The Sweet Wound.

 The greatest obstacle to healing depression is to see it as the enemy. We talk about fighting, combating, struggling with depression. Even ‘having depression’ suggests it intrusively came to you from somewhere else.
In the early days of my training I went to see an analyst and was reeling off my woes and complaints about life.
”At least I’m not depressed,”I said.
‘No,’ he replied, ‘you haven’t got there yet.’
I was shocked.
Depression could be a goal.
The fact is there are lots of things in life to be depressed about. And if we then try and combat it rather than enquiring into its purpose, it entrenches itself.
”What we resist, persists.” CG Jung
Depression is a sign that I has stopped talking with Me. The path between their houses has overgrown. The feeling of social isolation that comes with depression is mirrored on the inside as self estrangement.
Much depression has to do with the issue of authenticity, with whether we are being who we are. If a gap begins to grow between who we really are and who we wish we were then depression will fill that gap.
If we pretend to be what we are not for others in the fruitless and misguided quest to be loved by them, then depression will call our attention to the dissonance between what is actually going on and the new improved version of ourselves we’re trying to sell.
Depression hits particular kinds of people.
Did you notice the aggressive metaphor I just used?
…that I typed, myself, without noticing it until it was sat licking its paws on the screen in front of me.
We’re conditioned to have this combative relationship with depression. Centuries of being great white hunters.
Depression mostly unfolds in particular kinds of people. It’s the underbelly of perfectionism, people pleasing and ‘positive thinking’.
The perfectionists are at war with their shadows, their inadequacies and unevolved aspects.
The people pleasers are at war with their own destinies, so readily derailed by other’s baggage and expectation.
The positive thinkers are at war with anything that isn’t rosy and bright.
Whether its with yourself, your path, or life’s mourning and pain, the insistance on things being other than they are gives rise to depression.
”Our suffering is as much created by our struggling against the circumstances at hand as the circumstances themselves.” M Israel.
If we are living someone else’s life, or someone else’s vision of who we ‘ought’ to be, then depression will ensue. And if we are not living up to our potential on account of its cost to us, it will be all the worse.
”There is a great deal of pain in life and perhaps the only pain that can be avoided is the pain that comes from trying to avoid pain.”  RD Laing
Its big. The US spends an incredible $350 billion a year on medication and therapy for depression. This amount is currently increasing at a rate of 20%.
The figures are scary and again its tempting to whip out you sword forgetting that depression has a purpose and failing to notice that it is pointing at something we subscribe to that doesn’t actually feed us or represent us.
Something has to give.
and not this or that but the paradigm itself.
We have a collectively narcissistic vision of ourselves as highly evolved when in fact we are really the creature that has only one of its senses working and thinks itself so grand in the absense of all the others.
This is the characteristic response, the strategy, of the unmothered child, and indeed we’ve had no Queen of Heaven for quite a few millenia now. When Mother is lost the child does not grow, or in only one of its aspects.
The rest of it shuts down and regresses.
So here we are, trashing our play pens.
We fail to grasp the proverbial reality that as we selfishly destroy nature “our outer world”, consequently we destroy “our inner world”, and ourselves as a species. The psychological consequence of this disconnection from nature amputates our soul connection with Mother Earth.
And its a question of more than mere deprivation.
A seven year old proudly announces to mother that he’s made money! Mother asks how and the child explains with great delight that he got it out of mother’s purse but then swopped it for the same amount he’d persuaded his mate Billy to take from his mother’s purse…. so it wasn’t stealing….’
And this is the logic of the economic market in the Western paradigm culminating in banks printing their own money and lending what they don’t have . We call it free enterprise but actually its a way of becoming magic in the absense of magic, the magic of belonging and feeling held by the Universe. A strategy that involves a hiest.
We deal with what feels like abandonment by attributing ourselves with  whatever specialness it takes to gain some additional illicit toe hold on the world. Our deep hungering then justifies whatever follows next, generally an envious attack on the worth and value of others..
This envy creates depression. Its part of the fallout of being so pious and better than everyone else. In order to really buy the shining version of ourselves we have to attribute others with the very fragments of  self most needed to be whole.
We cannot take command of our great battlements without corresponding feelings of having been robbed.

The paradigm itself creates depression.

The monotheistic notion that life always has to be cheerful (could) be instructed by melancholy. We could learn from its qualities and follow its lead, becoming more patient in its presence, lowering our excited expectations, taking a watchful attitude as this soul deals with its fate..” T Moore

The loss of the Principle of Relatedness in our culture means both a loss of the internal cohesion of I and Me and of the bond between ourselves and the external world. This is generally experienced as disconnection, lack of trust and not belonging that then reinforces internal divisions and the feeling of alienation.
The thing is that the creative life also has its gloomy vales.

”Creative people who can’t help but explore other mental territories are at greater risk, just as someone who climbs a mountain is more at risk than someone who just walks along a village lane.” RD Laing

So sometimes it can feel like a choice between the aggravation of refusing to be what we are or the further aggravation of  grasping life’s nettle. It doesn’t seem fair and its not.

”a warring peace, a sweet wound, a mild evil.” R Owen.

If the feelings of being depressed can be honoured as a form of longing then so can the feelings of riding your push bike down Middenmarsh hill with a mouthful of blackberries and chocolate.

based on an extract from my new book, ‘Abundant Delicious’,…ot-off-the-press/



The Song of the Harp.

There is a story of a man who hit his head and when he woke up he could play the piano. Did he awaken a latent gift? Or did he put out of action something suppressing? Either way the music was in him all along.

It’s important because mostly what we learn in life is not to. My own father’s silent message was, ‘achieve, but don’t ever go beyond me.’ This is an attitude that is endemic in the West, me first, only. Its patriarchal splashback that has a very particular impact on children.

This is symbolised in the story of Jack and the Beanstalk by the devouring Giant with a taste for his wife’s tastiest boy-pie but more importantly the things he has, the appropriated qualities of the natural child symbolised by the singing harp and the golden egg laying duck, that need to be redeemed/stolen.

The devouring giant is a corporate fascist possessed by the archetype of Saturn who, importantly, eats his own children…

and voters..

Of course he does it for their own good…

to teach them about life

a conundrum as unlikely and impossible as the Church, Darwin and Freud all singing from the same hymn sheet on the theme of human Wickedness and Strife, but nevertheless true.

”The assumption of innate sociality is at direct odds with the fairly universal civilised belief that a child’s impulses need to be curbed in order to make him social. There are those that believe reasoning is better than the hickory stick but the assumption that every child has an antisocial nature, in need of manipulation to become socially acceptable, is germane to both points of veiw”. J. Liedloff.

This basic assumption conjours the Devouring Giant from the collective imagination, it sets in place a style of fathering that is idealised for want of substance. In the name of teaching him about life he slowly consumes the child’s vitality instead, his spirit of adventure, his self-confidence and worth.

If our fundamental belief systems frame humanity as disobedient and full of anti-social willyness, then how are we to turn out? Children invariably live up to their parent’s expectations, particularly the darker, unspoken, semi-conscious ones. Our survival instincts compel us to soak up every scrap of information about ourselves even if it is to our detriment.

Up until I was forty I used to say about myself that I hadn’t an artistic bone in my body. I used to say it to the extent that I began to puzzle over it before finding that it was entiely untrue  though it took a great upheaval, a huge crisis, to break through decades of restraint and having to hive off my talents to be loved and accepted.

I know of several instances where an anorexic child has been freed only once the parents had become conscious of their own covert campaign against the child growing up. The refusal to eat is actually a form of compliance to the deeper message ‘don’t grow.’

