Paranoia and the Masked Maiden.

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

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

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

What a relief…

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

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

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

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

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

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

The death and destruction is garnish.

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

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

not by a long chalk.

Kriemhilde wants heads.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

but in exchange for sacrifice.

your children will do.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

leaving only mumbo-jumbo.

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

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

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


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

because that would be greedy and bad.

Or just for the sake of time honoured rape and pillage

cos that’s not being good is it….

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

Some banner to get behind.

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

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

….overrun by Kriemhilde..


for as long as she stands,

is She-who-must-be-Obeyed.

Hidden in the wings.

all pissed and pointy.



Cursed Gold and Dragon’s Blood.

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

witch burning had already begun.

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

what was cursed and all…

yes, yes, we’ll get to that.

The story of Siegfried is symbolic allegory for the violent collision of Norse and Christian cultures much as the epic of Gilgamesh ( was the last offering of the matriarchal Sumerians before being entirely overun by the Assyrians and their one god Marduk.

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

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

who just happened to be passing..

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

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

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

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

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

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

The same is true between individuals..

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


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

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

Siegfried decides to forge the star into a sword.

Not a good move…

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

which is asking for trouble.

Siegfried’s wars are liable to become holy.

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

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

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

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

even if you did bathe in Her blood.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

but Hagan is excluded and grows more vengeful.

The four men present themselves to Brunhilde…

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

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

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

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

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

Things can only get worse, hey?

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

And they all did not live happily ever after.

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



Fear and the Firebird.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

‘Yes, Sarge.’

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

‘be warned! Do not look at her!’

but he does.

wasn’t scared enough.

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

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

Shouldn’t have been there mon..

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

….with them guns..

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ivan is not saved by his great courage or cleverness.

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

by running away..

by horrified tears…

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

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

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





Going Mad to Stay Sane. Reprint.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

‘Abundant Delicious’, new book out now.

The cover of Abundant Delicious, a book by Andy White

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

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

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


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

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

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

Pandora, and the Tyranny of Hope..

I thought I knew the story of Pandora.

It is widely known as a theodicy, an explanation of why there is evil in the world.

Another Eve to blame.

which somewhat misses the subtle meaning of the story.

If the sins and vices are out of the box, like the cat from the bag, the game is up. The shadow of humanity is being made visible by the gods and becomes something we have to address. Each in their own way.

Pandora is raising consciousness. Her other name, Enesidora, means, ‘she who sends up gifts’, which is the propitious way to treat unconscious contents that inevitably make their first appearance in their worst moods. When the oracle says ‘know thyself’, it means the stuff in the box, which, without Pandora, would still be there.

The scam, is the angle we put on Hope being held back.

Oh, poor me, there is so much wickedness out there in the world beyond my gleaming picket fence, but at least there is Hope that someone might come along and do something about it.

As though it were a good thing.

Hope. Be passive. Wait.

What better way to control people than for them to have waiting be their holy duty?

and wait for tomorrow while you are fleeced today.

Which is what Hope becomes when its still trapped in the Box.

This Box is no ordinary thing. It was fashioned by Zeus as a retaliation against humanity for Prometheus’ stolen gift of fire, consciousness.

With consciousness comes…the shadow.

”You want to be conscious? Be conscious of this,..” says Zeus, and introduces humanity to its underbelly….

and its mortality.

but better out than in, hey? Pandora did for humanity the best she could, she let the shadow be visible, something with which to negotiate rather than being hidden away behind lock and key. Like Prometheus she helped us become aware of ourselves and returned the diseases that the old gods had become so that they could return home, to us.

She kept Hope back to be mean, to stamp her individuality on a situation for which she was only meant as a messenger, so that she too could decide her own fate and have a place in history.

Anything kept in the box comes to us as Fate. We idealise it, project it, become it’s tigerbait. And we forget that hope for tomorrow makes passive slaves of today, that hope can make the actual fear of a situation quietly bearable until fear and giving your power away become part of life.

Living in hope can be a way of living in fear or lack without actually doing anything about it. It implies you think you know what you need which is probably debateable.

‘Since when did people know what they wanted?” Morgan Freeman as God in Bruce Almighty.

It also gives the imagined redemption of the situation over to a further imagined other, a heavy burden for any would-be knight…

soon  be-nighted.

Living in hope can turn the refusal to live or grasp your destiny into a shining virtue..  a psychological sleight of hand that allows a person to live with the contradiction between who they actually are and a preferred, more polished version, with the landfill of wishing it were different. Such a trick carries a price and keeps us caught at the developmental level of wishing-it-were-so..

and sewing all kinds of pigs ears into silk purses

and prose into candyfloss…

”love is the voice under all silences, the hope which has no opposite in fear… e.e. cummings

Atop his crate of toffee apples, Cummings may speak of ‘hope that has no opposite in fear’, but what else is hope for than the wish to be delivered from something? Without having to be too conscious of what that something might be…

something with teeth, maybe.

