14 January 2014 – This Page for my birthday is a small archive of writings: first, the Sunflower dream from my early Watershed series. Secondly, my journey today – with Jung’s Red Book into the Grand Canyon so to speak; and with a certain “Master Han”. Thirdly, a “creative writing” experiment in 1987 – ‘Through the Earthy World to be a Fish‘ – which chimes just now: unfolding the soul.
The Sunflowers – A dream from the Watershed, in June 1976
I went into a house in this valley, belonging to an old woman. Here in her house I have taken off all my clothes, and am lying on a bed. She and I talk together, she is a maternal sort of person. In the room we look at two huge white sunflowers on long stems. Their enormous white blooms, dipping and swaying, devour the heads of dead sunflowers, brown and dry around them, petal by petal – with their own petals.
I am fascinated, spellbound by this miracle, the purposefulness with which the two white flowers eat the dead ones. The beldame seems to live in a place where tourists drop in, perhaps to drink a cup of tea and inspect the marvel of her sunflowers. She doesn’t run a café or anything like that, but she doesn’t refuse travellers and wayfarers. She lives in the crease or fold, of this valley.
The sunflowers almost fill the whole room. I admire them so much that she asks me “would you like to take them home with you?” They are like an animal in the house. Perhaps they are a burden to her.
“No,” I said “thank you, but I don’t want to take them from you. I couldn’t keep them properly fed, it is too great a responsibility for me, it’s very difficult to find suitable food in London for them. They are so beautiful! Don’t they need lots of light? And you know, my place in London faces north. I don’t think it would be good for them.”
“Ah yes, they do take to the light,” she remarked. A flickering blue light is flowing into the room all the time, quite intense; it plays around the great white sunflowers, and they seem to thrive. But I think I am rather afraid of them … shirking ownership, I’d rather be a spectator.
Something was happening in that other-worldly blue light that does not lend itself to talk or to explanation. That colour itself has a radiance through which all can be seen, and which is yet impenetrable. I see the living which bends to take sustenance from the dead. And there are always the dying. I can tell only of a magic sunflower, white not yellow, which behaves like an animal, is beautiful, and scares me.
Back in my parents’ car the radio is playing Faure’s Requiem. Never can I forget such beauty, a multiple acoustic flower, the purity of the boy singing, the hooded waters of the chorus. The dead in the ground support with a strange tenderness the living generations. Or is it the other way round? for they bend, they give each unto the other … The stereo, being in some way connected to the car’s engine, is making some very strange noises.
My parents think I imagined the sunflowers, or made it all up, because I so longed to see sunflowers like these: like when I told them I saw swallowtail butterflies down the meadowsweet lane in Cornwall.
Journal, 11 January 2014 – “The Living of the Dead of the Eternal Sunflower”
(I wrote last week:) … I wondered if “Caleb” is dead and in the astral, and if the astral guardians recalling his life to him, bring him to this unknown spot, to witness a deep wound. If his soul is intact, what does he feel?
By “soul”, I mean the integrated humanity – our original Face – which often does not reappear in full until after death. During the lifetime, we live in a blinkered fragment, and blunder along … unless we open ourselves to the Dead. The Dead come forth as the Living Whole: the whole sphere. The Dead are like the Sunflowers.
It was an intense moment. I think I wondered even then, when in the opened crack – “C” should see this, hear this. If he is not physically dead yet, he will see it, when he is. He will see a woman by a table, in an oval frame of mist; what she feels and says, deep down.
It strikes the same point from time to time, like a bell, for whom it tolls.
But writing, this morning, comes a sudden profound intuition of the Dead; and of the sphere of the Dead being my extended Real Life. The more we are nourished by the Dead, the more we live and grow. When I am Dead, I am of the magidim or discarnate teachers of life; and I know everything of the instrument I was, which now lies in the Sea.
I know everything it said and did, dark and light, good and bad; I know every note it played. Each morning when I write, I dip into the Dead. I Love. Inside my body is the Dead – the skeleton, the white bones. On the bones grows the warm blood pulse, the fluent organic flesh and its cosmic capillaries through Earth. Lifetime at any time of history: what is history? Human pressure.
Think of the Dead, and do a deep slow breathing, more and more of it: the Dead, the Living Wonder. I turn to face my Death, which opens the Spirit and energizes the Root. When I am in the Dead, I forgive. It burns. We know what we did, and what we lost.
The entire matter is embraced in the essence of evolution, and is forgiven. The truth of this is so deep, it is not easy to retrieve; but here it is right now: a coiled snake on a peculiar seat like a broken tree; and an enigmatic woman whose veil slips. Here is the long breath. I must have waited long enough, for the Ground to always Give. And when the ground gives, we forgive: it is the Law.
Who could expect such an insight of the Dead? I don’t mean images about “C”, (whoever he may represent) which are thoughts. I mean the living Sunflower principle, the Dead which is my soul’s full flowering and in my bones.
