… an odd rush of energy …

Sun, finally, bliss. I sit in the garden, reading, among Robin friends flitting through the apple blossoms. After two hours in the heat my body needs shade. I resolve to clear some cobwebbed drawers in the shed.

The moment I lift a weighty plastic bag, I know it contains German pfennige (pennies,) about 2 kg in weight, at least. These one & two penny coins were meant to buy my wedding shoes. It escapes me how I came to start this collection. In any case, the coins were never used, though the wedding took place, and the marriage lasted for a good while. Two eccentrics … but that’s another story.

For the rest of the day I fell into a kind of Scrooge Duck hallucination, since, as I learned from Google, some two pfennig coins had acquired high iconic value. Up to 1968 German pennies were of copper, from there on steel was added, which made the coins magnetic.

So, equipped with a small magnet from the door of my fridge, a magnifying glass, various breakfast bowls, a glass of water, and another glass of wine, I returned to my sun spot and commenced with methodical sorting, looking for two ghosts – a 1967 coin marked G (printed in Karlsruhe) that had already steel in it, and a 1969 late limited edition of still pure copper, marked J (printed in Hamburg.)

With hundreds of pennies, the odds seemed promising, at least compared to the lottery ticket I buy once a week.

I felt a rush of energy I hadn’t felt for some time. Purpose with a promise is a high energy state, I thought, giggling to myself, a habit of late, due to the surreal atmosphere since the corona virus lock down. What if? What if I find a penny worth £3000 to £5000 to collectors? I could afford to market my book, regain confidence to publish the sequel, have some work done around here, fix the shed roof, asks a painter in, buy a number of books, and leave a chunk aside for emergencies.

Well, I was as meticulous as can be, but by the time dusk chill set in, I hadn’t discovered even one ghosts. Some coins might fetch a few £s from collectors, given more research. Thing is, I’d make a good buyer for a business, having excellent taste and a knack for bargains, but selling is not my forte.

Nor am I a talented collector; otherwise, for instance, I wouldn’t have burned negatives and photographs of praiseworthy experiential novelty, including images of celebrities taken during the 1960s/1970s. Vain laurels, I thought then, devaluing my achievements. Nor would I have gifted away hundreds of vinyl records of that period, and precious books, all in a minimalist attempt to travel light into a new adventure. Profit, for better or worse, has always been secondary. And that’s another story …

The only things I collect, or maybe they collect me, are small stones. The irony of choosing to treasure such solid items is not lost on me. It’s to counter-balance my high energy states. These states, which I love, though they also exhaust, generated many satisfying projects, often in relation to groups. I gradually learned to balance the energies between my extrovert and introvert, between intense emotional and cognitive investment and periods of drifting and dreaming – incubating a new beginning – waiting for another decisive moment of clarity. How this energy seesaw was impressed in me directly after my birth is another story …

Instances of high energy in the last decade were more solitary, though I had great supporters, the co-editing Heart of a Sufi, which came out in 2011, and the writing and editing my novels, Course of Mirrors, and its sequel, Shapers. The former came out in 2017. Since then stressful events dented my spirits, a lunatic Brexit, my father’s erratic care needs, which wrecked my income, his death in 2018, and the global lock down to halt a virus, but spreading hopelessness like a trance. Procrastination became keyword for just about everything.

Somehow my short-lived penny passion brought back a taste of excitement, which beautifully sums up the essence of my first novel – finally an elevator pitch – that amazing feeling of getting on the road and the road pulling you along like a magnet to a half-imagined mysterious goal.

It’s sobering that the magic carpet of journeying has been grounded worldwide. And with the present road blocks, investing energy into a journey seems pointless, unless it’s an inner journey. Here I’m fortunate to hold rich life experiences. Being reminded what a strong purpose feels like, will, I hope, motivate me to value my writing again.

Sadness pops up when I think of teens, the young, whose natural impulse is to be active and connect physically with their peer groups, and whose desire for journeying is now frustrated – in stark contrast to the inspiring decades of my youth during the 60s/70s. Old or young, we’re all missing spontaneity, direct contact, stimulating discussions, hugs. One can never have enough hugs. Too many people struggle at present in isolation, or, indeed, in strained togetherness.

