‘Abundant Delicious’, new book out now.

The cover of Abundant Delicious, a book by Andy White

This book is about the peculiarities and issues of crossing life’s thresholds. It’s about why and how we sabotage ourselves. Its about how we get stuck. It’s about how we live out destinies that are not our own. It’s about the process of self-discovery, the encounter with the Unconscious and the difficult journey that follows.

To do so, this book retells the ancient story of Sophocles’ Oedipus and shows, more than the spurious use to which it was put by Freud, that this intricate tale contains a whole string of symbolic events, developments and encounters from which we can gain perspective on contradiction, paradox and appreciate some of our ambivalence to what we want most in life.

Each chapter of the unfolding story contains dream like encounters, challenges and treasures that you will recognise from your own experience. Like a grail legend, or heroic quest, it uses myth as metaphor, to bring to the creative imagination what Sophocles finally addresses as…’the Secret and the Mystery’.

Enjoy.

‘A Tao of the Soul’, says Satish Kumar. Editor-in-chief of ‘Resurgence and Ecologist’. Author of ‘You are therefor I Am’ and ‘No Destination’.

Andy White is an internationally recognised writer, teacher, and artist with twenty five years of clinical experience as a psychotherapist in private practice. contact; info@andywhitemosaics.co.uk

Books are signed and cost £12 plus p+p.













The Enemy of Now.

In very ancient times the leader and the medicine wo/man were distinctly different roles within the group and they shared power in such a way as to bring, if not stability, then at least dynamic tension into the tribe.

When Kings started to take on the role of High Priest as well, from the Pharaos up until the time of Constantine’s conversion and his unprecedented incumbancy as a Holy Emperor, this maintainance of dynamic tension was ended, leading to all kinds of repercussions in our collective consciousness.. particularly on what it meant to lead a spiritual life.

The problem for the new bishop-kings, is that social control has to be levened with honouring the gods… a very tricky balancing act.

People need to make their observances because within those gestures lie the seeds of civic order but you can’t have people getting inspired or liberated from the burdens with which its taken so long to weigh them down.

Which is why the persecution of Christians escalated after Constantine’s conversion. You now have to be the right kind of Christian to avoid being thrown to the lions.

To this end the bible was endlessly re-written to accomodate the pressing and immediate concerns of those in temporal power, keeping their heads. The ideal scenario, if at all possible, is for people to be utterly controlled whilst believing themselves to be entirely free.

The best way to do this, to pull the teeth from a crowd that is only three square meals away from being a mob, is to get it to form an orderly queue in anticipation of some goody, something tangible but just out of reach…

…and have everyone’s reward for staying in line be… later, in the Fullness of Time.

Very different from virtue being its own reward, the immanence of gratitude, the feeling grace of being blessed as you are, right here, right now, warts and all… that typified the earlier Wisdom tradition.

You can’t control people who feel that lucky, who already have a feeling of being fed. Luck is created by counting oneself amongst the blessed, so, we can’t have that.. but we don’t want to deny the possibility entirely….. otherwise folk will despair and the despairing rebel, so we’ll tuck it just out of sight…. but not so far that it becomes something we can no longer imagine.

”Tomorrow! Tomorrow. I love you tomorrow, its only a moment away….” Dorothy from Wizard of Oz.

Much biblical re-writing had to do with emphasising the faith in that..

One Day..

God will keep his word and everything will be made alright.

Manyana.

This is most telling in the canonical formulation of the Beatitudes in the Sermon on the Mount, which many veiw as the core of  the most famous speech in the New Testament.

Here is how they appear in their modern rendering..

Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of Heaven. (Matthew 5:3)Blessed are those who mourn: for they will be comforted. (5:4)Blessed are the meek: for they will inherit the earth. (5:5)Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness: for they will be filled. (5:6)Blessed are the merciful: for they will be shown mercy. (5:7)Blessed are the pure in heart: for they will see God. (5:8)Blessed are the peacemakers: for they will be called children of God. (5:9)Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. (5:10)

Whilst the content is all very well and beautifully poetic, the way it has been written down for posterity lodges redemption in the future, at some hoped for point in time-that-is-not-now, where your worth will be subject to final book keeping. It minimizes what may be realised or embodied in the present moment between one another, the kind of lived experience that creates communal solidarity and individual confidence.

Such a rendering, whilst it speaks of love and charity, does so in such a way that the emphasis is more about having faith that god will deliver as a result, rather than in the unacknowledged reality of the immediate, redemptive effect of loving kindness, that is not concerned in the least with storing up merit.

It turns out that Matthew was edited beyond belief by powerful men with an earthly axe to grind, who even by 100 AD. had set to work rewriting the gospel..

”to provide Christian converts with moral instruction and took it upon themselves to reformulate Jesus’ version.” J. Olar

In the process The Principle of Relatedness and being-in-the-moment were written out of Jesus’ Beatitudes entirely, which is not consistent with what you might expect from a man who also says, ‘look at the lilies in the field, how they grow…’

These earliest re-writings, by a man called Epiphanius, Bishop of Salamis, at the time of the Council  of Nicea which first agreed an ordered bible, were bound to include the unconscious prejudices of a man scrambling for a power base in a persecutory world.. In deed, Matthew was rewritten precisely to serve the advantages of those in power. Epiphanus’ work, ‘Panarion’, was reprinted a millenium later as the tome,’ Against Heresies’, the handbook of the Inquisition.

In fact the original Hebrew gospel of Matthew, the only document contemporary with Christ in the language used at the time, was not strictly rewritten. It did not survive at all, except as fragments. The original… sadly, lacked a virgin birth story and insisted that people could experience spiritual fulfillment without recourse to church or state.

The Historian Jerome is said to have translated the original but then.. ahem, ‘withdrew’ it. The Ebionite movement that housed it for several centuries was actually wiped out by Epiphanius , so the ‘rewriting’ was a euphemism of sorts. Matthew and the Beatitudes as we know them are a fourth century cut and shut.

Just look at the difference in meaning between these two lines from the apocryphal Ecclesiastes, the precursor to the Beatitudes, interpreted by the NRSV and the NAB respectively.

“Better is the wickedness of a man than a woman who does good; it is woman who brings shame and disgrace.” (Sirach 42:14 NRSV)

“Better a man’s harshness than a woman’s indulgence, and a frightened daughter than any disgrace.” NAB

The first rendering is an unforgiveable piece of misogyny whilst the second is the regret that sometimes you have to be hard on your kids to keep them safe.

Fortunately for us, the Beatitudes have antecedants in ancient scriptures that haven’t been messed with.  By Jesus time there was already a long tradition of the Beatitudes which abounded in the Wisdom literature and Old Testament.

If we take one such book, the ‘Wisdom of Ben Sirach’, which was buried along with other gnostic gospels for 2000 years at nag Hammadi and therefore comes to us undoctored, uncensored by the personal whim of prelates and kings.. we find the Beatitudes represented in a very different light.

Ben Sirach was primarily thrown out of the Vulgate and the Septuagint because he would insist on adoring the Goddess..`

`Wisdom praises herself, and tells of her glory in the midst of her People. In the Assembly of the Most High she opens her mouth, and in the presence of His hosts she tells of her glory. `I came forth from the mouth of the Most High, and covered the earth like a mist. I dwell in the highest heavens, and my throne was in a pillar of cloud.”ben Sirach 24;1

and the Protestants had it in for him because he would insist on giving away his stuff to the poor….

”Those pious souls who do good to gain the Kingdom of Heaven will never succeed..” M. Luther

but what annoyed them most of all, was that ben Sirach and his merry gnostic mates would insist on being in the moment and feeling blessed, Now. The Beatitudes we find in Ben Sirach, anticipating Christ by 250 years, are quite different, not just in content but in their temporal framing.. its all about you and me, Now.

The gnostic tradition so unacceptable in Matthew’s original rendering of Christ’s words holds that every human being is born with a small piece of God’s soul lodged within his/her spirit. God is thus intimately connected to and part of his creation. Salvation then lies in embracing the God-like qualities within yourself and others..

Blessed is a man who can rejoice in his children; 25;7

Blessed is a man who lives to see the downfall of his foes ;7

Blessed is the man who lives with a sensible wife, 8

and the one who does not plow with ox and ass together. 9

Blessed is the one who does not sin with his tongue, 10

and the one who has not served an inferior” 10

Blessed is the one who finds a friend,10

and the one who speaks to attentive listeners.10

How great is the one who finds Wisdom!! 10

He even expressly critisises those who look to the future for their redemption,

”Say not, ‘what profit is there of my service and what good shall I have hereafter.’ ben Sirach 11; 23-24

Redemption is now/between…

”Do good unto thy friend before thou die and according to thy ability stretch out thy hand to him.” ben Sirach 14;13

More, in-the-moment, from the Dead sea scrolls at Quumran… which scholars now recognize as the prototype for Christ’s Beatitudes, the remaining original fragments of Matthew’s actual hand…

4Q525  [Blessed is]…with a pure heart, and does not slander with his tongue.
Blessed are those who adhere to her laws, and do not adhere to perverted paths.
Bles[sed] are those who rejoice in her, and do not burst out in paths of folly.
Blessed are those who search for her with pure hands, and do not pursue her with a treacherous [heart.]
Blessed is the man who attains Wisdom, and walks in the law of the Most High, and directs his heart to her ways, and is constrained by her discipline.