A satire that documents the consequences for us of such unlived creativity is portrayed by the robot character, ‘Bender’ from the cartoon hit series, ‘Futurama’.

Bender was rejected from the assembly line for his imperfections. He has no creativity micro-chip and therefore no imagination. This impacts his whole self construct which manifests under stressful circumstances as a partially autonomous identity, the somewhat creepy ‘Titanius Anglesmith Fancyman of Cornwood’.

The robotic Narcissist, plagued by the feeling of being defective from birth, adapts with impeccable instinct to a lifestyle devoid of his own destiny whilst just about managing not to be eaten by it.

Bender is a modern rendering of the Tin Man from the Wizard of Oz who didn’t have a heart. In the story of Jack and the Beanstalk this is more specifically amplified as the sentient harp, the Principle of Relatedness, the profound creative depths of the child that the envious Giant appropriates, that he requires the child to forgo for the sake of approval. The inner aridity this then creates is represented by the mean poverty endured by Jack and his mother at the beginning.

The liberating effect of the singing harp is further amplified in the fairytale, ‘The Song of the Harp’, where, likewise, a sentient harp is imprisoned by a devouring male figure, The Old Man, Saturn.

When the Harp is liberated..

”the sick children who had been thrust away in dark cellars, came running forth whole and well, healed by the song, sinking into every heart, waking all to fresh new life. ” Rachel Penn.

Not only is the inner child redeemed but also the adult sense of lack and incompleteness ..

‘The black-haired woman who sat on the farther side of the fountain; the sting had gone from her heart; peace unspeakable had swept it away and between her eyes and the flowers and the swaying crowd of people something bright was falling which slowly blotted out from the mind of each one there the memory of their many deeds of shame, and all their sin.” ibid.

The other treasure that Jack has to redeem in order to be free of the tyrant is a duck which lays golden eggs.

Dissonance in a family makes it difficult to digest experience, to contain contradiction, to reflect upon one’s situation because reality is too split to support it. You can’t learn. When kids go through divorces the first thing that suffers is their grades.

Though the demanding Giant is the scarier of the two with all his threatens of death by incissor..

‘fee fi fo fum I smell the blood of an englishman. Be he alive or be he dead I’ll grind his bones to make my bread.’ bad tempered Giant.

The Mother Giant is as crazy making and colludes with her husband by witholding the transformational duck whose alchemical powers of turning farmyard scraps into golden eggs allows a child to grow from shitty situations, to change his point of veiw, to reconstrue events in new light that changes the meaning of events themselves.

Mother Giant prevents this from happening by the dissonance in her relationship with her spouse. His taste for boy pie notwithstanding, his official scariness is underpined by a covert and tantrumming brat that his seemingly submissive wife steers like Matron.

All this hidden stuff means Jack can’t entertain life’s disappointments without them tearing him apart because he can’t turn them into lessons without the help of the alchemical duck who can turn even life’s swill into golden eggs. Without this capacity to embrace a whole variety of circumstances as being all grist for the mill, the kind of willingness to enter into experience that is more trust than courage, Jack will be at the mercy of the Giant. He has to take it or die trying.

So eventually the two treaures are bought to earth. But it is a curious and particular detail that makes sure Jack is then able to enjoy the fruits of his daring. What finishes the Giant off is not simply that he chops the beanstalk down..

‘Luckily, because of all the chores he’d done over the years, he’d become quite good at chopping and it didn’t take long for him to chop through enough of the beanstalk that it began to teeter’.  leanne Guenter

You do your chores in co-operation with natural law, out of the instinct for social co-operation and helping one another and it is by the effect of these efforts that the giant is killed.






The Secret.

The authorities took my son away. Everyone knows a man cannot raise a child. So they took him, dragged him off kicking and screaming. We met fleetingly in the woods. He was in terrible shape, covered in self-inflicted cuts to protest his situation.

One night I was sobbing out loud with the horror of it all, begging Providence to change our situation, raging against what had happened, when a very still quiet voice spoke inside me saying…

”your anguish is a measure of your love is it not?”

Er, yes.

‘Would you wish your love to be less?”

Er, no.

”Then be grateful for how much love you have…’

and so I was.

within weeks he was returned.

The secret of Abundance is Gratitude. It is Gratitude that recognises the wealth which already exists. The rule of attraction manifests further abundance and soon..

a virtuous circle is created.

Wanting it badly enough doesn’t work. It doesn’t take determination. More a kind of melting into how blessed you are already and not even for one thing or another but for breathing, the rain, that night follows day.

Sometimes we may feel that because there is so much suffering in our lives we cannot be grateful and start the circle of abundance turning. So then we have to be grateful for that…

for surviving the dark place..

for the resiliance that bought you through..

for the strength that sustains you during your travail.

Wounds give perspective without which we do not grow.

”To live and love only where one can trust, where there is security and containment, where one cannot be hurt or let down, where what is pledged in words is forever binding, means really to be out of harm’s way and so out of real life.” James Hillman

Wounds are necessary. There are several different types to be grateful for. Firstly there are the wounds inflicted upon us by others…

‘that which does not kill us makes us stronger..’ anon

then there is gratitude for one’s own folly..

‘Non, je ne regrette rien..’ E. Piaf

then the challenge to be unconditionaly alive to the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune..

”to survive is to find meaning in suffering”. F. Nietzsche.

and finally there is the gratitude for the discovery of your own moist depths in the process of it all.

”In the depths of winter I finally learned that within me lay an invincible summer.” A. Camus.

Most of us think of prayer as being one form or another of asking for stuff. It doesn’t work because of the tautology involved in evoking a God about whom  you have already decided you know better. Wanting life to be different is petulant, a rejection of one’s situation which is bound to increase suffering rather than alleviating it.

‘What we resist, persists.’ S. Freud.

In ancient times they seemed to understand better about the power of gratitude. Prayer and Gratitude were synonymous. There are still some examples especially in Psalms, but a good way of guaging how things have changed from a culture of abundance to one of relative inner poverty can be ascertained by looking at how the structure of our most evocative prayer, the lord’s prayer, has been changed over the years from its original Aramaic.

here is the whole thing.

“Oh Thou, from whom the breath of life comes,

who fills all realms of sound, light and vibration.

Nethkâdasch schmach
May Your light be experienced in my utmost holiest.

Têtê malkuthach.
Your Heavenly Domain approaches.

Nehwê tzevjânach aikâna d’bwaschmâja af b’arha.
Let Your will come true – in the universe (all that vibrates)
just as on earth (that is material and dense).

Hawvlân lachma d’sûnkanân jaomâna.
Give us wisdom (understanding, assistance) for our daily need,

Waschboklân chaubên wachtahên aikâna
daf chnân schwoken l’chaijabên.

detach the fetters of faults that bind us, (karma)
like we let go the guilt of others.

Wela tachlân l’nesjuna
Let us not be lost in superficial things (materialism, common temptations),

ela patzân min bischa.
but let us be freed from that what keeps us off from our true purpose.

Metol dilachie malkutha wahaila wateschbuchta l’ahlâm almîn.
From You comes the all-working will, the lively strength to act,
the song that beautifies all and renews itself from age to age.

Sealed in trust, faith and truth.
(I confirm with my entire being)

You can see for yourself that its been altered quite dramatically. Not just a word here or there,  the whole meaning is different. I will comment only on the feeling of gratitude which runs through the original from beginning to end like a dancing brook.


On Finding Oneself.