How do I cope? I don’t watch TV, haven’t done so for years. I prefer to read coherent articles and watch movies on BFI. And I’m lucky to have a garden, with nature to touch and absorb. The lilac tree waves, the laurel hedge sparkles; Robins build their nests, tulips nod in the breeze. Oh, and to end my ramblings, I just picked some delicate violets and forget-me-nots from my garden. They both have five leaves.

It’s time for me to read my odyssey once more, to attract the wind of light required for refining the sequel. You, too, might enjoy the read, for a taste of

that amazing feeling of getting on the road and the road pulling you along like a magnet to a half-imagined mysterious goal.

Links regarding Course of Mirrors appear on my  book page

8 Comments

Filed under Blog

When the Waters Were Changed

Once upon a time Khidr, the Teacher of Moses, called upon mankind with a warning. At a certain date, he said, all the water in the world which had not been specially hoarded would disappear. It would then be renewed, with different water, which would drive men mad.

Only one man listened to the meaning of this advice. He collected water and went to a secure place where he stored it, and waited for the water to change its character

On the appointed date the streams stopped running, the wells went dry and the man who had listened, seeing this happening, went to his retreat and drank his preserved water.

When he saw, from his security, the waterfalls again beginning to flow, this man descended among the other sons of men. He found that they were thinking and talking in an entirely different way from before; yet they had no memory of what had happened, nor of having been warned. When he tried to talk to them, he realized that they thought that he was mad, and they showed hostility or compassion, not understanding.

At first he drank none of the new water, but went back to his concealment, to draw on his supplies, every day. Finally, however, he took the decision to drink the new water because he could not bear the loneliness of living, behaving and thinking in a different way from everyone else. He drank the new water, and his fellows began to look upon him as a madman who had miraculously been restored to sanity.

From ‘Tales of the Dervishes’ by Idris Shah

(This version of the story is attributed to Sayed Sabir Ali-Shah, a saint of the Chisti Order, who died in 1818)

7 Comments

Filed under Blog

… our ideas of home …

Cartoon de Salvo

Stay home – the resounding advice to stem a globally spreading virus, made me think of what home actually means, to me, to you, to us. Is it a sheltering porch or a railway bridge providing the roof under which one can curl up and sleep? Is it a room, a flat, a house, a village, a town, a metropolis, a country, a nation? The present urgent injunction to stay home obviously refers to a space surrounded by walls.

Is home an extension of us? Is it a place to get away from habits and rituals, or a place to return to and feel safe? Is it a place that keeps others out, or a place that invites others in? Does home offer solitude? Is it place where we are cared for and care for others, or a place where we feel controlled, as in a prison, an inhibiting place, a crowded place, a dark place, a place of chaos, where we find rejection instead of intimacy? Is it an imagined place in the sky, where wisps of cloud move this way and that way, carried by the flow of air?

We shape places, ideal places, inside or outside, through the imagination.

me aged five or six

Each place I lived in I made into a temporary home, a bit of colour here and there, a few cherished objects. I have no trouble to sensually recall their ambiance … Four homes within the village I grew up in. A tiny student accommodation in Munich, followed by varies flats, rural communities, and a VW van in which I travelled through Europe. Two places in Amsterdam I remember, one horrid and surreal, the other blissful, where my son was conceived. Then a cottage in Somerset, various flats near London, a spiritual home in Surrey, and a small semi I acquired. Memories were anchored in each place.

From stories shared in my therapy practice over the years, I understand impression of our very first home wield a repetitive power throughout our life that’s difficult to shake off. Yet the experiences we share have no walls, instead, imagination has a powerful role in our ideal vision of ‘home,’ even if rarely achieved. Personal and collective memories lend us the styles, the architecture and environment we envision, we sense we had once, or will have again. Many of us are alienated from such ideal, just like the Ugly Duckling, where inner and outer worlds don’t chime. But the call is there. And the call creates a most poignant contradiction, a creative tension resulting in great works of art that link and weave vastly different scales (physically and spiritually) together and inspire new dimension of experience in all of us.

