracle of existence.

I always delight in discovering neglected writers, like Marlene Haushofer,  or the poet W S Graham, whom I wrote about here as part of a post in Sept 2013.  And beyond new works, there are innumerable old favourites, including H G Wells. The link connects to a post I did about one of his lesser known stories.

Thinking about photography, my other passionate reading, I was inspired by Henri Cartier Bresson – the link leads to my post about him.  And here the archive of the street photography of Andre Kertesz – enjoy.  I’ll leave film alone, that’s a whole other story.

What are your reflections on reading?

 

Some related blogposts:

Storytelling and the primary world.

Mother-tongue and other tongue.

Memory and Place.

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… four years of blogging …

The host of my virtual island – wordpress – alerted me to the four-year anniversary of my blog.

I thought I share with my followers some private photos. I’m not good at private sharing, but since my first book is going to be published this year, one way or another, some visuals of myself are in order.

pretending to fish

pretending to fish

about 30 years ago,  before selfies were vogue

about 30 years ago, before selfies were vogue

more recent, four or so years ago, a young sixty something

more recent, four or so years ago, a young sixty something

Lack of time limits my interactions, so I assume my over 300 readers are truly genuine. Thank you all for reaching out, for your friendships. It’s heartening to know my posts are enjoyed, and occasionally inspire. I sample your islands at random, and delight in how everything posted resonates. I appreciate your likes, and will respond to every comment left here.

Looking back, this was my first short post in March 2011 – just one sentence:

                                           We are each of us born a star in search of our world.

The second post was: A recent series of Haiku – for those who like Haiku

a town is gone

hawthorn flowers

white in the sun

*   *   *

among rubble

the snapshot of a child

splashing in a wave

*   *   *

spring morning

a ginger cat leaps home

across frosted lawns

*   *   *

the robin arrives

sampling dry grass for its nest

sky is cut by a plane

*   *   *

sunlight in a puddle

birds dowse their wings

no other sound

*   *   *

emerald shoots

on brittle cement

patter of feet

*   *   *

plastic bags rattle

in wire and branch

blobs of colour

*   *   *

a wave is rolling

over the grid of streets

hush among crumbled walls

*   *   *

lichen dried silver

in the hot spring

a rain of blossoms

*   *   *

a golden leaf

in the shade

white plumes rise

*   *   *

under smooth ice

a shimmering carp

visible silence

The concluding post in March 2011 was a letter to my shadow, ending …

         … Without you, I’d only be fluff on the coat of real human beings …

Time-permitting, please explore my posts, listed in the archive column to the right of my home page.

I hope you bear with me. Heartfelt thanks to all my readers.

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… dream – a storyteller teasing my dad …

I love this image, but can't find its source,, apologies to the photographer.

I love this image, but can’t find its source,, apologies to the photographer.

Two nights ago, an enchanting storyteller appeared in my dream. She glowed from within, embodying her yarn with captivating gestures, her eyes saying – you’re loveable. Her whole being was a joyous dance. She flicked her fingers before my father’s face, touching his chin – making him laugh – his freed anima, maybe?

Ah, dreams are wonderful, unpredictable like liquid mercury, living silver flowing into shapes.

It was heart-warming to see my father laugh and absorb the affection, the irreverence, the humour. He did not retreat into silence before the piercing wit of the storyteller. The probe was softened through caring eyes … a miracle.

Alone, I could not have invoked such light-hearted banter with a father, who pulled the drawbridge to his heart ever since I dared to think independently. The dream vision lifted the cloud of my helpless woe.

After the dream, I recalled part of a poem I wrote long ago. Daughters may recognise the patriarchal fault in the lines of this poem, the discrepant realities that want bridging. It’s the same old story that could teach us, in the words of my late teacher, Fazal Inayat-Khan:

‘We are not here to agree with each other, but to create beauty.’

Truth worth seeking springs from the middle of each moment. Evolved individuals don’t see a women as inferior to men. The concept has harmed, and still harms, the psychological growth of both men and woman. Yet the deeply-etched hierarchical system keeps working its mean distortions across the globe.

