Tag Archives: ideals

… embracing the messy soul …

I hesitated posting this, since a deep sadness resurfaced and took hold of me while pondering Soul and Spirit. What’s the point, why exist, to what end? I asked this as a child, having been shown horrendous images in the wake of the Second World War, meant as shock treatment in my German primary school during the 1950’s. A poem I wrote about this experience I still don’t feel confident to share. I turned iconoclast, explored philosophies, religions, myths, literature, searched for exceptional minds, and resisted prescribed beliefs in favour of direct experience.

In my twenties I turned to images and their symbolic power, until a numinous event in Israel reunited me with language, literature, poetry, and science. I studied too many subjects to bore you with, at my own expense, none for economic advantage. I did meet exceptional people, including mystics, yet my question, like a spell, kept birthing more questions.

Disheartened, yet fascinated by our manic mechanistic Zeitgeist, I adopted a transpersonal view, letting things unfold until decisions fell into place. With each intuitive choice, energy for action met me half way and helped me succeed with many projects. This included workshops on dreams and myth, and the wonderful Parent Link programme I helped get on the road, all about reflective listening and the language we use. Unfortunately this parent and school-supported project received no support from the Government. Still, at times I felt I was making beneficial contributions to society.  Of late, no new question has arrived to kick off a renaissance in my poetic imagination, or shed light on the collective mood of futility, which seems to confirm the scientific view that reality is determined by numbers.

Battered, but not beaten, I honour my core resolves: that everything physical is en-souled and resonates with everything else in the universe. And that consciousness, with the potential for symbolic awareness in humans, creates innumerable realities we co-create in ever new forms.

Arthur Rackman – Twilight

Soul and Spirit have become terms relegated to poetry. Some traditions hold them to be interchangeable and interdependent, akin to the Eastern concept of Yin and Yang. In this sense the feminine and masculine principles (mentioned below) reside in women and men alike, that is, their receptive and active and qualities work in each of us. Certain myths simplified and distorted this truth, which now asserts itself with fresh understandings regarding the psychological identification with gender.

“When I say the feminine, I don’t mean gender. I mean the feminine principle that is living—or suppressed—in both men and women.”  Marion Woodman

Observing the political debates around the globe, I notice a similar narrow power dictum in entrenched wars for control, which conjure up the quarrel of parents that drive children to hide in the broom cupboard.

I understand SOUL (Psyche) as pure consciousness, self-sufficient. Yet once identified with impressions of the physical world –  soul becomes the vessel. We talk of soul shining through eyes, through nature, or as immanent presence pervading matter. Consider body, mother, growth, loss, suffering, receptivity, attachment, memory, meaning, imagination, mystery, intuition, aesthetics, melancholy, yearning, endurance, constrictions, chaos, bliss … One may associate Soul with Eros, energy, the cosmos, planets, moon, beauty, stars, history, identity, myths, time, space, past, darkness, the unconscious, unpredictability, and the female principle (Anima) inviting spirit for input and direction.

SPIRIT, to me, is like a wind of light carrying seeds of information to recipient vessels, conscious or unconscious, singular or universal. Humans interpret this information, wisely or not. We talk of actions as spirited, fiery, determined, energetic, contradictory, passionate, always moving and changing. We talk of people driven by principles, for good or bad, or, frankly, being possessed. Spirit aligns with order and ideals, again, for good or bad. Add the relentless drive for perfection which aims, in some traditions, for transcendence, seeking the divine not in the messy psyche, but only in abstract spheres beyond matter. We associate Spirit with logos, will, action, speed, the sun, innovation, reason, light, the male principle (Animus,) and future visions … welcomed by the soul.

Mothers – Käthe Kollwitz

Torn between spiritual heights and visions, and the dark depth of the collective psyche, my initial therapy training with Roberto Assagioli’s Psychosynthesis impressed me with an undeniable necessity: The higher we rise the deeper we’re called to descend into the murky shadow of ourselves and our collective inheritance. Gripped then, once again, by the deep sadness I felt as a child in the face of human suffering, I cried for days. The work began, with my own unconscious, with individuals and groups. But nearly 35 years on, I feel yet again despair that the knowledge gained about the psyche is not wider applied. The abuse of people, especially women and children, and the planet itself, continues in the name of the power principle and progress, as does the resistance to acknowledge and heal personal and collective grief. It’s so much more convenient to blame an enemy.