And yet we witness the heartbreak of people uprooted from lands that provided their basic needs, compelled into the unknown by famine or war. Displaced people must persevere as best they can. They carry their only remaining home with them – their body.

The body we inhabit is indeed the only physical home we absolutely own, for better or worse, which only death can take. But how many are at odds with their own bodies. And how many are at odds with nature, and the very planet we live on

Angel of the North – image by Sylvia Selzer

 

And here I’d first like to share the deeply fascinating process of an artist, Antony Gromley.

Don’t miss this documentary by the amazing Alan Yentob, click on the link  and a new page will open:   Antony Gromley – Imagine

He shares his childhood experience, and how he started out by making casts of his own body, to explore what it means to inhabit a body, a human life.

 

 

 

 

 

And then consider Carl Sagan’s tender reflections on the pale blue dot, the Mote of Dust, as in a sunbeam, the home we all have in common, a selfie, seen from afar. “Where everyone’s love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives.”

 

“That’s here. That’s home. That’s us.”

 

22 Comments

Filed under Blog

… outer and inner horizons …

Atlantic coast, Morocco

Whatever dream is dreaming through me brings stimulation, challenge, insight, learning, or, during dark times, unlearning. The latter, with its accompanying disillusionment, has tested me for a while now. I’m not alone. The whole planet seems to be going through a dark moon phase.

I like to think beyond every effort, every hill and every sea are new horizons, outer or inner, where adventure beckons, treasures might be found.

But I tend to forget that the most relevant information is gifted by the body, and the planet. It is unsettling to accept the physical signs and their metaphors, because nature’s truth is scary. It holds a mirror of knowledge surrendered over time, with glimmers that engaged the human imagination and has given us the tools of science. As living organism and self-correcting system, nature deserves deep gratitude and respect.

The mind (psyche,) a finer and faster kind of matter, with the ability to emulate nature, plants and re-plant itself in any field of interest … outraces wisdom, seeks drama, familiar patterns, fertilises, grows, invents, designs, builds ideal dwellings, ideal systems, ideal worlds … be they citadels of power suppressing the underdog, utopias of love and liberty, or creative realms, where artists embrace and make the ordinary luminous and sacred. The mind loves myth-making, explores symbols, plays with forms and random connections, re-interprets reality and generate new meaning.

Continuously rejuvenated, mind pursues all imaginable universes across time, seeking eternity, since, even if unawares, it envisions the wholeness of its original home, where it will never be lost, but forever be enfolded by unlimited potential.

Yet when it comes to the daily business on this planet, the mind fares best when listening to the body, the living matter, the feminine principle (irrespective of gender,) and appreciates its cosmic interconnections, since all secrets arise from nature’s dark chambers. A severance from these intricate physical and mythical roots of our being can result in a devastating sense of futility, where the question, ‘What’s the point?’ brings up no action worth considering, no ideal worth following. Somber and futile looms a future that wants to fix waves into particles.

The thought brought on a Haiku last week …

 

if I were this calm

river without internal

discord – I would miss

how the waves urge particles

in random beauty

While unsettling at times, I must attend and listen to my body – learn and unlearn, flow with change, light and darkness, of dust, the chorus of wind and birds.

 

From an exhibition in Amsterdam, Dec 2014

And, hopefully, I’ll catch ever now and then a spark of Duende,’  the poetic escape. Goethe called it the spirit of the earth – a mysterious force that everyone feels and no philosophy has explained.

Follow the ‘Duende’ link above for Lorca’s talk.

Below, a related post from 2017 – Both links open new pages without losing the page of this post.

… letting go of letting go …

 

6 Comments

Filed under Blog

… there is a place …

Imagine a circle of people, 20 to 40, adding their voices to the drone and tune of a reed organ, repeatedly singing a phrase for an hour, or longer, with short intervals when the organ’s tune breaks into musical improvisations, only to return to the melody and phrase. In the end the sound slows and fades, leaving the echo of your voice as an indispensable part of all voices.

Then imagine a deep silence.

One of many musical tunings my spiritual Sufi friend created went with these words:

There is a place of beauty –

There is a place of peace –

There is a place of harmony –

In me

Before you grunt at the sheer illusion of such place, consider the evocation of beauty, peace and harmony as an ideal, a means –  not a goal – a means towards the hub of the mill, where the grain is ground to flour in a process of transformation.