The Dead who rose from Jerusalem, came to Jung: his soul. As I become fully Dead, I (like him), have a long life. It is an unforgettable, conscious moment. The opened Crack let in the light. The conscious living Breath of the Dead, if sustained, IS THE INDIVIDUATED ONE. My qualified tasks are put in front of me, one by one, just as they are: have more confidence! … Three words – Confidence, Competence, Calm.
I touched a wreck on the bottom of the sea. It only needs one touch … or many touches, briefly.
Vestige of a Hidden Wreck A long summer twilight rolls into herself a scroll of waves at sea, vestige of a hidden wreck, spending from the deep upon sand their coin - flat pieces, pennies, pebbles to skim and a dark curly branch of beached blackthorn. You made it into a chair for a child, so I recall, and water poured up through your house, it wept through floors and windows, deep rooted dew self piteously heavy, determining, to 'look at me'. What got caught in the curly branch? a bird whose wings are snagged, perhaps. It flutters like a hart among veined trees like a butterfly breathing night. The vessel creaks, cries out on the deepening sea. Shiver my timbers, heart, within heart there opens like a rose, the poise of inner being like a poisoned pearl, demurely waiting. For give! Give way to the force - forgiveness loosens in the wave a sky blue sparkle of forgetmenot. The wave brought in this branch, rolled it back and forth with the moon a while, left it on the wet sand, shining high and dry. Little children find the black branch, climb among its twigs, play Ships at Sea. I seem to see, caught in the curling wood, a message cast up from the shifting, rippled sand, twist of paper in glass, tornado, ship in a bottle with tweezers delicately through the neck constructed, stoppered and launched. Oh, brave ship enclosed by walls of glass; oh fragile construction afloat hermetically sealed from water in which you are borne - oh little child alone in a lake so measureless, so dark, there is no other, oh child awaiting, waiting still far away from twists of wind and waterspouts in the deep of the dark lake, no place, no shore is home ; extreme solitude being the lake, the vessel drifting. Who calls to the child from the shore that cannot be seen? Houses, windows, chimneys, where are they? The alone is a sail, far from land. The alone is in the air. It is in each piece of furniture. It dwells. It is being the widow of the hidden quantum as time only. What is quiet? the quiet which stretches through the obvious? the quiet of night which every where encircles? Night touches herself, around the Earth. The blind must touch to see grains of sand. Wet stones. Gems. Your face, one contour at a time my infinity touches while waiting; not my hand. My infinity is your face. My hearing is your speech. My disappearance is your recovery.
from Poems of Eclipse, 1999
My recognition of the Conscious Dead; the Conscious Breath and Breadth of Life on the Sea of Death … is bliss: to touch the pulse that I am always Dead! Moments of this realisation came all my life. I am struck like clapper on gong with This and Now: eternal life on the wave, no worries.
Rohit Arya’s youtube videos on the breath struck gold. I shall watch and listen again and again, to sink in. I shall bring the Mac near my bed and let him sing me to sleep. He is funny and graceful. He says the slower you breathe, the more you can hear. You get to hear plants. He can hear earthquakes before they happen.
Journal 12 January
I am reading Han Returns to Earth – a novel by Barbara Brown. Here is a mini-review: just one of the many miracles between its covers:
“To understand t’ai ch’i, to be in Accord with it, is to dive into Natural Effort. Breath is a beautiful example of this. We are being breathed – we don’t have to think of each breath and make sure it happens. We can alter the pace of breathing, encourage slower, deeper breaths – but THAT we breathe, is not up to us. The last breath of our allotted store is not up to us. Equally, if we grasp the great principles of the shifting of weight and the turning of the waist, the co-ordination of limbs and trunk with the dan-tien, the compatible and necessary qualities of Rising and Falling, Expanding and Contracting, Release and Storage of Energy, we can enter the activation of these principles as lightly as a leaf in space drifting from branch to ground.”
A little later on, Master Han speaks again: “I sat within one point of what you call a Triangle, and felt the pleasure of accompaniment. The Guardian Angel, the suffering human and I. What more can we do for a suffering soul, than be present? without argument, discussion or applied helpfulness …
“Beloved Friends, the three pointed energy has a vitality not present in the line between two points. The line between two has direction and apparent certainty, but the arising into three brings necessary mystery and a sense of Other. It is like sitting within the structure where the roof is not flat but pulled into this Pointed shape.
“Dear Friends, may I pass onto you a sweet practice called the Pointing of the Way? If ever you are in distress, and the two-pointed way has you wandering there and back and forth without realisation, raise your arms above your heads and with your fingertips create this Pointed shape. Breathe your way out of the Two and into the Three. And wait without expectation or knowing, for a clearer quality of air and ether within the soul, to bring you refreshment and respite.”
Far too rarely … do we humans turn to our patient and courteous Guardians!
It reminds me now, of a moment many years ago in my friendship with Barbara. We were together in Kew, near the house where her mother was dying. We were talking of Kabbalah, and I suddenly saw the Three – an observing fulcrum extends the point of life beyond the relationship which is Two … which becomes a living Tetrahedral space: the volume. I saw it everywhere in the street for a while, as persons passed by. I saw it in every room of life.
