Tag Archives: Joseph Campbell

… 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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… why spin tales? …

Die Nachtigall-02 Why spin tales, why listen to them, enact them on stage, dance them, ritualise them, read them, write them, re-write them?    We tell stories to ourselves and each other, to entertain, inspire, amplify events, or in search for meaning.

When it comes to stories, fact-finders tend to miss the point. Too many sequential facts can befuddle a truth that lingers in the higher or deeper layers of consciousness, from where vital symbolic insights shine through a narrative.

We owe much to Joseph Campbell, who with life-long passion explored the origins of myths and their functions throughout human history: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joseph_Campbell

And check out these fantastic documentaries: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Power_of_Myth

A myth is a public dream – a dream is a private myth. – Joseph Campbell

 

In my psychotherapy practice, clients present their story in unique ways that occasionally include lucid dreams of past lives. I deeply respect the power of the imagination. In neutral mode, I listen. So it happens that a trauma set in thirteenth century Languedoc, when Cathars were branded as heretics and massacred by the Catholic Church, can deeply trouble a person’s psyche with visceral images. I travel along, and as the story is released, I may bridge the emotional resonance of a pattern to the present life of a client. In this process profound cognitions can soften a psychological complex.

Lasting examples of deeper truths are mirrored in Fairy-tales and myths, where basic patterns of our collective unconscious psyche are brought into relief. That is, if we can grasp the metaphors under the primary meaning of words. Fictional settings for heroic or anti-heroic characters are particularly suited to convey powerful emotional themes infused with archetypal elements.

… the spirit of an age is more essentially mirrored in its fairy-tales than in the most painstaking chronicle of a contemporary diarist … Raymond Chandler – Realism and Fairy-land

Some religions persist in the literal truths of their sacred texts. Scientists, too, get stuck in dogma, but I emphasize more with the frustration of the latter, since, with the courage of doubt, scientists have pushed the horizon of knowledge outwards by painstakingly reading the book of nature through the language of data, evidencing processes poets and mystics before them intuited, but physical eyes cannot perceive – like radiations other than light. I’m trying to overcome the conflict of the scientist and poet in me. They interpret the world in different but equally significant ways. There is a need to read nature in both languages, so greater understanding and tolerance can develop.

‘With faith one attains and realises peace and harmony. With doubt one destroys and gains freedom to move ontowards.’    – Fazal Inayat-Khan

Memory, objectively true, or false, affects our lives every day. Stories lodged in the heart endure in a timeless dimension of the imagination. We can however alter their interpretation by exploring our perspective, be it from a pit of fatalism, a sense of insecurity, a belief in magic, faith in divine guidance, or the certitude of natural laws. Even the simple acceptance of life’s continuous dynamic change can shift the meaning of our stories, and, of course, it helps to overcome literal mindedness and make an effort to decipher the metaphors.

‘The mystical warrior is trying to reduce the obstruction in the doorway, and the worshipper is attempting to reach the construction behind the doorway, almost out of sight. There is a gap between the two … the vague band between the known and the unknown. In that band rapture is possible.’   – Fazal Inayat-Khan

Stories are the sap of life nourishing the roots and branches of humanity. We spin stories because during the birth of this universe the symmetry between matter and antimatter was broken, kicked out of balance, which resulted in a slight predominance of matter, the stuff we bump into. It’s a poignant thought that this little quirk caused the dynamic asymmetry that evolved into the universe we live in. Without this asymmetry between matter and antimatter our world would be empty, there would be light only – sans elements, sans plants, sans animals, sans night, sans saints, fools, villains – sans consciousness – no story.

*     *     *

For those interested in nuclear physics:

http://www.slac.stanford.edu/pubs/beamline/26/1/26-1-sather.pdf

 

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… erotic charge of flawed characters …

Literature thrives on flawed characters. With the sinister Heathcliff in Wuthering Heights, for example, Emily Bronte tapped into the shadowy aspect of masculinity.

C G Jung calls the latent masculine within women the Animus. Both in its light and dark aspects, this archetypal blueprint can put women under a spell.

I can see Jonny play the disparate twins in my novels :)

I can see Jonny play the disparate twins in my novels 🙂

Equally, the latent feminine potential within men, the Anima, can evoke both, the guiding wisdom of Sophia or the dark erotic charge of Medusa, causing tremendous fear of nature and its awesome power.

Rather than using the image of a femme fatal, I choose to show what  fear of the feminine inspires in some cultures.

Rather than using the image of a femme fatal, I choose to show what fear of the feminine inspires in some cultures.

