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/



Teachings from Thomas.

The Gospel of Thomas was buried in the desert at Nag Hammadi along with other sacred texts by gnostic monks fleeing persecution. They were hidden for safekeeping, in the hope that someone of their number would survive the wrath of powers already Orthodox and Deadly by the fifth century;  not averse to giving any-one they didn’t like the chop.

None returned, though the books themselves…

”lay unmolested until such a time as the established Churches lost the power to be able to subdue them.”  H. MacGregor Ross.

They were discovered ‘accidentally’ by someone who thought to himself, in all the vastness of the unforgiving desert, that this particularly parched and arid spot looked like a perfect place to do a bit of a recreational digging…

in 45* of desert heat.

Curiously the book itself is about persecution, the persecution of ourselves and how this leads to our treatment of one another. It also tells us quite explicitly how to resolve this….

and it doesn’t involve being good.

which is why the church wanted to get their hands on it.

These undisturbed ‘logia’, straight from the mouth of the Master, are undoctored by millenia of fiddling kings. And they record, in typical Gnostic style, just how entirely dismissive he was of the Establishment.

”Grapes are not harvested from thorn trees, nor are figs gathered from thistles.” logia 45

sometimes he’s a bit less polite..

”for they are like dogs in the manger for neither does he eat nor does he allow the oxen to eat.” logia 102

and sometimes, plain insurrectionist..

”I will overturn this house… logia 71.

But what really made the Church at the time want to kill him and the Church that then bore his name to twist the story into such a butchered parody, is what he has to say about sin and redemption, the mere thought of which would quickly have had him roasting over an Inquisitional fire had they been around at the time.

He doesn’t even want us to be sorry..

”Do not lie and do not do what you hate.” logia 6.

His philosophy (philo-Sophia) is not about imposed morality, or sanctioning behaviour, or codified law. Be square with yourself and with the Image, the Other, within.

At-one-ment, right now.

and so buying your way into a future heaven on the basis of good behaviour becomes laughably like prisoners applying for parole..

‘If those who guide your Being say to you, ‘behold, the Kingdom is in the heavens, then the birds of the sky will precede you.’ logia 3

no-where to go, nothing to do…

”The Kingdom is in your centre, and it is about you.’ logia 3 

It turns out that redemption is not only available without having to weigh your sins in the balance or having to go to church on Sunday. It is actually more a matter of fulfilling your own destiny, of living out your undivided potential, whatever it is..

”If you bring out what is inside you, what is inside you will save you. If you do not bring out what is inside you, what is inside you will kill you.’ logia 70

Sin is then the failure to become oneself,

They said to him ‘let us pray today and let us fast!’  Jesus said, ‘what is the sin that I have committed or in what have I been overcome? When the bridegroom comes forth from the bridegrooms chamber, then let them fast and let them pray’. logia 104

According to the uncensored Jesus, the Kingdom of Heaven is attained by resolving inner dividedness…

”If two make peace with each other in this single house they will say to the mountain ‘move’ and it shall move. logia 48

There is no gaining of favour, no propitiation, no sacrifice, no prayer, no offering, no special diet, since this in itself already creates a world of divisions between one thing and another and therefor misses the point. Rather we have to turn to the Image within, unmediated by any prejudice or external opinion and try to digest its import without being swallowed up in turn.

”Happy is the lion which the man will eat… and abominated is the man whom the lion will eat.” logia 7

This means that we must take everything as it comes and experience our circumstances as independant of  salvation. To favour one set of circumstances over another is just to go back into division. So when someone from the crowd shouts out to him..

”fortunate is the womb that bore you and the breasts that suckled you…”

he replies..

”There will be days when you say fortunate is the womb that did not conceive.’ logia 79

Jesus is pointing to what alchemists centuries later would call Unus Mundus, One World, a coniunctio oppositorium, the collapse of Division in on itself from contradiction into paradox, atonement but with a hint of death since the experience of the Image within is always deflating, crucifying.

”A death blow is a life blow to some, who till they died did not alive become. Who , had they lived did most surely die, but when they died – vitality began.” Emily Dickinson.

The death blow is the bloodied nose of ego realising it isn’t king of its own castle but it is also the end of division, of alienation from Self and others.

Its as if we are three and bickering when suddenly a competent adult steps into the room and calmly takes charge. And that person is you.

Division on a collective scale is at its most evident in our war-mongering but there is an aspect of modern atrocity that deserves special mention. The body counts and broken buildings are all too evident and its that which catches our attention. Less obvious but at the core of Western alienation is that we just don’t care.

