Sunday, January 30, 2011

Great minds think alike...Fools seldom differ?

Something in me of late feels that it has touched the depths, the sea bottom, reading-wise. I’ve explored the dark caves, confronted some monstrous beings, found a casket or two of sunken treasure. But it’s time to swim up again and break the surface into the light, take a few gulps of fresh air.

I’m a firm believer in synchronicity which is the interesting phenomena that occurs when the personal unconscious tunes in with the collective unconscious. Events, images, coincidences occur that mirror one’s personal feelings and dilemmas at a given time. Things can be dormant for a long time and then something stirs in the unconscious, as it did for me of late. Then fascinating things begin to occur. Jung saw this as being particularily associated with the creative force in oneself and the universe. 

Something led me to find a little scribbled note of mine from years back. It was the title of a book by Barbara Hannah, a close friend and pupil of the great psychologist, Carl Jung. I felt an urge to order this book ‘Striving for Wholeness’ but couldn’t find a copy in the usual sites at the time so ordered her Biographical-Memoir of Jung instead. It was so uplifting to read an intimate, feminine viewpoint of the life of this truly amazing man, a man of such humility, wisdom and love of humanity.   i feel I have lived with him, seen his humanity and his genius.  A Great Soul or Mahatma, the Indians would have called him. This gulp of fresh air totally revived me creatively and spiritually.

For most of my life I read either classics or non-fiction books and psychology was a special study. My father suffered greatly from mental illness and I wanted to try and understand what it was that troubled his spirit so much. My own spirit was also deeply troubled at this period of life and at fourteen I suffered from an anxiety complex, a lengthy panic attack that lasted about six months.  This was partly brought about by trying to read such dense, heavy material as psychology at too young an age.  I simply didn't have the centredness and maturity to contain it.  So I suffered a form of psychic indigestion!  However, I came back to this subject again in my twenties and it isn’t being foolish to say that reading Jung’s ideas and writings saved my sanity. Particularily his great work on alchemy ‘Mysterium Coniunctionis.’

Those of us who live close to the unconscious world who are primarily right brained types find the scientific, left brained, ‘rational’ approach to life harsh, unfeeling, dogmatic and out of tune with a quite different reality. This approach has arisen since the ‘Age of Enlightenment’ when it was necessary to dispel the darkness of a preceding age full of terrors and superstitions. Now, however, rationality has aquired a darkness, ignorance and blindness of its own just as impenetrable and hard to dispel.

The best story to portray this modern attitude is Hans Andersen’s 'Little Mermaid.' She is an anima figure who emerges half human, half fish from the deeps and longs to walk in the land of humans. But her feet are full of pain, as if sharp knives were sticking into them as she walks and she finds herself unable to speak the language of the conscious, solar world. This is very much the fate of the Piscean type (Sun Moon or Rising sign in Pisces) A Piscean myself, not only are my feet always in pain but I am quite often struck dumb when with very left brain people who appear to have all the answers, backed by masses of 'facts and education.'   It's almost impossible to explain my own beliefs or to move through the brick wall of their limited comprehensions. They seem to be so rational that they can bring doubt to those who are not so firmly centred. But my heart knows things they do not know and has had experiences they cannot begin to have.

It’s hard to understand this atttiude coming from intelligent people who profess to be detached and scientific. They seem terrified of all that appears to be irrational.  Let’s face it, we can be sure of nothing and science and medicine are always contradicting themselves, disproving their own theories, realising more and more that we merely skirt the edges of real knowledge. So why not open the mind to the possibility, at least, that there is more in Heaven and Earth than the eye can see.

Develop perhaps an Inner Eye that gazes on profunditiy?

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Is Human Life a Bursting Bubble?

When I was a child in the late 1940's there were few toys to play with and simple pleasures appealed.  One of my favourite pastimes was to buy a clay pipe for a penny or two, swish up a bowl of soapy water.  Dipping in the pipe, I would then blow through it, creating huge glorious bubbles full of rainbow colours.  Shake them loose and they would fly away and fall to the carpet where they would bounce a little.  This amusement kept me happy for ages.  It still keeps children happy for ages.

I was always a thoughtful sort of creature, a rather lonely, only child.  Lonely partly by preference, partly because we moved so much in those days that lasting friendships were hard to form.  My father was a long term serviceman in the RAF which meant a new posting every two and a half years and I had many a sad parting with a friend I'd grown to love.  Yet, I don't recall ever feeling bored.  Every small pleasure was enhanced and gave food for thought.  And watching the slow swirling of the bubble colours, moving gently from shades of green and blue to pinks and purples was an almost mystical experience at the time.  The colours entranced for a while but suddenly little black dots would begin to appear and inexorably grew and grew until the magic colours were swallowed into the black spaces and then...the bubble would burst with a big wet 'plop'.  This intrigued me as a child, this inevitable dissolution of beauty and colour into blackness then nothingness.

Sometimes I look at our modern world and see it as the bubble.  Around us we can see the beautiful, detailed, solid structures and architecture of the past, still standing despite wars and natural disasters.  Monuments that were lovingly carved, painted and ornate remain a tribute to the ideal of Beauty and the Divine in us all.  We see the artwork, clothing, jewellery of the ancients, the cave paintings made by unknown artists and realise that this longing to be creative and surrounded with what is lovely is innate in the human psyche.  People once saw and longed for visions of beauty and hope.  Even the poorest, hungriest, most miserable creature was allowed to enter a church or cathedral and raise eyes to what was sublime and uplifting.  It took them from life's darkness to higher and lovelier, kinder thoughts and feelings, even for a few moments before being plunged once more into the battle to survive.

