You and I have secrets so well hidden in dark corners of our psyche; the only chance of discovery is us bumping into them through some synchronistic event. Angels may be involved. Secrets keep us under a spell, just like we get needy for the absent puzzle pieces that prevent a scene from completion, which nags on our sense of cohesion. Depending on the temperament of any given day this can result in restlessness, procrastination, or apathy. The pieces exist, we know that much. But in our lives the missing pieces represent holes, patches of nothingness that beg to be filled. And some will never be filled, unless imagination enters like a grace, and offers fresh possibilities.
Beneath this yearning for cohesion chimes a faint drone. From that drone a vague theme, image or a melody we can’t place may arrive from nowhere, persisting in teasing us.
I sum this sensation up as ‘waiting.’ Waiting for the fog to clear, waiting for a connection, a response to a question, waiting for a birth, waiting for a death, waiting for the heart’s eye to light up, waiting for inspiration, waiting for a door to open, a hint … like in Samuel Beckett’s absurd play, ‘Waiting for Godot,’ where the passive Estragon and the impatient Vladimir are adrift in their minds, hoping for a meaningful sign. Some early viewers angrily left the theater. Maybe it annoyed them that the play exposes the absurd inner dialogues everyone experiences at times. Critics have voiced fascinating interpretations. For me, the philosophical variance between Aristotle and Plato comes to mind.
Years ago, my dear Sufi friend/teacher, Fazal Inayat-Khan, introduced the term ‘psychogenic secret’ during a workshop he instigated. The term could be understood as the distorted or buried memory of an incident that compels our behaviour in ways we cannot fathom. Consequently, shadowy aspects of our personality may appear in relationships, when others see us in ways we cannot comprehend. Consistency upholds our mental habits until their significance wears down. But once we discover and acknowledge a twist in our interpretation of relational events, a thread will untangle and jingle the famed ‘aha moment.’
It is tricky to share a personal experience, though an example of twisted psychology is in order here. Far back, at primary school, a triangle of girls was jealous of me for having as friend and neighbour the favourite boy in our class. He had train sets and lots of Enid Blyton books. They alleged I had been stealing stuff from their and other pupils’ desks. Their concerted accusation required me to empty my schoolbag in front of the head teacher and the whole class. The crafty girls had planted a fancy pencil, a sharpener, a metal ruler and a pop-star image between my notebooks. The items were quickly claimed by their owners. Disputing the abhorrent deed was hopeless. I felt deeply humiliated. And my parents were unable to refute the evidence. The insult sunk deep and festered.
Much later, during student years, I casually stole a chunk of butter from a shop to round up a meal for friends. Observing my lack of conscience, and the ease, even pleasure, with which I stole the butter mortified and shamed me. It took a while to process my turmoil until I drew the connection which stopped me in my track towards becoming a bank robber with supernatural powers … I realised it was my irrational comeuppance, a kind of revenge for being once wrongly blamed and shamed.
My example might spark your imagination. Intricacies as to how psychogenic secrets can operate, be they based on humiliation, small or big traumas and betrayals, frequently appear in fairy tales, stories, novels, including mine, notably in the forthcoming sequel to Course of Mirrors, ‘Shapers,’ to be released in spring.
I’ve learned to tolerate psychogenic secrets I’m ignorant of, the holes in my life, by allowing my dreamer to use the empty patches as frames for stories that humour the unknown.
We endow obvious practical functions to clothes tools, furniture and any number of items we use daily and which therefore become intimates, like I have a favourite knife, cup, spoon, breakfast bowl and so on. I remember a T-shirt, apricot-coloured, with the iconic Snoopy character on it. Over the years the fabric of the shirt faded and softened beautifully. Finally I was wearing it in bed, for comfort, until, after various fixes, it fell apart. A sad day!
We also endow objects with symbolic, creative, guiding, protective and blessing potencies. Beyond reason – be it by a kind of enchantment – we grant them magical qualities through sustained affection. For me these are stones, shells, driftwood, feathers, or small ornaments given to me by friends.
Starting as children, we’ll adopt what Donald Winnicott called transitional objects, meant to restore the lost closeness to mother. Also early on we may express interests that foreshadow an inborn zeal. So beyond toys, teddy bears, blanket, pets, books, and so on, we bond with anything that fascinates us, initiating a passion that could encapsulate the myth of our lives. In my case this became the bridging of divides. My first novel started with the image of a bridge.