Our irrational attractions can be sparked and coloured by the parent of the opposite sex. Like a woman with a brooding and unapproachable father may have to kiss many frogs before she discovers the prince inside, while an idealising father can trap his girl in vacuous fantasies. And the boy of a manipulative mother may develop resentment or idealisation for women, or both in a toxic mix. What we tend to project onto the opposite sex is however deeply sculpted by a collective archetypal storehouse of experiences with dual aspects. Paradoxically, this storehouse is also the source of our most powerful experiences and innovations. Whether in a life-giving shape or a dark and petrifying shape, either way, the Animus and Anima hold a numinous fascination until their autonomous grip on us emerges into awareness, becomes conscious, is redeemed, turns creative and makes us truly human.

In my first novel, Course of Mirrors, my protagonist, Ananda, is torn between two disparate men, twins. The theme continues into the sequel – Shapers – with higher stakes in another time zone. In the excerpt below, Gart is rescued from a dangerous impasse by a trickster and transported into the twentieth century, where he meets the story teller and myth-maker, Cara.

*     *     *

Short excerpt from chapter 12, Shapers

Back in Derrynane

Five hundred years back, at the Kerry peninsula, Gart pondered how he came to sit at this familiar coast, under a dull sky that matched his mood, the sea before him rolling and spitting at his soiled boots. It was the trickster’s doing, of course. He did not thank Zap for transporting him back here, where an old crone had hexed him and a group of weird artisans had made him look like a fool. Yet it was here that he first met Mesa, who he now pined for in his bones. He must get back to Rhonda and outdo Crim. And Leo must be terminated, since he had obviously gone mad, and courted disaster if he planned to control Rhonda’s army. The Governor of Guardians, ha, they despised the fat man. It was him, Gart they followed.

‘I messed up,’ Zap acknowledged, stretching on the wet sand nearby and cracking his joints. ‘Forgot, I can’t activate coordinates for the hub, and this happens to be the only other place we’ve been in together before. I had little choice. ’

‘You’re not so bright after all, are you?’ Gart grunted.

‘At least we’re not consumed by noxious fumes of our own making. Best not dwell on the past.’

‘We are in the past, eejit.’

‘Local slang, eh? You’re a fast learner. You score a point. Zap jumped up and ran a circle of cartwheels. ’Let’s go up to the estate, see who’s there.’

Derrynane estate looked deserted. ‘Nippy air on the plateau,’ Zap said, ‘you would’ve thought they’d light a fire, but not a whisk of smoke from the chimneys.’ The men slipped through the narrow gap between green-smothered walls, the two dragons, Zap recalled, though now their shape was lost under rampant ivy. The yard, empty of dogs, cats, geese or horses, had a silver car parked near the main entrance. Zap whistled, ‘Flashy design, time’s moved on since we’ve been here last.’

Gart’s heart lurched at the sight of the woman appearing in the porch.

‘Hi,’ she said, ‘do I know you? You’ve been here before, haven’t you?’

Zap, in Shaper style, put a hand to his heart. He too recognised her, though she had turned into a mature woman. ‘You’re Cara, I remember. Where’s everybody?  Saki, Anke, Mushki …’

‘Oh the troupe, goodness, that was years ago. When Gutch and Craig joined them they hit the road together. I think they operate from a place at the English coast.’

‘And that witch?’ Gart wanted to know.

Cara gave him a piercing look. ‘You mean the oracle of my mentor, Tilly. She has sent me here, for a retreat. I only just arrived. I plan to spend some time writing on my story of Mesa.’

‘I hope the story includes us,’ Zap said, we’re friends of Mesa.’ He shot a glance at Gart, whose mouth opened and shut in confusion.

‘You better come in.’ Cara’s scalp tingled. This must have been what Tilly had had in mind, to process the strange occurrences from so many years ago. ‘Zap and Gart, is it?’ Like Tilly, they hadn’t aged at all, while she herself had gained ten years. To mask her excitement she whizzed around the kitchen. She stacked kindling in the cooker, emptied her shopping into the fridge, plonked bread and cheese on the table, put a kettle on, fetched plates and cups and cutlery, all the while feeling Gart’s eyes on her. She told her guest about her life, her journeys, and studies. Zap helped with arranging the table and kept nodding, eager to hear all she had to say. Cara only tried to gain time to collect herself before she was ready to ask the questions pressing on her mind, about Sax, about Rhonda, about Mesa.

‘Shall I get logs?’ Zap asked sweetly.

‘Oh yes, please. I was planning to camp in the cottage, but we might as well get rid of the chill in the big house. The cooker is attached to a central heating.’ She watched Zap walking out with a basket, charmed by the ease of his manner.  Gart made way for Zap but did not offer any help. Rooted to one place since entering the kitchen, he resumed his position, leaning casually against the door frame  Now they were alone Cara couldn’t avoid him. Their eyes met. She blushed. He had followed her every movement with an air of aloofness. A hint of curiosity sneaked into his eyes.

‘I look like her. Is that it?’ Cara said.