Descendants of the survivors of the the Armenian holocaust, a genocide of 1.5 million people just a century ago, all say that preventing this terrible catastrophe from slipping into historical obscurity is a full time job. No-one wants to know. There are only 22 nations that acknowledge it even happened. The US is not among them.

So why all the denial?

You would think that given that the Armenians were Christians savagely killed by Muslim extremists that Western allies were at war with at the time, would be all the excuse needed to impliment, forever, the overt foreign policy of unashamed war profiteering our civilisation covertly enjoys.

But the true horror of this  genocide was in the silence that accompanied it.

No-one went to help them. We didn’t care enough to intervene. And that’s why no-one talks about it. Because its a massive blot on our collective conscience. To think that one and a half million lives came second to diplomatic manouvering that resulted in European powers actively voting against intervention on behalf of the Armenians, out of the concern that it would increase Russia’s influence in the region is just appalling. It’s inhuman.

‘…abominated is the man whom the lion will eat.” logia 7

Psychologically, when we split ourselves in order to identify with one polished corner of the p;syche we are bound to see our demons out in the world that then gives us riteous leave to regress, to do as we please, or to do nothing.

Consumers become the consumed..

And so we can suck our teeth and say isn’t it terrible what we failed to do a hundred years ago. Weren’t our forebears awful? Feeling all pimped for our piety forgetting that right now exactly the same thing is going on in Yemen. An entire people are being starved to death by Western backed blockades and arms deals.

It’s allowed.


Because folk are too divided to care..

‘On the day you were One you created the two, but then being two, what will you do?’ logia 11.

The divisions are endless, race, creed, dogma. But they’re inner divisions too, from our own shadows, from the inner image, from the mediation of the Divine Feminine.

‘for my mother has begotten me, but my true Mother gave me life.’ logia 101

and so whilst its true that we have to  stomach for just how much inner division and lethargy actually exists, so too does it seem to be the inevitable consequence of a culture that is not simply plagued with the unbridgeable tif between Yahweh and Lucifer, nor even the ugly divorce scene between Him and..




..but that the split within his own psyche between Old and New Testament is diagnostically scary because Gods, like people, tend to regress when they are under pressure. And Yahweh is not a pretty sight when he’s in his terrible twos.

What can we do?

Name what is going on.

‘happy is the man who knows when and where robbers will creep in, so that he will arise and gather strength and prepare for action before they come.’ logia 103

M. L. von Franz gives the example of telling herself that the book she was writing was a load of rubbish and should be abandoned. After some while she realised that she didn’t think that at all, but that something very persuasive, yet hidden inside her, really did.

When your robber arrives sit him down and ask him what he wants. Remember to be polite.

The White Snake.

Once upon a time there lived a king who seemed terribly wise. Nothing happened that he did not know about. It was as though he heard all the news of the land in the wind.

This king had a strange custom. Every evening a secret dish would be bought to him at dinner that no-one could see him eat. Even his trusted servant didn’t know what it was though one night he could not contain his curiosity. He took the covered remains of the dish to his room and had a peek. The dish was a white snake which the king had only nibbled at.

The now not-so-faithful servant took a nibble himself and suddenly he heard a great chattering outside his window. Two sparrows were in great discussion of all the things they had seen in the woods and fields. He could understand every word. The morsel of white snake had given him the power to understand the language of animals.

On that very same day the queen lost her ring. The poor servant was the first to come under suspicion and was compelled either to produce the thief or be executed. He went down into the courtyard in despair and while he wondered what on earth to do he everheard two ducks having some conversation..

‘Oh my stomach feels rough,’ said the one, ‘I guzzled up the queen’s ring by mistake after she dropped it into the moat from her window.’

Immediatly the servant grabbed the duck and took it to Cook who served it to the queen and the ring was discovered. The servant was offered a great reward but settled for a horse and some provisions to go a-wandering.

One day he saw three fishes stuck in reeds at the bank of a river. Feeling their plight and hearing their distress he freed them. ‘We will remember and repay you,’ they said.

Further on he heard a tiny voice complaining at the horse’s heavy feet and looked down to see the Ant King lamenting his people being crushed. So the servant moved his horse to the side of the road. ‘We will remember and repay you,’ said the Ant King.

Further still he came across three raven chicks that had been rejected from the nest. Their hungry crying was so piteous that he killed his horse and fed it to them.

‘We will remember and repay you,’ they said.

Now he had to use his own legs and eventually arrived at the walls of a great city where he heard it announced that the Princess there would marry whoever could perform a task of great difficulty devised by her father, the king. The servant immediatley volunteered though his heart sank when he saw that the task was, to fetch up a gold coin thrown into the sea. He sat on the shore lamenting when suddenly the three fishes he’d saved showed their heads.

