So much into my head

 

3336650116a4470024486b678380162l.jpgWhile walking along a river in the North Country I came upon a frail looking old man with long white beard and flowing grey robe leaning on a staff and gazing at the water rushing by. “Good morning” I said.

He smiled and asked, “How long you been on the trail?”

“Oh about an hour I guess.”

“Is that all? Are you sure?” He added.

“Well, how long have you?” I asked challengingly.

“All my life” he grinned.

Great, I thought, some kind of guru! I was not really in the mood to go deep this morning. I was much more interested in chewing on my private thoughts and worrying all the worries I’d collected over the week.

“You seem to be somewhere other than on a walk,” he added.

“Well I was just taking a walk to ease my mind. Then you showed up.” I said with just a little petulance.

“I haven’t really showed up yet.”

“Uh, what?” I blurted. Is this guy crazy? I wondered.

“You’re so much into your head that I’m not really here for you yet.”

“Explain,” I said becoming a little interested where he was coming from.

“You’re so much in your mind right now that you’re not meeting me, you’re meeting only your mind.”

“Ahh mindfulness, I know about that!”

“Then why aren’t you there?”

“I was trying to until I ran into you.”

“No you weren’t. You were busy listening to your own mind!”

“I was being with my thoughts, being mindful of them.” I said in defense.

“You believe that don’t you?”

“Yes!”

“Don’t believe everything you think. You know, mindfulness isn’t about making up what you want to be mindful to. It’s being with whatever is there. You were caught up in and believing what your mind was telling you. You know all that stuff in your head is bullshit don’t you?”

“I beg your pardon?”

“The events in your life aren’t causing you pain it’s your mind chatter that is causing you to suffer. Your beliefs about the way things should be rather than being mindful of the way they are is causing you pain that you then devaluate and that takes you even further out of the moment.”

“I know this!” I interrupted angrily.

“No you don’t! Knowing is paying attention and you are not paying attention! You can’t see the world that’s in front of you because you aren’t looking at it you’re looking at what’s inside your head. You reject what is and because of this you find yourself not at peace. To be at peace you need to cooperate with how things are, then you can see how things need to be.”

“How do you know this?” I asked growing more interested.

“Simply by paying attention.”

“But what about my problems?”

“Most of your problems are but a side effect of not having a clear relationship with reality.”

“But I need to figure out how to make something happen. I need to solve these problems I’m thinking about.” I pleaded.

“You’ve allowed yourself to be conned into thinking that you have control of anything. Stop that. Don’t make things happen, let them happen, you can’t force life into submission. Give yourself permission to be where you’re at.”

“Somehow that feels right.” I said and he smiled and then vanished. I could hear the water washing over the rocks, the wind singing through the trees , the rustle of leaves, and birds calling to one another. It was so peaceful.

Peace be with you.

 

 

 

Hope

 

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Why am I lying here trying to convince myself that there’s no hope left?  Well you see if it’s gone, then it won’t hang around and taunt me. And it’s always taunting, hiding, promising, and just out of reach.

Hope is like a smoldering cinder that never takes flame but lurks in the burned out fires of my soul driving me onward in search of something to ignite and burst once again into the conflagration that was my youth. But hope hurts especially when its object never comes to pass.

So what is this little glimmer that still burns at the bottom of my soul?

Maybe it’s the magic I’ve so craved and so needed, maybe it will be right around the next corner.

Maybe the awe will return. Maybe it’ll all come into focus and then I’ll know there WAS some purpose.

I hope so.

The Alchemy of Dreams: My mythopoetic self

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Mythopoetic Symbols of my Psyche

There is a place, a realm, a fancy, a state of mind, sense, country, and experience that exists within the imaginal spaces within my being.

It is a soulful place where reality is nurtured and the mysterious grows dense and tangled as an aggressive vine weaving its branches into every corner of my consciousness.

It’s a place where time is measured in experience not finite number. It’s the place where the dream of my conscious and unconscious selves meet and share what is real.

