Tag Archives: Rilke

… body electric …

Tolima Pectoral 1000AD

In my last post, Teddy mentioned my fascination with AI. This interest became obsessive while doing a sabbatical film degree that ended in 1997 – my lucky chance to catch up on cultural history and post-modern theories. I plan to re-type my dissertation, which includes pages of tedious notes and a bibliography. But presently, like so many papers I wrote at the time, the master piece rests in an old Mac disc in a format I can’t translate to Word.

Artificial intelligence is unstoppable. I’m curious as to your take on the subject, so I’m sharing a few quotes from my exploration of human identity in the digital age.

I pinched the title for my dissertation ‘Body Electric,’ from Walt Whitman’s poem ‘I sing the body electric.’  He celebrates the body – of man, of woman, of child, bodies of flesh, sinew and blood. Do follow the above link, the invigorating poem stands in ironic juxtaposition to the theme of AI. Could a mechanical electric body ever convey the curious, breathing, laughing flesh that Whitman hearts because it pleases the soul? How would its divine nimbus compare to a form governed by mechanical algorithms? For Whitman the human body is sacred. Its magnetism comes through eyes, from the soul, a term shelved by neuroscience. Call it what you will, soul or consciousness; its light will forever seek vessels and new direction.

Fronting ‘Body Electric’ is my translation of R M Rilke’s Sonnets to Orpheus X, which, even at his time, bemoans machines that ignore the hesitant gesture of a radiant hand. Here only one a few lines:

Yet our being remains spun in mysteries of birthing

Origins from enchanted wells, a play of pristine powers

To behold only with eyes closed and in adoration.

The text develops as an intuitive assembly and starts with a quote by Michael Foucault:

‘Man is only a recent invention, a figure not yet two centuries old, a new wrinkle in our knowledge; he will disappear again as soon as that knowledge has discovered a new form.’

For the artist Maya Deren (1917-1951,) who created some highly influential films in her short life, scientific findings were but the raw materials of creative action: ‘The first step of creative action is the violation of the natural integrity of an original context.’ She saw the function of art and its validation in the creation of mythical realities. Her symbolic images of personal significance also chime universally.

Here is a link to her film ‘At Land.’

In dreams, time vanishes. This applies equally when dream worlds are shared, with the additional ecstasy of an interactive virtual reality:

‘… we would enter the world of fluids … Over with the solid, over with the continuous and the calm; some dance quality would invade everything and Cartesian philosophers would go through a trance, floating on history like chops on gravy.’ – Henry Michaux

But what about the vanishing space? In the public realm of instant ‘in’form’ation’ nothing keeps its form long enough to take root. Spaces to hide or resist the other fade as human nature is flood-lit. Jean Baudrillard foresaw a silence of the masses as ironic and antagonistic coping mechanism:

‘… hyper conformist simulation of the very mechanism of the system, which is another form of refusal by over acceptance …’  Jean Baudrillard

Simulated reality blinds with the Gestalt of our collective mind, where every viewpoint exists at the same time. It lacks context and shadow definition, over-exposes our field of consciousness. For Baudrillard, the schizophrenic subject can no longer produce the limits of its own being, or produce itself as a mirror. It becomes a screen, a switching center for all networks of influence. The electric sphere of the internet simulates our nervous system and turns it inside out. There remains the reality of our psychological experiences, where shadows have to be reckoned with.

Donna Haraway, a biologist and professor of the History of Consciousness, sees pleasure in the confusion of boundaries. She once said, ‘I would rather be a cyborg than a goddess.’ This intrigues. The inspiring, if manic torrent of concepts pouring into Haraway’s lectures requires extreme co-presence from her students. I resonate with her thought that contradiction is the criterion of the real, which is a theme in my planned third book (following Course of Mirrors and Shapers.) I like it that Haraway’s favourite story teller is Ursula Le Guin 🙂

CYBORG – a human, enhanced with integral technology. Visit this link for a taster – a TED talk by Kevin Warwick, a Professor of Cybernetics.

When it becomes possible to clone super humans one has to ask, why the need for babies, why the need for women, and what’s the point of males. Can myth be banished, and what if the human being – that pack of neurons – is squeezed into microchips like genies into bottles, how will future societies hang together?

An emerging idea proposes that to maintain homeostasis requires a new religion, DATAISM. Check this link to an extract from Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow, by Yuval Noah Harari on WIRED … 

Would shadow entities of the collective psyche slip through data and act out hidden agendas? Kevin Kelly wrote: ‘… as we unleash living forces into our created machines, we lose control of them. They acquire wildness and some the surprises that the wild entails. This then is the dilemma all gods must accept: That they can no longer be completely sovereign over their finest creations.’

Besides the above quotes, my dissertation includes thoughts from Marshall McLuhan, Paul Virilio, Roger Callois, Walter Benjamin, Gregory Bateson, Don Cupitt, Francis Crick, D Dennett, Goethe, Anthony Stevens, John Searle, David Chalmers, Horst Hendriks-Jansen, Sherry Turkle, Danah Zohar and many more – all of them google worthy.