I got lost on the moor. It was already a bit misty when I set out, but then great banks of fog came in from the sea, cliffs of cloud, and soon visibility was down to a few metres. I thought it was ok. I’m ex-paras for god’s sake. I could leopard crawl through a snow drift with the best of them but of course within minutes I was completely turned around.

Don’t panic. Retrace your steps. Look for your own footprints. But it was hopeless. I stumbled about like an idiot getting more and more confused. Then I realised that all this ‘trying to find my way’ was my problem. I was looking at the ground with all its myriad features (or lack of them) when I needed to be looking at the lie of the land. My vehicle was parked at the top end of the moor and all I had to do was follow any gradient that seemed even slightly up hill. Within minutes my car emerged from the fog.

How like life. We get lost in the detail, in the busyness, in not seeing the wood for the trees. We try to figure out our dream rather than shaking hands with it. We try to decide what job we want to do rather than allowing ourselves to be called to something unscripted. We ask about the meaning of life as though it had to be something we could understand.

We think we are way more evolved than our ancestors and contemporary Indigenous people. Yet any aboriginal person would have laughed till they wet  themselves to see me trawling about the moor, labouring under the deluded misapprehension that I was somehow using my superior survival and tracking skills when in fact finding my way was the kind of thing I could do in the dark after half a bottle of whisky if only I had the sense to look up.

Its not enough to feel that others are our equals. We must realise that we have something to learn from them. Some tourists in Australia asked an old ranger how the Aboriginal people find water in the desert.

‘They don’t have to look for it,’ he replied. ‘They know where it is.” Tom Keneally

In his lengthy field trips with the Xavante Indians in the Amazon, anthropologist David Maybury-Lewis describes the shift in his own consciousness when he realised the true purpose of their traditional log races.

Log races were major events. The whole village would get involved. Logs would be specially cut and teams would roar through the jungle at high speed amidst great cheering and excitement.

At first it seems like a competition. Then Maybury-Lewis notices that one of the logs is way bigger than the other, putting that team to considerable disadvantage but no-one seems to mind. Then he sees that team members from the winning log are peeling off to help those behind until they catch up. When the teams arrive together the village erupts.

”Everyone seemed to be speechifying or shouting or just yelling with glee. It was by common consent the most beautiful log race that had been celebrated for a long time. It was then that I understood. It was not a race at all, at least not in our sense. It was a ceremony, an aesthetic event.”

Individual runners are extoled by their team mates, not for running hard or fast, but for running beautifully. The ideal was to arrive together, symbolising a reconciliation of tension between Nature and Culture…

‘harmony through complementarity..’ ibid

Shortly afterwards M-Lewis has a dream that he is watching Michelangelo paint the Sistine chapel. To his horror the great artist begins to rub out the work. Lewis screams at him not to. Michelangelo looks up and….

‘in the voice one uses to reassure a small child he says, ‘but they are not supposed to last forever..’ ibid

Beauty is a fleeting thing, yet all art is done for beauty’s sake. It’s only a paradox if we lose from the mix that the purpose of beauty is not that it become collectable but that it is transformational. And not that you appreciate it but that you participate in it.

Maybury- Lewis went to learn about the Xavante and wound up learning mostly about Maybury-Lewis which is why he is such a vivid ethnographer, he discovered the Xavante in himself.

The creative daimon of Michelangelo accepts the ephemeral nature of the work because doing it is more important than having it. Only, the spirit of your own aboriginal nature has to be alive and well to know this.

Whilst the West is left wondering if beauty is truth or truth, beauty… arriving finally at the profundity that it is in the eye of the beholder, the aboriginal spirit within us all knows that beauty is something you live in. Its not just subjective. You sink or swim in it depending on how turned about you become by cultural insistence that values product over process.

”Beauty will come in the dawn, and beauty will come with the sunlight. Beauty will come to us from everywhere. Where the Heaven ends, where the sky ends. Beauty will surround us. We walk in beauty.” Billy Yellow. Navajo medicine man.

When the indigenous person is suppressed or even held in the imagination as less, we make less of ourselves. We undermine the deep aboriginal spirit in our own psyche which is the soil from which we are grown and the source of our creative life.



How we Heal.

People often say in despair of their lives that you cannot go back and change the past. My reply is always the same, what heals is not that we can change the past but that we call it by the right name. A story that exemplifies this is ‘Rumplestiltskin’, a tale of  love’s triumph over tyranny.

It starts out with the Miller boasting to the King that his daughter can spin straw into gold. Now, why would he do that? What’s going on here?

”Unless he seeks it in himself, a man’s feminine counterpart is to be found in his mother, sister or daughter’. (Jung 1983).

In the absence of a Queen of Heaven, an inner image of Anima, he finds Her radiance in the eyes of his now divine daughter, whom he idealises out of all existence. He thinks its love but actually its unconscious worship  to the point of parody and depersonalisation.

You could say that the backlash for Yahweh breaking his ex-wife Sophia up in three and casting her into the sea, waaay bakkina day…

the whore of babylon incident….?

the very same….


…….waaay back before the Beggining, is that he, Yahweh, does something similar to himself and to Patriarchal Consciousness in the process. It also broke in three.

And regressed.

The first piece of Yahweh is symbolised by the apparently benevolent, wide-eyed Miller, but this weak father clearly has his own interests to the forefront, a handy foot in the door at the Castle where there is somehow already a tacit ‘understanding’ with the wicked king rooted in his underlying attitude that even loved Others are somehow still a means to an end.

The Miller hands his daughter over to the wicked king, the second fragment. He demands she spin the straw into gold on pain of death. The degree of depersonalisation is increased along with a corresponding loss of his own capacity for internal dialogue or reflection. She is now openly chattle and he is officially a tyrant. Consciousness is diminished. As soon as she ceases to be a ‘thou’ he cannot say ‘I’. He goes for bling over relatedness.

But the third aspect, Rumplestiltskin, is a whole new level of nightmare. He agrees to spin the straw into gold first for jewels but ultimately wants her un-born child….

Rumplestilskin has gone over to the dark side. He’s a creature possessed. The power of life and death over the Queen are not enough. He wants to break her spirit too.

At first, the Queen agrees to Rumplestiltskin’s advances and is seduced by the promise of an easy life. Like the ancient story of Sophia unearthed at Nag hammadi, which tells the story of a Queen being victimised, made a slave/whore to men and how she redeemed herself…

…for this is what our brave queen does. She changes her mind and goads Rumplestiltskin’s pride, getting him to agree that if she can find out his name she keeps the baby.

Directly, she dispatches her Faithful Riders to every corner of the kingdom to find ol’ Rumple’s name.

As my boy would say, ‘she becomes good’.

The birth of the child has awoken a new value in the queen. The child is the new value. It also represents “a more complete picture of the Self” CG Jung and a vision of the “whole person in their pure individuality” ibid – unfractured, unscattered, unbroken.

Wherever you find love there will be cavalry, warriors that still work for the Missus. The Queen’s Faithful Riders are aspects of the Self still connected to the Principle of Relatedness. They go out to the four farthest wild and tangly corners of the kingdom in the service of the Child. And even though they are in despair they go out, like Grail  Knights, in search of the malady in the land.

”Our excessive civilisation is the neurosis of our time,” C G Jung

The queen realises that she will do anything in order to protect the new life of her child. She redeems her situation by entering willingly into her own suffering on the understanding that the suffering is the new love that she feels.

”My arguement with psychoanalysis is the pre-conception that suffering is a mistake, or a sign of weakness, or a sign of illness, when in fact, possibly the greatest truths we know have come out of people’s suffering. Arthur Miller.