He rests in stasis – cast in stone,

placed high in a niche

of this grand cathedral.

Sculpture Park, Churt, Surrey, UK

Sculpture Park, Churt, Surrey, UK

His daughters wake

and dare looking up.

What are they meant to do

with this apostolic vision

in their genes?

Someone tell them now,

tell them how the vacant room

was always theirs to own.

Here – sun streams through

rounded glass – crimson,

amber, cobalt, gold and green

play across crisp white walls.

Here – colours soften light,

a child can breathe deeply,

is free to release stale sorrows

and style fresh dreams.

Dad, we kick your ghost

out of here … no more

bargains with your fear.

What’s the cause of this stasis, so feared – like dying life, or living death? I think it’s war, each new war piled on top of other wars, and the unbearable injustices my father, many fathers, and mothers, were, and still are, subjected to. I shake my head, I nod my head, and somewhere between all contradictions I must accept the inherited traumas of humanity and seek life and joy with each new day.

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… other worlds … 

Writers that inspire and make me think are like a family of heart and mind. Luis Borges belongs. His imaginary worlds shine from beyond time and space, and delight with paradox.

‘The universe (which others call the Library) is composed of any indefinite and perhaps infinite number of hexagonal galleries, with vast air shafts between … The Library is a sphere whose exact centre is any one of its hexagons and whose circumference is inaccessible … For every sensible line of straightforward statement, there are leagues of senseless cacophonies, verbal jumbles and incoherences … it suffices that a book be possible for it to exist …’   The Library of Babel, by Jorge Luis Borges

Between each breath, comma, pause, number, node, and each period, we string symbols towards stories. Some make sense to some, others make sense to none, and yet others inspire more stories. Ideas that resonate have an ongoing life, they tag on each other.

In his extensive readings, Borges must have come upon the ‘many worlds’ theme recorded in various cultures over the centuries, long before quantum physics was challenged to struggle with this probability.

Theodor Kittelsen 1857 - 1914

Theodor Kittelsen 1857 – 1914

Even as a child I experienced shifts in reality, vivid moments that expanded my imagination and have come to play a part in my novels. Since nothing about particle behaviour under observation is certain, everyone of us is abundantly free to speculate about memory, time, and parallel worlds. Though dreamlike, these other dimensions leave signs, like unseen winds show in swaying branches, jittering leaves, and rippling waters that gather momentum to become waves upon waves.

The general definition of wave is a disturbance travelling from one location to another through whatever medium or vacuum presents itself. Do bits of information travel with resonating particles? Is the medium itself the message transmitting pattern recognition? After all, even far galaxies mirror the branching of trees and leaves on earth, or, for that matter, the neuron system in our bodies. Everything scales up or down ad infinitum. Here’s how Jonathan Swift put it in 1773

The vermin only teaze and pinch                                                                                                                                               Their foes superior by an inch.                                                                                                                                                    So, naturalists observe, a flea                                                                                                                                                    Has smaller fleas that on him prey                                                                                                                                              And these have smaller still to bite ‘em,                                                                                                                                      And so proceed ad infinitum.

It seems incomprehensible that parallel worlds could exist and influence our reality and vice versa. How could there be many collective and personal histories? How could there be other versions of us and everything? How would it work?

Given the fickleness of our feelings and thoughts, strange dreams, synchronicities, and the constant dissolution of ordered energy fields, we are exposed to streams of oscillating and interrelating signals, unless we fine-tune through the white noise, or completely relax. Occasionally we have a sensation of order, like a blossom unfolding. All is right and beautiful – we don’t feel separate, but in symphony with all dimensions, here and now.

At other times, when under pressure, and crucified having to make a decision, we sample memories, search pasts, postulate futures, until we surrender to a compromise, or the universe decides for us, or  … a resonance occurs.

‘All time is contained in now.’ – Meister Eckhart

A sudden resonance, if deep, could explain many paranormal phenomena that vex and hex people, especially scientists. Mystics are fond of saying the ‘self’ is an illusion, trapped in the body, though which self is a matter of perspective.  Since quantum physics, particles stopped being things in themselves, but function as waves also.  This is where it gets slippery, because no explanation has come forward for the wave-function- collapse when the measuring of the particle is attempted.