Musical tunings are regular events among Sufi friends. Their rhythmic repeating, with or without words, produces a trance-like state in participants – not aiming at escape, but at a homecoming. Fazal Inayat-Khan’s teachings broke rules, exceeded conventions. While honouring the value of traditional methods, he introduced  contemporary phrases, like the one above, and responded to his audience with spirited musical improvisations.

The purpose of such events is remembrance of the Self, or the One. In traditional Zikr it would be Allah, God, though in strict Islamic circles music is not allowed.

I occasionally play and sing the above tune on my reed organ, especially when distressing incidents happen around the world and I have a need to tune mind and body. The place of beauty, peace and harmony only exists in the imagination, as a timeless inner realm, a state where duality co-exists, a state of unknowing, where the spirit of eternal potential lingers.

For me these group events were profoundly renewing. The body, my temporary home, became a tuning fork brought into resonance with the ground and the marrow of my bones. Suffused with consciousness, any mind-chatter merged with the yearning sounds, and my atoms realigned in new constellations.

A darker cover for my novel I wish I had used.

Intention does not bring us to this uncharted and unmeasured inner place. And even glimpsing a truth flashing from there may shock the angels in us. Catching such truth can happen equally through other means … nature, art, dance, literature, drugs, breath work, praying, guided imagery, computer programming, psalm singing, sport, silence, fasting, dreams, etc., but resonance is needed, and a deep desire for truth must lurk in the heart.

While practices towards this ungraspable inner realm may have repetitive elements, the place is never repeated but ever fresh. It is where the breath of life pulses, just not at our timescale.

Returning from the inner realm to the contemporary flow of time, we get on with life. Yet such deep memories remains and will respond to a sincere recall, where we detect once more how matter is revealed in its essence and shine. For the psyche this is gold. This inner place shows that while we embody birth and death, light and darkness, good and bad, past and future, in true essence we are pure consciousness.

To remain grounded and prevent the fate of Icarus, I tolerate the company of my little devils.

My angels like it so, agreeing that while the obscure company I keep makes living complex, painful, a challenge, it also makes existence more interesting for that, and aids the psyche’s expansion of consciousness.

10 Comments

Filed under Blog

… book pages let loose …

A few days ago, waking at dawn, I had retained a dream vision:

I saw the entire content of my novel, Course of Mirrors, 400 pages in all, displayed on one huge panel.  Astonished, I pondered how this expansion graphically showed that writing a novel involves massive work, time, and fierce motivation.

To put this into context, I must add I lacked motivation and confidence for some time now, having to deal with existential problems.

The 21.5 cm height and a 13.5 cm width of each page poured out onto a single panel would create a near 100 meter high and 52 meter wide installation.

Even if the panel size were halved by using front and back, it’s still a crazy idea – right?

Maybe the dimension of Tate Modern’s Turbine Hall could suffice, but only a Turner price gets you there. In case you don’t know, the Turbine Hall is the place that allowed visitors to touch the sun, like my son did during an Olafur Eliasson’s weather project exhibition a few years ago.

As regards my high-rise panel of book pages, any visitors keen to engage in reading could only do so at average eye levels, unless they had means to levitate. Now that would be another idea.

Well, imagination being such fun, I played on.

Much smaller double-sided panels could each display the pages of one of the 29 chapters, broken up into moments, occasionally interspersed with slivers of mirrors, where the body of a reader flits by, or maybe images that enhance or contradict the mood of a scene. You enter the story by stepping into a cave-like enclosure. The text on panels is lit from within, not spreading much light, to achieve a twilight experience, which was done in caves long, long, long ago, with the imprints of hands.

This cave could be entered from four sides. One may choose to start at the end and read the story backwards, or wander through and pick chapters randomly, more in the way one reads poetry. In any case, the title image at each entry/exit gate would evoke an enchanting journey at the edge of consciousness, between rational and the mystical states.