So despite her slim chances and it being the end of all she knows, she says,

‘I will do it anyway.’

“Why do you want to shut out of your life any uneasiness, any misery, any depression, since after all you don’t know what work these conditions are doing inside you? Rumi

And actually its her awakened love for the child and faith that there is some ground of Being, not to be discovered as such but remembered, something long forgotten, something mysterious that the Faithful Riders give their all to find.

Its this discovery of doing what she must do gladly that redeems suffering and brings about the synchronistic event that saves the day. When she gets in line with her purpose, the Universe gets behind her.

”The moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favour all manner of unforseen incidents, meetings and material assistance, which no-one could have dreamt would come their way.” Goethe.

She is saved because she makes peace with her suffering, not for the promise of some gain but because she is impelled by love.

And not because anyone taught her that.

But because it rose up unbidden in her own soul.

It seems like a fool’s errand but there’s a certain magic incured in life when self preservation ceases to be your priority and in the last moment, the secret is discovered by the strangest co-incidence.

Rumplestiltskin is found by one of the riders dancing about his fire singing his name out loud! ”, “tonight tonight, my plans I make, tomorrow tomorrow, the baby I take. The queen will never win the game, for Rumpelstiltskin is my name’…

Naming something means an end to being unconsciously identified with the other. So then it has no power over you. It’s like saying the Emperor is naked.

And so the queen manages to guess correctly. Rumplestiltskin stamps through the floor in fury and is never seen again.

“Names have a sort of influence, words are apotropaic. When you can name a thing the patient is half liberated. Hence we have the healthy effect of name-giving to help abolish a thing” CG Jung

We might ask along with Shakespeare’s Juliet…

”What’s in a name? A rose by any other name would smell as sweet..”

but that would be to forget the meaning of Romeo’s name and the significance it then places upon their tryst.

Something common to the Miller, the King and Rumplestiltskin is their sense of entitlement. A title is a special kind of name, or one that enobles a name out of  allthe mire and constraint that suck others down into the mud, especially useful when there is very little life between serfs and barons.

In such a world, names become synonymous with qualities, with archetypal associations to honour and virtue, all of which then excuses you from abiding by the actual law so long as it is in the Name-of-Something.

Names are symbols. They mean more than they denote. A contemporary example is the emphasis Mr Trump made on things having his name on them and that this in itself guarenteed their success and intrinsic value.

So roses by another name really do smell different and what you call things is incredibly important. They can shape the quality of your life.

In a nearby village there is a shop keeper who spends most of his time on the pavement outside his establishment defying the elements in t-shirt, bermuda cutoffs and tennis sneakers. Through wintry gales and horizontal sleet he endures. Nothing can tempt him from his summer holiday. The harder it rains the more fierce becomes his heav’n-cast looks of defiance.

I understood it all when I overheard him refer to where we live as, ‘the arse end of nowhere’. The beautiful and remote coast of North Devon, a place that many would give their right arm to call home, is suddenly shmeered in colonic bile  rooted in confrontational entitlement which meant not only that he could not enjoy our rural idyll appropriately dressed, but that he had to have his knee caps chafed raw every winter to air the feeling that life should be different.

Notes from Beachy Head.

If you believed the story about Lemmings throwing themselves from cliffs, as I did, for decades, what else are you so sure of that just ain’t so?

Turns out it was a lie. Lemmings do not throw themselves from clifftops. Apparently the whole thing was invented by Walt Disney who wanted to sex up a documentary he made in 1958 called, ‘White Wilderness.” According to Canadian Wildlife and Fisheries the sets were fake, the Lemmings had to be bussed in from Manitoba where they were herded about and finally thrown, manually, into the sea. All in aid of Walt’s ‘True life adventure’ series…..

”The lemmings supposedly committing mass suicide by leaping into the ocean were actually thrown off a cliff by the Disney filmmakers.” R. Woodford.

Meantime the narrator Winston Hibbler trills,

“A kind of compulsion seizes each tiny rodent and, carried along by an unreasoning hysteria, each falls into step for a march that will take them to a strange destiny.”

The lie is as obsessively strange as the story.

The fantasy is more curious and interesting than the motive for deception.

Perhaps it says more about Disney and the culture he was helping to mould than he might have wished. It is the disney generation, after all, that have a taste for marching off cliffs like never before, not the sensible and much maligned Lemming.

Beachy Head is a favourite clifftop for Britons to kill themselves. It even has a beer named after it, ‘Beachy Head’s Christmas Jumper, critisised by families of the deceased as ‘insensitive’. The clifftop is patrolled by chaplains who are about to be de-funded despite awards from the Queen. A gift shop in town sells sombre writing pads of just a few leaves and disposable pens with black ink.

No, that last bits not true, about the shop.

After several tours of combat duty what began to weigh upon me most heavily was not the horror of war, nor what I had done, or seen, or had levelled at me. It was how easy it had been to persuade me to march from the cliff top even without any great desperation to die or madly scribble goodbyes.

Do we have a ‘death instinct’ as a species, or is there something peculiar about a culture that immolates itself on a steady basis? Recently released statistics of US service suicides show that troops are actually killing themselves at a higher rate than are killed by Isis, though the figures seem to be consistent with a shocking three-fold increase in US civilian suicides since 2000.

What is going on?

You might be tempted, along with Walt’s phoney commentator, to postulate that sudden increases in suicides were about overpopulation or some dire tragedy unfolding so desperate we’d die to avoid it, but the evidence points to the contrary. Countries with the lowest GPU and the toughest lives are also the least at risk from suicide. Psychoanalyst and Auchwitz survivor Bruno Bettleheim made the observation of physical and mental extremis that …

‘Despite the inhuman deprivation in the camps there was scarcely ever a suicide.’ B. Bettleheim.

Others are of the opinion that suicide is an act of revenge.

”It is always consoling to think of suicide. In that way one gets through many a bad night.” F. Nietzsche.

though in all fairness Fredrick, a dose of tertiary syphilis combined with the terminal mercury poisoning used to treat the 19th C pecker would wear down anyone’s will to live.

There is a fantastic movie called, ‘Drowning by Numbers,’ a macabre look at the vast grey area between murdering yourself and murdering others. It puts an astute line into the mouth of Smut, an adolescent boy in a family of killers and sycophants who finally hangs himself with a skipping rope,

”to punish all those who have caused great unhappiness by their selfish actions.” Smut

all of which would seem to bear out the anonymous saying..

‘when you commit suicide you are killing the wrong person.’

‘Retroflected’ rage is rage turned back upon oneself, but with the intent to castigate those left behind. I’ve known several people to be saved from suicide by realising how much they wanted to (justifiably) kill their nearest and dearest.

The wish to kill oneself is what Marion Woodman would call, ‘concretisation’, doing on the outside what needs to happen on the inside, doing in the flesh what needs to happen in the psyche, making a symbolic equation between matter and identity. We mistake the pointing finger for the moon and believe it is ourselves that have to die rather than our situation, our self-construct, or a belief system that no longer serves.

”Without dying to the world of the old order, there is no place for renewal, because it is illusory to hope that growth is but an additive process requiring neither sacrifice nor death. The soul favors the death experience to usher in change. Veiwed this way, the suicidal impulse is a transformative drive..”            James Hillman.

There’s an old buddhist saying,..

”if you are going to kill yourself be careful not to harm your body.” anon.