This is profound, to keep in mind. Isn’t it wonderful how it returns to me through Barbara’s book? I was aware of it in principle, ever since, but now it has clarity. The other deep truth we shared in the early days, was that we are Death, and Death is our human indissoluble bond, each one of us …. wearing our bright clothes: our dancing bones, the beauty of the inner metatarsal, how it flows.
Trying out Master Han’s “sweet practice”, I found it makes a little pointed roof over my head with fingertips – a triangle, Binah Hokhmah Keter. Let it be my calling signal to the Guardian Angel. To triad the Two gives it space, volume, consciousness.
I just received this link to Mr Han :
: Enjoy! (You can ask him a question on the site.)
Metanoia turns to the inward waterfall rich with silence: the upanishadic filament nearer and dearer than name or face.
Journal 13 January THE DESERT SEA OF THE DEAD
“This hour belongs to you,” says Jung in the Red Book while airing his doubts to Philemon and to his soul … “I limp after you on crutches of understanding. I am a man and you stride like a God.”
Since starting to breathe consciously, ie slowly – and I remember more often to – Sattva is more present here, as the elder healing current through my body.
“Do I trust every valiant man, and not you, my soul? Your hand lies heavy on me, but I will, I will … … You know how difficult it is for me to set aside the beggar’s pride I take in my own thought.”
This is now the chapter “On the Service of the Soul”. I got home from Somerset last night. A (2) passage follows: the passages marked (2) are a commentary on, or insight with, the opening quest; they contain Philemon’s speech with the soul. The illumined capital heading the chapter is a red U in a painting of a tower by a river or lake. On the opposite bank are dark mountains and grey sky. In the foreground is a grassy meadow.
“You open the gates of the soul to let the dark flood of chaos flow into your order and meaning. If you marry the ordered to the chaos, you produce the divine child, the supreme meaning beyond meaning and meaninglessness.”
It is when Philemon comes. For instance – most of humanity lives in chaos, with dim glimpses of an ordered psyche. And so there is the dark polluted chaos and its fears and guilt and violation, and there is the divine Order. It seems the two are balanced pans, although the cosmic order is of homeopathic quantum potency. At the beginning of a journey, Order steps through into chaos with a lamp. I used to go through into ancestral attics and derelict house extensions. At the beginning of a journey, there is a bow-wave wall of doubt and bleak confusion and horror. So we live in and as that state between, between the breath.
Jesus yet cursed the fig tree which bore no fruit; and it withered. Be free and beyond Christianity. And drinking the pus of plague boils/smell like roses? Is that Tibetan Tonglen? – the breathing in of the dark, and out as Light? We each have something to confront which is meaningless and repels us; I was given tasks to do in the Watershed dreams which were either junk neurosis, or they were such as this … like to sit down on snails, or to cross and confront a ditch with a green slimy monster in it. However, I faithfully and stubbornly made my river crossing, and I guess I continue to.
“The slave to virtue finds the way as little as the slave to vices.”
River to cross. The kind of river that flows in many channels, chuckling, gurgling, pouring over stones and along sandy islands. There is always some form of it to cross – sometimes lifetimes. A relationship with Aries was one of the channels. I feel – rightly or wrongly – that I reach a threshold. The crossing and the threshold is gradual. Perhaps pausing on a sand-bank which parts the waters like hair – what now? Hold the lamp up – a kind of deep dark cleft where the water flows smooth, strong and quiet … this is my immediate impression. Such channels in the river are boat shaped, submerged boats with deep keel … places where we may swim.
The way is simply – to keep going. One foot after the other, in the river of the world. Deep channels carry the distant stars. I am floated off the rocks. Other parts of the crossing were stony and shallow and required great concentration on life. The concentration on life seems now easier.
A river even so, is a boat on the Sea of the Dead.
Some speculation on Saturday with my mother on the Kilve Jurassic coast – how much of the Severn estuary is sea and salt, and how much of it fresh mud, with the rivers that enter it and never end? At Kilve the distance to Wales is great, so it is the sea.
The illumined capital for the next chapter is a red D entwined by a very long black and white snake. The letter D stands in a desert. In the desert under the starry night sky, is a pilgrim in a white garment, looking very lost. He has broken his moorings to the Swiss tower by the lake with mountains and grass, and he is adrift on dry sands, with only the wisdom of serpents under stones to speak to him.
Before this, he stood helpless for six or seven nights. The spirit of the depths said “Look into your depths, pray to your depths, waken the dead.”
The chapter is called “The Desert”. A wasteland leading far from mankind. “Why did I avoid my Self?” he asks. Then he is recovering lost ground. He goes into the desert like Christ and like other sages. We allowed our soul to become drifted with dry dunes, as we attended to the urgent market place – our marriages, births and deaths. Like sand, they scatter and float.
“Should I open the airy magic garden of the wilderness? What leads me into the desert, and what am I to do there? Is it a deception that I can no longer trust my thoughts? Only life is true, and only life leads me into the desert, truly not my thinking that would like to return to thoughts, to men and events, since it feels uncanny in the desert. My soul, what am I to do here? But my soul spoke to me and said ‘Wait’. I heard the cruel word. Torment belongs to the desert.”