Normally, a writer’s work is condensed and hidden between the neat covers of a book, or captured on e-book screens, one click by one click. The concept of spreading the pages out in real space fascinates me, and ideas keep tumbling in. Like making the text respond to the concentration of the reader, or the lack, in which case sentences would ripple, as if floating on water.

Intrigued by this vision of visitors wandering through the chapters of my novel, I thought of the remarkable characters, all archetypal part-mirrors of me, of you, of anyone really.

How if readers could scan a paragraph about one character, place it on an empty panel and temporarily type a scene of their own imagination about that character?

If you feel the fun and have any additional ideas, please share them here.

What I like about the interactive setup, is the random strolling. Just while writing this post I opened my novel at an arbitrary page and hit on a romantic instant after Ana met her first love. He gives her a heart-shaped ruby as a promise – half a page at the end of chapter six. Here the excerpt …

Luke dropped the jewel back into my palm and pressed my hands close. “You’re the true heart for me. We’ll meet again. We’ll journey together.”  He glanced at the travel-ready troupe, waiting for him. “I won’t fasten the chain round your neck, though I’d love to.” His face was close enough for me to catch the scent of his hair, the pond, grass, wood smoke and musk. I longed to touch his lips, steal and take along his smile.

“How can I contact you?”

“Find a messenger to deliver a note to Tatum and his Magic Theatre. His troupe is getting known along the river.”

I felt drawn into the loop of his mysterious fate. I wanted to be held, forget myself in his arms. Instead, I stared at my feet, pondering this indelible moment of intimacy and suddenly dreaded the journey ahead – without him.

Last week Course of Mirrors had a lovely review by Cath Humphris, which I’m pleased to share:

https://cathum.wordpress.com/2020/01/13/course-of-mirrors-an-odyssey-by-ashen-venema/

A magical tale, in which a young woman embarks on a hazardous search for The Real.

Since I have presently no way of realising my crazy interactive vision, you can only enter the world of my novel condensed in its covers, here: Courseofmirrors  This Troubador page connects to other platforms, too. Then again, any bookshop can order the novel.

The image on the left was an early cover idea from authonomy days, not used in the end.

For the time being I’m having a hard time surviving, which hinders my deepening edit for the sequel to Course of Mirrors … Shapers … from which I share some chapters on my Patreon page. If it is within your means, and you can tolerate or even like struggling fools, please support my creative spirit on Patreon. Here the link.

https://www.patreon.com/user?u=10520241

13 Comments

Filed under Blog

… snow baby visits Kakadu National Park …

The midwife rushed after us, having overheard we wanted a home birth, but were told she had retired and the new midwife would not arrive in time. ‘Not true,’ she said, which settled it. In my wisdom I had brought my husband along. Sister Heney was delighted to attend a rare home birth for her last delivery. All went well. My epiphany snow baby, she later said. It didn’t take a helicopter landing on the opposite field to transport us to a hospital, only a police land rover to bring this dear midwife up through ice-covered lanes and snowfall to the cottage in the Quantock Hills where snow baby was duly born.  We lived in this Somerset hamlet for five blissful years, with the kindest neighbours one could wish for.

That’s me being nostalgic.

My son recently had another birthday. He allowed me to share a blog-post. In it he relates his holiday in Darwin, Australia, where his wife’s family lives.

The post contains thoughts and links regarding the fires in the south of Australia, and also a range of beautiful photographs, some of Tasha painting, and some from a birthday visit to Kakadu National Park, including the art works of the Jawoyn people. A click on the link will bring you to a new page:

Down Under for the Holidays …

Enjoy

19 Comments

Filed under Blog

behind the scenes – traders – angels who build, fix & maintain things

We take traders for granted. We hardly talk about the people who are often highly skilled and confident in their particular field. The term traders doesn’t sum it up but must do, since ‘crafts’ has come to define rare and often vanishing artisan work.

I’m talking of plumbers, heating-engineers, electricians, carpenters, construction workers, farm workers, roofers bricklayers, plasterers, waste collectors, sewage workers, tree surgeons, gardeners, transport personnel, car mechanics, fire fighters, nurses, cooks, carers, postal workers, IT engineers … and many, many others …

basically anyone who upholds the functioning of everyday life for us.