The dying has to happen, by itself, from within. This is trixy for anyone with humungous control issues. In fact, you could say that suicide was a way of trying to cheat death itself by taking on the job ahead of time, when what life you have, when death itself, cannot be something to look forward to as meaningful experience. Suicide is a logical choice of any life lived purely for its own ends and for whom there is no mystery.

On page one of a Google search on the subject you will find‎ whose banner runs..

‘Do not try to predict the future,’

It’s an insightful warning to those in their legion whose narcissistic control issues are so enfragiled that they have to know what’s happening next all the time, even to the point of orchestrating their own demise.

‘Live as though you had centuries, then you live hopefully.’ C. G.Jung

We all intuit that there is more to this life than meets the eye, some mystery that the mind cannot fathom, some sense of self that lies outside time and space, unconstrained by the clay of mortal frailty. We have a longing to be aquainted with this realm and can be tempted to hurry the process for want of being fed in ‘this’ world,  forgetting that anything existing outside time and space is, by definition, already here….

The longing to escape is the longing to find meaning irrespective of one’s circumstance and station, meaning which the ego realises it cannot provide for itself, in which it is defeated, but of which it can avail itself by turning, finally, to its own deep roots.

You are the tree not the leaf.

There is an apocryphal story of a Rabbi and his group picked out for torture before death in the Nazi camps. They finally had to dig the pit of their own mass grave. They were stripped and thrown in. Soldiers stepped forward cocking automatic Shmeisers.

‘Well’, said the captain, what have you to say now Rabbi?

The Rabbi replied, ‘ We have one another down here, I am in the bossom of my People and already in the arms of Eternal Life. What about you?’

this article is adapted from my book on self-destructiveness, ‘Going Mad to Stay Sane.’


The Snake Prince.

There was once a likeable Prince whose wicked step-father stole his crown and banished him to the Furthest-Corner-of-the-Kingdom without any of his stuff. Every year the Prince had to travel to the Evil Castle and pay the step-King tribute, confirming him as the rightful ruler of the land.

One year, in the midst of festivities honouring His Greatness, the Prince slipped like a shadow into the King’s private apartments without really knowing why and took a medium sized Glittery from the royal jewellery case. Without specifically noticing what he was about, he put it in his pocket, sidetracked as he was by the reasoning that it was the least owed to him. Without thinking too much more about it, he rejoined the party. From the shadows, the wicked King looked on and smiled.

On the way home to the Furthest-Corner-of-the-Kingdom, the Prince began to feel ill. He got bad-tempered and compained about everything. The road was too bumpy. The days were too hot. The nights, too cold. Nothing and nobody could get it right.

and, I’ve got a headache.

Things deteriorated further once he returned. His archery was off. Riding in the country gave no pleasure. He had a run of bad luck at cards. Pizza had become more appealing than healthy greens. Something was amiss.

oh, and a tail.

Eventually, once his tail simply couldn’t be hid, he called for all the Wisest Healers in those lands over which he still held sway..

er, down to the next village…

Aaall the Healers in the land I say, but no-one could help him, not even Granny Troth’s goose fat rubbing linament and the People began to mutter that maybe he hadn’t been overthrown enough.

Early one morning, an old lady who smelled of the Forest came and knocked at his door. On her shoulder sat a magpie with a beady yellow eye. As soon as the door was ajar it flew in and began a strange dance on the kitchen table.

‘George indicates the presence of some dark magic,’ said the Crone and straightway the Prince fetched the Glittery out of the table drawer where he had hidden it. She prodded it with her stick whilst he told her what happened.

‘Waaal’, she said, after an eon of princely tail-shuffling silence, ‘you can’t oppose him by becoming like him. That will certainly make you ill. But more importantly, this thing has juju on it. Magic. It has the meaning of you accepting that your crown is lost. It causes you to lose your strength of purpose, to forget who you are, to be satisfied with consumption. The Glittery must go back and you must address the loss of your crown in a more direct way.’

”But I was only trying to teach him a lesson,” squirmed the Prince.

‘More’s the problem,’ quoth the Crone, plumping herself down into the comfiest chair she could find. ‘If only you had been motivated by greed or vengeance. But no, you want to teach him something. Its an act of charity, a hair shirt hope, not for your crown or your destiny, but for his redemption. As if you had such power… whilst at one and the same time slowly becoming the wretch he takes you for. How faithful you have been….’

”But the value of the Glittery is so small compared to the Crown…”

Conscience doesn’t discriminate, Prince. Nor does it care what we sell ourselves out for. You tried to ease the tension of the King’s betrayal by betraying yourself. You joined his game, this person you hate, and found a way to be less than you are. So your true Self will ever snap at your heels and sabotage your efforts, creep up on you as symptom, ailment and adverse event.’

”Are you saying I’ll get my legs and my crown back if I return the Glittery?”

‘No, but your head might clear sufficiently to be your own man..’

The Prince nodded and cried a bit..

George swooped off with the Glittery in the direction of the Evil Castle. When he arrived there he paused on the ramparts and waited. A puff of glinting black. He waited and waited and waited.

When all was dark and silent, George flew down into the wicked King’s bedchamber where he slept and tossed and snored. He landed in dreadful silence upon the pillow. Another moment and George popped the Glittery into the King’s open mouth so that he choked horribly, wretching and clawing for air before dying in spectacular writhing agony on the expensive, imported, Byzantine floor.

George did a different kind of dance on the kitchen table when he returned. The old lady nodded to herself, kissed the Prince on the forehead and trundled off, back into the Forest.

This is not a moral tale.

Its about how we manage loss and growth.

The Prince tries to draw a veil over his suffering by justifying an act that places him above Natural Law wherein the legitimate grief of his dethronement lies. He retreates from himself into an identification with his aggressor. He concretises his wish to be excused from life’s knotty problems in the Glittery which will some how magically make his situation better. As if the loss of his crown could be compensated.

Individuation doesn’t want to be either inflated or let off the hook like this. If we do not tread the razors edge between them it will inflict us with poetic symptoms instead, like the Prince’s snake tail.

”Psychologically the serpent is the principle of gnosis, knowledge or emerging consciousness. The serpent represents the urge to self-realization in man & symbolizes the principle of individuation.” Edward Edinger

The Prince numbs himself to his loss with the mesmerising Glittery which has the symbolic value of affording him immunity from life. But its revenge is to turn him into a cold-blooded consumer.

This wish to be above the law is endemic in our culture. Its what gives us the driven quality so obvious to Indigenous People. It is the end towards which we place so much effort in social climbing and amassing of trinkets which testify just how far above the law we have risen.

We have plenty of schooling in this. It even has biblical approval. Cain got to be above the Laws of inheritance. David’s abduction of Bathsheba placed him above the Laws of marrriage. Nebuchadnezzer is driven insane by Yahweh and made to eat grass for seven years on account of his wanting to be above the Laws of governance, yet all these men are pretty much let off the hook because of their faithfullness to the lord.

The earthly dimension of this is that the closer you are to centralised power, with the suits and gizmos to prove it, the more immune you are from constraint. We’ve even begun to equate it with freedom itself. There are many levels of such immunity, all the way from being able to shrug off a ticket because you are a local and know the policeman’s family, through being able to afford legal representation, to bribing Congress..

er, I mean, making hefty charitable donations.

This power to shrug off constraints that would bind and bring down Others is what motivates much Western striving. The irony is that the developmental stage typified by much throwing of oneself about and being excused the rules that govern other family members is early childhood. We aspire to be regressed. We still want the Glittery that will make the feeling of being cheated go away. We still yearn for ‘the lap of luxury’ which is not as much about goodies as it is about not having to answer the phone and having everything taken care of.

