Tag Archives: mirror

… re-framing the seven deadly sins …

                 Pogo. Walt Kelly 1971

The timeless insight of mystics was frequently censured by prevailing orthodoxies and only available to a few scholars. But even though mystical writings have been made available over the last two centuries, readers form a minority. Meister Eckhart’s quote – “The Eye with which I see God is the same Eye with which God sees me,” – implies that we envision inherent archetypal ideals to then realise and embody them within.

In the projected mirror we may see love, kindness, compassion and forgiveness reflected, or, depending on our state of mind, or, we may equally see indifference, rejection and severe judgement. What if our goodness is not rewarded? What if love betrays and we turn anger inwards? What if we battle with resentment, find fault with everything and despise sanctimonious people? The same process applies; we absorb what is mirrored via our inherent imaginative power.

To direct the moral education of citizen, spiritual offences were formulated in Greek monastic circles and coined as The Seven Deadly Sins: gluttony, lust, avarice, sadness, anger, acedia (not to care), vainglory, and pride. Over time theologians made various changes – the sin of sadness became sloth, and then Pope Gregory reduced the list in descending order to: pride, envy, gluttony, lust, anger, greed and sloth. To counteract sins, virtues were advised as humility, kindness, abstinence, chastity, patience, liberality and diligence, qualities not easy to live up to from day to day, while The deadly sins instilled fear and guilt … and left deep cultural marks, self-blame being the most destructive.

Self-blame makes for turbulent minds. Only scapegoats will ease the burden. Among all regulars a perfect scapegoat served Christianity well – Eve. The collective psyche contains not only unknown riches, but also stuff we disregard (much like the plastic that accumulates in oceans,) thoughts and deeds behind our facades we won’t acknowledge or take responsibility for, and instead conveniently place on the shoulders of suitable others.

 “Projections change the world into the replica of one’s own unknown face.”  Carl Jung

Balancing Freud’s focus on pathology, Abraham Maslow studied self-actualising people and outlined a hierarchy of basic human needs. His map suggests when an early need is not adequately fulfilled; narcissistic or psychosomatic symptoms may result, blocking growth. Little is up to us. Families rarely support this process, as they can be burdened by complexes and dysfunctional behaviour patterns from one generation to the next.

‘The proper time to influence the character of a child is about a hundred years before he’s born.’  – William. R. Inge

No wonder many of us resort to blaming circumstances, parents, state, strangers, or appease all by adopting self-blame. Then again, some people rise from grim circumstances and become inspiring people. What’s their secret? It’s my guess that a strong desire for gratification, bestowed by a no personal archetypal calling, can empower us to transcend seemingly insurmountable obstacles.

The idea of deadly sins put the fear of hell in people. Sinner you were not deemed worthy to enter paradise. But if we consider that human behaviours communicates intrinsic needs that seek fulfillment in the expanding spiral of evolution towards wholeness, the very idea of using sin as a threat is naïve, and more, counterproductive. Here a short look at the deadly sins …

PRIDE – an excessive belief in one’s abilities and ignorance of the grace of God. 

This relates to an evolutionary trend of our time, individuation – becoming who we can be – best attempted with the mediation of a healthy ego. This process happens mainly in the West and is frowned upon by fundamentalists whose ideals are fixed on heaven. Where tradition equates with identity, displeasing the expectations of family and state carries a risk of alienation. The challenge of freeing oneself emotionally, intellectually and spiritually then becomes heroic. It means sticking to one’s inner truth against all objections and raised eyebrows. It means regard for the potential that is emerging in oneself and others. I grok these words by my Sufi friend, from a lecture during the 1980’s …

‘The experience you have within yourself of your own separate identity, to allow right and wrong to be re-defined by you, your singular contribution, is where evolution really happens. You, by becoming yourself, can open a new wavelength. What you reflect immediately influences your environment, people close and far away.’ (Fazal I. Khan)

Those who break free from parental commands when their inner truth is compromised do not seek union in the womb, but aim to experience conscious union through embodying their ideals. Life brings along companions who recognise the authenticity and backbone it takes to walk this path, even if it seems foolish and brings no answers. Yes, pride may sneak in, but equally gratitude, humility, and acknowledgement of the interdependence of all life.