I had the privilege to meet a remarkable Sufi teacher, Fazal Inayat-Khan, and the community of his students during the mid 1970’s. As the grandson of the saintly Hazrat Inayat Khan, Fazal developed his grandfather’s message in passionate, spontaneous and radical modern ways. One of his sayings: ‘Answers are dead, questions are alive,’ gave perspective to my existential query. For him, fragile egos behind the mask of their persona needed strengthening before the Self could become conscious. He orchestrated intense workshops during which the shadow aspects of our personalities were exposed. Each event was followed by a tender and humorous process of debriefing. He taught me to forgive myself, to be kind to myself. He died much too young in 1990. The copyright to hundreds of Fazal’s pioneering talks is held by the present Sufi Way, so his deep mystical insights must wait for another day. While I was co-editing Heart of a Sufi, reminiscences gathered from his students, we were limited to a few quotes and one inspired poem, Qalandar, which I hope to share some time.

Explanations aim to reassure, but knowing the limits of reason, I search for metaphors, symbols, poetry in words and images to make my fleeting insights graspable, as lonely as they stand, and as totally irrelevant as they may be to others. Still, it’s a lovely surprise when readers explore the archives here, or read my quest novel, ‘Course of Mirrors,’ which defies genres.

Turbulent times call for intuitive introspection, though sifting through the avalanche of information available is probably the great task we must master in this present decade. When lame slogans and bitter opinions are shouted with animosity across the media, our conscience is severely tested.

What we call good and bad coexists in the psyche. If you’ve read Ursula Le Guin’s Wizard of Earthsea Saga, you may recall the poignant moment when the protagonist realises that he and his shadow opponent share a secret name. For that instant their identities merge as one.

Among great thinkers of recent decades who influenced my thoughts, I often return to Stanislav Grof, Gregory Bateson, C. G. Jung, and the people who honoured and expanded Jung’s brilliant insights, among them Esther Harding, Marie-Louise v. Franz, Marion Woodman, James Hillman, Anthony Stevens and many others who further explored the Psyche in relation to the inner work of individuation, that is – learning to hold the tension of opposites towards realising the balance of a universal underlying wholeness. Archetypal forces inspire, overpower, or dull us to sleepwalk into tragedies. We, with our humble egos can take on our small responsibility; each individual serves as a bridge, and an interface.

‘Matrignosis’ is a rich site by Jean Raffa, who explores Jung’s ideas with helpful guidance.

Related: Cartography of the Psyche, with a link to Stanislav Grof’s talk on the psychology of the future.

And my cheeky post about the ego – give the poor ego a break.

To conclude, a rare excerpt of thoughts on metaphysics from Hazrat Inayat Khan, shared with his students between 1915- 1920:

Maya Deren – Meshes of the Afternoon

The Experience of the Soul through the Spirit …

The soul has two different sides and two different experiences. One side is the experience with the mind and the body, the other side is the experience of the spirit. The former is called the outer experience, the latter the inner experience. The nature of the soul is like glass, transparent, and when one side of the glass is covered it becomes a mirror. So the soul becomes a mirror in which the outer experiences are reflected when the other side is covered. That is why, however greatly blessed a person may be with the outer knowledge, he is not necessarily gifted with the inner knowledge. Therefore, in order to attain to the inner knowledge the Sufi covers the other side of the soul, that its mirror part may face the spirit instead of the outer world. As soon as is able to accomplish this he receives inspirations and revelations.

There are people who are by nature intuitive, or who are called psychic or clairvoyant by nature. It is accounted for by the other side of their soul naturally facing the spirit within. One may call them extraordinary, or exceptional, but not mystical, for the mystic does not desire that position. He, by concentration and meditation, gains such mastery that he can cover the soul from without to take the reflection within, and that he can cover the soul from within when he requires the reflection from the outer world to its full extent. Balance is desirable, and mastery is the goal to be attained.

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… delights of peek-a-boo …

In ways we project ourselves into our surroundings, as children we delight in the appearance, vanishing and re-appearance of a loved object or person.