Our hope to be saved from it allows it to roam about unchecked.

Zeus did not put Hope in the Box of Evils by mistake. The Shadow of Hope produced ‘Waiting for Godot’, a story of two men who spend their entire time waiting for someone who never comes. The play is excrusiating because you can see yourself in the roles so easily whilst wanting to wring both their necks for their pathetic helplessness at the same time.

Hope had sucked the life out of them.

Irvin Yalom calls it the neurosis of the ‘ultimate rescuer’, the wish to be defended and redeemed from responsibility and saved from the anxiety of being free by some powerful other.

Sometimes what it takes for transformation to take place is precisely for us to lose hope, hope of attaining prefection, of changing someone, of living without anxiety, of living forever.

The sign over the gloom arches of Diss, the gates of Hell in Dante’s ‘Inferno’, are inscribed, ‘Abandon Hope all ye who Enter Here’. Its a useful piece of advice.

Placing to much emphasis on hope is failure to accept your situation. If you are hoping overly for something then you are not in the moment or grounded in what’s actually happening.

You can be herded.

and forged into armies..

because Hope is aggressive, too. It arrogantly knows what it needs and from whence. Then, made a holy thing of it.

Hope is privately at war with what-life-is on account of what-it-should-be…

living, ‘if only’…and so not really living at all.

”Our suffering is as much on account of our resisting the circumstances at hand as the circumstances themselves.” M. Israel.

Something else should be happening.

I was once walking in Wales. I came across a small sign, pointing, ‘llwyber troed”.

It seemed like an interesting sounding place and so I took that direction despite it not being on the map.

..because it was not on the map..

In fact I faithfully followed the signs to Llwyber troed all afternoon, expectant at every bend, before I realised it was Welsh for footpath.

Living in hope is like that. You are looking for something you’re already on.

Death Stories.

Some say you can tell a People by the way they treat the women. Others, by how they treat their children, or their animals. In other words Culture has to do with the degree of relatedness to the Other.

The ultimate other is Death.

and cultural attitudes towards death are going to tell us much more about ourselves than the PR pamphlet used to fob off tourists.

You could say that Western attitudes are characterised by denial but that would be to further deny the sheer trouser compromising terror that typifies our otherwise correct and cheery outlook.

A story that  parodies our relationship with mortality is from Grimm’s, ‘The boy who set out to shudder’. Our hero sallies forth to find the meaning of fear. He spends the night beneath a gallows where seven men twist in the cold wind. He cuts the corpses down and builds a fire to warm them but they just ignite so he puts them back, cursing them for their carelessness.

He spends the next night in a haunted castle where he daringly plays cards with ghosts. When the bottom half of a man falls down the chimney he calls up for the other half to follow..

could it be a sub-space disruption, chief?

.. a magical bed that takes him on a hell raising ride around the castle is met with cries of, ‘More, more’. He plays skittles with skulls and leg bone nine pins.

or a dimensional shift caused by thoron emissions in the plasma field?

On the third night he encounters six men carrying a coffin containing his dear cousin whom he tries to revive. When the corpse starts choking him he slams the lid down, angry at his ingratitude.

some kind of anomaly in the space/time continuum, perhaps?

An old man arrives having heard all the noise. Our hero traps him by his beard and beats him with an iron rod until he reveals the castle’s treasure.

And so he’s rich enough to marry the princess who soon so tires of him going on about wanting to learn how to shudder that she pours a basin of cold water, full of wriggling gudgeon, all over his head.

So he learns how to shudder, but not the meaning of fear.


..or something induced by tri-phasic malfunction, maybe?

He seems to have it all. He gets the girl and the castle, but he really fails in his quest. He is satisfied with the concretisation of change rather then the real thing, the cold shock of gudgeon water rather than the cold shock of aqua vita, the spirit of life that impels us across its thresholds into the unknown.

A gudgeon is a slang word for someone who is easily deceived, a gullible dupe, a sucker, the underbelly of our hero’s narcissistic refusal to really be in a world which refuses to be surmounted by his own efforts. He is therefor someone who is easily put off the scent and easily led because he his not rooted in the givens of life..

Setting out to shudder is so grandiose. Its like, ‘some of my best friends are black, or gay…’ Its all waaay over-sold, a piece of ‘reaction formation’, a defensive strategy used to ward off experience by assuming the opposite. It reveals itself in the sweeping gesture, exaggerated sincerity and is..