‘We said we’d help you,’ they said and spat the coin onto the shingle.

But the princess wasn’t happy. She spread eight bushels of millet over a field and demanded he collect them all up by dawn. The servant despaired over the impossibility of it all and just waited for dawn and death, but when the dawn came the job was done.

‘We said we’d help you,’ said Ant King.

The Princess was impressed but not enough to stop wanting to kill him. She gave him one final and ridiculously impossible task, to fetch an apple from the Tree of Life at the End-of-the-World.

Our languishing servant sets off and wanders through three kingdoms looking for the Tree as best he could but to no avail. Eventually he collapses, exhausted, by a stream and settles down to sleep. He hears a rustling in the branches and a golden apple falls into his hands. Three ravens fluttered down..

‘We said we’d help you,’ they said.

He takes the apple to the princess and they both take a bite….

It’s said that curiosity killed the cat because curiosity initiates us across a threshold that means the end of an old way of life. The servant’s mouthful of White Snake is more than the betrayal of his lord. It is the betrayal of his own set role in life and the disruption necessary to growing up.

Moreover the White Snake has powers. The capacity to understand the language of animals is symbolic of the hero being able to ‘hear’ the impulses, the intuitions and the wisdom of his own deep Psyche. It is the moment when you realise you are not master/mistress of your own house.

My analytic grandmother, M L von Franz tells the story of a dream which constituted her first encounter with the objective Psyche, the Other, so impactful that she curled her knees under her chin and stayed in bed all day.

Such an encounter with the Unconscious is life changing. Outwardly it is often by virtue of dubious others who are bound to enviously attack the person who has  found something seemingly unique to himself. The servant is accused of taking the queen’s ring, a motif rooted in Adam and Eve’s theft of the awakening apple.

In a sense the accusation that one must have found such good fortune by illicit means is justified, since advances in consciousness are to the cost of herd membership and its filial obligations, not to mention the gauntlet thrown at their feet. Individuation and folk going their own way depletes the collective storehouse and challenges collective hegemony.

not a popular choice.

”Every step towards greater consciousness creates a kind of Promethean guilt. Through self knowledge the Gods are robbed of their fire. The one who has ‘stolen’ the knowledge becomes alienated from others…” D Sharp.

Despite proving his innocence the servant still has to leave and, like Parsifal, goes wandering the world.

He is bound to feel be-wildered and disoriented as he sets out on his journey. Not only has he undergone a Copernican revolution of consciousness but his values have also changed. The Principle of Relatedness which has been awoken in him cannot endure the cries of the poor Fish trapped in the reeds. He has to do something. Increases in consciousness do more than constitute the capacity to ‘hear’, they also demand that we take action in line with what we know.

The vignettes about the Fish, the Ants and the Ravens all have this quality of relatedness to them, of carefully paying attention to the contents of the unconscious. The episode with the ravens adds something further. He sacrifices his horse to feed them. He gives up his own resources in a seemingly counter-intuitive way, he relinquishes an attitude that brings him down from his ”high horse”.

The scene of the Ant King and his thousands of subjects collecting up the millet seed is reminiscent of and has its roots in the story of Eros and Psyche who is tasked by Hera to separate out thousands of seeds by morning.

”there is still something which can rescue one. The unconscious is not only chaos but also order…’ ML von Franz.

Speaking of the role played by the ants as agents of the Self in the story of Psyche and Eros, von Franz says..

”The ants have mysterious unexplored qualities, they just collaborate.” ibid

but only in the wake of a brush with death.

Though he wanders and searches the three kingdoms the Apple cannot be found. The philosopher’s Stone only appears Deo concedente, by the will of the Gods, once we have well and truly exhausted the project of being author of our own meaning.

The gift of the Ravens is a kind of Mana, the experience of a redeeming intervention. Something Unknown is doing I don’t know what. Victor Frankl tells the story of a dying girl in Auschwitz who, in the moments before her death, gave thanks for the tree she could see out of the window.

The Prince and Princess eat the Apple. The gifts of the Unconscious have to be embodied. They have to be both experienced and then expressed in some way in the world.

‘When you have a big dream you have to tell it to the People. Black Elk.

A big dream of my own was that I was backpacking in a forest with friends. Bit by bit we lost our way. Then we began to lose each other. The group shrank. Then i started to lose my stuff. My boots were gone. I lost my pack somewhere, then my bearings. I was alone and naked and stumbling about in the dark.

Then there was sound ahead, beating drums, a glow in the forest, drums and dancing, wild frenzied dancing and in the middle a great pillar covered with vines and grapes the size of plums which all shook down. A great voice said, ‘Eat, so you may enter the kingdom of Heaven and live forever.’ Then I realised that the pillar was a finger and the voice came from the mouth of that to whom the finger belonged.