ENVY – desire for the status and abilities we see in others and want for ourselves. The need is to emulate, to find aspirations that resonate within. From early on we are looking for role models to reflect our potential. If such recognition is withheld or distorted, the need can take possession of us, with all the consequences of being rejected, belittled, abused, and feeling ill done by, until we realise our own resources. Ralph Waldo Emerson evokes in his essay on self-reliance a more helpful notion of envy:

There is a time in every man’s education when he arrives at the conviction that envy is ignorance; that imitation is suicide; that he must take himself for better or worse as his portion; that though the wide universe is full of good, no kernel of nourishing corn can come to him but through his toil bestowed on that plot of ground which is given to him to till. The power which resides in him is new in nature, and none but he knows what that is, which he can do, nor does he know until he has tried. – Ralph Waldo Emerson

GLUTTONY – a craving to consume more than is required. In simple terms it is a hunger that knows not what is seeks. And yes, it is bound to become an indulgence – a chasing after stimulation, information, speculation. Until the hunger knows what it seeks it will not be satisfied. The search is intense. In spiritual terms this hunger can develop into devotion.

LUST – a craving for touch, warmth, pleasure of the body and sex. The need underlying lust is a longing for intimacy and ecstasy. It often fails to satisfy, but behind the shadow of excess is the ideal, to be consumed, like the moth by the flame.

ANGER – results from frustration and is all too human. Sadly, when our existence is denied, or we experience and witness injustice, yet lack opportunities to express anger creatively, this powerful energy will make us ill or explode in rage. That said, even conscious resistance is a creative act. We are endowed with natural aggression to even make it here. Each one of us results from the fastest sperm, the one that made it. Oppression and cold rationality feed anger. If repressed, anger takes us over.

GREED is also based on the desire for recognition. If the experience of being seen, heard and appreciated is missing, we must find opportunities to succeed in something.

SLOTH used to be called sadness – brought on by a sense of meaninglessness. Change wants to happen but one is helpless to act. These days depression is a collective phenomenon. On a personal level not acting could be seen as fear of failure, though often it is the necessary dark phase for a kind of alchemy in the psyche that leads to new wings.

What if we have satisfied our basic needs? The horizon is never reached. Beyond every horizon is another. This includes the horizons of our mind, beyond which we hope to find purpose. We go on journeys, outer, inner, to find out why we are here. But the search never ends. We take drugs to kill this yearning, this question of ‘why’, because we can’t face that maybe the only purpose is the search.

‘The ideal is the means; its breaking is the goal.’ Hazrat Inayat Khan

And yet, the search liberates. The attachments we have to right and wrong, to good and evil, to our own importance, blocks our search for new meaning, prevents us from living with intensity. Our most precious and vital scripture is nature, life itself.

These thoughts were drafted eleven years ago. I would have liked to come up with a fuller gestalt to make my point, but presently I enjoy a holiday in psychic wilderness.

And today’s Haiku …

Devils besiege us

As do angelic spirits

Both hold their best truth

While we are mediators

In the psychic wilderness

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… have you ever cursed a door frame? …

… for hitting its edge with your toe or elbow? Are dense objects sensitive to our emanations, be they kind or malicious? Call me quaint, but when I collide with a door frame I apologise, press the sore spot to the point of impact and send the pain back, assuming the wood tolerates it better than my soft tissue. It’s a long-honoured small-scale experiment with disentangling subtle vibrations. It works for me – pain and swelling ease miraculously. Try it, for fun.

We accept that people, animals and plants retain the pulse of our attitude to various degrees, from shock to nonchalance, yet how about the rest of nature, down to solid rocks and stones? I assume my relationship with what I see, touch or think about is reciprocal, for better or worse.

As in receiving and sending waves, I converse with my body, with trees, shrubs, flowers and creatures. I caution spiders not to come near my sleeping space. I have heart-to-heart chats with my house, laptop, car, and all manner of things. I say thank you to what I value and depend upon and even use little mantras conveying something like – all is well – I hear you gasp. I do this to disrupt mindless automatic response patterns. With people, I admit, it’s way more complicated.

I reckon all known and unknown life is moved by a force we poorly understand. Call it by any name, god, spirit, psychic energy, the ghost in the machine, it is a power that works throughout the cosmos, including the things we create, like tools, art, furniture, buildings, machines, weapons, ships, cars, trains, planes, phones, computers. As we project our pleasure or frustration into gadgets and the autonomous functions programmed into them, nature’s energy currents flow and oscillate through all, the whole universe.