And finally one from Thomas 54..

”Jesus said, “Congratulations to the poor, for to you belongs Heaven’s kingdom.”

All these latter renderings of the Beatitudes, whatever their source, have something in common. They are Now.

So, why would the Church Fathers introduce this subtle but profound temporal change of emphasis in Jesus’ rendering of the Beatitudes?

The Hebrew Gospel of Matthew, …. ”was cast to one side, for the reason that it was a standing argument against the Alexandrian ideas of the Logos.” G. Reber.

The Codex Alexandrinus, an early Coptic/Greek version of the original Hebrew, has the pages about the Sermon on the Mount and the Beatitudes ripped out. It wasn’t sufficiently concerned with the problems of centralised power and deference to authority as the one that replaced it.

Wearing both temporal and divine mantles does require that tad bit more control over the people than had hithertoo… been necessary.

”The truths contained in this Gospel stood in the way of a gigantic scheme, conceived by corrupt and arrogant men, who saw in a church established by the authority of God, the road to the highest point of human power and grandeur…” S Rives.

And so the people must be.. discouraged from depending upon one another..

We can’t have..

A faithful friend is a sturdy shelter;
he who finds one finds a treasure.
A faithful friend is beyond price,
no sum can balance his worth. – (Sir. 6:7-14)

And people must be dissuaded from refering to their own grateful experience…

”Acknowledging the good that you already have in your life is the foundation for all abundance.”.  Eckhart Tolle.

but that means the State has less… appeal, less.. protection to offer, so let’s destabilise their security by focusing… on that which is  nebulous and anxiety provoking.

”You can always cope with the present moment, but you cannot cope with something that is only a mind projection – you cannot cope with the future.” ibid
Since we cannot cope with the future, given its overwhelming unknowableness, contemplating it gives rise to anxiety.
.
 Nietzsche decried the Beatitudes as represented in the canonical Matthew as ”the slave revolt of morals”. Harsh at first glance, but if we are only to be redeemed in  a hypothetical future and by an unknown yardstick, and if the fate of our immortal souls depends on the outcome, this is going to produce a tremendous sense of lack, incompletness, and feeling anxiously torn from the groundedness of Now, wherein we are much more likely to know what is what and can refer to our own lived experience.
.
People will need therapy.
.
Clinical experience shows us that attempts to live for tomorrow, trying to second guess our fate, gives rise to disocciative anxiety. ”When I get thin, people will love me.”” When I leave home, I will be free.” When I’m a best seller, I will be happy” but what all these things do is to confirm that I could not be those things right now and have to project the value of life and my own personal worth into a moment where it is not available to be lived…
.
but can only be contemplated as a potentiality that must remain unrealised. Tomorrow never comes.
.
This is all good for the State which needs its citizens anxious, incomplete and yearning for approval. It keeps their noses to the grindstone. It stops them thinking about what’s on their doorstep, being more effective, engaged with life and most of all, it stops people gaining strength from one another.
.
But what are the implications for a psychology of the Self?

 

 

 

Goddess Eroded .

Anathema to believers, irrelevant to infidels, reading the banned books of the Apocrypha takes someone who believes and wishes they didn’t to go searching for clues into our collective spiritual malaise and for healing stories to tend the soul afflicted by Single System systems.

Most of the books are banned because they make some reference to Wisdom/Sophia, Yahweh’s old wife…

DON’T MENTION HER NAME…

who was dumped for the new bride, Israel…

He’s a bit touchy on the subject and the Apocrypha reads like the dream journal of a troubled deity with interrupted REM sleep…

What you are forbidden or discouraged from reading says a great deal. It is about way more than social control or extracting taxes. Its also about identity and the state of your relationship with the gods.

Ontological insecurity can be more threatening than death anxiety itself (how much do you exist in the first place?) which makes it all the easier to kill one another over who reads what. The unearthed sacred texts at nag Hammadi were buried there by someone who was afraid for his or her life and did not survive long enough to reclaim them….

Some of these books to-die-for are not so obvious as to their wickedness. Some were made canonical on pain of death but then, after several centuries of sober reflection, banned on pain of death….

At the apex of the period we euphemistically call the Renaissance, owning such a book, even asking about it or wanting a peek, could get you torched quicker than you can say ‘psychotic delusional paranoia’.

The majority of Christendom’s searing scream-fests, for they were intended as spectacle, held during these noble and enlightened times, were not of witches, but of ‘heretics’, anyone who had no mates and whose toe had strayed from the path: who had perhaps asked an imprudent question, wondered out loud about the doctrine of transubstantiation, or why angels might rebel…

So, what’s in these stories is dynamite of some kind..

But what?

Take the seemingly innocuous Book of Tobit, cast down by a mighty ecumenical quilling at the Council of Trent in 1546,  from being the equal of Isiah to being the cause of your nasty end if you say otherwise…

Apparently..

..Tobit was a wealthy exile living in Ninevah circa 800 BC. One hot night after burying a body, Tobit slept outside. Sparrow droppings fell into his eyes and blinded him. He prayed to God to let him die. On that same day in Media, Sarah, one of Tobit’s kinsman, also prayed for death because she was constantly ridiculed for having been married seven times. Each time, after the ceremony, the demon Asmodeus had killed her husband before the marriage could be consummated.

God hears both prayers.

allegedly.

With Tobit expecting to die soon, he sends his only son, Tobiah, to Media on an errand. Tobiah is accompanied by the angel Raphael. En route, Tobiah is attacked by a large fish which Raphael shows him how to kill. He also instructs him to remove its gall bladder, liver, and heart, because they “can be used as medicines.” Upon arriving in Media, Tobiah marries Sarah at Raphael’s insistence. He uses the fish heart and liver to magically dispose of the demon and protect the marriage bed. When Tobiah returns home, he applies the gall and restores his father’s sight.

No big deal, right? Everyone is riteous and the good are rewarded. And anyway the book was made canonical by the Council of Carthage in 397AD…

So someone, somewhere, must have looked at it one day and saw something…

something threatening…

and here’s what it is..

They weren’t rewarded by the mighty arm of Yahweh at all. Yahweh doesn’t come into it. They rewarded themselves. Tobit’s peity was rooted in the Principle of Relatedness, in the Old Ways, in virtue being its own reward and not in the abstract faith required by Holy Emperors, which, by 1546 had become an establishment celebrating a millenium of its own divine status.

”There’s this sentence in the gospel about rendering unto Caesar what is Caesar’s and unto God what is God’s. Jesus said that in the context of a pagan Caesar. Once Caesar is Christian, the things line up differently. There’s a kind of theologizing of secular power and a secularization of episcopal power.”     W. Godwin.

Tobit was an exile from the northern kingdom of Israel which still adhered, in some degree of secrecy, to the Goddess,  Wisdom/Sophia..

DON’T MENTION HER NA..

oh, do shut up.

The focus is on redemption through relatedness. His burial of the body in the beginning of the story is against the rules of Establishment which he breaks in order to honour the spirit of the dead.

”The moral teaching of Tobit shows endless parallels with the Wisdom tradition in it’s solicitude of social justice and service [to one another].” F. Bruce.

being blinded with birdshit seems like poor recompense or even punishment for his devotions which he does not recant but just wishes to die. ‘If you’re going to be like that, just kill me…’

not a lot of faith..

which the Council of Trent now required of prophets. Faith in redemption, in judgement, in god’s promises, in heaven, in forgiveness..

all of which will be dolled out tomorrow…

and not the ghastly grime of  moment present, in which redeeming acts of random kindness might occur, eruptions of spontaneous charity,

wherein humanity is redeemed via the recognition of divine immanence in one another rather than by fearful deference to a remote and transcendent  god.

Moreover, Tobias is pally with Raphael who is never named in the Old Testament on account of him being part of the angelic mob described by Enoch, equally persona non gratis, as having quit Heaven to consort with mortals, particularly the ladies, and treacherously taught them all kinds of cool stuff conducive to self reliance….

like how to defend yourself from man-eating fish and what parts of it can be used for apotropaic purposes…

to defeat demons..

BUT..

You can’t just have random people swanning about the countryside being given inside information on how to prevail against the Lord of Darkness and rescuing damsels without official documentation.