So getting lost is not just inevitable. It is required. The servant has to wander the three kingdoms. We do way too much to combat stress. We constue it negatively rather than seeing it as grist to the mill, part and parcel of the three kingdom’s rich tapestry. When did you ever grow when life was easy?

Once in a while I remind myself that dreams do not simply ‘mean’ something. They are help.

”We said we’d help you”, they said.

Like the Ants they work at night, ordering, gathering, suffusing us with meaning.

The belief that the Psyche is whatever we know of it is the deathknell of aliveness. Knowing you don’t have the answers…

and perhaps not even the right questions,

and that much of life is supposed to be a mystery, is precisely what evokes wonder and appreciation. You’ve gotten sufficiently out of your own way to make space for that which is looking for you, while you have been so busy looking for it.




The Sin Eater.

Whether its Vampires, Frankenstein’s Monster or the Walking Dead, Modernity has a fascination with those who manage to negotiate the razor’s edge of what should be a pretty clear divide between sending out for pizza and dialing 911.

The confusion is then complicated by the question of which realm we are headed towards once the issue of whether we are sufficiently dead to qualify has been adequately settled.

Trying to exert influence over this might seem like a waste of time given the amount of life’s unheeded prayers, but up until the Industrial Revolution it was not uncommon for those at Death’s door, either side of it was good, to employ a ‘Sin-eater’ in order to swing the odds.

The Sin-eater, a person otherwise shunned by the community and living at its fringes, was tasked with taking on the sins of the departed/ing in order to facilitate their passage to a better place. This they did by ritually eating special bread over the corpse/to-be, and washing down their wickednesses with milk or cider.

Tradition dictated that a fee of sixpence also be levied. Even Sin-eaters have to live..

..for now.

The sin-eater represents something for which we seem to have no contemporary equivalent, the collision of love and hate that wishes the departed/ing safe passage whilst admitting the need to bus in a little extra help.

Dining on damnation had to be the world’s worst freelance gig; but the important thing is that the practice spoke to an implicit consensus that a person’s soul is not as discreet an entity as we might like to think.

We live in a soup of psychic material that can make it difficult to determine who’s ‘stuff’ belongs to who before the veil is even lifted, assuming that whatever we are suffering from must be the product of our own experience.

‘It is unsettling to imagine experiencing feelings and thinking
thoughts that are in an important sense, not one’s own.’ [Ogden

It nevertheless remains that in early life, and for those who remain there too long, the contents of our inner world are readily..

‘engendered in and processed by another. . . thereby relieving the self of the effects of containing them.’[ibid]

A man came to see me complaining of depression. He seemed more henpecked than depressed. It turned out his wife had sent him to see me and left him on the same day. It was too co­incidental. She had offloaded something on this man and then fled the scene to her new life.

I enquired about the ‘depression’. ‘Oh’, he said, ‘my wife told me it was depression and she is usually right about these things’. ‘What about the wife’s depression?’, I asked. He seemed surprised, ‘well, she used to be depressed when I first met her but she is much better now.’ I suggested to him that this might be because he was now carrying it for her.

He was not depressed but he was easily loaded down. We could meet to speak about that if he wished. He perked up. Next week he told me that when he got home there was a message from her on the answer phone, left at the time of our session, to say that she had suddenly felt overwhelmed with depression and desperately needed to talk to him! His house cleaning had immediately returned her chickens to roost.

Psychic material can be traded. Even Jesus dying for your sins is the first line in an arrangement that will involve crippling remorse and loads of being sorry..

‘Christian children all must be mild obedient good as he..’

People making amends for one another’s sins is as old as the hills. We fear its evil twin Contamination just as much, and with good cause, as any afternoon visit to the asylum will happily confirm.

madness is contagious.

and if you work in the place you will quickly be accosted by your own delusions of grandeur.

Karen Horney says that children deal with trauma in one of three ways, by either going Towards, Away or Against the object of their suffering. Those who chose to go ‘towards’ are often highly empathic in adult life. They are the backbone of the caring profession, teaching, public service.

But they are also prone to contagion by parental/collective ideals, undigested by anyone else in the family, that they carry or live out for Others as one of life’s crosses or as fate, but whose? The willingness to please can mean being a host to unbridled parental demons that have a way of sucking the life out of you.

Sometimes it can kill.

I spent three tours of duty subjugating already impoverished people and getting shot at before I realised I was high on something that had nothing to do with me. It had to do with a father who’s son was to be maryred for his country according to some hidden narrative. I was a bit player in an ancient drama. My death was so assured in his scripted mind, his debt to God so complete in its payment, that he even sold my stuff.