I wrote elsewhere … a constant sense of oneness is not what evolution is about. In a time and space structured cosmos we cannot cage harmony. Reality is the result of contradiction.
Objects and interests we seek or meet, may relate to a particular element, earth, water, fire, air, aether. Quite often our vocational and professional activities relate to an element. Also, one or the other of our senses may take hold of us, the love of light, shapes and colours, a fondness of sound, touch, smell, taste, or a love of metaphysics. Attachments drive our interests throughout life.
Strong affinity with an element may bring the challenge of dealing with another element we feel less in resonance with. The psyche plays at balancing extremes. For example, my astrological birth chart confirms a predominance of fire and air signs, fast energies, fierce, intense; even obsessional. I can still hear my mother saying, with a touch of exhaustion, ‘You’ve got a vivid imagination.’ My authority defying associations caused the odd trouble with teachers. In compensation I had need of grounding, befriending earth, literally digging and planting, which taught me patience. And I’m calmed by the vicinity of water. My childhood was spent around lakes, rivers and ponds.
We hold our loved ones and friends dear. We give significance to certain animals, trees, plants, prominent landmarks. We cherish gadgets, periods of history, art styles, places, habitual rituals and ideas. Each bonding adds to the creation of a strong net. To lose a strand precious to us, requires a child-like faith that our relational energy net can be mended and re-aligned to our guiding light. This net is all about relationships, inner and outer, informing the purpose of our extended self.
Over recent years, efforts to dis-endow some of my attachments, among them endless folders with notes on projects and visions I’ve slim chances to achieve in this round, left me melancholic, but through the more malleable net sneaked fresh insights and mysteries. It also helped me to focus on writing my novels. ‘Course of Mirrors’ will have its sequel, ‘Shapers,’ published next spring.
My poet sits in a corner, banned, feeling dejected, with shaking head, upset about my philosopher’s need to fret about social realities, which, however, can’t be ignored. So there goes …
With longstanding friends around the world, and across the channel between Britain and the continent, my kind feels stranded on this island. By my kind I mean ordinary people, who took opportunities to travel, read, are forever curious and learned to be tolerant of differnces.
Where time ago, I used to send well over 100 Xmas cards, this is now too costly. I discovered that posting a card/letter to Europe, for example, has gone up to nearly £2.00. Recently I sent a slim book to Amsterdam, at standard rate for £9.00. When the book hadn’t arrived after four weeks, seemingly lost, I sent another copy, this time with tracking and signature request, costing £13.65 – a week passed, and it has not arrived.
I feel my roots being severed, much like what happens with the ruthless assault on nature, perpetuated by ignorance of politicians and the greed of heedless corporations. My network of connections is resigned to the Metaverse, devoid of touch and smell.
The physical world has become bothersome, unprofitable.
In that vein … banks are closing, arguing that ‘most’ people bank online. Small post-offices are closing for not being cost-effective; supermarket checkouts are replaced by self-scanning ports in order to save on personnel, and small shops fold, since rents are becoming untenable.
And I, by using a simple mobile, not a smart phone, am already a redundant species.
My lot could be worse. My son is caring and offers support, as do friends when they sense I’m struggling. But there are large sections of our societies who, be it through age, or dire lack of resources, are cast into isolation. This is wrong, and ultimately creates germs of stress, depression and, basically, insanity, affecting every age group. Beyond shelter and food, people want to feel useful. They need community, connections, and companionships. It’s not just the aging or impoverished citizens, or migrants, but generally many dispirited young people who experience a lack of meaningful social engagement.
The decline of spaces where people can meet face to face and chat requires novel solutions.
For decades I envisioned housing projects, with accommodations of varied sizes, where young and old people could occupy independent units around a kind of village green, with a communal building at its centre. Apart from a shared space for meetings and celebrations, this building could house a shared library and IT facilities accessible to everyone. Residents could look after each other and offer their skills on a voluntary basis. All sorts of mutual exchanges could happen, from childcare to animal sharing, transport sharing, tool sharing, skill sharing, sharing of knowledge, therapeutic activities. I also imagine an art studio, and a vegetable/flower garden, tended by those who love gardening – the list is endless. More than a dream, it is achievable. This way of living may not suit everyone, but what’s in the way of such housing projects to happen on a large scale?