I am reminded here of my writing “To the Brown Land”. It led me into a desert which blossomed. See later, in this Page.
“No culture of the mind is enough to make a garden out of your soul. I had cultivated my spirit, the spirit of this time in me, but not that spirit of the depths that turns to the things of the soul, the world of the soul”.
My brown land began as a walking into the water, became the desert beyond Rapunzel’s tower, and from the desert it became water again, a fish’s view in the depths all around.
“The soul has its own peculiar world. Only the self enters in there, or the man who has completely become his self, he who is neither in events, nor in men, nor in his thoughts. Through the turning of my desire from things and men, I turned my self away from things and men, but that is precisely how I became the secure prey of my thoughts, yes, I wholly became my thoughts.”
The thoughts and dreams are fishes in the desert of the Sea; and fishes are the watery crescents or Whales and their long-distance language of vibration. To launch into the spirit of the depths, we suspend belief in our accustomed ideas – which in my reverie, were policemen. They cast out ropes to haul me back in, but so long as I wrote, I could ignore them, and keep going. I felt idiotic. For a while it was like being in a dark drawer inside a chest, but there was a crack of light along the horizon, and it delivered me like a spring on the mountain side … to some deep sights and spontaneous memories.
To become the secure prey of my thoughts – which are fishes – I no longer own them. I embody them in the shoal. Yet there is a selectivity: to follow and be not those of the market, but those which play, and are simple minded. Fortunately I didn’t go to university: unfortunately for Jung, he did, and had to undo a lot of cleverness. My hot desert sand ripples and turns very easily into moving water.
Jung was initially overwhelmed by the endless infertility of his desert – the intelligentsia community in Europe. “Wherever the creative power of desire is, there springs the soil’s own seed. But do not forget to wait. Did you not see that when your creative force turned to the world, how the dead things moved under it and through it, how they grew and prospered, and how your thoughts flowed in rich rivers? If your creative force now turns to the place of the soul, you will see how your soul becomes green and how its field bears wonderful fruit.
“Nobody can spare themselves the waiting, and most will be unable to bear this torment, but will throw themselves with greed back at men, things and thoughts, whose slaves they will become from then on … he will become their fool. … He whose soul is a garden, needs things, men and thoughts, but he is their friend and not their slave and fool.
“Everything to come was already in images: to find their soul, the ancients went into the desert.”
Remember Sahara – the sight of every history to come, carved in the rocks by the wind. Humanity can invent nothing else. I must have spent many precious lives in the desert, to get the point from a few brief visits in this.
The hot hell is the waiting. Jung writes in the Black Book (see footnote 74) of his own hot hell which was the waiting: his wrestle – because his was an ardent intellect with logic, philosophy, medicine and images. “The place of the soul is a lonely desert” … and the early anchorite community. “There they found the abundance of visions, the fruits of the desert, the wondrous flowers of the soul. Think diligently about the images that the ancients have left behind. They show the way of what is to come. Look back at the collapse of empires, of growth and death, of the desert and monasteries, they are the images of what is to come. Everything has been foretold. But who knows how to interpret it?”
I had a glimpse, that the vision is timeless, cyclic and circular. All possible events transpose to NOW, in the flowing desert behind the vision of all humankind.
“The ancients said in images: ‘the Word is a creative act’ … The words that oscillate between nonsense and supreme meaning are the oldest and truest.” The poet. The wind that carves the rock with sand.
I have the Philokalia book somewhere, which describes some of the desert visions. I have an empathy with the anchorites, which must have been among them. Re-reading this – now think of The Dead, who burgeon and prosper, wherever I turn the mind. THE DEAD THINGS move under and through our intentions, and make them flow in rich rivers. We converse, his soul and I.
Wherever we turn our living energy is The Dead; there is no end to the dead souls that abound in our ground. They may manifest as negative, or as life giving thought forms. They may propel war, famine or poetry. They may nourish humanity, or starve humanity with tinsel wealth, waste and despair. We do make choices, very deep down. The dead and the living are the white Sunflowers who sustain each other. Which are the dead and which are the living, in everyday consciousness? Contemplate Key 13, the Scorpio Force. The skeleton – with its Venus and Mars centres at a right-angle (throat and pelvic chakras), and with a white rose nearby – harvests the ground. The skeleton has an enduring essence: the ground is rich with the manure of passing sexualities and powers.
The Hebrew letter NUN with this Key, is a symbol for “sprouting” or “Fish” – meaning sperm. The Zodiac sign is Scorpio.
The Scorpio force is – in the Field of the Dead – the capacity to be reborn in life: to engender in the life-streams’ fertile mulch, the Second birth of the soul.
Jung’s two early dreams in the Black Book, which counselled him to study medicine, were of archaeology, palaeontology, and a glorious many-tentacled organism in a pool – it looks to me rather like our interior organs which have beautiful colours in the dark. He called it a radiolarian. (Memories Dreams Reflections p.105.)