It won’t do. It makes those in power look redundant and foolish. Moreover it frustrates the wonderful loophole that allows for us to perceive ourselves as pious without having to actually look out for one another, the joy of being able to do what we like so long as we are sorry later.

It’s not acceptable that Asmodeaus is defeated, not by God, but by a naive young fool from a tribe with dodgy inclinations and love in his heart who values betweeness-in-the-moment over faith-in-tomorrow.

and then he has the gall…

oops,

to go and cure his father, who was clearly in the process of  being punished by God for his indescretions and wasn’t even sorry for his sinful adherance to tradition.

bin it.

and pull the toenails out of anyone who protests.

 

What Feelings Are For.

What are feelings for? Psychotherapy is all too quick to point out the problems that occur when feelings are repressed, but doesn’t say much about the function of feeling itself. Ever since Descartes’, ‘I think therefore I am’, feeling has come a poor second to thinking as a basis for experience. To be emotional is to be misguided.

Yet our values and opinions are largely rooted in a feeling response to the world. Thinking is rarely primary and does not afford action with value. It is feeling that guides action. Without the full range of your own feeling response to life, behaviour has to be regulated by external authority

”Feeling always binds one to the reality and meaning of symbolic contents, and these in turn impose binding standards of ethical behaviour from which (the intellect) is only too ready to emancipate itself.” C. G Jung.

One of the defining aspects of the psychopath, who doesn’t know how to behave, is that he suffers from ‘flattened affect’. I.e. he does not feel. His riding roughshod over others and behaving as he wishes is synonymous with not feeling. Not knowing what he feels deprives him of the means to know what others might feel and so the only guide to behaviour is external constraint.

Madness is often a question of the absence of something ordinary as much as it is about the presence of something exotic.

Of course it could be said that some forms of dis-ease are full of feeling. There are even some studies that have been made which seem to link the onset of schizophrenia with excessive expression of feeling in the family. Closer inspection reveals that what the researchers are describing is not feeling but hysteria. The hysteric is not expressing feeling. He is manufacturing emotion in a dramatic attempt to compensate for the want of genuine feeling. He makes histrionic mountains out of mole hills in order to try and induce some sense of aliveness into an otherwise desolate life. Such counterfeit feeling is an exercise in unreality. Schizophrenic responses to these misrepresentations are only to be expected.

In the town where I grew up one of the boys was very disturbed. He was bright but couldn’t concentrate in class and continuously failed his grades. Eventually he took to drugs, anything he could lay his hands on, and dropped out of school. The last conversation I had with him consisted in his concern that the electrical appliances in his home had turned against him. Apparently the fridge had been particularly belligerent and thrown spears at him.

Both of this poor boy’s parents were hysterics. His mother was the more florid of the two and had once attacked him with a kitchen knife for failing to do his homework. Was she the emotional refrigerator who threatened him with sharp ‘spears’? Of course in public she contained herself a little better but there was always something exaggerated in her gestures. It wasn’t possible to ask her the time without her feigning shock, clutching her breast and sweeping her eyes to the heavens.

The boy’s father was the local vicar. He was peaceable and friendly but peaceable and friendly from fifty paces. When you met him in the street he would throw his arms open wide and run towards you as if you were a long lost brother whilst staring avidly at a point just past your left ear. One day I was sent around to their house on some errand. The vicar was in his study poring over a box of old sepia photographs. Would I like a look? He had been a big game hunter in his time and this was the record of his trophies. One photo impressed me deeply. It seemed to be his favourite and he spent some time telling me the story attached to it. A large bull elephant with great tusks dominated the picture. Hanging from one of these tusks were the entrails of his companion that the elephant had just gored to death.

His friend had died horribly. But he isn’t connected to this event in the least. There is no shred of horror, shock or loss. There is no sense of any feeling about what had happened at all. It has all been replaced by the drama of the intrepid journalist getting the ultimate action shot. How pleased he is with his photography. The focus is crystal clear. The composition is just perfect. It’s a shame the way the colour is faded though.

His sermons had a similar feel to them. They always left the congregation slightly bemused. His gusto made everyone a little depressed. It wasn’t that he was always reminding folk of their sin or painting lavish pictures of hell and damnation. On the contrary, his was a vision of love and light. It was that his message was forced. He was a priest pretending to be a priest, which left his flock playing at being a flock. This was confusing for them because they were already a flock. Perhaps his son was similarly befuddled.

Many forms of dis-ease seem to hinge upon the problem of inappropriate feeling, the lack of it or the faking of it, which can then leave a person unclear about both their identity and their values. Who they are and what they hold good are cradled in feeling which connects them to themselves, to one another, and to the world.

‘’Feeling is vital to the sense of reality and relatedness. When feeling is inhibited or repressed, people and things hold little meaning or value.’’ J. W. Perry.

You hear a lot of talk in counselling and therapy circles about ‘negative feelings’. I get a lot of people who want help with them as though it were possible or desirable to cut them out like some cancer. They forget how lucky they are to have these troublesome feelings where they belong rather than having them somatically expressed in the body where suppression would have them develop into truly problematic symptoms.

There’s really no such thing as a ‘negative’ feeling, just feelings that reflect an uncomfortable reality, that don’t fit with our preferred self-image or seem to lack meaning because they have lost their context. As such, these feelings are like an internal compass pointing to a reality we may prefer not to name or indicating a direction we prefer not to take but without which we cannot be whole.

In his account of Nazi concentration camps Bruno Bettleheim, a Freudian analyst who was in Dachau and Buchenwald, was repeatedly surprised that certain men failed to cope when all his psychoanalytic experience suggested that they would do better than others. He believed that those with strong superegos would survive and could not understand why they did not.

In the famous story by Antoine Exupery (2001), the fox says to the Little Prince,

‘’It is with the heart that one sees rightly’’.

He might have added, ’’and acts rightly too’’. Bettleheim (1991) observed that prisoners would commit suicide at the point that they no longer felt able to respond emotionally to their situation.

‘’One had to comply with debasing and amoral commands if one wished to survive,’ but it was necessary to stay aware of whether this were ‘’good, neutral or bad.’’ ‘’The freedom to feel… was what permitted the prisoner to remain a human being. B.Bettleheim.

What killed the prisoner,

’’was the giving up of all feeling, all inner reservations about one’s actions, the letting go of a point at which one would hold fast no matter what.’’(ibid)

Values, humanity and the will to live itself could only be maintained by retaining the freedom to respond emotionally to circumstance even if one was powerless to effect change.

Conversely, the SS were trained to forgo basic human values by expunging their own emotional responses to the extreme situation of the camps. One of the methods employed in SS recruitment was to have the soldiers rear Alsatian puppies during their indoctrination. Of course the men would become emotionally attached to their charges. At the end of the process they were commanded to throttle the dogs with their bare hands, demonstrating both literally and symbolically their capacity to choke off all feeling that then made their inhuman purposes possible.

People commit inhumane acts against one another because their own humanity has been choked off. When I was a boy at public boarding school, a colonial throwback that made Tom Brown’s schooldays look like a summer picnic, the new-boys always swore that when they became seniors they would never treat the juniors with the violent contempt that they themselves were having to endure. The culture of the school was steeped in institutionalised bullying. Twice daily roll calls were necessary to stem the flow of runaways, a roll called so frequently I can still rattle it off after 35 years.

Sexual abuse was an organised part of a new boy’s inauguration, as were regular beatings and various forms of psychological torture. In fact those same new boys were just as sadistic when they became seniors. It was necessary for them to become so in order for them to repress the memory of their own humiliation. Any real protest, except in the vaguest terms, would bring renewed punishment from above and accusations of being wet from one’s own dormitory. No-one wanted to see their own terror laid bare in another’s suffering.

Lights out provided enough cover of darkness for the privacy of muffled crying. There would be no concern but no condemnation either, for comment either way would validate the fact that someone was in pain. Occasionally the entire dorm would be whimpering, blankets and pillows stuffed into mouths to deaden the sounds. No-one said anything to anyone else and there would be no mention of it in the morning. The bell would ring and it was business as usual.

We could only refer to our experiences indirectly by saying that we would never treat the next generation of new boys in the way that we had. But the actual feelings involved were always dismissed and so the values that might have prevented a boy from repeating what he had himself suffered could not be informed by experience. My first day as a senior is dominated by the memory, not of one event or another, but of being drunk with power.

I sent a new-boy to the tuck shop to get me a coke. When he returned I could see from the level in the bottle that he had taken a sip. My response was to hold a knife to his throat and threaten to kill him.

Years later, aware that there was something un-nameably wrong with my life, I took myself off to the Sierra Madre (mother mountain) for space and reflection. One day I was walking along a narrow path in a shallow valley when I became aware of a great pressure wave, a  force of Nature, like a racing storm front, approaching me from behind at speed. I began to run, then dived off the path and into the brush as it overtook me, throwing me down, dissolving me in a grief that only began to take coherant form as it found its expression. It started out as the regret and self recrimination for all kinds of terrible things that I myself had caused others to suffer. Then it became for want of my parents who I hardly knew, and finally I found myself crying for my childhood nurse, Suzzanah, terrible gut wrenching loss.

