Sunday, 11 June 2017
Sol y Luna
It's a long-delayed, much-needed (by me, anyhow, probably by nobody else on the planet....) domestic project. The little-used, little-in-size (what's with all the hyphenated adjectives today?) room upstairs at the front of the house is being painstakingly transformed. I'm not much good at this kind of thing: it all takes ages, step by little step. But the room is in process of snailpace conversion into......what?..... an alchemist's cave? Not really: caves don't normally locate themselves on the first floor, overlooking trees and hills beyond. Alchemist's den? The leonine quality isn't really me. Magician's workshop? Escape? Retreat? It's all beginning to sound a bit pretentious anyway. It will be a place to do Tarot, a bit of writing, and a bit of meditation stuff.
Consolidating, organising, processing are just three of the alchemical moves that have come into operation over recent weeks. One such has involved collecting together the various writing projects that I have done since, well, when I was twenty years old. Some of this stuff is fascinating, almost like newly-discovered treasure; some is being retained for historical purposes only; a few scraps of songs and poems are heading for the recycling ......
Alongside the items with which I am fully familiar are substantial pieces of writing that I had forgotten about. 'Personal identification' with some of it is pretty tenuous: the being who came up with some of that material seems related to the one on Pale Green Vortex today only in a most vague and wispy way. At the same time, revisiting my life-work of writing endeavours throws into full relief the patterns which have gone to make up a life.
I was particularly shocked - that's the best word for it - by a large A4 exercise book dating back to 1983, I would guess. It contains some writing that I did while on a rather long solitary retreat in the south of Spain. Page upon page upon page about Italian Renaissance art. In-depth studies of paintings, themes, the change from Byzantine to Renaissance styles, serious stuff. All sitting alongside analysis of the transformations in perception psychologically and spiritually which apparently accompanied these changes.
I struggle to recognise the guy who wrote all these weighty pieces; the analysis is far from how I see life nowadays. I am shocked by the facility with which 'I' write about God, the Son of God, the Virgin Mary in these paintings without cringeing or apologising. I suppose that I was seeing beyond the literalistic meanings given to these figures by exoteric Christianity to their more symbolic, archetypal aspects and universal qualities. I am also shocked by some of the themes which emerge in these essays. The outer garments are different, but the questions are in essence the same as some which continue to litter the posts on Pale Green Vortex over thirty years on.
Take these quotes from a dense and lengthy piece entitled 'The Annunciation'. "The angel is a messenger....... an intermediary between two worlds...... between man and god, between man and the divine....... The angel appears, and he announces....." Then, as if that's not enough, we've got Mary: "Like the angel, Mary is also, in her way, an intermediary......... intermediary between humanity and the son of god." Art, too, served this function, according to the author of these pieces; "True art...... like an angel, serves as a mediator between the human and the absolute."
There is pretty much zero personal resonance with this stuff today, maybe reflecting the reality that 'I' am better imagined as a flow, a stream, rather than as a being with any fixed attributes. Nevertheless, there is continuity between angels and the Virgin Mary on the one hand, and those fascinations which continue to the day, with Soul and with Anima. It is the same theme, attempting to work itself out in various ways.
The other thread running between the 'then' and the 'now' involves differences, dualities, pairs which are conceived as opposites. In the mid-1980s 'I' was preoccupied with the 'classical' (Apollonian) and 'romantic' (Dionysian) spirits. The former, according to my essays, emphasised clarity, order, rising above the unruly passions. The latter embraced the energy of passion, divine chaos and unpredictability. The aim was to bring about a certain synthesis, a fusion in which something greater than the parts was created. This endeavour 'I' saw as epitomised in the life and work of Michelangelo. And today, this stuff continues to find voice in alchemy (not that I have gone into alchemy in great depth), in my 'inner work' on light and dark, masculine and feminine, the basic polarities.