(Our earth, our real body: infrared Satellite photos of Malaschino glacier in Alaska, and a volcanic region in eastern Siberia)
So picture your interior body all in colour – and always in the night: rich, river-running colours, beautiful colours, the veins and arteries, wadis, weathers and oases in the desert, the beauty as seen from the sky, the deep crystal hues of rock and geologies, of liver and spleen, of many-flowered lungs, of luscious lakes, of throbbing tissue, blood and viscera, all pulsing, all integrated, all of it the Living Art. The Living Art is interconnected throughout Earth and Ocean, through soil of soul, through ground: roots, shoots, rhyzomes and atomic rivers.
It is hidden. It is all within. Even the smells manifest only when they break with air. As soon as they break with air, they transform to decaying matter. So the Alchemists say: don’t drop your body on the ground, don’t let it break, bleed and spill.
Modern medicine – and its TV soap – is concerned with what has broken, bled and spilled.
Now here is a day’s writing in July 1987 – “To the Brown Land”. It was a spontaneous ‘method’ for conscious dreaming.
Through the Earthy World to Be a Fish
I looked for my Inner Teacher, inwardly. This day was a landmark, as it bypassed the interpretation of dreams, to be the dream itself. Here is my method. It unfolds an episodic enquiry through a string of landscapes as “found allegories”, which incorporate my grandparents and places in my childhood. It all arose from the problem of what to do with JUDGMENTS and CONCEPTS: these were called “the policemen”.
MY MAIN fear in dispensing with the police is lest, when I next go some place, I find them there with their punitive thunder, at my having pretended or told people that they do not exist. “Facts! Facts! You idiot!” they cry.
There are however, other forms of security than policemen. I need to discover these, before the policemen can be safely left behind in their own room. I seek ways of venturing beyond thoughts – experiments to widen my focus and travel on my feet.
For this adventure, I look only at the feeling sense of it, to be this alone. Let it be a spontaneous visual setting. Step forth into and as the landscape that arises.
Now when I step out of the house in which the policemen are, I cannot at first see very much. It is like the kind of dream in which I cannot keep my eyes open.
I perceive a warm, flat brown world rather like a marsh or a desert at night. The house is behind me to my left. Underfoot, the earth is sandy, hard-packed and dense. It is also rather soft, like the wide ripples all around me of air and of ground. Their colours move slowly, like petrol through the surface tension of water. I cannot see the horizon. It is dark.
It is dark in the distance, wherever I look. It is velvety dark. The sky is only just above me, like a lid. I seem to be in a drawer (within a chest of drawers) whose horizontal perimeters are distant, unseen, and perhaps do not exist. The ceiling oppresses me slightly, like a heavy day. The ceiling is not solid, but a misty cloud-cover, crimson-brown to black.
I am on the shore of an infinite desert. The policemen call out of the window of the house: “You’re not very original. This is the place, the setting, in George Macdonald’s book about “Lilith”. Remember?”
“Be quiet,” I say to them. “I don’t care. This is what I see. This is what my inner eye saw while writing the last page; how it feels – oily colours, like inside an oil-paint tube. The dark, the brownness. The water, which is air.”
Now I stand on firm brown sand. The night has a dim light or glow of its own, around me. It isn’t very easy to move, or to think about it. I am still worrying about those policemen, and I am also tired and unwilling to write. However, I can see. Stems or reeds grow in small barren clusters in the earthy sand. I can’t quite see where the water begins, because the small long waves gleam along quiet crests. They are diaphanous, and compound this universe. They come to meet me from the invisible horizon before me, and they do not break, they hardly whisper, they swirl like oil, so clear that I see through them the brownness, like sand through limpid ripples of the sea.
The purity divides no element – the sky, marsh, sea and desert: the night, the phantom tide. My imagination wings towards the horizon. At the extremity of this chamber, may be light, a blue bright light, an opening through which I may crawl, climb out of the chest onto a rocky sunlit hillside.
The policemen in the windows of the house are still telling me to stick to the facts. NOW.
Well, this isn’t bad advice. The facts right now, are what I feel and see. I am for instance standing, six years old on a hill in Cornwall, and big dense clouds full of volatile rainbow colours like petrol in a puddle, fall on the fields with a loud boom of thunder. They are too heavy to stay up in the sky. Their impact reverberates menacingly around the rain-fragrant fields. I wonder how the cows are getting on.
It is a long way for a child to walk home through all this. I wonder if it hurts those sparkling fields to have the clouds crash down on them. I am frightened.
Here in the brown world, I am standing still. There are cracks in the earth. Perhaps the sun baked them.
I could pick up my feet and walk around a little. There are small depressions in the earth, and ripples, like the sand under the sea. In a while I could walk a little further out and see if it becomes water, cold and silky around my shins. It reminds me of a painting I did, called “Meet Mrs.Madder Rose”. Even though she was a broken mosaic of pinks and blues, this same place is evoked. Here is a sea so primaeval, you don’t know whether it really is the sea, or a petrified question. And what on earth do you do when you go into it? Just swim?
Now, this brown, earthy land is also that of fairytales.