The adaptive child does not stop at being good. They are compelled to collude with unspoken parental expectations that the child live out a certain ideal, quite often something the parent has not managed to do for themselves and so needs to acheive by proxy.

What can develop is the riteous stance of having fulfilled a host of obligations fueled by the simmering fury of never having been truly seen or witnessed…

wiv croutons of centralised power and palling up to the gods..

Somehow whatever system seems to be in power it always winds up with autocrats playing god. Turkey has just voted to put all its powers in the hands of one man, having fought for centuries to escape the grip of autocracy. Within a generation of liberty, equality, fraternity, France had an emperor.  How does it happen?

It happens because that’s the way we like it. Rulers who think they are God are our style. It means that we can do it too.

The danger is that if you give a narcissist an army he will be obligated to pick a quarrel with his neighbours, with anyone…and not just for the adrenalin, the sure sense of purpose so necessary to inner chaos, nor even the kudos or the booty, the noble regime change nor base rape and pillage, not even the laurels of victory themselves but for the sake of being the right hand of God.

The possibility that identities can overlap helps us to understand why we put people into power who are bound to abuse it, since what we suffer at their hands is outweighed by permission to take example from them, to identify with them and play God in our own small way.

Watching Kim jong Un’s parade last week I realised that what so scared me about the tyrant was that his face beemed with spontaneous joy at what his heart knew was entirely orchestrated, by him.

Thousands of people moved like chess pieces but made to seem as though they had just spilled onto the pavement from the 9.05 to Pyongyang, all carefully wearing slightly different suits and the occasional shirt sleeve to create the illusion of a spontaneous and prosperous people all exuberant for the great leader, thronging through town, though also all in rows and waving like they had been taught it by a drill instructor.

Kim had created a reality so perfect in its conception that he was taken in by it himself. Isn’t that what God does? The people, all in mystical colour coded union with one another, individual trials and tribulations washed away by identification with the Great Leader who binds them to the Gods whilst propitaiting and gaining protection from them on the People’s behalf.

And yes, of course, the people are oppressed, but you have to wonder, given that whether its Mao in Communist China, Hitler in Fascist Germany or Stalin in Socialist Russia, the similarities seem greater than their differences. Which suggests an X in Humanity’s meaning-of-life equation…

until you recall that playing God is encouraged by the glorious leader and that sins can be traded.

provided you have the coin.







The Valiant Tailor.

Some fairytales don’t end too well. They are the ones coughed up by the collective psyche as warnings cast about the forest floor… though, like hairballs on shagpile, you may not recognise them at the time. Take the charming and seemingly innocuous story of  ‘The Valiant Little Tailor’, who..

once upon a time..

bought some jam from a peasant woman, though so little she went off grumbling. ‘Now this Jam shall be blessed by God,’ cried the little tailor, ‘and give me health and strength’.

Before he could take a bite however, the many flies about congregated on his sandwich. He struck out at them and when the dust and jam had settled, seven flies lay dead.

‘Are you a fellow of that sort? he asked himself, and could not help admiring his own bravery. ‘The whole town, no, the whole world shall hear of this..’ And he stitched a girdle for himself embroidered with the letters, ‘Seven at one stroke’, and went forth into the world, now that his workshop was too small for his valor.

On his way out the door he pocketed a piece of cheese and a bird caught in a thicket.

At the top of a mountain the tailor comes across a giant looking peacefully about. Interrupting the giant’s meditation, the tailor shows him the belt saying, ‘look there and read so you may see what manner of man I am.’ The giant was quite impressed but picked up a stone and squeezed it till water ran out. ‘Can you do that?’ he asked.

The tailor took the cheese from his napsack and squezzed till liquid ran out. ‘There.’ The giant was doubly impressed. He picked up another stone and threw it so far it hit him on the back of his own head but the tailor scoffed and said he could throw a stone so high it would never come down and released the bird who duly flew off never to return.

‘Well, you sure can throw said the giant, let’s see you lift. Here, help me carry this mighty oak out of the forest.

‘Delighted,’ said the tailor, and leapt up into the branches whilst the giant had to carry the whole thing.

Always following ‘his own pointy nose’, to quote Grimm, the tailor then arrives in the grounds of a royal palace and falls asleep on the grass. People come from all sides and read the girdle. They run to tell the king who invites him to be his counsellor. The castle guard are afraid of the tailor least they all be killed by such a mighty warrior and ask to be released from service. By now the king is scared as well and sends the tailor to deal with two unruly giants hoping he won’t return but promising his daughter in marriage and half his kingdom if he does.