Finally, as it all subsided, I crawled over to a Yucca cactus and propped myself up. I got out my billy and brewed some tea. There was a little shade, a soft breeze and some friendly whisps of grass. I got to my feet thinking that this was a good spot and if I could triangulate my position I could find my way back here. What I saw was an endless valley dotted with a thousand Yuccas, all with their measure of shade, their bit of breeze, their whisps of friendly grass.

I didn’t need to find my way back to anything. What I needed was always right in front of me.

Later still, as a psychotherapist in private practice, I am often asked, ‘how do you get in touch with grief and pain?” The answer is always the same. It will find you. Once you have interrupted the strategies and lifestyles put in place to occlude it. And you don’t need to go to Mexico to know this to be true, though it does take the realisation that propping up relationships that don’t work, getting sick, and staying in dead end patterns may well preserve you from life’s difficulties and pain, though it does so at the cost of aliveness itself…

The metaphor of the endless Yuccas means that opportunity is always exactly where you are so long as you do not fight what life has to offer.

”Our suffering is as much from resisting the circumstances at hand as the circumstances themselves.” M. Israel.

Years later still, I lost the care of my son in a custody case. I had raised him from a baby and was utterly disraught. In the wee hours I cried and wailed, begging providence to return him. A small voice in me said, ‘your pain is because of your love, would you like for your love to be removed so you hurt less….?”

This article is based on an extract from my new book, ‘Abundant Delicious… on attaining your heart’s desire.’    .http://andywhiteblog.com/2016/06/11/abundant-delicious-hot-off-the-press/

 

 

The Fate of Unmet Grief.

When I was six us white folks left my Nanny, Suzannah, behind and went off on a big holiday adventure aboard the S.S. Uganda from Dar es Salaam to Portsmouth. It was only in the straits of the Suez that the narrow water whispered up  we wouldn’t be turning back. She was gone. I would never see her again.

From the broiling desert sky enswarmed a sickening cloud of feathery black moths that choked and crushed and smothered.

I didn’t cry much. But then, neither do I remember much. A dog bit my arm. There was a magician at a party who found chicks behind everyone’s ears. In England, I whistled the happy jingle for Esso Blue all through the winter.

At school I met Anita who had broken her neck and wore a brace bolted to her chest with a leather chin strap that got wet with spit. Desperate to void my void I joined the taunting kids who’d circle and taunt, throwing her dufflecoat about saying it was infested with fleas, the pressing urgency to offload and purge psychic toxins had broken the Principle of Relatedness which always has a merciful foot in the other person’s world.

In time I came to realise that I was not alone in my aloneness. Most kids had never even had a Suzzanah, and in every eye there seemed to be an icy shard of one size and shape or another, splinters of unacknowledged loss, hidden yet endemic, running through life as the unmet need to be held or fed.

As a culture we collectively deny our unmet grief  and displace our inner hungering. It has become an orgy of consumption and instant gratification so extreme that having more than you need has had to be turned into a virtuous right in order for us not to wonder about it too much.

But the problem doesn’t stop there.

Unmet grief can be the death-knell of creativity and play. It often takes the shape of the fear that some terrible disaster will happen if we go our own way. Memory has been safely projected into the future as catastrophic expectation which we believe in so strongly because its human nature for children to blame themselves for events so as to continue to be a party to them, to be as big as them. Unacknowledged grief is managed by making ourselves somehow magically responsible, a psychological slight of hand whose price is not apparent until the child tries something autonomous wherein he is liable to be..

‘swamped by unconscious lethargy and paralysis’.  M. Woodman.

Breaking the mould requires grief and loss to have been somewhat consciously expressed in life so that we have at least some faith that it can be survived. Unmet trauma in early life makes the prospect of change and endings unbearable because there’s no containment for the fragments of Self that grief breaks us into.

But the problem doesn’t stop there, either.

Have you ever wondered what goes through the mind of your average foot soldier laying seige to the castle wall? You know, during the quiet bits where fear has diminished sufficiently for thought to occur at all…

I know because I’ve sat countless watches on active duty.

you’d be forgiven for thinking that it were all about booty and the prospect other people’s stuff,  or the girl back home, but for the most part the man-at-arms is quietly having a religious experience, through his immersion in the horde, through belonging in the band of brothers, through identification with his noble purpose, through vengeance in the name of…

whatever might be at hand, some popular god is always good..

It doesn’t matter what’s caused the arguement between the higher ups. That is the preserve of his captain, whose silken banner now enfurls him, whose great might would just as readily..

crush him.

But what’s a little crushing?

..when serving gives sacred purpose whilst indulging every other vice in the name of a vituous other….

who, in turn, considers himself appointed by God….

Our hero gets to participate in the reflected glory of his king. He becomes his right hand, and dispenses law rather than being subjected to it.

”We’re the king’s men! We can do what we want!”  Game of Thrones.

And so what actually fills his heart on darkest watch is the quiet delirium of power that goes with being above the law..

Levy Bruhl calls this ‘participation mystique’. It’s where separate identity is sunk into  collective structures.  Anthropologists use this term with reference to ‘primitive’ culture but we only have to put the news on to see it operating most violently in our own society.

It has a more benign form in sports playoffs where the fan is permitted the  carnival renewal that comes with team colours and the collective unity in either cheer or groan.

Rites and ritual around the world often include this aspect of immersion in the Collective. The Hindu Holi festival involves everyone getting spayed with the same paint. Tribal markings and dress codes re-absorb the individual momentarily into the replenishing experience of collective identity.  In the West there is the literal immersion in water as our baptismal rite, which for all cultures has to do with belonging..

being marked on the ledger..

having tribe.

The problem for Single System systems is that these rites barely feed us anymore. Centuries of having definite answers has eroded vibrant experience, rooted as it is in need, dependence and the unknowing of human vulnerability.

Ironically, this separation from Nature and the lonliness of our exclusive identification with the topmost levels of the psyche can readily, if temporarily, be ameliorated by one of its worst symptom, War.

Our gallant footsoldier, standing watch at the castle walls, ready at a moment to butcher, rape and plunder ordinary folk just like himself for a cause he struggles to put into words without using slogans… all this inhuman brutality is contained without rancour in the simple elevation of doing God’s work and being above the law.

The horror of giving up his individuality and personal responsibility is soothed and subsumed under the mantle of divine protection which both legitimises every action and ensures belonging….. the censuring wounds of alienation bathed and bound by the very beast set loose when greed is sanctioned by faith.

So, yes, there’s booty to be had…

meh.

and heart stirring rhetoric about freedom and ‘our way of life..’

double meh.

but mostly its about the buoyancy of Belonging, which, with the Principle of Relateness so eroded and mis-shapen these last millenia, has taken some curious forms of expression.

You could say that experience-of-tribe is..

”nothing but a relic of the original non-differentiation of subject and object, and hence of the primordial unconscious state, characteristic of the mental state of early infancy, and, finally, of the unconscious of the civilized adult” – Carl Gustav JUNG, CW6 §741

but Jung would be the first to agree that archytpes are bi-polar, and that this is a definition at the clumsy, regressed end of the scale.

”The puerilization of the conscious attitude should not be understood (simply) as a regression; it is often necessary in order to produce an unprejudiced, naïve, receptive consciousness.” ibid

The belonging of shared identity with an other person, animal, thing…

is also experienced as At-one-ment, redemptive immersion in the waters of life, non-separation.

”neither subject nor object but simply whole.,, A Watts.

Having a cause greater than one’s own small struggles is one of the basic conditions for experiencing meaning in life.

but what shape is it going to take?  In Single System systems people’s natural spirituality is so dammed up by bureacracy of creed and dogma that the renewal of self through ritual is frustrated..

and so it comes out as an idea to die for instead,

And if that seems a tad exaggerated, bear in mind the five hundred years of iternecine wars and burnings at the stake in Europe, all over the question of whether the bread and wine of communion were the actual blood and body of Christ or not, way before we turned our envious projections upon the wily Moor…

People were prepared to die in their droves back then as well…

herded one way or another into the grinder, fuelled with riteous convictions of immortality, burning Envy given tools of…

punishment.

When Mama has been gone so long you can’t remember her face, the space where it should be gets taken up with black flapping moths that eat away at the strands connecting you to everything. So you have to go to a lot of effort to sew yourself back in.

Belonging becomes more important than living….

In a fine speech promoting the draft, the pundit below asserts that we should arm our sons and daughters and send them off to die because we need..

‘something so that we can all feel invested in the same game, because that’s the part that we’ve lost.’ Jon Stewart

er, yes ok… except that the part we’ve lost is the part that doesn’t need to go to war in order to feel alive.