I conclude that nothing is dead, lifeless, artificial and of no consequence.

Thomas Vaughan puts it poetically: ‘The real world is invisible. Thus in the physical or spiritual or light world – all forms or beings – stones, trees, stars, streams, men, flames and turds are really facts of invisible presences. Mineral, wood, fire, water, flesh are terms of dense soul-full sense.’

During recent centuries, western cultures developed multiple viewpoints. But what is happening to this wonderful diversity, given the hyper connectivity of the internet, where the masses turn for guidance, where people empowered by visibility offer opinions that swing back & forth in dramatic ways? Is this the dawn of a new tribalism that blanks out the unique contexts and realities of individual minds? One has to have one’s wits about these days.

In his time, Walter Benjamin wrote: ‘Technology, instead of liberating us from myth, confronts us with a force of a second nature just as overwhelming as the forces of an elementary nature in archaic times; our need for a practical philosophy of self-knowledge has never been greater.’

You see where this is going … autonomous technological devices will be no less interdependent than us, relying on social cohesion, the spin of politics, networks that harvest electricity –like, a solar flare could halt all digital utilities on this planet. So I wonder about it all, given there’s much we don’t understand about the forces that govern nature, and the input human consciousness has towards its geometry.

My Sufi friend, Fazal Inayat-Khan, said once in a lecture: , ‘Let us look at reality as a sort of operating faith, a sort of subjective, self-created assignment of realness … It is radiant intelligence which creates reality.’

Or, in another lecture: ‘The experience you have within yourself of your separate identity, to allow right and wrong to be re-defined by your singular contribution, is where evolution really happens. You, by becoming yourself, can open a new wavelength.’

C.G. Jung spent his life mapping the deeper structures of human experience, the collective unconscious, archetypes, and the shadow. Now that a collective mind is mirrored back to us, magnified on screens via the internet, it present an ideal opportunity to explore what is emerging for the collective psyche in the gap between recurring states of balance.

The flashing mirrors of the media blind me at times. Wary of the hive, I also like to belong. When fed up, in need of digestion, I retreat to a cave in my mind (once real) where I attend to what bubbles up from the unconscious in that zone between dreaming and waking, until I emerge from my cave into the light of a new reality, new beauty, new meaning and new questions.

This post is not about social, political or spiritual affiliations, but shares an attitude that aims at openness towards the unknown.

And I wonder what my readers think about conversing with dense objects 🙂

“If we ever reach the point where we think we thoroughly understand who we are and where we came from, we will have failed.”  Carl Sagan

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… the frottage of life …

Aged 14, my confidence and love for writing was shattered by a teacher. She praised a brilliant essay – mine – based on a painting of our choice. The romantic image of a Carl Spitzweg painting I picked had freed my imagination. After reading my essay out in front of the class, the teacher stated it was unlikely the pupil had written this herself and she therefore had to disqualify the work. I was pushed off a flying carpet, too speechless and humiliated to protest. My creative writing went underground. I wrote poetry, in secret.

Water

Water

Images inspire me, they tell stories. Photography came to my rescue, not so much in the sense of recording concrete reality, but more in the sense of sub-creating it. Light attracted as liquid poetry that fell through shadows and sculpted fleeting life. I discovered my knack for framing the essence of a story.  And in the spaces between things I looked for something transient emanating from other spheres. There were moments in my life when finding words for these other dimensions became imperative, like, for example, when working as still photographer on a film-set at the shore of the Red Sea. In poems like ‘Riverhead’ and ‘Sleepless Sun’ I tried to encapsulate such instances: https://courseofmirrors.wordpress.com/poems/

Photography started out with a process of reversal – getting the positive print from a negative film – which is being superseded by digital bit-structured data, leading us into new metaphors for time and space. The tiny window of the laptop I’m writing this text on has become my interior sanctuary. The window of its screen frames worlds well beyond my garden – microcosms and macrocosms. My grandparents would have called this feat magic, which it is, of course. Computers have become our second brains, compilers and recorders of our imagination, easy to share.

The habit of leaves, Max Ernst.

The habit of leaves, Max Ernst.

In search for the invisible hand that animates the unseen, I remember coming upon the technique of frottage by Max Ernst. He was intrigued by the reversal of textures achieved when rubbing surfaces with a soft pencil – be it weathered wooden planks, bark, textiles, netting … For Ernst the results evoked superimposed images and visionary associations.