The Witch hid Rapunzel in a desert. The Prince rode to look for her on his horse. He crossed first a hinterland of sand and scrub and bushes. Eventually he arrived at the desert proper. He crossed a sort of bergschrund or gap, into it. The real desert is utterly flat, yellow brown. It spreads away everywhere without a feature as far as the eye can see in all directions except for the scrubland behind him. Its flatness glitters; the sky gleams with swirling waves of wind and sunshine. The sky is a splendour, a many-hued eternity over this blank on the map, this abstract plane of no geometry; this unmeasured tundra.
The Prince rested and watered his horse. Perhaps he decided to leave the horse behind, and set out on foot. Perhaps they galloped together on and on, until the eternal enigma ringed them round. I don’t know what he did.
The Prince couldn’t conceive of there being no bushes or thoughts at his perimeter. Something there must be. Something there must be, around him. Bushes are life, however wiry its grasp, and they might shelter small animals, to whom you ask “What direction? Did you see her? Can you tell me the way to the next little creature?”
But what do you do when there are no bushes, nothing?
Perhaps you ride on and on, like Burke and Wills crossing Australia, limping twixt salt sea and salt sand, until the lead in the pencil of their bodies melted, and fell out with the heat.
Perhaps the desert is the being of not-being, the dazzlement of a star.
Somewhere within this firmament of nothing, the Witch enclosed Princess Rapunzel, the eternal question; and the optimism, the plans and the maps with which the Prince set out on his quest, soon shred to dust in its rays.
Did he come to Rapunzel? Did she come to him? Did he, becoming dust, embrace her? The Prince doesn’t know. For Rapunzel is concealed in the spaces between his being.
The Prince rode away over this opaque mirror, and perhaps he brought back not Rapunzel but a princess, for the brothers Grimm to write a story. For the Prince is still out there, and nobody knows what he is doing. We, who live in the world, write and read stories, which begin and end.
In the brown land vista now arising, I’m eleven years old.
In Somerset, the Quantock hills slope imperceptibly eastward until they become Sedgemoor, an old sea-bed. The change, as you cross over into the Sedgemoor levels , is curious. First there are fields, villages, roads and farms; the landscape without hills, rises and falls and conceals the sky just enough for you to know that it is land. Then you cross a railway line, or a canal, or a field, and descend to a gleaming expanse of moor, of long ditches and lines of willow withy-trees, of peewits and herons, of bull-rushes and deep grass, of long earthy drove-roads, of sleepy tractors and bulls, of little cottages hidden among mirror meadows, of the sky’s huge and uninterrupted pageant to where it kisses the unseen and distant sea to every side; and this is not land.
No, this was never land, for all its farmers.
It is a place where the child comes out of school, and picnics; time stands still. Along arrow-straight dry mud paths, you ride the round potholes on your bike within the greenness, a lovely bumpy switchback, again and again. It is flat like a floor for ever. It is flat for the sky and the rising song of larks. It receives the light. It lies flat on its back and secretly furred, like a waiting woman.
Now my grandfather Jim at this time, was a wonderful teller of stories.
Many years ago when we were children, on each of his visits he would continue the saga of The Wicked Prince. It seemed to go on for years. He made it up as he went along, under pressure from us, so neither he nor we knew what would happen next.
We heard the Prince through his disgraceful childhood, and through the gardens he grew up in. As his wickedness grew, so did a black birthmark on his neck. His hundreds of adventures have slipped away into the spaces between time. He rode the lost seas and he quarreled with queens. He grew and grew.
The last time my grandfather was persuaded to speak of him, the Wicked Prince was searching for a lost ruby among pebbles in the sky, behind the clouds. As he rummaged, he impatiently rolled the stones around, and we heard the thunder, every time. And there he got stuck. Jim ran out of inspiration at this point, and whenever we begged him to tell what happened next, nothing had; the Wicked Prince is still stuck up there behind the clouds.
He searches for the dawn … the crimson ruby light … for ever after.
I have a black and white snapshot of my grandmother Helen, taken when she was in her seventies. She is on Sedgemoor, and she is bending right down into the long grass, and picking up apples. She wears a headscarf and a burberry mac, and you can just see the tops of her spectacles. She is a little square stooping creature, like a child or a hedgehog without any prickles, absorbed in the eager effort of bending and gathering from the earth. I can hear her exasperated glee, her humour, her love of the sky, the sea, Hamlet and Beethoven.
When she went for walks with my mother, my mother put a hand on her back and pushed her gently up slopes; for she had a dicky ticker. And she would lean back on her daughter’s hand, like a grey and white sailing boat – her enormous smile at her own frailties, and the way we all mimicked her German-Scottish accent. Her face is square and soft and fragrant, fringed with straight white hair, she is not tall, her shoulders and hands are slim and bony, and her waist and legs are strong and thick. She wears lambswool cardigans and long straight skirts almost to her ankles, and wide sensible shoes.
In her youth she was a great beauty. In her age she became more so. Until she died at 84, she never stopped falling in love with eminent concert- pianists; nor they with her.