Curator of lost dreams

 

My wife and I have often traveled the Pacific Northwest and one time pulled into a little town lined with antique stores, old fashioned news stands and funky little restaurants catering to the meat and potato crowd–sushi, are you kidding? After nosing around the town for a few hours the following missive came to me the next morning on the veranda of our lodgings:

Driving through town I pass beneath an ancient steel archway, a portal marker for a city hanging on to its past. Traffic is sparse and all moving in a single direction, much like, I imagine, most of the denizens of this little outpost bordering America’s past and future–pretty much all aligned in belief and values.

I parked along the curb across from a local antiquarian–a dealer in “the lost dreams of the dead” as the proprietor described himself to me before I wandered toward the back of his shop piled high with the bones of these dreams. I wandered narrow aisles displaying the technological wonders of a golden age where art and function united to create objects of magical beauty whose purpose have been lost to antiquity anticipating a Magus to caste just the right spell to animate them once again.

 

th-2.jpgI wandered past objects in fine wooden cases, or Bakelite boxes, some with oddly shaped glass tubes–the instruments of a former alchemist’s dreams–ready to spring to life once more.

And there it was, center stage in a locked glass cabinet, the object of my quest, a century old device once used by student wizards to peer into a Lilliputian universe. It had a golden tube that seemed to glow with a fire of it’s own. It was to the rational mind a brass microscope, a beautifully machined tool of exploration and wonder. Excitedly I called to my wife who also marveled at the find and immediately offered to purchase it as a birthday gift.

As the proprietor dismantled the lenses from the scope and wrapped them in tissue and butcher paper for their protection, he shared some of his own past. As an engineer by training and vocation he spent a lifetime wielding the modern instruments of his trade and watched in despair as the world became more and more functional and plastic and losing it’s beauty to practicality. “Something had to be done.” He said almost pleadingly. “So today I’m here as a curator of the past, a preserver of history, if you will” he added with a look of hopefulness that I would understand and honor his purpose.

“Many who enter here don’t understand, they see pretty things that briefly hold interest, just as with anything else in this world of small attention spans and equally small ambitions. Some come here to steal so as to feed their habits, or their addiction to excitement. Others come to sell and bury their loved ones in a place they know will honor their memory.”

So, like the oarsman who ferried the dead across the river Styx, this man tends to the ghosts of human ingenuity, preserving and honoring their former meaning and the dreams they once represented. “There seems to be a soul attached to these things. The souls of their former owners I think.” He says as he ties the last string around the larger package. “Or perhaps the souls of their inventor, or maker.” I suggest while hefting the package that somehow seemed heavier. It was as though the item were emphasizing the new import of the dream I now took as my own. “Perhaps.” He said his eyes glistening as he carefully handed me the smaller package of lenses.

I thanked him, turned to go, and as I did so he rounded the counter so as to escort me through the door. “Thanks for caring.” He said and I walked out of the shop of wondrous visions and onto the streets of empty eyes–the unseeing eyes blinded to the magic all around, to the dream we are all living, and to the past that informs it’s future through the world of our present.

The soul’s dark night dream

 

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After several weeks of inanities spewing from the mouths of the Lords of Political and Economic Darkness, inflated egotistical bombasts of the small minded ultra right, several killings by people who should never have had access to guns, rabid “Orc soldiers of ISIS” killing, pillaging, and destroying all in their path in the name of a twisted understanding of their religion or maybe it was just the greed of wanting everything to be the way they think it should be, I had a nightmare that woke me panting and literally sweating in the darkness.

The story went like this:

The winged dark dragons were on the move swooping down on the villages of the world and laying waste to all hope and beauty. Their fiery breath spread fear even amongst the brave who stood their ground and paid with their lives. The land turned black with the dragon’s putrid breath of intolerance and hatred, even heroes cowered at the fierceness of their incessant destruction.

Soon the people in their helplessness turned on one another and the Dragon Lords laughed in delight for now their plan of death and destruction had turned inward causing the people to destroy themselves from within.

Fear ruled the heart of humankind and its unrelenting intensity withered and sapped the vitality of what was God’s experiment on Earth. This light of God began to flicker and sputter as the winds of many little wars, political onslaughts, false accusations, and intolerances caused a guttering of the candles of peace and threatened to blow their light out.

