Tag Archives: new horizons

… surfing the virtual waves …

I first accessed the internet while doing a sabbatical film degree as a mature student in the 1990’s.

Struggling with basics, feeling the fool among bright young computer literates, I typed surrealism into the search engine, a subject that rhymed with my passion for transpersonal psychology and fascinated me. Take yourself out of your familiar environment, lose the original context into which your identity had been projected, then gaze and ponder. I had done precisely that. During my first year on the film course I felt displaced and, like my son at a stopover, did a trawling assessment of the oracular unknown.

Yesh, Nurnberg station -smaller

I was going to write an essay, on how Freud’s work influenced art and film during the 20th century, a glittering subject that led me into a dreamlike maze. Each follow-up link on the screen led to another site – another artist, philosopher, writer, page after page, world after world opened until I was afloat in a sea of rich associations. Gripped by Alice in Wonderland sensations, I thought – unless I stick to the context of my essay, the web will suck me into a whirlpool. Exploring the unconscious for its potentiality and its poetic combustion via dis-identification  was of course the surrealists’ impulse, to the ends of tricking the rational mind by using trance to break out of trance – which may well be the ultimate purpose of the internet.

One of the lies would make it out that nothing

ever presents itself before us twice.

Where would we be at last if that were so?

Our very life depends on everything’s

recurring till we answer from within.

The thousandth time may prove the charm.      – From ‘Snow,’ by Robert Frost

I had worked as photographer on film-sets in a former career, so I grabbed the opportunity to study the ultimate trance in its historical context, and play with it. Manipulated by high-angles, close-ups, masking, dissolves, and cross-cutting during editing, underscored by sound, images could be displaced, speeded, up, slowed down or distorted. The surrealists were among the first to love fluid images, using them to disrupt unconscious processes of identification at the same time scientists’ deconstructed particles, and time, and space in good measure. The search within, long pursued in the east, was taking hold in the west. P1090946 - Copy

Deconstruction is the prelude to creation. Having learned that we are conscious of only a tiny island of our psyche, much like we can only see the tip of an iceberg, had affirmed my lifelong desire of seeking what is behind the mirror of appearances. In that vein, I recall feeling an awesome sense of responsibility when I first held my new-born son, imagining that my every gesture, my every tone of voice, and even my very thoughts might subliminally influence his pristine being. I was quickly grounded, adapting to the routine of being present to my little one’s basic needs, and soon realised that he had brought along his own world from another sphere, and that beyond my stimulating mirror, he would shape his own destiny.

So here was a kind of baby – an essay on surrealism. To deal with the mass of on-line leads, I took capacious notes, plundered the college library, and relied on intuition to guide me through the process of writing, allowing the essay its own agenda. It was when I first acknowledged that my sixth sense made writing a pleasure. Years later, starting my first novel, responding to subtle influences became the only way I could write, trusting that the unconscious – rather like a digital binary system – condenses and displaces material that can re-emerge with the right prompts.

Spending several months co-editing a beautiful book of reminiscence about a remarkable teacher, printed as a limited edition (also available in E-PUB soon), I started my second novel, and forayed into the on-line publishing world. Armed with the intention of finding a publisher my trust deserted me. I felt suffocated by the genre jungle, the flood of how-to-does and the racing schemes offering self-publishing. I scolded myself for procrastinating, being lazy, not believing in my work, but nevertheless stubbornly held back. Having ordered a few print-on-demand publications by friends I made on a writer’s site, who had got their act together, I was disappointed by the poor presentation of most books – cheap paper, cramped layout, narrow margins and too small fonts. Is this how small publishers and self-pub schemes treat writers who spent years on composing their epic? My heart sunk. I observed my frustration, took stock and decided to relax and wait for a beacon.

In any case, I had been fooling myself, betting on the wrong horse. Being a published author has its perks, but what truly matters to me is the actual process of writing, which is alchemy, a sculpting of feelings, a release, being other than what is familiar, uncovering myths and creating new ones, digging for treasure, a journey into the unknown that reveals horizon upon horizon.  Copy of Child at shore, colour, lowres A metaphor for my life, about the how, about the journey inside with my others, relationships woven from layers of experience into something new, each time, and time again … life writes its stories through us.

Apart from receiving vague out-of-the-blue proposals offering dubious contracts, I had two chance-encounters with publishers who welcomed a read of my MS, encounters resulting from surfing the web on the crest of my interests, often as unsubstantial as a keyword from a dream. It’s no different from how I live my live. Not exactly a structured approach, I sometimes scold myself. But for better or worse I don’t attach myself to goals, only to transitional containers, which could be an object, a character, a dream image or a place, and the rest follows. My stories emerge from kernels lying in wait, and they pursue their own agenda. I let them, and trust they will find a readership.