The other place this brown world leads me to, is a peninsula of land along the Emerald coastline between St Malo and Cap Frehel in Brittany. One day, on a camping holiday, I cycled all the way to Frehel along and around every coastal indentation. On one of the headlands, I came out of its “spinal vertebrae” – the clustered town upon it – and found myself on the point, a “finger tip” somewhere between sea and land. The tide was far, far out. A vast opacity of mud and sand lay asleep around brooding lumps of granite. The sand is soft and dry in the grass, and rippled and firm lower down.
On this exposed creek are planted forests of poles, like stems. I think they are lobster or mussel catchers. They stand forlorn on their tall legs, like sculptures left by an artist who forgot his name.
You don’t know, in this country, whether you cross the grain of sea or land.
The sea brings into the land, wide shallow canyons of its own mud, with here and there a stranded boat. Later in the day they fill with the gleaming increment of ocean; and everything on the full tide dances to the silver sky.
Never did I see so beautiful a sky, as in this country. I drew here, not people, but landscapes. I felt tender to tears for this country and her shy treasure, her blooms of light. I fell in love with this place and sketched where we were: the rocks, the boats and the harbours around Alet where we camped. I caught the rain in my notebook; the sky, the wild wind, huge pearling clouds, the space between tree branches, the waves of the sea.
During this time I was living and seeing “upside down” as a painter. I lived not in houses and things but in and as the fluid shape of space around and interpenetrating them.
These are some not-doings I find in this brown earthy world.
However, here I live, so here is action, and so I am moved in the low, russet darkness, to find out what the element is like.
It is misty and not easy to feel the ground or make steps. The air washes viscous around and through me like tendrils of sand, with dark hollows. I have not much substance myself. I am not an active outline, but a vague definition. I cannot feel myself walking, so “where am I next?”
Here are shallows whose water disappears like mist into the no-form of the shore. There seems to come a dim yet steady light from within. To go into the water is like entering a soft cool cobweb, it strokes halfway up my legs where the light catches it.
The house of my safety is further off now. It is silhouetted dark, compact and slightly Gothic against a glow which is not light. I think I would rather like to bring the house with me, as the distance between me and the policemen is now a little more, and I don’t know if I can catch their voices, or see the knotted sheets with which they make lifelines to throw to me across the undulating web.
I can of course remember the policemen if I need them. I can remember their philosophy. I feel rather foolish standing here. I might be copying someone else, not being me at all. I might just be writing a story.
I widen my angle, like I have been advised; this should take care of the problem of faith. At the corners of my vision, breathe catchments of darkness. What might I see in these? Red flickers? The lights of distant ships maybe?
What actually happens, as soon as I widen my vision, is: I see, I receive directly in front of me. The shore now shelves quite steeply into the mist of water, and out of sight. As I have not much substance, I won’t drown, if I go into it? I am not a hostile element.
I don’t need to stand. I cannot feel what I’m standing on, so I might as well swim forward on my tummy and let the element wash over my shoulders and back. So I have a brief half-moon vision : the crescents of golden shore around and below me, vanish; and I am in deep violet.
It is intensely dark in the deep. There is no splash of water. I float in, and of gossamer. Never mind monster fish and big things underneath. These things don’t really interest me for now. They are hearsay.
What I do is hold my breath and float on the sea, with confused surprise, and I try not to be stiff and afraid, but to breathe with it, let it go, let go up and down, side to side, with it. There really isn’t anywhere to go, and I don’t want to go too far, so here I am in this dark violet place which I know nothing about, and which has no point.
I thought I might go to sleep. So I lay down ,to curl up for a bit.
But … I AM ACTUALLY A FISH!
— so I sat up again to write — between equal air-pressures of soft dark crimson. I can let these buoy up my back and press gently into my hollows with their own. I do not need to remain on or as a surface. I am sometimes high in the air, and sometimes in the deep of water; and both at once. It does have waves, though I cannot see them. If I “go fluid”, they are my fluidity.
I don’t need to swim with my arms as I thought I should. Fish have tails. I flick mine and off I go. My tail is very strong, and I go wherever I like, a whiteness in osmoses of coloured darkness.
My vision is not in front. The eyes are to each side; thus I see all around, and up, down, left, right, are meaningless, I soar to the bowers of the air, plunge to where the depths turn viridian; space is my aerodynamic, I am streamlined, I do not exist, I play.
I play within conversant solids of the rainbow dark, and I don’t need to go anywhere; thoughts are not mine.
But am I “learning anything”? I feel giddy, as if I left something behind or something out. This is not what I expected. I thought when I first came out of the house with the policemen, that I would find myself among the raw furrows of earth and rock, where a bicycle rests near a quicksand.
There are stars and brightnesses in my fishy world.
I am not hungry yet, so I do not need to go anywhere. I can coast along the crests of huge molecules of liquid or air. Whenever something in the organism checks and becomes a thought, I get vertigo, a nauseating imbalance. Then I let myself go again, as solitude.
I am fully occupied just being and having so large a dimensional element.
It is strange when accustomed all one’s life to flat surfaces, to live now in and as a chamber with no edges at all; to wriggle and slant my fins with unconscious fishy wisdom, to be, slippery-wise, the ocean itself.