Who will lead the fractured peoples of the world into a new light? This time it cannot be just one man or woman, this time the collective wisdom of the many must be drawn upon. But how to martial them, how to wake the sleeping warriors of the True Peace?

No religion could save us for they all had been corrupted by the dragons of intolerance and no longer represented the love of God and humankind falling as they had into bastions of hatred, fear, intolerance, or massive indifference preferring to exclude what wasn’t them or making safe and minor moves toward some vague concept of peace but rarely putting their lives on the line in the name of love.

I woke up wondering what do we actually mean when we say we want peace? What does that look like? Is it the absence of conflict or a collaboration with it? Is it the rejection of that which seems un peaceful, but un peaceful by whose standard, whose definition?

This time the dragons of old cannot be slayed by just the swing of the sword. These dragons cannot be subdued at all for these dragons thrive on the cutting edge of the blade and the blood it spills upon the land. I believe that we need to learn a new way to be with this dragon that has always lived among us or we shall perish.

The dragons employ many a toady to spread their destruction. These parasites are trained to infect every ones heart with fear, hatred and misinformation e.g. that “guns are good, science is bad, my religion is good– theirs is bad, I’m right– they’re wrong, compromise is bad, it’s my way or the highway, and building walls against what we fear will protect us are just a few of the erroneous beliefs that the fifth columnists have snuck into the collective psyche through various political Trojan Horses and the people have welcomed the horse into the city.

We now have more than fear itself to fear for we have raised our ignorance to a whole new level by wrapping ourselves within its mind-numbing cocoon. The dragons rejoice in this because they know that when we embrace our ignorance with pride as we are beginning to do, we are near the end that they seek.

But my soul’s dark night provided another image, an image of hope amongst the despair for it also suggested that there will be a small number of brave souls who will seek, find and apply the answers needed to tame the dragons and that we will learn to live with them and use their immense energy toward the service of us all. Will you join this band of brothers and sisters and learn to wield what it will really take to subdue the human beast? It’s a quest fraught with danger and we might not make it home for quite some time, but if not us, who?

More on the alchemy of the human psyche

 

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As many of you may know I often use material from a variety of mystical media e.g. alchemy, Tarot, the Kabalah, Hermeticism, as a means of exploring and explaining certain psychological principles. It is not that I ascribe to the functionality of these mystical approaches to understanding reality but that, as projections of the human psyche, they help me to grasp the vast mystery that lies behind the creative human mind and its relationship with what is perceived as real.

 Recently a blog reader wrote about the significance of alchemy in the understanding of the human psyche and especially the field of Analytic Psychology founded on the ideas and research of Carl G. Jung. He was particularly interested in the role that Mercury played in this understanding.

 Below is my answer to the query the reader presented.

There are typically two ways to think of alchemy, the “scientific” way as a precursor to modern chemistry and the “mystical” way (this is now thought by many to be the core of Analytical Psychology or Depth Psychology). I tend toward the mystical. Both seem to have as their goal the combination of all four mystical elements of the universe– earth, fire, air and water to create a 5th i.e. the philosopher’s stone. The “stone” for the mystical alchemist is the ‘ultimate state of enlightenment’ where the disparate parts of humankind are separated then recombined into one.

 For example (and this is where Mercury comes in), The prima materia of the universe comes as a dichotomy that of masculine and feminine with the male sulphur, hot, dry and active in opposition to the female, the argent-vive (mercury)–cold, moist and receptive, or male represented by Sol the creative force and the female by Luna the receptive force of wisdom. The conjunction of these two upon following a certain pattern will produce what Carl Jung termed a coiniunctio, the ultimate goal of the Individuation process i.e. what humankind seeks to become– a whole. 

 The action of Mercury in this process participates in both the light and dark worlds of the psyche and thus participates at all levels during the process of transformation.

 I also believe that the “dream body” (the ‘you’ in your dreams, acts as Mercurius, the intermediary between the conscious and unconscious– the waking world and dreaming world.