The tailor finds the two sleeping giants and alternately pelts them with stones..

‘until they got in such a rage that they tore up trees and belaboured one another so long that at last they both fell dead.’

The king renages on his promise and sets the tailor another great task, to catch a Unicorn who was ravaging the countryside. No problem for our hero who tricks the Unicorn into goring a tree and chops off his mighty horn with an axe.

Again the king prevaricates and sends him off to battle a great boar who’s making great havoc in the forest. The tailor traps the beast in a chapel and adamantly claims his reward.

which is grudgingly given.

However…the new queen overhears her mysterious husband talking in his sleep as if he were back in his tailor shop and the secret is out. The old king gets ready to arrest him, but, forewarned, the crafty tailor pretends to be asleep when the guard comes to his door saying, ‘I have killed seven with one blow, two giants, a unicorn and a boar. Why should I fear the king’s guard….?

who then ran away, ‘as if the wild huntsman were behind them….’  and so the little tailor remained king for the rest of his life.

though he had no experience, real skill or acumen and had lied and cheated his way into power.

As image becomes ever more important to a world that values appearance over substance then what we say about something begins to become more important than the thing itself. The signifier trumps the thing signified. Words become imbued with the power not just to describe but to create..

like god..

How? because the tailor’s words create reality. He buys his own PR. But the fact that he eventually gains a kingdom and a crown does not detract from the fact of his ineptitude, vanity or psychopathic disregard for reality.

He lies, cheates and deceives a path to the crown.

The poor old king is gaslighted as the villain in need of regime change, for having smelt a rat and devised strategies to keep his kingdom safe from a con-man, whilst the boastful tailor bluffs his way to power.

The problem is that by the time the story closes after the first telling everyone is cheering for the clever tailor. He has managed to seduce the reader as well as everyone in the story. All of which goes to show how easily otherwise intelligent folk are dazzled by slogans and the punchy bravado, the uncompromising confidence that the tailor discovers is there to be had if he can only ennoble the regressive choice to identify with a grandiose persona in constant need of drama and enactment to stay afloat.

His delusional belief in his own greatness, emblazoned like a political slogan across his belly, can only be maintained by lurching from one crisis to another.

The king’s challenge to capture the unicorn and the boar are a set of developmental tasks that the tailor actually fails. Unicorns are tamed by virgins, not by having their horns hacked off. The boar is a symbol of Arthurian proportions in that the grail king is wounded in his ‘thigh’ by a boar for refusing the quest to individuate. Another amplification is that Hercules task to similarly hunt down the Erymanthian boar was a punishment for his hybris.

In the meantime we might ask how it is that everyone seems to be so taken in by this charlatan with zero qualifications or experience. The answer is that the rest of us secretly subscribe to be like him and harbour more omnipotent fantasies of sweeping aside life’s frustrations than we’d like to admit.

Its a kind of soft fascism that allows us to identify with forceful others without having to deal with our own power issues, and allows the poor to identify with their oppressors rather than being set against them.

Sartre uses the example of the coachman who waits hours in the freezing winter chill for his master to emerge, taking sustenance and comfort from a shared anti-semitic joke which somehow makes them brothers despite the fact that he can’t feel his feet.

Moreover, we tolerate those who are identified with the gods because it gives us leave to identify with them, and therefor with the gods themselves, without seeming to break with propriety or decorum.

For the sake of this collective vanity the little man manages to get things he doesn’t deserve and triumph over legitimate rulership, even over reality itself, euphemistically expressed as that piece of patriotic whimsy that anyone can be the President.

Well, now its true.

And he too likes to throw rocks at sleeping giants hoping he’s not in the tree nearest to hand when they wake up. Though, you might be.

What’s to be done? The clue lies in the beginning of the story. The tailor buys jam from an old lady embittered by his measly purchase after much comment and inspection. The flies are attracted because he doesn’t eat his sandwich despite the invocation of the gods to bless his jam he never gets to taste it.

Had he treated the old lady decently, bought a decent sized pot of jam and simply tucked into his good fortune, his involvement in life would have obviated the compensatory lust for power and the dangerous blurring of fantasy and reality required along the way.

Being a jammy tailor would have seemed just the right kind of thing to be.

I once saw embroidered on a pillow, ”to be happy you need three things: someone to love, something to do, something to look forward to.”

Work, jam and community.

The story of the pupil who wants to change the world and is told by the master, ‘then change yourself’, is almost cliched. Yet chopping wood and drawing water, work jam and community, is precisely the inexorable force that brings about change.

It also means that if my values are right, if I can gratefully give the old lady the time of day, feel nourished by her jam, let the world in, then life is already good despite the world’s dictailors.