Whirling Hosta

Whirling Hosta

Not only artists find surprises in the textures of surfaces. Who does not occasionally pause before a weathered wall, lichen-covered gravestone, the grain in a wooden plank, a windswept cloud, a reflection in glass or water, or detect resemblances and fresh arrangements in the shape of cliffs or in the veins of plants? Unexpected patterns call for unfurling, inspire a collage, a scientific idea, a poem, a story,  or painting.

Grain

Grain

We rub off impressions from the ambience around us, especially first impressions – scents and sounds, tactile sensations, patterns of light and shadow, textures, colours and shapes, anything that attracts or repels us.

In a psychological sense, we rub off qualities we find in each other – in parents, siblings, friends, strangers and public figures we admire or despise. From what impresses us we extrapolate and find recurring resemblances. As our imagination sparks random associations involving all of our senses, a theme becomes reflected in our heart, as in a mirror, and informs our personal myth.

It’s what my novels are about, which, I hope, will also have a universal appeal.

Among related posts:

https://courseofmirrors.wordpress.com/2012/05/25/pattern-which-connects/

https://courseofmirrors.wordpress.com/2013/10/07/patterns-of-eternity-humbly-opens-your-mind/

Most of the photos on this site are mine. A selection can be found here: http://500px.com/ashen

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one raindrop – ten raindrops – what’s the difference?

Before I went to bed last night I asked for a dream, as I do when I want guidance from my unconscious. After all, the greater part of our psyche is out of sight, submerged, with only the top in view, which is why Freud used the image of an iceberg to depict the psyche, the submerged part having deeper connections with the sea of the collective unconscious in which we all swim.

Iceberg - Ri han - Shutterstock

Iceberg – Ri han – Shutterstock

My question was related to the global web, and what’s rising to the surface like long drowned skeletons bobbing along the electric rapids of information, memories re-shuffled, all with a kind of speed only fearless surfers can negotiate. And how every link you and I click is traced, analysed and fed back to the media, politicians, businesses, twitter-birds, face bookers, bloggers and so on. At times it seems like a kind of vivisection in a shiny mirror looking back at us, surreal.

I’m seasoned. There was no TV in my early childhood, it astounds me what I’ve adapted to over the years, but the present tech-apps-avant-garde makes me feel like I’m missing a boat, along with, let’s take a breath, at least sixty-one-percent of the world population (that’s the kind of people with no internet at all.) And because I tend to reflect on cultural trends, searching for wider purpose, meaning and metaphors, I put this to my unconscious: please give me some insight.

On waking, the first thing I gazed at was the raindrops netting my skylight. A phrase came:

                 … one raindrop – ten raindrops – what’s the difference? …

It stuck. I stopped myself diving into associations, about raindrops, the number one, about the history of zero – as symbol for something that doesn’t exist but has become a place-holder. I stopped myself from quoting Rumi, too.

The phrase I received is enigmatic and feels creative. Does it come down to postulation, the everything-and-nothing-matters kind of power we have to envision and re-assemble stories, the delicious freedom to speculate without limits …?

Maybe purpose and meaning are becoming old hats and I’m missing the point entirely. What do you make of the phrase … either with your knowledge of maths and physics, or with your imagination? Even with the phrase or image of a dream ☼

 

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… we attract more of what we hold in our heart …

I appreciate feedback – please comment. Wrapped up in doing another edit of Course of Mirrors before I head for Spain , I came upon this scene in chapter 21 – below – where Cara, Ana’s soul-sister from the twentieth century, interacts with her in a dream. In the previous scene Ana finally learns from her mother who her natural father is and has her suspicion confirmed. To mend hearts is not easy.

This first novel was character driven, and I get never tired of editing (reading) it. This must be a good sign.

*    *    *

Having wandered unseeing through a copse, I nearly  tripped over a branch. Beyond a downhill clearing, amongst a cluster of beeches, were the tell-signs of a tree house.