 Thus the feminine is the catalyst to the reunion of the male and female dichotomy that which was One as symbolically represented by “Adam”. Instead of lead transmuted into gold via the Philosopher’s stone the mystical way is talking about the psychological process of Individuation. It is the transmutation of the conflicted, and separated, human dichotomy into the wholeness of the Illumined Philosopher.

 I used the word “catalyst” in the paragraph above to point out that though the feminine starts the process of unification it does not lose its essence in the process. It’s a little like combining several ingredients in a meal and roasting them together so that they infuse one another but maintain their distinctness. The combining creates a flavor greater than the sum of their parts (if only our politicians could practice that simple rule of the universe).

In a later email the reader also commented on the significance of the number 4 in Jung’s philosophy.

The “four” to which you refer is represented by the four sides of the square while the circle represents the whole, or spirit, or the “stone”. It is the jewel in the lotus, the Christ if you will.

 By securing the prima materia (philosophical mercury) the dark matter of this bit of alchemy, the light of the stone can be found (“in the darkness can be found the light”). In a way the light of what we are can be found within (distilled from) the darkness of the unconscious, both personal and collective.

 The anima mundi, or world soul, that Jung so eloquently spoke of is released from its bondage when the union between Sol and Luna takes place.

 Perhaps this is the reconciliation spoken of by many Christians– that which can unite the souls of all humanity? Jung saw within the way of the alchemists the archetypes, the primordial dream symbols that form and inform the myths of humankind. Jung of course saw all this as a means for understanding the enigmatic psyche.

 His “four-ness” or what he referred to as the ‘quaternity’ and reference to the “squaring of the circle” regarding the images related to the four elements of the universe represented by the pairing within the male and female archetypes (air and fire in the male, Earth and water in the female) and the ‘spirit’ (the wholeness of the circle) was represented in his images of the mandalas that share common attributes across all cultures.

 In short, he seems to have seen the human psyche as having a four fold nature (note the personality traits represented by the four function types, feeling, thinking, sensation and intuition from which the Meyer’s Briggs Type Indicator was developed– see http://www.personalitypathways.com/type_inventory.html

Why is there still such interest in alchemy, a largely discredited prescientific method of research?

 I believe that there is this internal pressure from the human soul to reunite the varied aspects of our archetypal selves and thus gives continued import to the study of alchemy, not as a means of manipulating the material world but as a means of fully understanding the human relationship with it.

Conflict can be a gift of redemption

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The world of opposites exhibits many ups and downs. There’s feminine and masculine, love and hate, left and right, light and dark, oh yes, and you and me.

The light and dark opposition is interesting in that we often use them as metaphors for our behaviors and emotions.

There’s also the strange world of color. Colored lights are additive in nature in that when we add the three colors of red, blue, and green that you and I can see we get white light whereas if we were to add the same colors in pigment that is subtractive in nature we would get black. Apparently light begets light while pigment absorbs it and gives us blackness. This is not unlike our emotions. Positive lighthearted thinking brings even more light into our experience whereas negative and subtractive thinking brings us heavy darkness.

The world of conflicting opposition can be found in all the world’s religions as well in the form of death and resurrection, punishment and forgiveness, heaven and hell (whether as an earthly experience or one after death), and gods and goddesses. Creation mythology has a something-from-nothing nature and death is just a part of life. In the Christian Bible the old God is in stark contrast to the new God of the New Testament whereas in the Hindu Bagavad -Gita the variety of aspects of the one god often display creation aspects as well as destruction aspects there is also being and non-being, immortality and death. In the Tao there is the yin and yang. This union of opposites seems to play out across the human milieu.

In life, in stories, theater, and in myth there are heroes and adversaries, destruction and redemption, and endings that morph into beginnings. Mirrors whether in our waking lives or dreams often reflect our opposites whether it be the right/left switch of a reflection or the real us that has been hiding behind the mask of who we pretend to be removed in front of the mirror in our dreams.

Some of Jesus’ parables exhibit a perplexing juxtaposition of opposites also for example, as presented in Mathew’s quote from Jesus, “whosoever seeks to save his life will lose it, and whosoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” This seems to flaunt human common sense.