As a golden thread through my dissertation I use scenes from the film Bladerunner, where replicants are indistinguishable from humans and develop emotional responses. If we give them a past, Tyrell says, we create a cushion for their emotions and can control them. A fail-safe device makes sure of that. Familiar? It turns out that ‘mother’ the equivalent of history, is a trigger word for lack. One replicant blasts his tester to smithereens and seeks revenge on his maker. The film leaves one with the uncomfortable sense that we are all replicants, with memories implanted by history. There is no escape from the burden of existential insecurity.

Theodor Kittelsen 1857 – 1914

Relationships and the context of place are vital to experience a sense of identity, like an energy field that grows in relation to the reality we create for ourselves. In other words, we are artists of our continuous self-invention, and we must choose our horizons.

Reverend Don Cupitt wrote the self is an animal with cultural inscriptions on the surface. Not that he is wrong, but when he assumes the soul has died, he must refer to his personal version of soul and its loss of meaning.

The Soul, the light of the universe, eternal life and consciousness, is essentially independent of matter and mind. Once embodied, we tend to forget the light’s source and feel trapped and homesick. Whether there is a purpose to the cyclic embodiment of consciousness may be a useless question, since purpose can only emerge through living and through the myths we create. Bless our imagination. Presently AI is the most generously funded myth, forging ahead, regardless of the dire state of humanity and our planet as a whole.

Birth and death remain the ultimate spinners of life. In the parlance of the mystic, the moment of exaltation is in the immanent glimpse of the curl of the beloved. Can the beloved be the beloved if she is fully known? And what do we know of the various dimensions where she resides?

Don’t miss this worthwhile article by John Gray in the New Statesman (Oct 2016) on the upgrade from Homo sapiens into Homo deus. The page may take a while to load.

All links open a new page. They are part of post and totally worthwhile.



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… to ‘grok’ transmissions …

With the vast volume of creative expressions by innovators, scientists, thinkers, writers and artists of any kind in our climate of over-saturated productions – some unique works will flicker shortly and then sink to seeming oblivion, temporarily invisible on the crossroads. Does it matter?

My Sufi friend, Fazal Inayat-Khan, once said, ‘If Einstein had never published his theories, his ideas would still have irrevocably changed the world of science.’

What makes products succeed in the public domain? Is it genius, fame, skill, merit, sponsorship, contacts, money, timing, luck, or the phenomenon of strong desire and expectation? Over years of psychotherapy practice I’ve met people, who, let’s say, were the apple of the eye of a parent, a friend, a teacher, a mentor, or maybe an angel of synchronicity that inspired confidence towards success. While some people may be born with faith in their desire, others, whose confidence was knocked, need a nudge. Expectation feeds success. Expectation is uncanny; it’s like carrying a magnet.

Still, even meteoric success can be short lived. Weighed down with superlative praise, a work can sizzle out and draw ridicule. When a lauded product doesn’t impress me, I ask myself – is this because of my acquired taste, my hugging of precious time, my complex mind, my standards, my arrogance, or my jealousy? A half-truth sneaks through all these questions, embarrassing. Shouldn’t creative people support each other?

Yes and no. Triggers that stimulate us vary. I must catch the tune of an authentic wave that keeps me in the zone. My interest wakes when an unnameable quality shines through a work of art. I call it an internalised idea transformed in the heart. This kind of deep assimilation is often transmitted by poets, like Rilke, Rumi, Neruda, Warsan Shire, to randomly pick only a few artists who reveal multiple layers of meaning.

Equally, the simple words of some prayers and mantras transmit the power of their initially intended blessing. Then again, if a quality is not already dormant in me, I may sense the love tincture, but the symbolic aspect drowns in crackling noises when I can’t fine-tune the relevant radio wave. This is why, when we return at different times during our lives to creative works that intrigued us, we may find the essence of a message and grok how it relates to us with sudden intuitive comprehension.

‘Grok’ is a word coined by Robert A Heinlein in his 1961 novel ‘Stranger in a Strange Land.’ A Martian term for intuitive understanding, though it means much more. The Wikipedia entry for Grog is totally  worth reading.

just a stone

Cloned, copied and reassembled work, in short, quirky experimental materials, often has deeply assimilated qualities, if one can detect the code. In today’s flood-lit cyberspace there is stuff that blinks and chimes, stuff that rings pretentious, and stuff the heart can’t decode, yet.

As for writers who tilled a patch of their inner territory and planted seeds that thrive, it can be a lone satisfaction when no promoter propels readers to seek out the garden so lovely and inspiring to spend time in.

When a few connoisseurs find and grok the hidden place, the pleasure is shared. And that’s not even addressing the mysterious process of any creative work, the reward of which lives on in other time-zones.

To bring back the question – does it matter if creative works don’t appear in the light, are invisible on the public crossroads? The publishing world, for example, geared to profit, accumulates mountains of slush piles, like compost heaps. When you think of it – all manifestations are constantly recycled, small bits, big bits. And yet, I sincerely believe that anything processed and transmitted through the heart’s intelligence leaves a coherent mark and demands eternal resurrection. In other words, the essence of these works will shine on.