Etiquette’s Magical Hat.

What people around the world consider good manners varies a lot. If you go and visit a Masai chief  east of the Ngorongoro Crater, his good manners will be to slaughter a goat in your honour. Your good manners will be to eat its eyeballs. Failure to do so will spoil the party.

In Togo, remember to break the bones of the beast and eat the marrow. In Brasil, never cut the lettuce in a salad.. and burp after your meal. If you do the same in England, look embarrassed and beg everybody’s pardon.

Whatever the custom, its about how to be together, how to belong. But etiquette, like consciousness, has a shadow. It can take some curious turns and serve some dubious masters.

Louis XIV, the Sun King, matched the material extravagance of Versailles with the gestural minutiae of Court Etiquette, a system that seems quite absurd until you get to the bottom of the magical purpose it served….

bearing in mind that the problem with building castles is that they tend to attract armies..

and people who want to put your head on a spike.

Actually, the battles might have been welcome relief from the cloak and dagger of court intrigue. At least you knew who and where the enemy were. With the intense centralisation of power at Versailles there was no such certainty and so extra measures had to be taken.

Etiquette got political.

Louis, as a living embodiment of absolute monarchy had to contend with the intense contradiction of being entirely isolated in his Majesty whilst being surrounded by suffocating, wayward courtiers who wanted a piece and perhaps pieces of him.

Etiquette, as a conjurer’s parody of how to belong, became necessary to tyrannise effectively.

‘These extremely strict rules governed priority, determining not only who was allowed to approach the important people in the Court, but also where and when… thereby strengthening the royal authority.’  M Visser.

No-one in Versailles was allowed to use the doors. There were ushers for that. If no usher was available you had to wait even if you were the duc d’Orleons. Ten thousand people, all with their movements between rooms entirely restricted.

Restriction of movement was backed up by restriction of gesture…

”each time anyone was polite, he or she was simultaneously acknowledging rank and demonstrating who stood where. M. Visser

a shared pretense, a delusion in fact, of polite correctness that was in fact rooted in paranoia, fear and inequality.

”Their vanity was flattered by the customs which converted the right to give a glass of water, to put on a dress, and to remove a basin, into honorable prerogatives. Madame de Campan.

rather than the control necessitated by living in constant mortal apprehension.

The policing of emotions became internal, and finally invisible even to themselves: they were able to think that they acted, not in obedience to power and self-interest but for purely moral reasons.” M. Visser.

And to this end Louis could control people down to the most astonishing degree and do it in the name of polite manners.

Here is ‘How to walk’, from a court guide,

You begin to walk by stamping the left foot and leaning forward so that the right foot rises. In a smooth movement the right leg will extend and move in front of the left. Be sure that the distance between both feet is not bigger than the length of one’s foot However the hells of the right foot should be placed in front of the toes of the left. Once your right foot has touched the floor the other one will push back your upper body. You now proceed as mentionned above. Always be sure to spread your legs outwards and bend your knees which keeps you from buckling your legs and crossing your steps which would be an immense mistake. “Maitre à danser” written by Pierre Rameau.

How to wear your hat…

”When putting it on place the hat on the forehead above the eyebrows. Now push it backwards a bit with your hand touching the tip, but not too far. The hat should be slightly turned to the left which displays one’s face much better. The button of the hat should also be stuck to the left side.” ibid

The genius of Louis, whose earliest childhood memory was of half crazed mobs breaking into the royal appartments where he slept, was that he invented a system of exacting social control that people actually wanted to sign up to. It wasn’t experienced as domination. Learning when it was your turn to unfold a napkin, how far to unfold it and where to put it when you are done was experienced as crucial information people would give their right arm for, really believing that there sole desire lay in not wishing to offend.

Louis was under no such illusion. He knew perfectly well what he had orchestrated. When his brother, Phillipe, called for a chair with arms on it, which he wasn’t allowed even though he was a prince, Louis forbad him, explaining..

”It is in your interest, brother, that the majesty of the throne should not be weakened or altered; and if, from Duc d’Orleans, you one day become King of France, I know you well enough to believe that you would never be lax in this matter. Before God, you and I are exactly the same as other creatures that live and breathe; before men we are seemingly extraordinary beings, greater, more refined, more perfect. The day that people, abandoning this respect and veneration which is the support and mainstay of monarchies,–the day that they regard us as their equals,–all the prestige of our position will be destroyed.”

And so from the royal rising ceremony with its inaugural peck on the cheek from his childhood nurse, to the retiring ceremony at night, Louis followed a strict schedule governed by rules that read like a check list for OCD, as did all the members of the Court, all regulated like clockwork orange to assure the continued robust health of his Majesty.

The official version of Louis’ cause of  death was senile gangrene. His leg rotted off. Apparently, not a sufficient cause for suspicion of foul play…

which rather suggests someone got tired of decades worth of complicated compulsory dancing..

and realised Louis’ worst fears.

Either way what Louis left us was the reminder that intelligent, educated people can be herded like sheep if only they can get to be part of a special club. Not unlike the fetishist’s prostrations that serve both to approach and maintain distance, whose compulsions are rooted in the shared unconscious terror of life threatening intrusion brought to reality for Louis’ line  in 1789 when those whose legs had not rotted off, lost their heads instead.

Our own anxiety is that even though we know how badly this story ended we still aspire to be like them. Every lotto sign, Oscar red carpet, every scratchcard, every X factor, could be you, could bring the dream, the dream of unimaginable wealth and power. Lie awake at night fantasising of what to do with it all forgetting that its like wishing for a narcissistic personality disorder garnished with assassination paranoia.

” The devil comes to you not with red cape and horns but as everything you ever wanted.” T. Max.

Oligarchs are bound to have power over those who nurse a secret desire to be like them.

Still, never mind. You can always just feign shock when it all comes out in the wash and say you kept silent so as not to offend.

 

 

 

 

Weird Sex and Cinderella.

Did you ever have a date with someone whose shiny coach turned into a pumpkin at the stroke of midnight?

Dong…

harbinger to the cold light of dawn…

Keeping up a fantasy to justify wanting to have your paws in somebody’s knickers is an exhausting business. The masks of social nicety will slip onto the floor along with the clothing after several hours and several glasses of wine…

not to mention that weird sex is what weird anything might be…

when things don’t do what they say on the tin.

So, you had no prior inkling….

well, yes, there was a whole spiel about how awful her brother was and she even showed me a ‘poisonous’ letter from him on her tablet which was actually pretty measured…

no explicit death wish anywhere..

…and how she wasn’t angry anymore, but went on endlessly about it..

…and when I commented on the warmth of her cashmere, she snapped, ‘I don’t wear shit…’

and that didn’t deter your efforts..?

Well it would have, but I was starkers except for my socks at the time. I wasn’t going anywhere, at least not until I got my breath back.

She had you.

Dong.

It started a few weeks before. She was a local woman who had been giving me the eye… We’d spoken a few times in the street and flirted a bit. Married but clearly…unfulfilled.

I listened and was…supportive.

She said he was away for a bit and would I like to come over for dinner, all anticipated by a flurried exchange of steamy messages.

That’s not weird…

I’m getting there.

I went with my hopes up.

I felt perky.

It was the beginning of something beautiful.

She answers the door in rompers. Straight to the wine and enough family gossip to pass for the intimacy needed to cross thresholds between bright kitchen and subdued lighting next door.

Nibbles on the couch by the fire and before long we are at it..

that’s not weird…

Then after, she’s all, ”Oh God, I thought I was going to be all right with all this throwing convention to the wind.. but, I love my husband, blah, blah,’ and her lip quivers a bit…

that’s not weird..

I’m getting there.

By now its late. She doesn’t want to ‘put me through any more’ of her remorse so I go crash in the spare room while she ‘processes her feelings’.

5 am: I’m awake. So is she. I can hear movement upstairs. I think, I can’t be having post-mortems over coffee. I’ll go now. But I won’t.. just leave.

That would be.. ungracious.

Is this the weird bit?

Yes, please be quiet.

So I think, I’ll just go up, just knock gently and put my head round the door to say that I’m on my way and don’t get up.

So there she is, bare arse naked being mounted by some random dude…

not her husband…

all hung like a donkey that she must have bussed in after the big story about her guilt and showing me magnanimously to the spare room..

Either that or he was hiding in a cupboard the whole time.

So the feeling is like being circled by a Moray eel in the shallow end of your local pool or perhaps losing your arm to a hamster. Something unknown is doing I don’t know what..

‘Orlrite?’ asks the bloke, all chipper.

That is a bit weird..

Yeah, but the weird bit, the really weird bit, was not that she had so utterly thrown out the very conventions she’d been agonising over only a few short hours before, nor that she might have had Dial-a-Nob’s special midnight deal voucher..

nor even that her contrition for our carnal encounter was less in evidence than her pudenda,

The weirdest bit was that she asked me, in all seriousness, to observe the most minute of social conventions whilst having her proffered furrow ploughed from behind by Bideford’s answer to Valentino.