I’m not an influencer. I can’t make enough people believe in enlightened social projects to make them manifest. Many influencers, who reach the political stage, have to sadly compromise the integrity of their ideals on the way up the slippery pole. So my various great ideas over the last decades, like this one … https://courseofmirrors.com/2012/05/15/is-a-parent-ever-unemployed/ … are slumbering, awaiting their time. I’m surely not the only one who mulls over solutions to the sad state of affairs around the world.
With hard work and scarce financial gain I did manifest a few worthwhile social visions over the years … art projects, therapy groups, support groups for carers, an independent living project for people with disabilities. At one point I even won a care in the community award for a charity. I co-facilitated creative workshops in many prisons, set up by a friend, who also achieved funding via the Arts Council. There was a time when I ran training courses for Parent Link facilitators, to prepare parents and teachers to run a 12 session course on reflective listening. The charity was celebrated by all course participants, but needed a fundraiser. Half-hearted promises of government support never happened, so the marvellous brainchild of the founders of the Parent Network charity, Ivan Sokolov and Jacquie Pearson had to fold.
These days I’m done with groups; the many wonderful groups I supported, and was supported by, now appear in my time-travelling novels.
I glance at my poet, my wise poet nods, with a shy smile, and says, “All is Well.”
Day and night we receive and tie up new thoughts, mostly subliminal. By keeping track of this neuron dance we find fresh associations that expand the architecture of our imagination. Sudden insights lift our spirit. Frequently practical innovations arrive, novel ways of doing things. But with thoughts adrift, we often fail to be present to our bodies, and this neuron dance turns mechanical. We may be hampered by depression, presently a global dis-ease, but life perks up a little when we listen to our body.
‘Remember me,’ it implores. ‘Love me, give me attention.’
Stretching limbs calms the stress in fascia tissues and muscles, stirs the senses, and deepens breathing. Food tastes better, small things delight, movement gives pleasure.
‘We are souls dressed up in sacred biochemical garments and our bodies are the instruments through which our souls play their music.’ … Einstein
The unconscious collective psyche continuously churns up vital signals through the body, but has long been denigrated by wrong-footed ideologies … the greatest crime against humanity, since the neglect of nature’s voice led to the abuse that threatens the balance of life on this planet, and our health.
Nature – the wild, matter, psyche breath, being, anima, the feminine principle – contains all life. The term has acquired many slants of meaning during previous centuries. We have now established frames through which nature is perceived … the scientific, economic, political, apocalyptic, holistic, visionary, philosophical, romantic, and the spiritual frame, for example. Each outlook influences the relationship we have with nature, as a person, group or nation.
Since all human innovations are inspired by nature, every manmade thing is natural, yet by lengthening the duration-span of too many products, nature’s cyclic process of decay is disrupted, often with dire consequences. It’s like stuffing ourselves with food the body can neither absorb nor digest. Controlling nature’s rhythm does not work. The best we can attempt is to seek rapport, fall into step, attune and harmonise with this dance we are part of.
Quite likely all the varied frames which determine our relationship with nature were formed by the wish to make the unconscious force of the wild psyche more bearable.
We demand nature’s protection. This includes humans. Do the ecological villains among us also deserve protection? In a psycho-therapeutic practice this would be considered as the expansion of consciousness through befriending and owning the shadow. I forever wish this map of knowledge was introduced to the educational curriculum.
First call is the body. If the body’s messages are fully received (giving varied frames their due) and understood (in a deep loving sense,) the messages are always essentially true. Only humans manipulate and deceive, by ignoring and belittling nature’s raw truths. The planet suffers the same neglect. Our best efforts at deep listening will always be partial.
I count on the constant minority that grasps a wide spectrum of meaning in relation to every rift that endangers our world. While this minority tries to uphold a wider view, as a small collective it is not geared for action, knowing well that whatever succeeds in being legally determined cannot please all, but usually intensifies disagreements, especially in cultures where emotions and thoughts are censored for political ends.
One could say the will to action is diluted by the wider view. But there exists a subtler use of the will, like rehearsing positive outcomes, which requires imagination. Efforts of this subtle will are hardly visible; but they no less influence and create our reality. This subtle will is based on trusting the intelligence of nature, of soul, the One Being, the Spirit of Guidance.