Like Stan Brakhage, one of the early experiential film-makers, I think of the deeply personal as universal and conceive of the real world as invisible ‘… thus in the physical or spiritual or light world all forms are beings – stones, trees, stars, streams, men, flames and turds are really facts of invisible presences. Mineral, wood, fire, water, flesh are terms of dense soulful sense.’

In this way, rather than going nuts, as I feared when first exploring the global mirror of the internet, I’ve made peace with it, relating to it as a spacious, time-freed being that interconnects all our stories and projections and offers its content according to the container I bring to it.


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… symbolic understanding …

The star that guides us is not meant to be reached concretely, or, as Hazrat Inayat Khan expressed it:

‘The ideal is the means – its breaking is the goal.’

Aged twenty-seven it struck me that I was not my own person, but a clone of my first gods, my parents. I realised I was not special. I was like everyone else, a slave to habits formed in my early environment, which I then unconsciously ritualised. The shocking insight put an end to my pretending I was a foundling (my joke at the time.) For better or worse I had to reconcile myself to my given mould, accept my parents’ imperfections, and my own.

Having reached an impasse re: a series of romantic relationships that bruised my heart, I was disillusioned. My ideal of love had lost its meaning and I yearned for a new horizon.

Fortunately I met a mentor who re-framed conflict for me, because in my flight towards spirituality I had come to avoid conflict like a plague. The trouble with rejecting conflicting thoughts and feelings is that we create taboo boxes in our psyche, boxes where we hide stuff we don’t want to think and feel. The accumulated rejects trip us up and actually energise conflict around us. Childish feelings may pop up to embarrass us where they don’t fit circumstances. Best welcome them, unless you want to fuel the addiction to war.

Driven by unconscious refrains our lives unfold from crisis to impasse to transcendence – like a drama with all its obligatory heroes and villains. Ignoring our inner conflicts and projecting them onto others and the world at large serves a purpose – in that it (hopefully) makes us aware that the way we go about fulfilling our needs is not particularly elegant, and has a price. The price is awareness, which can be painful, but it brings choice. Feelings that ‘have us’ don’t ‘have to’ be acted out, they can be expressed symbolically – one way is through writing things off one’s chest and releasing the outpour to the elements. Tear up and bury your unsavoury confessions, drown them in a river, or burn them. Release all association, free and purify the energy.

What is hidden from consciousness nevertheless affects us deeply.  In an archetypal sense, for example, a person who identifies with the masculine principle (animus) will be drawn to a person who identifies with the feminine principle (anima.) I don’t use the terms man and woman because physical gender does not necessarily equal psychological identification.

Generally, the hidden gender is actualised by the way the opposite principles are experienced through a parent.  Behind the attraction towards opposites is a desire for wholeness, a need to integrate our unrealised nature. This growth happens through relationships.

Plato put it like this …

… the dry desires the moist, the cold the hot, the bitter the sweet, the sharp the blunt, the void the full, the full the void, and of all other things; for the opposite is the food of the opposite, whereas like receives nothing from like …

Plato also emphasised that wholeness does not equal goodness.

As an example: too much goodness in a parent can make a child fearful of negative emotions and constellate a demand for goodness impossible to live up to. If human frailty is lacking in a father or mother, that is, if they are too perfect – or absent – then the expectations father or mother figures are invested with throughout one’s life become inflated, difficult to achieve, and no actual person can satisfy such expectation.

I’m not a practicing Christian, but I appreciate the powerful symbolic significance of the cross. The story of Jesus shows us that in the process of becoming human we are stretched between earth and heaven, matter and spirit, crucified by the dichotomy. Conflict has meaning if we allow it into consciousness. The challenge is to endure opposing forces, identify with neither good nor bad, but instead suffer the deadlock of contradiction, be crucified, because – there are conflicts we cannot resolve.

Yet by accepting what is we invite grace. We ready ourselves to be initiated into a reconciling symbolic experience of transcendence that is personally meaningful to us. The reconciling symbol cannot be grasped. It will emerge from the unconscious in its own time, through an event, or through a dream – if we can be receptive and master humility and the patience.

Symbol, a definition …. Taken from ‘The Creative Imagination in the Sufism of Ibn ‘Arabi’ by Henry Corbin, translated by Ralph Manheim, Bollingen Series XCI, Princeton University

The symbol announces a plane of consciousness distinct from that of rational evidence; it is a ‘cipher’ of a mystery, the only means of expressing something that cannot be apprehended in any other way; a symbol is never ‘explained’ once and for all, but must be deciphered over and over again, just as a musical score is never deciphered once and for all, but calls for ever new execution.


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