This post may be a tad confusing, not telling you anything you don’t already know. But having been immersed in editing ‘Shapers’ and composing a short story for a local competition, and, sigh, fretting over practical issues, like a defunct heating system I have nil resources to fix, nor the nerve to tap into the bureaucratic nightmare of government grants, I wanted to pause and say hello to all creative warriors out there.

In this warm and wet autumn

fresh grass grows, as soft as silk …


Talking of growth and beautiful spaces, visit this plot of a friend with a brilliant mind, who inspires by planting riches in a real earth plot in the middle of a roundabout. 





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… the child in us …

Close your eyes and imagine standing on a beach … warm sand under your bare feet – a light sea breeze brushing your skin – gulls sailing above the sparkling crests of waves. Breathe a while, to the rhythm of the surf lapping at the shore – in – out – in – out – in – out – and let your eyes rest on the silver skyline.

There is nobody here but you – and a visitor – a child you invite to appear as it will.

At what distance does the little person appear?

Observe its posture, age, gender?

What do you sense about it?

Does it look at you, or not?

Is it curious, shy, withdrawn?

Notice your thoughts and feelings, don’t draw conclusions – do nothing.

Sense the realm of consciousness this little person lives in, and still your mind. If the child plays with shells do the same, remaining where you are. If the child skips along the surf, wait. If it takes one step towards you, wait. If it turns its back on you or walks away, sit down and wait. All the while communicate silently – I’m here as a friend.

Yeshen in Surf, colour - lowresHe or she may come close – or not – play with you – or not. Be patient. This little one represents your essence and must be free to approach the strange adult you’ve become as it chooses and when it’s ready. Maybe next time. Don’t over-act. Even if the child is friendly, keep in mind it may try to please your expectations. Remain calm, interested, approachable.

*    *    *

Visiting an imaginary coastline, metaphorically a boundary between the conscious and the less conscious psyche, brings insights even if no images emerge. Try and silence your usual thinking process. Enter the scene as in a daydream, or have a friend slowly read the text.

Insights change from day to day, according to mood. You could experience joy, get a glimpse of what’s important in your life, or be prompted to engage in frank reflections – a valuable process, helping us to develop empathy.

For example, if sadness or pain knock at the sight of this child, ask yourself … have guardians chided your curiosity and strong spirit, or humiliated your weakness and poor confidence? As a result your own adult may have unwittingly come to reject your child as unworthy, regarding it as ungrateful, stubborn, nagging, or awkward with the shame of buried secrets?  Consider – fear of abandonment, punishment or guilt about early fantasies may compel children to please grown ups in order to cope and emotionally survive. The legacy could be a distrust one’s own feelings. Signals received as pain, or love, might equally overwhelm.

Next time you hear a baby or toddler screams, let’s say, in a supermarket, observe what happens in your body, and watch other shoppers. It grates at our nerves at best, and can trigger physically embedded memories of helplessness, and sometimes more. Good to remember when we  judge people who shout and act irrationally. There are behavioural therapies to desensitize triggers that threaten to overwhelm people with rage. Then again, active imagination is more deeply transforming, and the symbolic expression of complex emotions (see later) frees energy and meaning, making a difference to our collective state of consciousness.

If some of these reflections ring true,  return to the imaginary shore as long as it takes to earn the trust of your child. Your adult’s task is simply to be present, reflect, and allow the younger being to initiate communication.

In daily life, begin to set aside pockets of time for that little person in you, encourage a symbolic process, without pressure, to write or draw about early joys, pains, hurts or dark thoughts, like having hated a parent, or once wished someone to drop dead. Children have such fleeting fantasies when they feel threatened and powerless. It’s normal. Holding on to self blame is the problem.

Suffering brought to consciousness lifts the spell of self blame. Despite appearances of confidence and adult bravado, the child in us is often anxious. Deep down may linger legitimate anger, and, deeper still, sadness and the longing for a precious moment of total acceptance. We call it love. It takes time to soften hearts.

Imagination serves multiple roles. It can draw us into habitual loops of negativity and self harm, or stimulate insights and enhance creativity. Artists know this. Imagination can also heal psychic wounds frequently handed down through generations. The healing aspect is especially powerful when employed consciously. Jung called it ‘Active Imagination.’

In this way, every imaginary journeys can be followed up by freeing condensed energy and meaning – symbolically – through drawing, painting, writing, movement, music or play, allowing what wants to emerge, be it forgotten wonders, or burdens, like unacknowledged anger a child had no means to express in early life.

And most significantly, nurturing a trusting relationship and rapport with our younger being invites the Beloved – our essence – and with it the light of intuition and inner guidance.

‘Lovers don’t finally meet somewhere. They’re in each other all along.’  ― Rumi –

Perhaps all the dragons of our lives
are princesses who are only waiting to
see us once, beautiful and brave.
Perhaps everything terrible is in
Its deepest being something
that needs our love.               
— Rainer Maria Rilke –


The imagery above is in continuation of my last post ‘journey into mystery.’



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