A prayer/song by Hazrat Inayat Khan:
Let thy wish become my desire
Let thy will become my deed
Let thy word become my speech beloved
Let thy love become my creed
Let my plant bring forth thy flower
Let my fruit produce thy seed
Let my heart become thy lute beloved
And my body thy flute of reed
Crossing and bridging divides is the theme of my life. As a child I came to believe in a spirit that guided me, sparked by a print that hung in my paternal grandparent’s bedroom, where a guardian angel leads a girl and a boy along a rickety bridge across a ravine with rapids rushing below. The image left a deep impression, and, over the years, similar images appeared in dreams, revealing the scene’s symbolic power. Training and working as a transpersonal therapist I often helped clients to explore the complex relationship between the masculine and feminine principle (Anima and Anima) active within each individual and across the gender divide. But most useful work on the road to greater wholeness begins with listening to what the body knows, and, by implication, what the self-regulating planet tells us.
The theme of bridges plays in my novel, Course of Mirrors, and continues (in the sense of bridging time) in a sequel, Shapers, which I hope to publish this or next year.
On balance, apart from the anxieties and frustrations we absorb and project, we also tend to transfer the beauty we hold inside our hearts onto our surroundings, be it what we glance in the growth and decay of nature, in the gracious motions of young and old people, animals, trees we befriend, a patch of thriving vegetables, a forget-me-not perking through a crack in the pavement, a glowing autumn leaf. We delight in the colours and shapes sculpted by the shifting light of the sun into twilight and shadows, even in neglected streets, even in ruins.
Some of us have the use of a garden or a plot of land, which offers shade and, throughout the seasons, brings joys, as well as countless tasks we may honour or ignore.
The random excerpt of Shapers, below, is where I’ve got earlier today while working through a last round of revisions, before proof reading and formatting towards an initial e-book, if I find the funds. From Course of Mirror’s mythic theme, the cast re-appears in a future SF setting, not on other planets, but on earth. The main protagonists, Ana, Cara and Mesa, connect back and forth in time. They are really one and the same, a triple soul. It’s a compelling work of the imagination with strong, memorable characters. Even my son agrees 🙂
* * *
The hall rocked with the rhythm of drums. All eyes were on Zap, who did a thrilling dance with silk ribbons, and at the same time juggled a round of colourful balls. They slid down his back and legs and with a kick of his heel were flipped back into rotation. He spotted Mesa and waved his ribbon, inviting her to join him, which she did, with sudden abandon. Her responsive dance provoked gasps of admiration. Elim stepped up with his violin, improvising melodies to Mesa’s sensual movements. Her waist undulated between the flowing ribbons, while her arms rippled like snakes.
The sight filled Cara with happiness, until she spotted Dillon staring at Mesa with rapture in his eyes. An intense bout of jealousy overtook Cara. Her lover was a pushover for mystery. When the muse grabbed him all else ceased to exist. She invited the pain, almost welcoming the torture of feeling rejected, though reason argued that Dillon’s infatuation would pass, like any storm, eventually. Still, she felt inept. And yet, only an hour ago she herself was irrationally impressed by another man. What was his name? He was not unlike Dillon, yet different, obscure, and more complex. The thought of him made her skin tingle as she ploughed through the crowd in search of Tilly, and the stranger.
Gart had escaped the festivities. Standing at the cliff’s edge, he clutched his flapping cape, while shouting into the storm, into the void. “Talk to me!” A deep rumble shook the ground. “What is it I am? Answer me!” A blinding streak of lightning split the night and dispersed across the fluid orb of black waters. “Who dropped me here? Take me home to my name.” Thunder resounded in his skull, a force surged through him, fused his feet to the rock under him, and roused senses he had no words for. “What’s expected of me? These people here … they sap my strength, and … I glimpsed something I’ve never seen before … forms behind things … behind her.” As if in response, the apparition of a woman, illuminated from within, rose from the waves below him. Gart sunk to his knees. “What are you?”
A name echoed from the cliffs, but was drowned out by another clap of thunder. The spectre of the figure scattered into shards of silver speeding out in all directions, the sea, the sky, across the sweep of rocks called Kerry.
“Aren’t the waves magical?”
Gart turned towards the voice and was confronted by the girl, Mirre, who by casually touching his shoulder at the banquet had made the hall spin. What was it about her? “Stay away from me!”