Time is nature’s way of stopping everything from happening at once.’

Graffiti in a Texas Washroom

The ‘many worlds’ concept gets round this problem by suggesting myriad of copies of our reality, where everything conceivable can happen. As a writer, this is my license to create. The invented characters in my novels happen to me. They are tangible, psychologically coherent, yet also suspended between worlds, like, I think, we all are.

‘… the library is infinite and cyclical … If an eternal traveller were to cross it in any direction, after centuries he would see that the same volumes were repeated in the same disorder (which, such repeated, would be an order: the Order). My solitude is gladdened by the elegant hope.’ Jorge Luis Borges

Here the Wikipedia entry on The Library of Babel.

The image is by Theodor Kittelsen, master of vision, trolls and wit.

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… the ones who walk away …

Ursula Le Guin’s short metafiction, ‘The Ones who Walk Away from Omelas,’ first published in 1973, had its 40th anniversary last year. My first reading, when Google and book review sites were non-existent, left a deep impression. This week’s re-reading, once, twice, three times – the story deserves it – made me curious as to what other readers might have made of it. Obsessing in a web-crawl I came upon predominantly moral interpretations, which I distinctly remember resisting, though these associations are understandable. The way our systems deal with the unadjusted tends to appease the troubled conscience for the rest of us normal citizens.

For me, there were deeper complexities in this brilliant piece of writing. I decided to share my thoughts and tempt those of you who don’t know the story to read it and derive their own insights. I’ll use spoilers, so if you want to read the story first, here is a link: http://genius.com/Ursula-k-le-guin-the-ones-who-walk-away-from-omelas-annotated

… With a clamor of bells that set the swallows soaring, the Festival of Summer came to the city of Omelas, bright-towered by the sea …  

Childhood, Thomas Cole, 1842

Childhood, Thomas Cole, 1842

We are shown a charming city where order and harmony reign, a city well-protected in a bay, resembling a womb. Reality is suspended. There’s a sense of timelessness. It is a civilised place, decorous, joyful, without hierarchy. No king, no swords, no slaves … no power games. Utopia comes to mind, the idea of eternal life – the eternal innocent child.

No science has yet dispelled the vision of a haven without strive, where everyone is happy. In the wake of traumatising wars and unspeakable atrocities, there are always attempt to re-create places like Omelas, attempts to soften the reality of birth and death, the extremes of joy and pain, nature, the cosmos our life depends on and which we try to fathom. But since our spiritual lore cautions that life is an illusion – an ornament that covers ultimate truth we can’t perceive with our senses, we get anxious when life becomes too comfortable.

The narrating voice, anticipating our scepticism, invites us to fill in the sketches of this perfect democracy. We are told, ‘They were not simple folks, you see, though they were happy.’ After all, Omelas may strike some as goody-goody. Smiles, bells, parades, horses, bleh. ‘If so please add an orgy.’ More delightful pleasures are suggested – celebrating life, with one significant addition, ‘One thing I know there is none of in Omelas is guilt.’

In contrast, the voice notes the bad habit of a different place, where pedants and sophisticates consider happiness as something rather stupid. ‘Only pain is intellectual, only evil interesting … the treason of the artist: a refusal to admit the banality of evil and the terrible boredom of pain.’ The voice insists that the citizens of Omelas were mature, intelligent, passionate people whose lives were not wretched.

The Festival of Summer has begun. ‘Do you believe?’ the narrator asks. ‘Do you accept the festival, the city, the joy? NO? Then let me describe one more thing.’

And there it is, the secret lurking out of sight, a child, kept in the darkness of a tiny cellar room, with only a faint ray of hope based on a dull memory. The child is not driven out of the city, like the traditional scapegoat, but contained below ground; there to absorb everyone’s fear of reality and its cruel justice, embodying, maybe, submerged histories, rather like the depths of the iceberg below water keeps its peak afloat in the light.