But for as long as we pursue the Glittery or aspire to it, nothing can change in our lives. Soon we are thrown into crisis, the unconscious guilt, the toothsome failure to live,  manifesting in the external world as divisiveness and bad luck.

I was walking in the woods on a lovely warm February morning. It was a wonderful sunny day. I met someone walking the other way and commented on our good fortune.

‘May as well make the most of it.” said he, managing, not only to fail entirely in gratitude, but to be defensive, petulant and slightly short changed about this marvellous day into the bargain. No day could be bright enough for him to feel that he had not still some how been cheated.

And he probably had…

..of some birthright,..

long ago.

Tyranny and Spiritual Growth.

Perhaps, without poor leadership, we’d just get fat and lazy. The individuation process does somewhat depend on us being pitched into adversity. A Gnostic saying goes..

”there is good and there is bad and that is good’..

life is comfortable during the good times and you grow quickly during the bad.

Sometimes, people are no more than a-bit-peeved at their leader’s frantic efforts to accomodate this need to grow, for which he is a catalyst and for which unconscious reason he comes to power.

Under chiefs, even bad ones, you have ceremonial ritual, with the transforming power to contain and direct intense feeling. Under tyrant/kings you have a different incarnation of that initiatory archetype, Demonstration, which  has this same power to transform consciousness..

though perhaps with added broken windows.

The Peeved are allowed some expression of their annoyance at leadership’s failure to carry the projection of saviour and ultimate rescuer, without it leading to change or upsetting the status quo too much. Its said that Narcissists have ‘reduced feeling’, as though it were some side-effect, but what if this is the goal of Narcissism rather than a mere symptom….? What if ‘failure to learn from experience’, were actually refusal to learn from experience, a goal….?

And why? Because refusing to learn from experience magically stops the world from turning. Feeling is what evokes consciousness and transformation. The Narcissist is heavily invested in preventing change, like the lost boys in Peter Pan who live outside time in Neverland and don’t grow up.

The deflating world is dismissed with his contemptuous, ‘flattened affect’. Change can’t occur because authentic feelings are disallowed, a survival strategy from childhood used to exploit in adulthood. How powerful, to be the only one in the room not wracked with doubt.

Freedom of expression is trixy for the tyrant, whether in government or in relationship,  because its about the authentic expression of feeling which evokes consciousness of a person’s situation, and the last thing required by anyone invested in power is for people to become aware of themselves. Stick to being Peeved, the transforming energy of emotion, lost, swilled away.

Nor are we unequivocal in giving ourselves a voice. The passionate expression of feelings are disruptive to our own sense of self as well as to society because they awaken as well as inflame.

The visceral response is where you find out what you really stand for, who you really are and what you really care about. What strikes you to your core is a reminder that you have one.

”Emotion is where steel meets flint and a spark is struck forth, for emotion is the chief source of consciousness.” CG Jung.

So feeling and consciousness go together. Jung even conflated the terms and spoke about feeling/values. Its why the alchemists insisted that the seeker be emotionally involved with the chymical experiments and keep the fire, the emotional heat, well lit under the alembic.

Feelings often lead straight to some sort of creative process which also pounds identity on its anvil, inseparable as it is ..

”from the capacity for awe and wonder and from the courage to be genuinely available to any kind of experience however unfamiliar, new, bewildering or unknowable it may be.” Rosemary Gordon.

Sometimes a creative response to a feeling can be entirely life changing which is why the church is averse to our getting over-excited or leaping about.

A very elderly lady came to see me worried that she was going mad. What happened was that she was in the kitchen of her farm house when she become overwhelmed by a feeling of danger threatening her grandson and rushed down to the barn where he was working, to discover him unconscious having just been struck by a falling piece of timber.

She was a rational person. How could this happen? Suddenly her paradigm had a glaring anomaly which..

”violated deeply entrenched expectations.”  T. Kuhn

She couldn’t accept her own experience. We spoke at length about the many things that happen outside of comprehension and though unnerved she seemed somewhat reassured over the next weeks that she wasn’t simply crazy.

Strangely, I was driving in the area some months later. Suddenly I became intensely concerned for her welfare. So I drove over to her house where I found her in the kitchen, immobilised with a twisted ankle.

We laughed all the way to the hospital.

Reawakened feeling is the most powerful response to tyranny because it brings with it, as if from the depths, the Principle of Relatedness, embodied belonging, which connects people in a way that is impervious to all corruption.



The boy who wanted to know Fear.

Some post-doctoral research has recently been done titled, ‘Reconditioning the brain to Overcome Fear.   ”

How scary is that? I don’t fancy being reconditioned. I like me the way I am, warts and all , some of which has been shot at, stabbed and incarcerated. What I really hate is folk trying to get into my soft mushy parts with the AI equivalent of a monkey wrench.

We seem to have forgotten what fear is for.

A story that exemplifies this is, ‘The boy who wanted to know Fear’, or, ‘The boy who wanted to Shudder”.

A man had two sons. The eldest was smart. The youngest was supposedly stupid and made to feel the more so when he expressed as his deepest wish to learn how to shudder. His father and elder brother mock him and turn him out to seek his ‘foolish’ quest.

He spends a night beneath hanged men whom he tries to warm by his fire. He kicks the local sexton down the stairs who’d dressed up as a ghost in the attempt to frighten him. He plays with and kills ghostly cats and dogs that attack him. He plays skittles with skulls and ninepin bones. Corpses revive and try to choke him… Nothing works.

Finally he marries the king’s daughter because of all this ‘courage’. She, on the advice of her chambermaid, fetches a cold bucket of water from the stream full of tiny wriggling minnows and soaks him while he sleeps. At last he learns how to shudder.

The story suggests that there is something about fear that is necessary to human development, that to know fear is a kind of quest.

”Whoever has learned to be anxious in the right way has learned the ultimate.” Kierkegaard.

The obvious bit is that fear warns us of danger. It flags up our fight or flight response. It reprioritises. And if its spiders that scare its  because we’ve already ‘reconditioned’ ourselves not to be afraid of some legitimate childhood horror and  have had to crush authentic being for the sake of going-on-being, an effective strategy that manages to project and concretise undigestible experience.

Our story says that there is something essential about fear, and not just of circumstantial things, but also of objectless…

”…anxiety from below, calling out to each one of us concerning our very being. Learning to be anxious in the right way will involve coming into dialogue with this messenger.” A.S. Soderquist.

The process of growing up means an encounter with the Other, with Not-me. Both the Not-Me out there in the world and the Not-Me in ‘here’, that wells up from beneath, that informs while we sleep, that leaves its trail all through your backyard.

”He who seeks, let him not cease seeking until he finds; and when he finds he will be troubled.” Gnostic gospel of Thomas.

The plague of psychological enquiry is its insistence on trying to understand. Jung himself confessed to..

”..wanting to understand above all else.”

which, given the vastness of the Unconscious, is a bit like being captured by a fascination for cream crackers at a gourmet dinner. All in lieu of the spine tingling realisation that what you are looking for is also looking for you… and won’t be understood precisely because it transcends comprehension.

”It is the duty of the human understanding to understand that there are things which it cannot understand.” S. Kirkeggard.

Which is why characters from the bible are always in mighty dread of one form or another and Arjuna from the Bhagavad Gita begs Vishnu to hide his true face.

”When I see you touching the sky, blazing with many colours, with large fiery eyes, my heart trembles in fear and I can find neither courage nor peace. Be gracious, O Abode of the Universe.”