Georgios Jakobides - 1895

Georgios Jakobides – 1895

To observe something reappear is as thrilling as green shoots returning in spring, as inexplicable as birth itself. Hide and seek or peek-a-boo are games said to adjust toddlers to ‘object permanence,’ an illusion we embrace, yet these games are also the prelude to a lifelong quest for the mystery of existence. Children, unless talked down to and belittled, ask deep questions – where do I come from, where did the candle-flame go, where has grandpa gone, how long is time, how come I see things with my eyes closed?  The same questions spurn lifelong passion in scientists.

Growing social, we slip into collective rituals of seeing, feeling, thinking and doing. We obey, ignore or defy rules meant to serve cultural cohesion, rules promising acceptance and success in life. We respond or react according to circumstance and temperament. Some of us have a need to belong, feel safe, protected, others may venture into the unknown, become spiritual warriors on a warpath with obstacles, often rituals, blocking individual potential.

I’m a warrior learning from obstacles, one of which I like to share.

You may recall commands, often subtle and inferred, by early significant persons, communicated via responses, to you, to life, based on generational ideals. These commands worm themselves into the psyche and settle around an inner critic. While well-meaning in aiding conscience and integrity, this critic can also become strident and counter-productive.

In my case – the critic periodically berates me for not keeping my own promises … stay on top of things, complete tasks,  respond to request without delay, call on friends, de-clutter, prepare accounts, fix the warped front-door, only so many roll-ups a day, only two glasses of wine … the tick-off list is … ah well … endless …

Good objectives aside – the more the opinionated critic berates my shortcomings, the more I need to release the tension by transgressing self-imposed rules – otherwise the noise of my inner battle drives away the bird of intuition, the unexpected and the wonder of each day.

I listen, but won’t bow to the critic, obey in fear and cage the bird. In my book, this sums up the making of tyrants.

More and more often I remember to soften the demands. Instead of berating I praise myself for small promises kept, for what has gone well, small steps in overcoming this stealthy ritual that does not benefit my aims. It’s my idiosyncratic strategy: no fighting, no surrendering. Try it – humour the critic into humanness and adjust your rules of engagement with the elegant phenomenon of now.

P1050813 - lowres You may ask – how does my strategy relate to hide and seek and peek-a-poo?

It’s the play with reality by the child in us – the delight in re-discovering being.

*    *    *

This little bird cheered me, it arrived flattened in a Christmas card. Instructions read: Stand me up on my feet.

Blessings to my friends for 2014 – may the bird of intuition frequently visit you.

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… dreams – desires – ideals …

Childhood dreams …  a china doll with real, black hair, a piano, a horse … desires unfulfilled … replaced by a rag doll that ended up in the lake and a harmonium I hated.  Making myself indispensable at a local stable, I gained free riding time, though I never owned a horse, which made it difficult to enter the horse world.

Children’s desires are powerful motivators, though often frustrated, and sometimes for good reasons diverted towards other means of achieving the underlying need. We can’t remain in the toddler stage, and yet … something will be lost in the process.

Psychology has clever distinctions between wants and needs, which goes something like this:

Q … if you had that piano, what would it do for you?

A … I could play all the music in my head

Q … what would that do for you?

A … it would give me pleasure?

Q … what would pleasure do for you?

A … fuck off …

Sorry, my personal immature sentiment. This kind of re-framing sets out to prove that a WANT serves a deeper NEED that can be fulfilled through other means. Of course it can, and if one road is blocked the diversion and roundabouts may serve a genuine need we can’t even fathom.

Still, there is nothing more powerful than a strong desire, an object in life. It makes life worth living. An ideal is a means … thank heavens ideals change … 

I always wanted to live in a house of my own design. I even saw it in a dream, made of wood and glass, in a sheltered place overlooking the ocean – a metaphor.

Designing one’s own house (or identity) often looks more like this process …  a means spiced with surreal aspects of life, a tragic comedy maybe, yet also a journey where one meets friends and fun. I used this image before to illustrate a point.

 

 

I hope you bear with my quirky posts.

BTW, the wonderful Cartoon de Salvo theatre band (above) is worth looking out for.

http://www.cartoondesalvo.com/shows

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