‘In a way.’ Gart moved towards the table and pulled out a chair to sit on. ‘What happened to your lover, Dillon?’

‘We split, went our different ways. He had his quest.’

‘What quest?’ Gart asked. The term perked his interest since Oruba had called his underground journey a quest.

‘Not my tale to tell. He may have found whatever he was looking for.’

Zap returned, groaning under the heavy basket of wood on his shoulders. He piled logs over kindling in the cooker and neatly stacked the rest against the wall before he went to get another load. Cara lit the fire. Gart, intrigued about her remark regarding Dillon’s quest, struggled to grasp what precisely intrigued him. He scratched his ear, as if hoping for a message. He resented how confusion undermined his confidence. The kettle whistled. To snap out of his dazed state, Gart got up to pour the boiling water over the coffee in the percolator Cara had prepared. ‘Thank you,’ she said, surprised. When Zap returned they settled to a meal. It was Cara’s turn to ask questions. Intermittently Zap fed the fire and they moved from coffee to drinking wine. The story Cara was so eager to hear unfolding was punctured by heated disagreements between Zap and Gart.

‘Some names have changed, but I recognise the characters.’ Cara said, jotting down notes, pen hot in her hand. ‘I thought they’d outlawed weapons in Rhonda. Where did the laser guns come from?’

Gart said. ‘Leo must have raided the Archives. Everything from ancient pasts is stored in the pyramids surrounding the archives – and there maybe catacombs under them. I know this because Leo let it slip once. ‘The man’s a danger to Rhonda. I’ll put an end to him.’

Zap shook his head. ‘Killing Leo, and start a war! Use your imagination. He turned to Cara. ‘If you’ve a say in this story, keep this man away from Mesa. He’s murdered in the past, he can do it again. Mesa deserves better.’

Gart pushed back his chair and sent it cluttering to the tiled floor. He stormed from the kitchen. Cara felt the hurt pride under Gart’s rage. Zap crunched his fist and stared into space. Fiercely protective of Mesa, he had clean anger under his pain. ‘Please keep the fire going, Zap, there may be frost tonight. I’ll talk to Gart,’ Cara said. And she knew where to find him.

The sky had cleared towards the horizon. Beyond the yard, the autumn breeze picked up, biting through Cara’s light coat. She saw him standing at the cliff, looking towards the faint silver band that now divided sea and sky. A diaphanous layer of cloud screened the late sun, against which Gart’s lean body looked delicate, like a feather drawing. Why had she invested her story with two lovers, men who did not see eye to eye, men as different as Assisi and Caligula?  He did not turn to look at her as she stepped close to him. He did not move at all, his mind had wandered off through time’s veil, searching for Mesa, no doubt. ‘You see,’ Cara said, ‘once we have given life to something we can’t control it, we can only try to influence an outcome with truth, which is not always in tune with our wants.’

‘I don’t understand.’ Gart finally met her eyes. ‘You created this damn story. Whose side are you on?’

‘Truth is hard to discern, its meaning is held in another reality, where on-going myths are spun. You became part of my story because you walked into it, in a most brutal and controlling manner, though it wasn’t entirely your fault. Does the name Batin mean anything to you?’

Gart felt a stab of fear, but quickly shrugged it off. ‘I think I met a ghost of that name.’

‘How your path unfolds depends on your engagement with what you attract. It’s the same for me, but in addition I’m recording fates, yours, Leo’s, Zap’s, Mirre’s, Oruba’s, Mesa’s, Crim’s… ‘

He cut in. ‘Crim’s one too many.’

Cara sighed. ‘I care for all of your fates, they affect me deeply.  My feelings swing about, gyrate like a weathervane does when it storms, which should kind of answer your question. Right now, as I stand here next to you, sensing the pain you can’t quite admit, I’m on your side, but my alliance can change, from moment to moment, from day to day, from chapter to chapter, since like you, I’m compelled by this quest for truth.’

‘Truth again …’ Gart’s lips curled and broke into a devastating smile. ‘Tell me this then – why does Mesa look like you?’

Cara swallowed her shock. He had touched on her core identification, revealing her disparate affections, the turmoil she experienced between the two types of men she was enmeshed with across time, of whom one now exploited her vulnerability, took complete possession of her with his eyes. And faithful to his nature, he relished in the conquest. Cara’s heart quickened. From deep inside her body she felt his pull, as if by a rope. His seductive power made her tremble. Yet she knew he cared only about himself. And coerced by her divided nature, her concern instantly switched to Crim.

*    *    *

If you’re not familiar with the concepts of the Shadow, Animus or Anima, the Wikipedia pages can serve as introduction.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shadow_(psychology)

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

And anyone who has never heard of Joseph Campbell – this book is a must for writers.

http://www.amazon.com/Thousand-Faces-Collected-Joseph-Campbell/dp/1577315936

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