… They all know it is there, all the people of Omelas. Some of them have come to see it; others are content merely to know it is there. They all know that it has to be there. Some of them understand why, and some do not, but they all understand that their happiness, the beauty of their city, the tenderness of their friendships, the health of their children, the wisdom of their scholars, the skill of their makers, even the abundance of their harvest and the kindly weathers of their skies, depend wholly on the child’s abominable misery …

Terms are clear, should this child be freed, the beauty would wither and be destroyed. The pragmatic solution seems such: One punished and suffering child is meant to redeem the rest from coming to terms with their inherited sins and traumas.

To leave this comfortable enclave of Omelas means leaving security and loved ones behind. It requires crossing mountains, stepping into the unknown, with no charm against collective guilt.

Omelas’ citizens are free to look at the unacceptable child. While reactions, those of young ones mainly, vary from disgust to outrage, most accept the necessity of this child’s sacrifice, though some fall quiet and leave Omelas in the middle of night, alone.

For me the child is there to serve cohesion, symbolizing a lid on the unconscious, primitive, wild aspects of the psyche. Isn’t dis-ease a loss of order and rhythm? If you judge this pragmatism harshly, consider the purpose of trip-switches in an electricity-wired house. Or, consider how people under social or dictatorial pressure may choose to safeguard the lives of their loved ones at the cost of betraying their knowing heart.

Le Guin does not condone staying or leaving Omelas, she provides no answers. I am one of those who walked away, many times, always at a cost, because I preferred guilt to shame. C G Jung developed the concept of individuation, hoping for it to expand collective consciousness from the inside out, through the individual, sometimes involving a precarious personal journey, going through a process of separating psychologically from parents, state, authority, to become whole. Like in the Zen story where the seeker eventually returns, better able to serve the community. While a single brain does not survive its limited life-span, the collective memory of matter, and each human experience lives on and is transmitted to every new-born life.

Each one of us carries the traumas of our histories, though not everyone has the opportunity to redeem such wounds, contribute new ideas, or explore different states of being. What drives one to walk away from the familiar – is it inner conflict, allegiance to one’s heart, fear to upset the order, the need for a wider perspective, or simply a calling? We bond to the systems we grow up in, in cases we adjust our behaviour in order to emotionally survive, along with the implicit bargain to keep quiet about the shit, our shit, others’ shit, and how we deal with all the shit.

There are those who leave a comfortable place and those who stay. Maybe a balance between conservative forces that protect structures and revolutionary forces that seek change is necessary. Not everyone, for example, can face existential pain and futility without succumbing to psychosis. There is a case for Festivals of Summer, sport, drugs, ecstasy, trance …

Was the power of the imagination born from fear of mortality? Is this why we envisage dystopias or utopias, and, ultimately, scenarios that make us feel in control of our destiny?

What we hide from ourselves and from each other often relates to our most prominent outcast, the neglected inner child, so embarrassing to the adult world. This child in Omelas seems to embody the ongoing ritual of shame for walking from Eden into the dawn of creation, a reality burdened with consciousness, and free will that frequently misses the mark, but, heck, is the very process of becoming human.

My naïve hope is that we can learn to embrace our all too human failures, show patience with our children, stop seeking blame and end scapegoating, yet also acknowledge our individual and collective need for comfortable realities … protecting us … from what?

Here a quote from a former friend and teacher, Fazal Inayat-Khan … taken from a lecture on Reality:

‘For the whole collective of the human mind – outside that self-created reality there is a storm. That storm – that wind – that pressure – that influence and space is for our existence and permanency completely annihilating and destructive … our assignment outward is because of a deep decay … Reality is a veil that is spun with the finest and thinnest and strongest silk. It weighs nothing – it covers a little darker area behind – and yet the moment when you reach out with your hand to draw the veil away it will skin your hand till blood is drawn.’ 

To fill this emptiness we assign our meaning outward. Call it the human project. Sorry to trouble you, my friends, but the function of reality is worth contemplating, and, in my view, Ursula Le Guin’s story does just that.

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