Animated, I ran as fast as my legs allowed. A rope ladder dangled from the beech, which I climbed. Under tattered canvas awnings the generous platform had a low table and seating. In a casket, I found items wrapped in waxed cloth – oil-lamps, and blankets. My beloved sanctuary all over again, Luke must have been here or even built the den. Expecting a clue I found one. Carved in the main trunk were the weathered remains of the familiar heart with wings and underneath it faint letters – S&Z – clear evidence to torture my mind – S for Sirus. And Z for Zara, whom I had not met. They were pupils of Ruskin. They would not have known they were siblings. I had heard of their tender friendship. Sudden jealousy crushed me. Luke cared for her – I had no special place in his heart. I wrapped a blanket round me like a tent. Was he still caged in that dark room? Fingering the ruby heart, memory brought a scent – musk trailing in Luke’s step. Curling up on the hard planks, a fantasy unfolded – us together in Magna Spring. We could both explore new ways of seeing … the song of a blackbird lulled me to sleep … 

I walk through endless corridors. A shimmering being by my side radiates golden light and opens a door for me to step through – and another – door upon door. I am guided through a labyrinth. I wake to voices. My eyes open to the surroundings of a sick ward. I don’t want to be here and shut my eyes again.

‘Is she all right? Has she lost her voice?’ Mother worries.

The ward sister reassures. ‘She will come round.’

 I want to prolong the peace and drift into another dream. Cara appears and says, ‘This was my dream. The golden being resembles your Sat, a protective presence that is part of me.’ Cara observes my surprise. ‘Unseen beings live within us. Reality – in any world – is what we accept as real in our imagination. Come, Ana, I will show you something.’

She takes my hand. We enter a small room crammed with students around complex machinery. Colourful lights flicker on dark panels with rows of buttons. They are marked by numbers and letters. The atmosphere is one of a starlit night. Behind the panels sits the tutor, a burly man with a red beard, resembling Tatum. He talks excitedly about the expansion of a single bird sound and demonstrates how this is done. 

At the press of a button the melodious trill of a blackbird fills the room. The tutor runs his fingers over the lights and slides knobs on a panel. The blackbird’s tune repeats itself. Its sound is stretched and then overlaid, softened, strengthened, speeded up, slowed down, turned round in time and overlaid again, forwards and backwards. The tutor extracts a rhythm, sets a base note and adds different keys at different speeds, until the bird’s song has been absorbed into a strange and beautiful symphony. A hush fills the room. The tutor sits back and beams. We share his happiness. ‘This, my friends, can evolve from the trill of a blackbird, using a digital system.’ 

I want this explained. Cara pulls my hand and we drift into another space, a garden, where we settle on a stone seat. She looks at me with eyes that always seem like my own. ‘In your world, sensual date is recorded on surfaces. Scores, texts, images and numerical figures are imprinted on tablets and fibres. Copies are made, and copies of copies that eventually decay. In my lifetime we record sound and condense any kind of information into binary codes, which can be multiplied and rearranged indefinitely. 

‘What’s a binary code?’ I ask 

‘A system based on light pulses that switch on and off. Used in endless combinations and sequences these pulses transmit unimaginable amounts of information – weightless – in abeyance – send as bit-strings to a particular location. On arrival they are temporarily assigned to a context, decoded, expanded and reassembled. A play of random associations can offer fresh insights, as happens in dreams. Snippets, like the bird sound that became a symphony.’

What she describes is beyond my grasp, but the idea of reassembly sparks my excitement. ‘I cut my paintings of seascapes into squares and patch them together into a new image, joining different perspectives to express my sense of the vast body of water.’

Cara laughs, ‘Exactly you’ve been using the same idea!’

‘Some fellow students think I am making a farce of reality. My tutor thinks I show what is beyond the eye. It is not a lie. I express what I perceive, a kind of energy.’ 

Cara says, ‘our heart-mirrors reflect deeper realities. Value your imagination, but choose what you give energy to, be clear what you want to reflect. When a thought is ripe it manifests. What we hold in our heart acts like a magnet, attracting more of the same.’

I woke with the phrase – we attract more of what we hold in our heart – and cringed. What I held in my heart today was resentment. I did not want more of the same. Climbing back up the hill to the mansion I saw my mother standing with Rheine. They looked out over the harbour from where faint music and revelling could be heard. My conscience pleaded and would not be ignored. Rheine met me halfway. We embraced easily, deeply, like back in Kars, when we were refugees in the night. Rheine was going to be my witness. I reached for mother’s hand. She stepped close, eyes wide in astonishment. ‘Mother,’ I said, ‘I love you.’ She folded into my arms, like a child. For that moment I was the mother she had longed to have.

 

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