There are some cowboys, and I had my share of them, but mostly they’re well trained people, dedicated to their job, know their stuff, and serve everyone with sophisticated practical and theoretical knowledge.

I’m talking about hands-on work … work with the elements and under innumerable atmospheric conditions. These people deserve praise and should be given medals. Our lives would be severely disrupted without their expertise, and, frankly, societies would come to a standstill.

My experience with a skilled and highly intuitive heating engineer prompted this post. Combining a new boiler with an old pipe system is never straight forward. After many anxious months, John has solved a long-standing problem by exchanging misaligned pipes. I’m immensely grateful for a warm Christmas, thanks to my angel John.

You mayor may not have noticed,  my blog site is now called http://www.courseofmirrors.com only.  No more silly adds, thanks to my son’s sanguine advice and expertise.

Though we can’t take it for granted, I’m wishing you, my readers, warm and joyful festive days wherever you are, and whatever your tradition.

And a little peace from the virtual world.

17 Comments

Filed under Blog

… in London at the Olafur Eliasson exhibition …

When not actually engaged with it every single day, at least contemplating the in-depth editing of ‘Shapers,’ is my daily routine.

This week had a highlight, since I was treated to a day in London by my son. As luck would offer, it was a day with glorious December sunshine, giving sparkle to the fountains in Trafalgar Square. The wind blustered cold though, and I was grateful for the hat I brought along, and the tissues to dry my runny nose and watering eyes.

First call was the famous and wonderful Watkins Bookshop in Cecil Court, where I sold a few old books, including copies of my novel, ‘Course of Mirrors,’ and a few remaining hardback copies of ‘Heart of a Sufi,’ an extraordinary rare book, believe me.

Later we took a boat trip from the Embankment to the Tate Modern Olafur Eliasson  exhibition, which turned out to be a deeply touching and immersive experience. The Danish-Icelandic artist Olaf Eliasson challenges habitual modes of perception. His passion for nature, space, light, renewable energy, reflective metals and geometry has drawn together a devoted team of collaborators. The art projects stimulate poignant debates about our environment and our communities through visual and sensual installations, sculptures, photographs and paintings.

The 39 meters long fog tunnel took me by surprise. I hardly saw anything beyond a meter around me. Space became mysterious and unfathomable deep. I had a sense of being totally lost while also feeling held, though assured in the knowledge that my son was near, and that I could call him and reach out for his hand.

I also reached into the patch of tender rain suffused with spectral

this image is by Yeshen Venema

hues, like just discernible water dust or the finest hair floating down and caressing my skin with moisture.

Moisture – how often do we think of this gentle yet indispensable harbinger of all organic life?

In one room, a kind of Plato’s cave, our back-lit bodies made colourful shadows ahead that shrunk or grew in size as we stepped forward or backwards, or overlapped and multiplied as we moved sideways. The magic was achieved through a row of primal coloured light beams projected onto the wall we visitors faced. Thing is, we are more intrigued, animated and comforted by reflections than the light itself.

It’s why I love the moon, which is going to be full tomorrow.

Here is a ceiling looking back at me. When ceilings fill the frame of our perception, the only landmark we catch is our own image.

Apart from suffering back pain while trying to catch one’s own image, there’s a possible message … let’s not box ourselves into the realities of narrow visions.

And there was so much more to take in and think about in the expanded studio, showing the wider scope of Eliasson’s activities, projects like Little Sun, Green Light and Ice Watch.

On a big round table small and big kids can have fun building architectural structures.

Oh, and we enjoyed a delicious lunch at the Tate Modern, while overlooking St Paul’s Cathedral across the Thames in crisp winter light.

It was a very special day in the company of my very special son. In a world that seems distressingly askew these days, it’s heartening to know there is a new generation of sane and life-embracing young people.

Check out some  videos about Olafur Eliasson.

13 Comments

Filed under Blog

… embracing the messy soul …

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

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

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

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

Arthur Rackman – Twilight

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

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

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

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

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

Mothers – Käthe Kollwitz

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Maya Deren – Meshes of the Afternoon

The Experience of the Soul through the Spirit …

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

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

26 Comments

Filed under Blog