“Why?” Mirre’s eyes sparkled from under her windblown red curls.
Her candid question annoyed and intrigued Gart.
Mushki, having caught up with Mirre, skidded to a halt. Searching his holdall, he set up a tripod, screwed on a camera and focused the lens towards the flashes at the horizon. “You,” he motioned to Gart, “you obstruct my view.”
“Don’t be rude,” Mirre said. “Here, use my tablet. It records images in three or more dimensions.”
“No thanks. If I keep the shutter of my lens open I get the effect I want,” Mushki said, and readied himself. He was in luck. Another rumble … giant branches of light filled the sky.
Mirre shrugged and fixed her gaze once more on Gart whose looks reminded her of Crim, her favourite author of animations. “Tilly says you’re a Guardian. Their red uniforms are grand, but you’re not wearing one.”
A spasm gripped Gart’s spine. His head throbbed, and the memory of his identity flooded back. His eyes darted from Mirre to the ivy walls of the estate, to the bay where he glimpsed his airbus, and back to the girl. He burned the image of Mirre’s freckled face into his mind, turned on his heels and dashed down a path towards the beach, away from the chaos that had gripped his mind, familiar faces he couldn’t place. His Guardian training should’ve protected him from such emotional turmoil. What was wrong with him?
He now recalled a repeated interference on his console while heading for Rhonda after his spying mission in Sax. Someone called Zap seemed lost in Derrynane. Annoyed, yet curious, he had demanded his craft to find the place. Then the horizon wobbled, and as if taken over by some spook, he nearly crash-landed on this alien stretch of coastline.
With shaking hands Gart pointed the sensor towards the dolphin-shaped airbus glinting in the dusk. The craft responded. The signal light came on. Only a few more steps and he would be able to lift off from this bewildering place. A sense of vertigo made him stop. All sound ceased. For a brief moment he felt as if his body did not belong to him. Into the silence stirred a soft breeze. An invisible hand seized his and led him to where the water lapped at the sands. Before him the air wavered and the shape of an old woman appeared, more ancient than the yew trees on the peninsula. The crone looked at him like a fox, tilting her head. Her voice was firm. “When a heart cracks its myths flow free and the stories of river and sea mingle.”
Gart opened his mouth and closed it again. A melodic tune drifted across the waters.
Twinkle, twinkle, little rat … how I wonder what you’re at …
A subtle fragrance reached his nostrils bringing memories. Years of harsh drilling for leadership had sealed away images of his childhood. An ornamental garden with birdsong and blossom, a nursery filled with flowers, toys, and humour – a woman reading dreamlike stories to him. Children raised as Guardians were not read stories. They were trained from infancy to obey commands. He was different. Phrases he used as triggers to control his army had no effect on him. He tossed his hair back trying to shake off the confusion. The crone watched him. He realised his thoughts were exposed to her ageless knowing.
“You were led here to experience the sweet agony of emotion, what it’s like to be lovesick, and to yearn for a lost place,” said the crone. Her words seeped under his skin.
A gentle wave splashed over his feet. His toes squished in his sandals. Droplets of sweat soaked his brow. What was she talking about? He glanced back at his craft. Would the tide reach it? He must get away.
Heat shot up his spine when Cassia took a step towards him. “Stop your haste. Imagine deeply. What do you desire? Listen to what the sea whispers in your ear. Accept contradictions. They’re indispensable. You were raised to command the Guardians for a purpose.”
His head hurt. His skull seemed too small to accommodate this garbled talk. He blinked as the crone became fuzzy, then transparent, and finally vanished altogether.
Her last words echoed, “A woman needs your help, and you’ll need hers.”
Gart rubbed his eyes, squinting at the shimmering air before him. Some Shapers were known to materialise out of thin air. Was she one of them? Clinging to his wits he rushed to his airbus and fumbled with the console. How can the sea whisper? And how can a heart crack? His curiosity had often led him to unearth illegal information. He knew how to access a glossary of emotional terms outlawed in Rhonda. Agony – another troubling term – sounding like a woman’s name.
* * *
In late May I visited London – for the first time in almost three years. I met with my son, his wife, and her mother from Darwin. We visited the Tate Modern exhibition on ‘Surrealism without Boundaries.’ That’s for another post.