..’a walking power principle. By pleasing others we are better able to manipulate them, albeit unconsciously.’ M Woodman.

Our hero has an agenda.

His subtext is not to face death but to cheat death.

severe malfunction in life support, captain.

Some cheat death with suicide, they think to transcend death by being its author. A tad ironic given the end result. But there is another way to do it. Stay out of life. Sit on the bleachers where no-one can call time on you. Don’t experiment or wonder, don’t risk anything or invest in anybody. Pour cold water and gudgeons on every innovation.

Be the Death Mother’s patsy.

I recently attended a meeting to see what ideas there might be for a joint venture. After a few minutes one jumped up..

in high dudgeon..

‘we’ve done it all before,!’ he announced and marched out.

Oh dear.

It must be crap. It was crap before and it will be crap again.

Death Mother pours cold water and dudgeon gudgeons over every body.

I could have pointed out that his logic precluded him ever having sex with his wife again, or getting up in the morning, for that matter. Imagine the deadness produced by a looped subliminal tape that says, ‘there’s nothing new in the world.’

The Horror.

but there seemed no point and all I could do was wipe his gudgeons off me and allow him to flee the prospect of something unscripted from happening.

Our hero’s treatment of the corpses as if they were alive and in need of warming is more than denial, its a break with reality brought on by excessive pre-occupation with his own little world.

‘Life becomes death longing when all longing else be vain…’ Sophocles

a life whose goal does not go beyond the limited needs of the personality, namely the propping up of itself at all costs, is not worth living. When we depersonalise others, the ‘ungrateful cousin’, the ‘careless corpses’, and relate to others as a means to an end, we lose connection to ourselves and weaken our own internal cohesion, we lose meaning, identity and the sense of our place in the world.

By contast we have the story of Skeleton Woman from Inuit culture. In this story the hero is a fisherman who foul hooks Skeleton Woman, lying at the bottom of the sea. When he sees what he’s caught he runs back to his igloo in blind terror but skeleton woman is all caught up in the line and bounces along behind him.

Once home, the fisherman takes some pity on Skeleton Woman and begins to unravel the line that is caught about her. He straightens her bones and makes her comfortable. In the night he cries a single tear which skeleton woman drinks. She takes out his heart and beats it like a drum, calling for the flesh to return to her bones… then she climbs in next to him…

impulse engines and thrusters back on line, captain.

Dragging something up from the depths is a metaphor. It heralds the new possibility, fresh awareness, or the surfacing of something discarded or suppressed. Its hard work and its scary. The new thing is always the death of the old…

whatever it is.

”the person who begats something which is alive must dive down into the primeval depths…and when they rise to the surface, there is a gleam of madness in their eyes because in those depths death lives cheek by jowl with life.” W. Otto.

The fisherman has the good sense to be terrified but he can’t get away from her. She bounces along behind him, nameless dread, the theme of many a dream on the cusp of rude awakening.

Tricorders recalibrating..

The fisherman reflects on the situation. He sees her all tangled up. He teases the line from her toes and then from her other bones. He re-members Death. He gets out of the comfort zone that change requires and allows into his consciousness that which now need not hijack his destiny. He tends her, instead.

Life is made meaningful by our participating in its mysteries. We’re not here to find answers or to laugh in the face of danger. At some point the questing hero has to bow before the mystery.

‘Unpalatable as it is, mystery forces itself upon the mind of the enquirer, not as a cloak for ignorance but as an admission of the inability to translate what s/he knows into the everyday speech of the intellect.’ CG Jung

We’re here to participate, to be wrenched by the realisation that love and death are first cousins, to make visible whatever we have inside us. To be unknowing of purpose and direction…

a story that emphasises this aspect of many death stories is an amplification of the Inuit story, ‘the Juniper Tree’ in which a young boy is murdered by his mother and turned into sausage. His horrified and desperate sister, Marlinchen, gathers up his bones beneath the table, wailing terribly. She folds the bones into her best hankercheif and goes out of doors crying tears of blood. She lays down under the Juniper tree and falls asleep. While she sleeps a magical bird appears in the tree and flies off with the bones in its beak….

ship’s systems running normally..

Eventually the boy is restored, the wicked mother gets a millstone dropped on her head by the (very strong) bird and there is new life, but only by the strength of  Marlinchen’s love which makes her brave in the face of fear and determined in her sacred task.

Her courage is not the absence of fear. She uses it to inform her of what is important and what she needs to do in that moment. Fear is trying to draw attention to priority.

snake alert.

If we demonise it we will simply experience it as fear of one another instead and rob ourselves of instruction in the process.

plus there will still be a snake in the room.