In the Grail legend we find Lancelot attracted to a room in the castle from which emanates a bright glow. He sees the holy vessel on a silver table, approaches too close and is scalded by a hot wind that stikes him deaf, blind and paralysed for twenty four hours.

So there is something intrinsically scary, something awe-ful, about encounter with Not-Me, and not simply because its bigger than us but because we are changed in the process.

”The hallmark of the transpersonal is that it acts upon us.” S. B-Perrera.

Our hero is not initiated into trepidation by his father, who both fails and rejects him. The contempt of this father is thinly based hostility at the boy wanting his own destiny. Its also the inheritance of a social model based on kingship where father/son relations are mared by power struggles you don’t find in societies that have chiefs.

In modern times we may not resort to the excesses of Edward the third who stuck a red hot poker up his dad’s bum, or even an Abraham willing to slit his son’s throat cos god told him to, but we have ‘lost’ the initiation of sons by their fathers which might better manage life’s fears and prevent us from approaching fear as if it were synonymous with illness.

I went to see my analyst once, shoulders hunched and all sorry for myself, ”I feel so disillusioned, ” I proclaimed. He hesitated a bit and then said, ‘..but that’s a good thing.”

Learning the meaning of fear is essential to resolving any narcissistic adaptation. Fortunately for our hero he realises this and goes looking in the world for what his father cannot provide.

The DSM specifically mentions this curious absence of fear in the Narcissistic personality. The reason is that the Narcissist hasn’t yet had the initiatory encounter with Otherness. Everything is an extension of his world. So there is no loss, abandonent or death. He has yet to experience what Fordham calls ‘de-integration’, the structural unbundling of the Self that is encounter with any altering Other. Jung was fond of saying that good therapy is when the analyst is changed as well….

Our hero does not learn how to shudder from his own efforts. He’s even asleep at the time. But his longing to discover the secret brings him into relatedness with his wife and the ‘Nursemaid’ who sees what is needed and kindly rains on his parade. This sudden awakening is rude and unexpected. It can’t be otherwise since what’s at stake is a paradigm shift in consciousness from self-as-centre to being one-amongst-many, the psychological equivalent of Galileo’s shock that the earth revolves around the sun and not the other way around.

Such realisations are bound to be resisted even while we do our best to enquire into them because of the ground breaking consequences to our perception of reality that is involved. So if you feel stuck you might cut yourself a little slack. Growing is a scary business.

And anyway what could two PhD’s in Engineering and Telecommunications do with research that suppressed fear? I mean, other than weaponise it….

How scary…





There is something compelling about people scribbling in the margins of their own books. Its as though it were some disavowed part of the narrative that still somehow managed to make it onto the page. Its only partially conscious, very private, something that both wants and does not want to be known.

Which is why people collect Marginalia. They are brief, potentially voyeristic glimpses into private space. Some trickster at work serves to reveal a deeper, more intimate, contrary struggle with post hoc content otherwise denied the light of day.

More interesting still is the annotation of lawbooks, since what is consigned to the fringes of the page is also liable to be relegated to the fringes of civil liberty. And when this phenomena occurs around the making of laws that pertain to human freedoms we’re obliged to sit up and take notice.

In June last year the American President signed the National Defense Authorisation Act which contained a tiny section of just a few paragraphs waaay at the back giving him the powers to detain whom he liked indefinately and without trial. Yes, you can now officially disappear without recourse to due process. America, the land of the free, made itself less free.

This in itself is a puzzle, but what the President wrote in the margin next to article 1020 and 1021, which effectively placed him beyond the law and all accountability is scarier still. Next to the provision made to do away with anyone he chose, the President wrote in the margin,

”this is a terrible power and I promise never to use it”. B. Obama.

Critics made the obvious point that..

”Any president who says a power is so terrible he’s not going to use it should not be on the books”. R Paul.

But party politics and what ‘should’ have happened aside for a moment, what’s interesting psychologically is that this happened at all.

The most powerful man in the world has even further powers seemingly thrust upon him.  These powers place him above the law. He knows that it is unconstitutional, so much so, that he cannot agree to it. And yet he signs it, which is to agree with it. So the document contains two signatures, one bringing unprecedented centralised power into effect that can only erode civil liberty and another signature disclaiming and denouncing it. The irony is his refusal to be accountable for signing the law is then protected by the law he just signed.

But the most curious and interesting part of all this is that it happened without a whisper… There were no barking dogs. You would expect people to go crazy but nothing happened, all of which suggests a number of things….

Firstly, that freedom is not all its cracked up to be and that despotic powers somehow serve an as yet unaddressed aspect of our collective psyche, that deep down we are deeply divided about the burden of freedom…

”Modern man still is anxious and tempted to surrender his freedom to dictators of all kinds, or to lose it by transforming himself into a small cog in the machine, well fed, and well clothed, yet not a free man but an automaton.”  E. Fromm.

Given how highly we value our freedom is it not incumbent on us to ask how easily we give it away? How easily we accept that scrawl in the margin, the mind bending cognitive dissonance, a double message which impacts on the most basic of our human freedoms like a 3am cudgel at the door…

trick or treat..

without even making the morning papers…

Its said that we get the leaders we deserve which suggests we are not unequivocal in our desire for freedom. The fact is that the tyrant offers his oppressed people two great gifts, the route of least resistance in that you need accomplish no more, and by identifying with him, also being above the law.

Aren’t we clever!

In fact there is something of a tradition in Western Civilisation for leaders to be above the law. The Pope is infallible. The Queen of England can’t be arrested. Any number of petty officials regularly claim diplomatic immunity from their misdeeds and politicians make laws to protect them from prosecution…

and all at the same time as you and I are made subject to other laws which say we can be spirited away forever without so much as a ‘by your leave’.

What gives? What does it symbolise? On the one hand we relentlessly pursue status, on the other, we give away the freedom that seems to come with it. It doesn’t make sense, until you consider the unconscious factors involved.

People will tolerate loss of freedom if they are allowed to identify with celebrity others and experience life’s fruits vicariously. We don’t miss or feel the loss of our freedom because we’ve already been persuaded to give it away to some public figure or life style which then seems to have it all. The Self is projected onto an outer figure who must now fascinate and intrigue. The fact that you can now be carted off in the dead of night never to be seen again is ofset in the margins of selfhood by secretly aspiring to be above the law ourselves.

Which is a bit like wishing to still be baby, protected and in-arms, where nothing applies to you and everything comfortably….. is.

Damage at this stage of development is endemic in the West, which struggles so to touch and hold, who’ve even lost the longing for it except in its symbolic, concretised and compulsive form. Western Civilisation has a borderline personality disorder. The kind of disorder that is perfectly comfortable with split reality and double think. Even our holy book is split into halves so incommensurable that there was an early Christian movement, Marcionism, which argued the gods of Old and New Testament had to be different.

All gone now..

killed for their own good.

One of the defining characteristics of the borderline personality according to DSM 5 is prone to , ‘dissociative states under stress.’  In other words where opposing things can concur without conflict. The toublesome trait is deposited in another, or on a people, or in the margins of history, one’s own inner contradiction acted out in lieu of integration.

So as not to play favourites, the current President has had a brush with Marginalia himself. On the 11/1/17 he held a brief press conference garnished with documents purported to be legalese signing over his business interests to his sons. Trevor Noah on the Daily Show was sharp enough to notice that all the sheets were blank. Nothing in the margin and nothing inside. If it were a dream, what would it mean?