In our dreams opposites can reign supreme and even images that appear positive may actually be speaking to a lack of said aspect for example, an image of love and caring can suggest a desire for or a loss of love and caring. Death in dreams is often the first step toward life i.e. the end of one way of being opens the door to a new way of being.

Though we may view a conflict with others as a product of opposing ideas or right versus wrong it may reflect the same idea that resides within us that we want to reject or disavow. Sadness in dreams often reflects the opposite i.e. happiness that may actually point to immense suffering. Also in dreams the soul often shows up as the opposite gender of the dreamer e.g. a woman’s soul is masculine while a man’s is feminine. Dreams are continuously presenting images from the unconscious for the conscious to integrate with itself into a whole. To be fully human the opposites of the conscious mind and unconscious mind need to be united.

There be Dragons out there: Sailing into the imaginal

 

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Children have a special relationship with the imaginal and learn early on to edit their sharing of it with adults. You see, adults draw a hard distinction between what they think is real and the imaginal world of the child. The child plays with and explores the boundaries of real, keeping it flexible, while most adults have hardened those boundaries thus keeping what is contained within trapped and limited. But reality doesn’t care what you and I think of it and doesn’t conform to the ego boundaries that we set for it.

Those who have decided what something is one way or the other have essentially killed any possible alternatives (note that the root is “cide” i.e. to kill). This of course limits ones perspective and thus their options and resources. If we place too many conditions upon reality we eventually build a box of sorts around ourselves– a box born of many deaths.

When I reflect upon my dreams over the years one particular theme keeps showing up, nightmares of being trapped, contained, boxed in, imprisoned and trying to escape. I’ve been trapped in ever constricting tunnels, struggled mightily to fly and stay air born, held down, cornered, and lost within caves or endless hallways with no way out.

Something within me desperately wants to be expressed and keeps showing up in my dreams. But what is it? I honor the imaginal, some say to the extreme, but I too have a limit on this, artificially created so as to not look too crazy, or too over the top. After all I have a reputation to keep up and want to maintain the freedom to explore (the world tends to reign you in if you get too far out there).

But nothing new can be found if you remain within the safety of the box. To use another metaphor, no new worlds can be discovered if you’re not willing to sail off the “edge” of the world you’re on, just ask Columbus, Magellan, Elon Musk, and Steve Jobs.

I’ve been inside many boxes in my life and what usually keeps me there is the fear of what is outside, I mean, there are Dragons out there! I also don’t like to let go of what I have until I know what’s out there to grab hold of. Using yet another metaphor that resonates for me, it would be like letting go of the trapeze while blindfolded and hoping there’s someone to catch me at the other end of the flight. But risk taking is…well, risky.

Growth and the discovery of new worlds is often like that in that you don’t know what’s out there, you just know that you can no longer stay cooped up in the box any more. Though there may be dragons lurking on the journey, they must be willingly faced for the glory and the wonder of new discoveries.

For me it’s the imaginal world of my dreams that offers clues that there is something beyond my self and the culturally imposed boundaries and that I need to cast off into its unknowns so as to really see what’s possible.

It is a lonely journey, one because it is very personal and two because there’s little agreement from the rest of the world that the journey is worth it and there’s no guarantee that you’ll survive it. But remaining locked up in this damnable box, or tied to the safe harbored dock, is not what I want my life to be about i.e. there’s no journey if you’re tied to the dock.

 

“Disturb us, Lord, when we are too pleased with ourselves,
when our dreams have come true
because we dreamed too little,
when we arrived safely
because we sailed too close to the shore.


 Disturb us, Lord, when
 with the abundance of things we possess
we have lost our thirst
for the waters of life;
Having fallen in love with life,
we have ceased to dream of eternity
and in our efforts to build a new earth,
we have allowed our vision
of the new Heaven to dim.



 Disturb us, Lord, to dare more boldly to venture on wilder seas
where storms will show your mastery;
Where losing sight of land,
we shall find the stars.