Transforming Envy.

Years ago and far away there lived a young lad called Sanji whose home was above the local Bakery in his village. Every morning Sanji would sit on his balcony and savour the delicious aromas that wafted up, cinammon and chocolate, fresh bread and fancy pastries. A myriad wonderful smells swirled in the street and curled in through the windows.

The Baker, Sanji’s landlord, was a miserable curmudgeon who begrudged Sanji his youth and vitality, his enthusiasm for everything, his happiness at so little. For it was not just the smell of his wares that Sanji so brazenly delighted in but Life itself. Every occasion seemed like a wonder to the ignorant brat. Summer heat and Winter chill couldn’t dampen his annoying smile and so the Baker fumed at Sanji and hardened his heart.

Many years had passed since the Baker found any joy in life. He secretly envied the lad his carefree spontaneity, his faith in a life unencumbered by all the pressures that seemed to beset the Baker so much so that he could no longer enjoy the taste of his own bread let alone the smell of it on the breeze.

One morning, a Wednesday, and therefor spicy jam tart day, Sanji was taking in the morning on his balcony as usual when the Baker stormed up the steps and banged on his door.

”You can’t be enjoying all those smells for free you know,” he shouted. ”I want seven gold pieces in arrears for all the smells you’ve enjoyed at my expense”.

‘Dude, you can’t be serious.’

So the Baker took him to the Magistrate who listened to both sides and scratched his beard throughout. Eventually he said, ‘Sanji, go find seven gold pieces, we will reconvene in the morning”.

Sanji felt stumped by the unfairness of everything but towards the wee hours he realised it was more that he felt so deeply sad for the Baker who would not be a richer man for the seven gold pieces he’d spent the evening trying to rake together.

Next morning they both showed up before the Magistrate who gestured to Sanji for the bag of gold. He shook it before the Baker,”how do you like that then Baker?” he asked.

”Oh, I like it just fine”, said the Baker, reaching out for the chinking purse.

”Good,” said the Magistrate, ”because that is your payment.”


”Fair’s fair, the sound of gold for the smell of cakes. Dismisssed.”

The key to understanding envy is that it is a defense against experience. The Baker splits his vibrant yet vulnerable and heavily defended inner life onto Sanji and then persecutes him for it, since as much as it relieves him of the burden of longing so does it rob him of sponteneity and the possibility of rediscovering himself. So Sanji seems like a thief, not just of smells but of love and life itself. Much paranoia on behalf of the Narcissistic character is at this level of giving away responsibility for personal destiny to seemingly powerful Others who the person then feels has robbed them…

The problem with growing out of Narcissism is that it leads you straight into the experience of the Other, who is bound to attract all your demons and shine a light on all your imperfections, failings and losses. Envious spoiling by intellectually abstracting something so as not to feel it like a punch in the guts seems inevitable, but it does allow one’s sanity to stray. The Tulipmania of Holland in the 18th century is a good example. ‘Special’ bulbs were worth small fortunes, until someone woke up one day and decided that they were not…

Folk went bankrupt and ended up having to eat their former prizes, humbled by the extent to which such a covetous enviable fancy could be so succesfully attributed to a cousin of the onion.

”People will do anything, no matter how absurd in order to avoid facing their own souls.” C. G Jung

Much of what constitutes our leisure time is easily identifiable as avoidance of life. We favour technology that allows us a degree of abstraction from the real world. Much of it prevents communication rather than aiding it; the alienating TV screen that halts all conversation, the incessant beeping of mobiles and pagers that prevent communion with self that only a quiet hour can bring.

By the same logic of the lush, who drinks to drown the shame of being a drunk, so too do we seek refuge in abstracted realities to find some respite from disocciated lives. This it cannot do because it is symbols and people that are meaningful and not the words we use to describe them. If this were not so the need for a holiday could be satisfied by reading the broshure and the need for company by describing the kind of person you are looking for.

”In the intellect, symbols and images have become dried up and dessicated, an abstract skeleton, all structure and no life.” E. Edinger

You can watch Western Narcissism alive and well in its natural habitat throughout the world of conceptual art, a genre which now embraces anyone still alive who has had the cheek to express themselves. Its not just that I don’t like the pretentious work, or that I just don’t get exploded sheds or kiddy mittens on spiked railings. It’s that what people say about their work has become more important than the work itself. There is no contemplation, no feeling, just buzz words, slogans, intellectual abstraction whose purpose it is to interrupt experience rather than induce it.

”you just sayin’ that because you was refuse’ yourself, mon.”

Quite right, I didn’t make it through to the shortlist of the prestigous Ashurst Prize, into which I had submitted my painstaking work of five years,  a mosaic of recycled ceramic shards called, ‘Abundant Delicious’.

