The Song of the Harp.

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

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

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

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

and voters..

Of course he does it for their own good…

to teach them about life

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

When the Harp is liberated..

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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






The Secret.

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

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

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

Er, yes.

‘Would you wish your love to be less?”

Er, no.

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

and so I was.

within weeks he was returned.

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

a virtuous circle is created.

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

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

for surviving the dark place..

for the resiliance that bought you through..

for the strength that sustains you during your travail.

Wounds give perspective without which we do not grow.

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

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

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

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

‘Non, je ne regrette rien..’ E. Piaf

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

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

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

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

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

‘What we resist, persists.’ S. Freud.

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

here is the whole thing.

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

who fills all realms of sound, light and vibration.

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

Têtê malkuthach.
Your Heavenly Domain approaches.

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

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

Waschboklân chaubên wachtahên aikâna
daf chnân schwoken l’chaijabên.

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

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

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

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

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

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


On Finding Oneself.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

‘harmony through complementarity..’ ibid

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



How we Heal.

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

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

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

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

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

the whore of babylon incident….?

the very same….


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

And regressed.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

‘I will do it anyway.’

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

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

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

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

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

And not because anyone taught her that.

But because it rose up unbidden in her own soul.

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

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

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

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

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

We might ask along with Shakespeare’s Juliet…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Notes from Beachy Head.

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

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

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

Meantime the narrator Winston Hibbler trills,

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

The lie is as obsessively strange as the story.

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

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

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

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

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

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

What is going on?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

There’s an old buddhist saying,..

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

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

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

‘Do not try to predict the future,’

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

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

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

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

You are the tree not the leaf.

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

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

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

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


The Snake Prince.

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

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

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

and, I’ve got a headache.

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

oh, and a tail.

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

er, down to the next village…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Prince nodded and cried a bit..

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

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

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

This is not a moral tale.

Its about how we manage loss and growth.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

er, I mean, making hefty charitable donations.

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

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

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

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

And he probably had…

..of some birthright,..

long ago.