‘don’t you knock?’

Dong, dong.

I rap again, like a slow clap, to demonstrate audibility above the squeaking bedsprings, avoiding the obvious suggestion that locking her door would have been a more secure option, since it was clear that this scenario and what might come of it was the real end game and not the hors d’ouvre by the fire a few short hours before.

‘Its so early,’ she added, as though the time of day had some causal relation to being caught ‘inflagrante delicto’ with her local friendly Rastafarian. As though Sunrise was to blame for the swing of his pendulum.

Dong, dong.

”What light from yonder window breaks?”

And it was weird, not because I’m moralistic about threesomes, or that I felt  confused and stupid standing there and shouldn’t have, but because of the violent collision between her request that I fine tweak the volume of my knuckles whilst she’s down on hers being vigorously knocked into breach of every rule in the Dating Handbook.

I went away feeling angry and humiliated, her contempt for my apparently woeful prior efforts clawing at me. I had been her entree.

her burrito, mon.

Thankyou. I walked the seven miles home, chuntering and wounded, trying to spit the taste of it all out of my mouth. I had had feelings for her..

there’s no fool like an old fool.

I had enjoyed making love with her…

that’s why people do it.

How can I have been such a poor judge of character?

Nah, you just confused the gratitude of getting laid with love, happens all the time.

But what am I doing being the masochistic patsy in the equation?

Is that what happened?

Well no, I wasn’t stupid enough to lose my rag or say, ‘how could you?’ But I’d been made an ass of. I made an ass of myself by not listening to any of the whispering wisdoms swished into the wings by naive romantic fantasy all tagged onto the cotton tails of pussy fever.

So what actually happened…?

Momentarily, with horrible clarity, I heard myself of not so long ago prating about what made her so attractive to me, how wholesome she was, the pretense that this was not a one night stand..

… the consummation of which effectively freed her from any dating contractual obligation…

..my denial of which had required extra ordinary efforts on her part in order to underline.

So once midnight had chimed, her handsome suitor fell  into Unconsciousness and the riverside mist condensed into Demon Lover to rectify the unreality that this was the beginning of something beautiful….

So what actually happened?

I left with the one unbinding sentiment that might free me from the entanglement of weird sex thrown over my shoulder..

‘Enjoy’.

Cheer up, she could have asked you for money.

That would at least have been a straight transaction..

see how easy it is for you to start feeling sorry for yourself ? How can you have a straight transaction if you go into it with your eyes closed?

True..

at least open them on the way out, your seven miles of high dudgeon was also a seven mile walk of shame which really is weird…

…because it could all have been avoided if you’d just said thankyou at the end of the evening and gone home like a normal person instead of hanging on like some middleaged Romeo hoping for protestations of undying love on the back of a two bit shag.

Sex is symbol as well as activity. The perfect fit of fucking brings with it all kinds of archetypal expectations and fantasies of Union, the timeless story of the divine or royal lover, the hoped for redeemer, the one who’ll make, who is making, everything better.

But its hoping on the outside for what is needed on the inside. So no wonder you felt depleated, as though you’d been robbed. You gave yourself away and all of these qualities you thought you saw in her were fragments of  your Self, a waking dream of your own inner world… projections that, once they are withdrawn, or forced back to roost, can leave the beloved looking like a cold fish at best or an ungrateful haddock at worst.

thankyou…

In the original Cinderella story the slipper lost at midnight was a furry slipper, altered by later storytellers to conceal the obvious erotic metaphor and the ease with which sexual fitting and true love are so easily overlapped.

so you’re not the first or the last to make a complete idiot of yourself.

I feel better..

That’s ok, leave the money on the dresser.

 

 

Paranoia and the Masked Maiden.

Paranoia evolves in families which have a particular skeleton in their closet, a singular unwritten rule about how-to-be, way more than stuff that can’t be discussed, or episodes and stories that are off limits. Its as simple as pretending you’re nicer than you are. The more correct the more paranoia. Jostling truths produce split realities. The designated paranoic will be as barmy as this split is wide.

A man comes in for the admissions interveiw of a psychiatric ward. There’s an ashtray with three cigarette butts in it. He looks at it long and hard before settling back comfortably in his seat. With an ironic smile he says, ‘ok, I get the picture.’

Another man is somewhat handicapped by the penetrating power of his gaze. It is so intense it can turn people into glass. But the day is saved, he knows when to avert his eyes just in time.

What a relief…

”when in one’s early life, the mother exhibits strong polarities of presence, alternatly nurturing and witholding, what is formed is a split anima.” R. Gunn.

a man’s connection to the feminine is divided, both in terms of the women in his life and the thoughoughfare of his own inner world over which that muse presides.

”Contemporary man still experiences a major split between the spiritual and sensual aspects of Eros.” N. Qualls-Corbet.

This is typically lived out collectively in men as a ‘madonna/whore’ attitude, where women are either worshipped, untouchable and beyond stain or slappers to be degraded.

In my last post I looked at the kind of spiritual distortions and divine machismo present in the story of Siegfried and how his appropriation of the Divine Feminine weakens and ultimately kills him..

Taking  a narcissistic stance in the world, all charged up with Dragon Blood and Duty, costs more than death and destruction because a split anima will cause all kinds of mischief in the meanwhile.

The death and destruction is garnish.

The split anima in the Western Psyche is admirably conveyed in allegory by the loves of Siegfried; Brunhilde, who is all noble, true and unreachable on the one hand, and then Kriemhilde who has a taste for dark magic and vengeance on the other. Her name means Masked-Shield-Maiden, a helmeted beserker.

So things aren’t over when Siegfried is betrayed and murdered by his shadow, lord Hagan..

not by a long chalk.

Kriemhilde wants heads.

To this end she marries Attila the Hun who has the kind of clout needed for such a hit and invites her conspiratorial brothers King Gunter and Prince Gizelher along with Hagan to a baptismal ceremony where she chops them up into small pieces.

Everybody dies, oh, except Attila who just carries on doing what Attila does best.

Its the kind of party where paranoia might well be of service. Or at least a few more hired goons.

The baptismal/death feast is the prototype of an enactment our culture seems to unwittingly repeat on a disturbingly regular basis, people hacking each other up, or the world they depend upon, without quite being sure of the reasons why. After all, Kriemhilde was largely responsible for bringing about the death of Siegfried in the first place by using black magic to mess with his destiny.

With the loss of the Goddess our relationship with Yahweh underwent some intersting changes. One of the less obvious is the unspoken, collusive and paranoia inducing prospect of how exactly we are to be a bride to Yahweh.

Fortunately, certain…deals can be struck whereby God promises to be gentle with us provided sufficient blood is split to mark the occassion.

God’s Covenant to his people is like a kind of guarentee of unconditional love to make up for trying to kill mummy..

but in exchange for sacrifice.

your children will do.

When its own turn, we try to fob God off and look the other way with minimal, symbolic sacrifices, haggling him down to a container of foreskins and a war in every generation.

A foreskin is not just a symbol. Having it ripped off will also affect your sex life. Modern ad hoc medical justification for circumsicion was preceeded by a widespread desire..

”to control ‘masturbatory insanity’ – the range of mental disorders that people believed were caused by the ‘polluting’ practice of ‘self-abuse.’ K. Paige.

There was widespread belief that circumsicion was neccessary to prevent a boy discovering his penis, along with beatings, spiked boxes, cauterisation….

”without administering an anesthetic, as the brief pain attending the operation will have a salutary effect upon the mind, especially if it be connected with the idea of punishment.” R. Darby.

But even this explanation of ‘selfless mortification’ is underpined by something more visceral..

Abrahmic law, old enough to be on the DNA waiting list, is quite clear on the matter. His love for you, His Covenant, depends on your sexual mutilation …. that or go find a mead hall to hack up and spill your blood in.

Preferably in some out of the way place where media coverage is more easily controlled.

When Anima is split, the Royal Road to the Unconscious gets lane closure and diversions. Lots of cones and men in hi-vis jackets.

Symbols and their meanings come apart and paranoia steps in, for what else is paranoia than not knowing the significance of something or having a feeling that is still in search of a context?

My friend and colleague Chuck Schwartz, an analytical psychologist for many years, told me the story of how he was hiking in northern Portugal, a very remote region of the mountains. At dusk he arrived in a small village but there was no-one around. The whole place was closed up. Eventualy he tried the church and found the priest who explained that though the people were good Catholics and came to church on Sunday, on Friday they closed themselves up with their ‘mumbo-jumbo’.