Humanity has always lived with fear, uncertainty, natural disasters and death.  However, life is infinitely easier in many countries now, life expectancy greater in the capitalist portions of the world and the raw struggle to survive apparently conquered for many.  Life is easier but at the same time death less welcome.  And belief in the Divine almost a dirty word in a materialistic world.   Along with loss of faith in anything that appears intangible and unproven, beautiful images or the ability to create beauty seems spent in us now.  Modern humanity is fascinated with ugliness, disability, horror, murder, rape and cruelty in all art forms.  We enjoy watching films, reading books and looking at images that invoke darkness and despair rather than uplift as such images were once meant to do.  Taboos have been lifted till little remains to shock us any more. We've almost reached the bottom of the pit of Acheron.

Now it's all about clinging to the impossible ideal of physical beauty of the body and youth.  Without faith of any kind in the Divine (whatever form that may take for each one of us) Death is the ultimate terror to our fragile yet enormous human egos. It is like the black holes appearing in the bubbles, growing blacker and blacker by the minute, an ever-encroaching sense of finality and doom.  Modern art does little to raise our minds and hearts to higher thoughts or what might lie beyond this passing, fleeting mortal existence which comes and goes for as brief a moment of beauty as the bubbles from clay pipes.

Monday, January 10, 2011

The Madness of Ecstasy

It would be childish of me to be jealous of another writer. Better to be lost in admiration when a superior voice is heard and better still to learn from that voice.
So let me introduce Donna Tartt (as if she needs it) and her most famous book The Secret History. This book was published in the 1990's and thus refers timewise to a period in the 1980's. Hence the lack of computers and mobiles, those modern extensions of the human brain which have taken over real communication, taking us to a time when students wrote their notes out on note-pads or typed them on old typewriters.

I actually used to type all my first novels on an old Underwood and loved that machine but it was really hard work. After typing out three copies of a lengthy novel I would end up with a painful frozen shoulder but it had to be done. My biggest grumble is that writing has got a whole lot easier which means that all these pesky people who 'have a story in them' insist on writing the darned thing where before they would never have bothered with all the hard work. Nor would a writer have had all that editing imposed upon him. Too difficult and time consuming all round. You had to be dedicated in my day, you had to have the 'writing bug',the daimon that wouldn't leave you alone despite the frozen shoulder and aching fingers.
But, my apolgies, as ever I digress to my own troubles.

The Secret History. A tale of students in the 1980's on a campus in Vermont. These aren't your everyday students though. They are a small unique clique studying Ancient Greek with an eccentric but brilliant tutor. One of the major characters, Henry, is a fascinating figure, wealthy, aloof, detached, living in his head. He seems to have little emotion or feeling and lives in an ancient world of iambic metres and linguistic excellence. However, he does have a deep understanding of that ancient world of men, he comprehends their pagan cruelty and drama, their sense of inexorable justice and fate. He understand that 'Beauty is terror'. The ancients were far closer to nature and its rule of tooth and claw. They saw the death and bloodiness that lies beneath the smiling valley in the sunlight, apparently so calm and peacfeul yet teeming with unheard cries of pain and the crunchings of eater and eaten.

Henry's best friend, Bunny, is quite his opposite. These two are each other's shadows, each other's mirror reflection. Slowly but inexorably the two men act out the ancient and yet always modern tale of Pentheus and Dionysos from the Bacchae. Order versus chaos. The essence of the story is that chaos will always rise up where there is too much attempt at control. We have to allow a little bit of Dionysos and his delicious drunken ecstatic madness into our lives; we shut him out at our peril. Democracy means allowing the element of chaos, insecurity and uncertainty to exist in our lives. The price of stability and total security is repression, tyranny and a deadness of the spirit. Nothing is allowed to change or grown in such a fixed and rigid climate. This is a theme I want to explore in my new novel The Dying Phoenix.

As a writer, Donna Tartt is one of the most excellent I have read. Her prose flows with ease and clarity. Her choice of words shows such a love of language. There are some really striking and delightful verbs and use of imagery. The chapters which describe Richard, the narrator's, lonely time freezing in a hippie garret during a snow bound, icy winter in Vermont will always stay with me. This story is beautiful, compelling, a joy to read. The characters are unusual, not likeable but fascinating, compulsively interesting. There is something of Patricia Highsmith in this thriller, something too, as one critic remarked, of The Great Gatsby. It's a work of art and will linger with me for a long long time. I shall always retain the last few paragraphs imprinted on my inner retina. I love it when an ending is exquisite and this ending is truly so.

Someone described it as a thinking person's thriller. It is.

Favourite Quotes

  • My home is my retreat and resting place from the wars: I try to keep this corner as a haven against the tempest outside, as I do another corner of my soul. Michelle de Montaigne
  • Happiness is when what you think, what you say and what you do are in harmony: Mahatma Gandhi
  • Friends are people you can be quiet with. Anon.