 We ask you to push back
the horizons of our hopes;
And to push back the future
In strength, courage, hope, and love.”

 –Sir Francis Drake

Here she comes!

 

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Yesterday morning I stepped out into the cold half-light of a new dawn scanned the horizon as I frequently do and saw a most enchanting sight. There in the southern sky hung two brilliant stars so close to one another it was as if they were trying to touch.

These bright “stars” of the heavens were Venus and Jupiter symbols of the Feminine and Masculine embracing in the heavens above me.

That same night the Moon took on a red glow as the reflected light from the overbearing masculine Sun was eclipsed by Mother Earth.

“This must be significant” I mused. “But of what?”

And I dreamed that night of a non-coalesced pillar of static standing and vibrating in the middle of the dream space. When I approached and reached forward to find out what it was it revealed nothing. It seemed to promise meaning but gave me nothing.

After waking I continued to ponder both the dream and the waking events of the previous day. “I know there’s something there” I thought. “But what? But what?”

Then it hit me, for days I’d been writing about the Sophia, a visitor in an earlier dream and how she has been showing up in our study of the Magdalene in our Heretics Group, the Women’s March that my wife and one of our daughters attended, the #MeToo movement, media stories of women gaining political influence throughout the world and in my humble attempts at integrating the feminine aspect into the Adult Education programs of the church. I suspect that the pillar was again the Sophia visiting to once again open my mind to what’s going on around me.

Venus and Jupiter in alignment i.e. the feminine and masculine embracing while Mother Earth combines with its maiden Moon adding its light where earlier it was only the masculine light being reflected are all symbols of what’s happening in the world. We are at the dawning of a transformation for humankind.

The old way is resisting the change but change is happening, grinding, shoving, and pushing back against eons of spiritual and psychical imbalance. It is happening and those who embrace it, support it, and work with it will grow while those who resist will shrink and shrivel. The Balance is coming, Wholeness and Oneness is at the threshold invite them in or be trampled as they cross over.

A doorway into the universal soul

 

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I had a dream not too long ago where I seemed to be everywhere at once. The dream was very disconcerting and somewhat dark in nature, I’d no sooner noticed where I was than I’d be somewhere else, then nowhere and yet everywhere. This went on and on until suddenly I awoke and was a bit disoriented. It took some moments to remember and recognize where I was. It was as though the dream had carried into the waking world and I needed to pin the wakefulness down to find where I was.

This dream and its residual into the wakened state reminded me of the quantum physics concept of “nonlocality”. In the dream it was only when I noticed myself as being somewhere that the location would change. In the theory of nonlocality everything is potential and it’s only when we make an observation that the field of everywhere and everywhen collapses into a single place. It’s as though reality is what we make of it. It’s only when our ego-selves intervene that everything solidifies into a something.

Some self-awareness gurus like Deepak Chopra, Eckhart Tolle, and James Redfield suggest that at a fundamental level reality is a non defined soup or eternal soul that exists at the level of potential and only taking form through the personal soul, the soul of all our experiences. As Chopra once said “the soul is the observer in the midst of the observation.” Essentially there is an object that is observed, then there’s the process of observing that happens in the brain, and lastly there’s an observer. The brain is interpreting what is seen based on prior information, observations, relationships, and biases. This is all happening while the “observer” is observing.

In dreams this nonlocal essence is often imaged as an ocean or great sea while the waves represent the local or personal point-of-view. Carl Jung, the early to mid-century Swiss Psychiatrist thought of this vast sea as the unconscious mind where the universal archetypes of the psyche reside– that there is a shared information that crosses all cultures and across all time. Everyone and everything is part of a nonlocal ocean of intelligence i.e. an unbounded potential from which we can draw if we learn how. Dreams are but the waves of this vast ocean and present us with information that the conscious mind normally has no access to. They are an access-point or doorway into the universal soul.

My dream might have been trying to help me to keep the doorway and my options open as well as my points-of-view flexible and fluid. In short, to be more willing to let go and let reality evolve. All too often it seems that I cut short the process by settling on one point-of-view to the exclusion to all others.