Chuck asked to be introduced and wanted to find out about the mumbo-jumbo. It turned out the people were celebrating Jewish Friday prayers. They had fled persecution from Russia as a community, settled there three generations back and converted. Behind closed doors the rituals continued, but, because they could not be refered to directly or talked about openly, because of the fearful secrecy, the meaning was drained from the experience..

leaving only mumbo-jumbo.

Chuck is a Canadian Jew. He recognised the form of the prayers and rituals and explained to them what they were doing, to a great outpouring of feeling and remembrance.

We too have forgotten, like Siegfried, and make our mumbo-jumbo in the forests of Vietnam, the deserts of Iraq, the jungles of Africa, where only the best and the bravest propitiate the unmentionable maw, ultimate sacrifice, not for his mate, or for the safety of loved ones, let alone spoil,  but because having God answer the rest of our prayers depends on it.

Like the medical or moral reasons for circumsicion, we give ourselves the lattitude of an ad hoc lie, to explain what won’t stand up otherwise..

er..

And because our good-god won’t let us have war just to snatch one anothers’ stuff..

because that would be greedy and bad.

Or just for the sake of time honoured rape and pillage

cos that’s not being good is it….

We’ll have to do it for an idea instead. For some ‘ism or ‘ist.

Some banner to get behind.

When the feminine is split and half sunk in the unconsciousness..

‘it responds with violent emotions, irritability, lack of control
coupled with lack of self­criticism and delusions. [Man] becomes
ruthless, arrogant and tyrannical’. (Jung 2014)

….overrun by Kriemhilde..

who,

for as long as she stands,

is She-who-must-be-Obeyed.

Hidden in the wings.

all pissed and pointy.

 

 

Cursed Gold and Dragon’s Blood.

The legend of Siegfried is fascinating as much for its context within the events of that time as the story it told. It’s not that old. Its origins are in the Volsung sagas of 600AD or there about and the story didn’t acheive popularity in its own right untill 1100 or so..

witch burning had already begun.

‘Whilst the ancient powers faded a wonderous tale arose that captured the hearts of the people; a blacksmith who slew a dragon and won a legendary treasure….” U. Edil

what was cursed and all…

yes, yes, we’ll get to that.

The story of Siegfried is symbolic allegory for the violent collision of Norse and Christian cultures much as the epic of Gilgamesh (http://andywhiteblog.com/2015/06/21/the-fate-of-gilgamesh/) was the last offering of the matriarchal Sumerians before being entirely overun by the Assyrians and their one god Marduk.

In both cases an epic tale sprang into being that tells of what happens when people fail to accomodate one another. They read like a curse upon the times, a judgement made, not by any one person, but by the collective imagination of an epoch.

One version of the story of Siegfried has him a king’s son raised secretly as a blacksmith after the throne is taken by Saxons. One night a star falls to earth. He runs over only to find someone else has also seen it and arrived at the same time, Brunhilde, queen of Iceland..

who just happened to be passing..

The story of Gilgamesh, another proud and warlike king of a New and Shining Age, contains a very similar scene. This king dreams he is walking about proudly amongst his people when a star falls on him. He couldn’t lift it off. All the people gather around and worship it.

 ”the star means the immortal soul of man…. the eternal kernel of the human psyche, the eternal man within us. And so he is now to follow his unique destiny instead of fullfiling a collective roll…’ M.L. von Franz

Gilgamesh gets the message and goes journeying for the elixir of immortality. Over in Europe, Siegfried doesn’t do quite as well…

A collision of cultures is a bit like the the meeting of different ecosystems..

”Naturally occurring ecosystem boundaries sometimes form a unique habitat to which species are specifically adapted.” C. Banks-Leite

conjuncted systems do more than co-mingle. They can produce new life.

The same is true between individuals..

‘The meeting of two personalities is like the contact of two chemical substances: if there is any reaction, both are transformed.’ C. G. Jung.

Hopefully.

But sometimes it doesn’t quite work out like that.

especially if you have a foreign policy to rival Genhgis Khan.

Siegfried decides to forge the star into a sword.

Not a good move…

In ancient times swords were imbued with mystery and given names. They absorbed the power of the Gods and the souls of their victims. The nearly alchemical processes involved in their production were a kind of magic and many believed swords were sentient, that they had their own life. Forging the star into a sword is placing the numinosity of the Self and the autonomy of the Psyche in service of the Warrior archetype…

which is asking for trouble.

Siegfried’s wars are liable to become holy.

He calls out Fafnir, a scaly dragon and defeats Her much as Gilgamesh defeats the great Humbaba/ Cybele, Great Mother of the ancient world…

Fafnir had treasure, the cursed horde of the Niebelung, gold that will make you wish that you had never even heard of it, much less nicked the lot..

Fafnir’s treasure is what every great She-Beast stands guard over, the Principle of Relatedness. Its cursed because if you try and force relatedness or possess people you produce the opposite. Being-with has to happen by itself. You can’t make people get along, make them love you, or make them stop. And wanting it all for oneself is precisely what destroys a person.

Both the stories of Gilgamesh and Siegfried, poised as they are on the tectonic plates of history, express a solemn truth. You cannot kill off the She Dragon and snatch treasure guarded by the Living Dead without consequences.

even if you did bathe in Her blood.

”when the curse begins to bite, beware, for it will find your weakness and through it destroy you.” the Niebelung king.

Siegfried confuses his persona as warrior with the numinosity of the Self which he now experiences as his possession rather than as a transcendent principle.

”Some say that the fish contains the sea. I say the sea contains the fish.” C. G. Jung.

His bathing in the dragon’s blood has also made him invulnerable so there will not be a lot of getting through to him. This kind of inflation, the lion’s share of a Narcissistic Personality Disorder, is not as simple as thinking you are better than everyone else. It has to do with being defended against influence and identifying oneself with archetypal structures of the Deep that then puff the personality up out of all proportion.

Siegfried is beginning to experience himself as the right hand of God. A split develops between him and his shadow, Lord Hagan, who condenses the Niebelung curse into an evil potion that makes Siegfried forget about Brunhilde. So Siegfried’s inflationary appropriation of The Treasure, his belief that he is its master and that the psyche is simply what he knows of it has a terrible impact on him. He feels fine, fantastic actually, but he’s lost something, some soul connection. He’s forgotten who he really is. To re-member is to become whole. To forget, more than loss of memory, means to fragment and fall apart.

Siegfried, King Gunter, and the young prince Gizelher, Gunter’s little brother, make a blood pact between them to try and paper over the cracks forming in their relationships with one another on their way to Iceland so that Gunter can propose to Brunhilde.

The threatened ego structure is resorting to magical thinking in order to hold itself together.

if you don’t step on the cracks the bears won’t get you..

but Hagan is excluded and grows more vengeful.

The four men present themselves to Brunhilde…

”you don’t know who she is, she’s not quite real, too good to be true.. and there is something wrong somewhere.” B. Pasternak

The men speak big, but they are in a sorry state. King Gunter, in the role of executive ego, has his shining, amnesiac persona Siegfried fight for Brunhilde’s hand in his place by use of magic, whilst Siegfried’s discrimination is entirely lost in his slavish devotion to ‘his Duty’ and even steals Brunhilde’s magical belt given her by the Old Gods. This constitutes further appropriation of the Unconscious for personal gain, a trend that will mature centuries later in the cult of Bling, rampant materialism and knee-jerk warfare.

”Man is infected with the leprosy of collective thinking and has become an inmate of that insalubrious stud-farm called the totalitarian State.” ~Carl Jung, CW 14, Para 194

And so instead of the Hierosgamos, the sacred wedding between heroic personality and the Unconscious in the fullness of all her Maidenly Power we have a parody instead, represented by a farcical double wedding between people who don’t know what is going on.

Gunter, having faked who he is, marries confused Brunhilde. And Siegfried, having forgotten who he is, marries deceptive Krimhilde, Gunter’s dark sister, who has drugged and deceived her beloved with magic potion.

Things can only get worse, hey?

Siegfried is murdered by his shadow, Hagan and Brunhilde throws herself on the pyre.

And they all did not live happily ever after.

No, there was the mailed fist in the velvet glove of Entrenched Feudalism, the Black Death, and a thousand years of Crusade that got itself all confused about the nature of Treasure.

 

 

Fear and the Firebird.

In a recent FB post, someone asked what people felt was the worst, the most ‘negative’ emotion. The almost unanimous answer was ‘fear’. It seems that we have demonised visceral emotion and forgotten its value, all of which may be ‘correct’ but which can only serve to impede our journey given the capacity of unwanted fear to keep us indoors.

The purpose of this essay is to examine the role of fear in the individuation process. The context for this will be a Russian folktale, ‘the Firebird’.

It was Prince Ivan’s job to care for the Tsar’s greatest treasure, a tree with golden apples. One day a golden apple went missing from the tree. The next night another…. The night after that the Tsar told Ivan to stay awake in the garden and discover the thief.