And of course I’m a bit miffed.

But what really bites is not just that I din’t get in, but the kind of art that did…

Now maybe its because I am a connoiseur of the ceramic shard, Mrs Shorttle’s eulogy to ‘mending what is broken’ not withstanding, but this is bullshit. And I’m not just turning my nose up at it because it required no effort, nor that it actually represents a collective fantasy of instant gratification and throwing any old crap together that is then worth thousands, but that the spiel that goes with it has the power to steer the onlooker away from their own common sense.

“If you break them and then mend them, and they’re decorative, is that a valid function or are they now defunct? That question is, I think, quite interesting in terms of society’s interpretation of the elderly.” K. Shorttle.

I was unaware the elderly could be interpreted but hey ho, if you can’t blind them with brilliance baffle them with bullshit. Just say anything…

and she does..

and its all very good sounding, yuge even…

but without this bizzare yet politically correct sounding monologue her entry is just a pile of random bits..

and very small bits they are too, mon.

We think we are so evolved and yet the acme of culture seems to have become a forum for wordy invocational spells that have the power to turn crap into art, a trick way more difficult than turning a frog into a prince. The problem is that when what you have to say about something is more important than the thing itself  the psyche dissociates. Wishing, suddenly, really can make it so. In fact, the more banal and anti-art something is, the more one’s subtly bullying powers of persuasion and verbal sophistry must plaster it with Truth. Which means anything can be art so long as you can cripple the discriminatory faculties of your audience with a sufficiently ponderous incantation.

In fact it’s crap. Its alternative art and like alternative facts it only floats if it’s delivered with staccato sound bites and the kind of supreme self confidence that actual artists tend to lack. Which is why we hide in our studios. The tragedy is not simply that all of us are then taken for fools like the townsfolk in the story of the Emperor’s new clothes, but that if art is what can be said about it, then what about love and life? We are being invited, coersed, into experiencing the world from one step removed, from the perspective of another’s vantage point rather than our own.

and you think if you don’t get it you must be unsophisticated or common.

So while the art world touts itself as the vanguard and cutting edge of correctness, the way its sold means that the answer to the question, ‘what is art?’ can no longer be answered by reference to its content but on how it is presented. The garnish and the chef’s patter is now more important than what you ordered.

and don’t ask for the salt shaker.

What transforms the envy in our story is that Sanji finds meaning in his despair, that it is actually a form of compassion and therefor bearable. The wisdom and kindness of the Magistrate makes sure justice is done without excessively shaming the Baker, who he prybars into the here and now with his, ‘fair is fair.’

It’s said that art should comfort the disturbed and disturb the comfortable. Conceptual art does neither. To be either comforted or disturbed requires feelings. You have to be experiencing something. Conceptual art is opposed to us experiencing anything. Its intention is to prevent experience. Here is my work and this is what it means. Don’t feel, don’t contemplate. Above all don’t reflect on what you’re going to do with your broken mug once you get it home. Or remind yourself what you paid for it.

But in the spirit of pitching in and being a good sport my next submission, having researched the judges carefully, will be a burp. Not an actual ordinary burp you understand but many burps digitally recorded and amalgamated into a Platonic ideal of burps to represent the transcendence of temporal restrictions by eternal ideas, expressing a philological break with post-modern dialectic towards a fully globalist multi-culturalism.

The homogenised burp will then be fed through an electromagnetic spectrograph to emphasise social diversities interpreting inner cities which will then be rendered into a responsibly sourced food dye by undocumented immigrants using ancient skills of pasta making from the heart of Tuscany to create, ad definitum finum, the taste of the colour of the sound of archetypally broken wind.

”We are in a bad situation in the West, we live as decapitated heads. The intellect is indispensible in order to understand but you must feel yourselves to be related to the whole man.” CG Jung

To be fair the fault does not lie with Mrs Chorttle, but with a culture increasingly demanding disposable yet instant gratification that mirrors the provisional way in which we are encouraged to live.

The challenge of our time is to find the perspective of the Magistrate who can be both just and compassionate. He finds a way of engaging the Baker’s perspective, he uses his language and symbols, enters his world without being swallowed up by it. He adds to the Baker’s value system, mirroring the envious man without shaming, insulting or colluding with his dismal world veiw..

I once knew a psychiatric in-patient who’d been very poorly tended, mostly by an uncaring and gamey psychiatrist. One day she shows up for her 20 minutes a fortnight of his god almightiness. He indicates a golfball on his desk announcing, ‘this is an orange…’

‘you peel it, I’ll eat it,’ she replied.






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.’