There is nothing to get hold of, and there it is. It is gone. It is quite absurd …
If fish are our dreams … in this “drawing” of being a fish, I find myself in a darkness, dark place, and simultaneously think of the sky, my thoughts are drawn up there. A statement is also its opposite.
The fish must explore its environment in terms of its own way of movement. The fish creates its own environment as it plays. THAT is the dream!
I don’t know what happens if I just stay and float in one place. Is there any “one place” indeed? I don’t know whether things come to me then or not, or whether the assertion of “my” movement “from place to place” drives them away.
I don’t know anything about here. I do not know whether I crossed the difficult land between dreams by marrying their rhythm with my seeing. What I do see is an oscillation like that between waves and beach; between high and low tide. Each gives to the other.
There is also an eagle, the all-seeing Eye or I who see everything. Because the eagle has so wide a view, the rights and wrongs of life stop fighting and begin to observe and allow each other to live…
This is the crowning achievement of the policemen! – the “watcher” within; when opposites unite in recognition.
The watcher within is hell’s curse until it matures, and loses the narrow and divisive prejudice. When my crippling self-critical arrogance loosens – when the tension undoes – the watcher that plagued my adolescence, transforms to a blessing: I am in and of every point of view.
They are I, each one, and part of I, the whole and unknown universe; they have no interest in destroying or opposing each other.
It was necessary to suffer the watcher all these years. The watcher was ‘till now, incomplete. That which is half-formed and scaffolded into a human life, is felt as suffering, only because it is yet incompletely seen.
28 July 1987
My quest was also inspired and encouraged by Marion Milner’s experiment in her book “A Life of One’s Own”.
Everything in the universe is circular, crossing the lateral plane of human thinking. Everything changes. It disappears and appears again. It vanishes and arises out of pregnancy. It encircles not a line of certainty, but itself. Itself rediscovers itself, picking up from the point of void. Sub-particles arise, combine, emit “new” items of energy, vanish.
This is being. Who knows where it comes from? It is precious beyond belief.
A gallery of Brittany seascape sketches 1986: Alet, near St Malo
Red Book: Jung Speaks with his Soul – Extracts from “Experiences in the Desert”
“I come with empty hands to you. What do you want to hear?” “If you come to a friend, do you come to take?” “I am poor and empty. I would like to sit down near you and at least feel the breath of your animating presence. My way is hot sand …” “You speak to me as if you were a child complaining to its mother. I am not your mother … Have you forgotten why you went into the desert?”
(Desert paths are terrible heavy to walk, loose sand, heavy grit, deadfoot. Jung is toiling into the Grand Canyon, and the heat lies on him like lead.)
His soul replies, “Can you not wait? Should everything fall into your lap ripe and finished? You are full, yes, you teem with intentions and desirousness! Do you still not know that the way to truth stands open only to those without intentions?”
Gallery – photos of Grand Canyon, 1997
(The path can stand open only where there is no agenda.)
I can feel his assembled Living Dead in the soul who rise up like leaves in the sand. He tells her he is a human being who is weak and sometimes doesn’t do his best. She says, “Is this what you think it means to be human?”
(You see? We are born full of the completion of our intentions; but we have to walk to fulfill them. He says to her: “You are hard my soul, but you are right. How little we still commit ourselves to living. We should grow like a tree that likewise does not know its law.”)
(There were episodes of the barren wait, in my dreams: and when I wrote and felt foolish, dry and uncertain. My well is curious these days. I must have waited long enough, for the Ground to always Give. And when the ground gives, we forgive; it is the Law.)
He says, “intention is the limitation, yes, the exclusion of life. We believe that we can illuminate the darkness with an intention, and in that way aim past the light. How can we presume to want to know in advance from where the light shall come to us?”
HOW WONDERFUL IS THIS WRITING OF HIS. Then there is a footnote: in the Golden Flower, Jung criticizes the western tendency to turn everything into methods and intentions. “Letting things happen, the action through non-action, the letting go of oneself (as Meister Eckhart counsels), became the key for me that succeeded in opening the door to the way.”
His soul replies to his scorn at himself, “Do you think little of me? Do you still not know that you are not writing a book to feed your vanity, but that you are speaking with me? … Have you grasped me, defined me, made me into a dead formula? Have you measured the depths of my chasms and explored all the ways down which I am yet going to lead you? Scorn cannot challenge you if you are not vain to the marrow of your bones.”
He replies – regarding his empty hands, which are like those which stretch out to the Priestess like dry autumn leaves: “I did not know that I am your vessel, empty without you but brimming over with you.”
It took 25 nights in the desert for his soul to become a free standing being, giving him hard but salutary words: and being of course, himself. The dialogue. The Scorn of the Skeptic blots out dialogue and tetrahedral consciousness. Next he goes into (2) commentary, and talks about the vice of Cleverness. “Cleverness conquers the world … but simple mindedness is the soul. So take on the vow of poverty of spirit, in order to partake of the soul … so I overcame Scorn. But when I had overcome it, I was near to my soul, and she could speak to me, and I was soon to see the desert becoming green.”