He waited and waited and waited. Then he saw the most incredible thing. First it was just a bright glow on the horizon, but then, arching like a comet through the sky, all radiance and brilliant fire, came the thief. It was a Firebird, mystical, breathtaking and wreathed in flame. And for a moment Ivan was rooted to the spot with dread.

Ivan did his best. He ran after it with shielded eyes, but only in time to catch a single feather from the Firebird’s tail. He had failed. The Tsar was amazed at the beauty of the feather, just enough to appease his wrath at the thief’s escape, and sent Ivan to find the mysterious bird on pain of banishment.

First Ivan reached a dark forest where he encounters a toothless wolf. A pedlar had once given Ivan a wolf’s tooth. It was useful for polishing the golden apples to make them extra clean and super shiny. Ivan took pity on Wolf and gave him the tooth. Wolf was grateful and accompanied Ivan to the castle of Koshkei the Deathless where it was said that the Firebird was imprisoned.

Koshkei the Deathless has another prisoner, Princess Vasilisa, a princess of great beauty. Wolf gives Ivan this warning.

“Do not look at her! Koshkei the Deathless has turned her heart into wood, and hidden it so that she has no feelings. If you fall in love with her she will never be able to return your affection.” But without Wolf there to remind him, Ivan forgot the warning and fell deeply in love with Vasilisa.

Now Ivan has to rescue the Firebird and the princess. But before he can make a plan, Koshkei the Deathless appears. He says that Baba Yaga, a terrible witch, has stolen the Firebird. Koshkei the Deathless tells Ivan that if he gets the Firebird back from Baba Yaga, he’ll give him the opportunity to choose between the princess and the Firebird.

Ivan sets off, riding on Wolf’s back. When they find the witch’s house, they see that both Baba Yaga and the crow are fast asleep. Once again Wolf issues a warning to prince Ivan.

“Before you go, a word of warning. The Firebird will be fastened by a golden cord to Baba Yaga’s crow Vanka. Bring the Firebird, but leave the cord.”

Ivan forgets this warning and leaves with the golden cord still tied to Vanka the crow who wakes up and squawks and squawks. Ivan is captured.

Wolf sees all this and fetches princess Vasilisa who pretended to be a pedlar woman and tricks her way into the house. When Baba Yaga and the crow are once again asleep she frees Ivan and the Firebird and they all run away.

Back at Koshkei’s castle Ivan has to choose between the Firebird and the princess.  Whilst caught in his dilemma Koshkei tries to turn Ivan’s heart into wood as well. Vasilisa sees this and bursts into tears.

“Stop!….. Stop your crying!” shouts Koshkei the Deathless.

And in that moment, Vasilisa realises where he has hidden her heart …… in her tears. Koshkei the Deathless shrivels up like the wicked witch of the west and the spell of the wooden hearts is broken.

When I was a teenager in the Rhodesian Commandos, an unwitting lick spittle for de Beers Mining Corp and Anglo-American’s right to loot and pillage Africa, we were blacking up in the ops tent of our bush camp while the choppers warmed up to their whiny scream and the CO barked a few more encouraging words before we were flown into battle for the third time that week. They called it ‘counter insurgency’, which is almost as cute as ‘collateral damage’. No, hideous-lottery-of-death would be better.

My sergeant comes over, ‘Are you afraid, Andy? he asks.

‘Yes, Sarge.’

‘Good, if you’d said not, you’d be a liar or a fool and I have no need of either’.

Fear and the unknown are first cousins. Since the Unconscious is by definition unknown, fear and self-knowledge are even more closely related. Which is why the dictum ‘know thyself’ is not the top of most people’s list.

In any case there’s a lot in life to be scared about. Crossing the street can be the end of you. The endemic belt and braces attitude which says that fear is a weakness or ‘catastrophising’, rides roughshod over raw human experience, fails to find meaning and lacks in compassion. It also robs you of the teaching to be found in your fears, even the ‘irrational’ ones. Stupid fears are ever a cloak for sensible ones.

I have found that psychotherapy clients faithfully present the same one issue time and again. Whatever the content of their personal experience they all suffer from hovering too long on the edge of something. What lies below is almost irrelevant. It’s the drop that’s important. Descent into the unknown self which both literally and figuratively involves an encounter with Death.

Ivan’s encounter with the Firebird is the gritty moment in all our lives when we realise there is something in us of which we had been completely unaware, something intensely alive, vibrant and…

Not-me.

It is something that seems not to be of this world and puts an end to an old way of life. You could call it spiritual awakening. For Ivan, the brilliant bird is bound to induce something in him similar to the experience of the angel appearing to the shepherds in the nativity story.

Fear not said he for mighty dread had seized their troubled minds..

The original rendering of, ‘seek and ye shall find..’ had a second part to it…

‘and when you find it you will be troubled’..Gnostic Gospel of Thomas

This is because encounter with the Self is what Michael Fordham calls a ‘deintegrate’, something that pulls the world-as-we-know-it apart, loosening internal co-herance, momentarily weakening personality and threatening stability. Ivan’s fearfullness is appropriate to the occasion. He’s encountering a trancendant principle which he can never know or ‘grasp’ and to which his fate is now inextricably and fearfully bound.

‘Where your fear is, there is your task.’ C. G. Jung

The encounter also tips Ivan into the living complexity of the Unconscious symbolised by the Dark Forest. Ivan’s skill is not so much that he’s big and brave but that he has a ‘propitious attitude’ and gives Wolf (back) his teeth. Giving Wolf his teeth is Ivan’s preparedness for his journey to be dangerous. He allows Wolf to be dangerous in anticipation that he himself.. might be dangerous. He aquaints himself with his own instinctive nature that knows how to use things like fear…

‘be warned! Do not look at her!’

but he does.

wasn’t scared enough.

So Wolf has to bail him out. Luckily Vasilisa knows the value of legging it.

We were once compromised deep in enemy territory, way up on the Zambezi escarpment.

Shouldn’t have been there mon..

A hurried, uncoded message came through on the radio… half the Zambian army were on to us. Five minutes away.

….with them guns..

We ran all day long from early dawn, down bright lit forest paths silent but for Hoopoe and Vervet; over golden grassed plains, zigzagging for dusty hours down, down to the clean wet river  by night fall. Forty miles. Strange how fear in the right place can lend you wings.

Ivan is none too smart but he’s persistant and isn’t put off by his failure or fear of further failure.

‘It is impossible to live without failing unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all.” J.K. Rowling

In order to redeem the firebird (and himself) Ivan has to encounter the devouring, death dealing aspects of the archetypal parents symbolised by Baba Yaga and Koshkei the Deathless.

As Death mother Baba Yaga instills in you the sense that you’ll be destroyed if you go your own way…

‘swamped by lethargy and paralysis…. incubated by the crushed hope of an unlived life.’ M. Woodman.

As Death father, Koshkei represents the chronic felling of stuckness and restlessness that pervades so much of modern life.

The word ‘chronic’ is derived from Chronos/Saturn… the dark face of father Time whose afflictions are worst for their endurance,  unfeeling wooden-ness that has gone on so long it has become the norm.

Like Saturn eating his children, what the chronic condition does is to devour what comes so naturally to children, the capacity for play, curiosity and innovation. This is because the psyche is being drained of its resources by the need to prop up prescribed ways of living that are opposed to you finding your own destiny.

Ivan is not saved by his great courage or cleverness.

He is saved by the despair of having to endure impossible love, by being helped when he doesn’t really deserve it…

by running away..

by horrified tears…

and by the reflection of his own humanity in the desperate face of another.

‘We become enlightened not by imagining beings of light, but by  making the darkness conscious. This, however is disagreeable. C.G.Jung

Facing the unknown is an apprehensive process. So, if we are not kindly to our fears and regard them simply as there to be vanquished then we will never make friends of Wolf, be saved by Vasilisa, or discover where the treasure lies.

 

 

 

 

Going Mad to Stay Sane. Reprint.

Self destructiveness can be a spring board for a soulful life like no other if we can realise the meaning in the message, if we refrain from putting a lid on it with medication or inveterate ‘fixing’.

The book tells the story of King Midas from Greek mythology who wished that everything he touched be turned to gold. He only realises what a curse he’s bought on himself when he embraces his daughter…..

It also tells the backstory, what kind of parents he had and what the family dynamics were that could foster such a terrible desire. How does he live? How does Midas resolve his issues? How does he now approach Dionysus who granted him his hideous wish.

The story uses  allegory to reveal how we grow through adversity and foolishness. It looks at the deeper significance of self-destructiveness, as a symbol of something meaningful that can be transformative.

The book has a new preface by Dr Dale Mathers who is a Jungian analyst with his own new book on the shelf, ‘Alchemy and Psychotherapy’.

Enjoy the book and find new ways to make sense of old patterns.

Books are signed and cost £12 plus p+p.