The Hedge and the Stone Stile.

Much corporate greed, corrupt officials and institutionalised racism can be ascribed to the pathological narcissism that typifies consumer culture but there is more at work than this and it deserves exploring. Anxious accumulation of stuff you don’t need is for more than the vain attempt to fill an inner vacuum. It is also a pressure bandage over a form of psychic hemorrhaging endemic in western society that is little discussed. Borderline Personality Disorder.

We’ll be helped by looking at the different ways people manage the transition between what the Gnostic tradition calls ‘hylics’ and ‘psychics’. The Gnostics were entirely disinterested in race, creed or gender. According to them, whoever your god happened to be, there were three distinct types of people, that represented specific stages of consciousness.

The first was the ‘Hylic’, from the Greek word hyle meaning, ‘matter’, but also the hyle, the covering on a grain of wheat, the dry husk that is winnowed away as chafe.

The Hylic person is what we might call narcissistic. They value the hyle, the covering, the glamorous image, the route of least resistance..

”One may say of him that he lets himself live, rather than that he lives. He takes life as it comes and does not worry about the problems of its meaning, its worth or its purpose. He devotes himself to the satisfaction of his personal desires and ambitions.” R. Assagioli.

He may make religious observances, but its a form of going through the motions. He finds it almost impossible to reflect upon things because he only has one point of veiw. There is not enough Self for inner diversity. I cannot talk to me. And because there is no substantial sense of self neither can there be any real sense of other. He is ‘One Dimensional Man’.

”People recognise themseves in their commodities. They find their soul in their automobile, their hi-fi set, their split-level home, kitchen equipment.” H. Marcuse.

Sometimes the hylic person can seem very dynamic and motivated. They can seem brave and fearless, but its often that there is not enough sense of self to guage risk or comprehend loss. The stakes are only realised across the threshold into the second larval stage, the ‘psychic’, which is characterised by the awareness and acceptance not just of others in their own right, but of the inner other, the otherness of oneself personified by the Unconscious. The world is no longer what I know of it.

But this expansive transition poses a problem. The threshold from hylic to psychic, or if you prefer from pre-reflective living to ego identity, is hampered and characterised by shame, the inevitable experience of oneself as another’s object. Part of the deal with self-knowledge is that it come’s with other people’s perspectives.

”Shame is by nature recognition. I realise I am as the other sees me. J. P. Sartre

So the hylic has to give up his omnipotence, allow for deflation and being one-amongst-many and weather the shame which…

”..forces into awareness some aspect of oneself that one had not realised, thereby enlarging identity. ” P. Wright.

But the feeling of healthy shame that allows us to grow can be felt as crushing if the child’s world is already imbued with shame, particularly at its efforts to be its own person, and so the hylic child might well shy away from this developmental hurdle preferring to stay in part fusion with mother and collective dogma, like Pinnochio’s wish to be a real boy despite his predeliction for a grey area between truth and falsehood.

Its said of the narcissist that he’s a pathalogical liar but that’s paying him the compliment of knowing better. Sifting truth from fiction requires ego strength he doesn’t have. I recall my five year old brother proudly announcing to my mother that he’d taken ten pounds from her purse but that it wasn’t stealing because he had swopped it with the boy next door who’d done the same. He was aggrieved not to get away with it but learned an important lesson in mine and thine which served to tip him into the real world.

Surviving the crisis of this transition is a real accomplishment. The origin of the word ‘Hag’, comes from the German for hedge and describes a person who can straddle the garden hedge so to speak and have a foot in two worlds, both the cultivated garden of ego consciousness and in the wilderness beyond. The hag was therefor the wise woman of the village. She knew stuff. She understood dreams. She read signs and had….companions.

But straddling the fence is an art form few of us make first time around or in a single bound. We get stuck in the hedge one way or another and wind up feeling that we don’t belong in either world, especially if your welly is wedged in some thorny privet and you’re all hooked up on barbed wire from which you are hemorrhaging like a bitch.

Bear in mind that if you are all caught up in the hedge you are also liable to be at the mercy of whoever, or whatever, may happen by, a situation in which paranoid anxiety might be an appropriate response not to mention the millenial apathy of borderline disorders which is bound to accompany hedge phenomenon typified by the long snooze of Sleeping Beauty, who’s got terrible hedge trouble.

The story of Sleeping Beauty is useful because it reminds us what is at the back of borderline entanglements, Thetis, the dark mother and more importantly, the uninvited guest at the princess’ earlier celebration. Whereas the narcissist idealizes himself, because that is all he has, the borderline personality, who has been at least partially initiated into the world by her ejection from the nest, defensively idealises others and lurches from crisis to emotional crisis as the shadow of each returns to roost , sinking into listlessness as each ideal crashes down..

Collectively we do this with royalty and celebrity. We project onto them our inner nobility and ideals which is not only bound to disappoint but has an enervating, depleting effect on consciousness which requires further shoring up. We also do it with partners upon whom are foisted impossible expectations that must both fail and prevent intimacy.

”Transforming this deadness requires the recovery of the imagination..” S-Salant

from the idealised other…

call it taking back your power.

for me it was cutting through the family myth that my mother was the one true artist in the family and realising that I am an artist in my own right, though not without much shaming for ‘failing’ to pursue my ascribed career.

”Healing requires recapturing the earlier mytho-poetic state in its imaginal essence.” ibid

taking refuge in the garden, regressing to find meaning in the stuckness, compulsiveness and addiction that attends pathological shaming not just for being other but for being the wrong kind of other..

The borderline person has issues with real or imagined abandonment because they really have been…

”the borderline is in limbo between two ways of experiencing the world. They have been prematurely thrust out of magical space.” ibid.

and so they get all caught up in the hedge because they were not really big enough to jump it when they were made to try.

Hedge splayed Borderline is a bit of a mess because there are always two things going on at the same time. He’s excrusiatingly aware of the Other whilst ignoring them entirely. I hate you don’t leave me.

which can be wearing…

but he has at least tackled the hedge.. and you might say that a plaguing preoccupation was preferable to cut-off disinterest.

The narcissist never makes it from the garden. He has no empathy because nothing and nobody really exists beyond the hedge unless they are inferiors there to enviously attack him.

and though he gets to be right all the time and way more presentable than the  chaotic ball of contradictory twine, the borderline does at least know that he can be really shitty, as well as not. The urgent bit is that he’s emotionaly bleeding from all the stabbing of intrusive otherness and is trying to staunch the gash without looking at the wound, which is trixy..

He might spend a life-time needing billions of dollars and endless stuff or just whatever drama he can manufacture to jam into it instead. Ongoing fueds, petty hatreds, some scandal. Sometimes, when animals are disembowled in a fight or by some mishap, they stuff their wounds with clods of earth and leaves. We do it with aspiring to be someone other, someone more successful, with more stuff, to stuff.

Most of us have to have several goes at the Hedge, if we try at all, before we can have a foot easily in both civilised and wild parts of themselves like the Hag who still had a way to go herself. See, the wily gnostics went further still, to the very great annoyance of those for whom the reality of the Gods was quite scary enough,

an’ got even more poetic…

show him the instuments!

…because there was also a third stage, the ‘pneumatic’, a stone stile in the hedge, going nowhere, doing nothing, a still point around which both native and cultured species grew. Marigolds and lettuce on one side, honeysuckle and ragwort on the other, all  happening about an axis which is neither.

The first time it occured to me that the gods themselves were satellites of consciousness, my hand went involuntarily to my mouth, as though I had just commited a great blasphemy..