It is as if, when we turn up on this planet, the gods give us a task, or number of tasks, that will form the basis for our 'inner work' this time round. "Here you go, buddie. Soul, anima, the keeper of the keys: you need to really check that out. Duality - it's basic. See what you can do. Good luck, and see you next time round." Thus they spoke, giving out the koans for this lifetime, as this particular stream of consciousness hurtled through the bardo en route to incarnation in Buckinghamshire in the springtime of 1953.
There are recurrent themes which go to make up my 'life work', it seems. At the same time, there is a certain type of progression - not so much as a tedious straight line, aiming arrowlike towards its predetermined destination, but more as a ziggly zaggly path, running hither and thither, passing through brambles, thickets, on the edge of precipitous slopes, but heading vaguely in a certain direction. Or maybe it's not a line at all: more of a curve, a parabola, possibly ending up as a circle; I don't really know.
It is as if my life has taken on different shades, different hues, as the years have passed. The rainbow of colours expresses in different proportions with time.
The hues of life unmistakeably changed after my midlife, after my descent into darkness in New Zealand. There is a good quote from Jung (which I can't locate!), about how, the moment our life reaches its zenith, its midday, its texture begins to change with the long, slow descent towards midnight. "The first half of life is devoted to forming a healthy ego, the second half is going inward and letting go of it" - Jung again. This is not an accurate description of my life's unique shape, but there is a degree of resonance all the same. The sun begins to set, and the moon comes up.
I shall speak of solar and lunar rather than masculine and feminine. Masculine and feminine are vague, indistinct, impossible-to-define and pin-down kind of words. Nevertheless, many people have strong and fixed views of their meanings, all too often accompanied by a jolly good dose of politically correct brain dross. Solar and lunar are similarly vague, indistinct, impossible to define. However, they are words which come out of the mythical realm, and people are sufficiently uncomfortable with them to jump to fixed definitions and tedious ideological standpoints.
Moon was never absent; yet the early decades of life were lived under the relentless influence of the sun. Vision, ideals, glory, heroism all loom large in my Renaissance writings of the 1980s. My ordained Buddhist name bespeaks heroes and sparkling jewels; the Bodhisattva visualisation that was conferred at my ordination and from which I benefitted greatly for many years, was of a solar figure. "Buddhism is a religion of sky gods,"(and I think we're talking of sun gods here) a colleague declared in a public talk; I wrote it down approvingly.
Now Sister Moon demands her say. Among her many entrances, she announced her presence early on through migraine. "The Gods appear in our diseases" opined Jung; and thus it was most literally in the case of my regular and increasingly severe head-and-intestine torture sessions of a few years back. The only correlation I could find for the occurrence of migraine was with the phases of the moon; full moon especially, but also new moon, dark moon. It was at this moment that I realised it was time to say goodbye to the G.P. on the subject.
"I am here. I am in your life. Do not ignore me. Do not forget. You do so at your peril" Thus seemed the moon to be speaking. Sometimes I remembered, sometimes I forgot - and 'ouch'. I still sometimes forget, though Tarot helps to keep me in touch.
Lunar is cyclical. Women have their periods, I had my migraines. And, interestingly, the migraines only appeared in my life in the phase following my year in New Zealand. You begin to see how I try to apply the Sherlock Holmes method in life. Sometimes it's wide of the mark, I'm sure, but at other times it seems spot on.
In the 1980s it was angels who announced the arrival of the unknown: bright, golden, glorious. Or Mary, the sweet virginal lady of chaste respectability. By the time we ushered in the new millenium it was feminine (oops, used the word) flowing, increasingly sensuous princesses during shamanic journeys, plus the occasional feisty lady warrior. And now is the time for the entrance of the Moon Goddesses, no less. The Dark Moon Goddess, even, and her priestesses, who come down from their hilltop fastnesses in depth of night. I follow the moon in her different phases, her comings-and-goings. Watchful, expectant, with a touch of fear.
Another angle (this is the lunar way: looking from many different perspectives, circling, rather than a mad rush to find 'the one and only truth'). In my life, 'Sun' is a given. Male, pretty clear and confident about gender identity and sexual orientation (my 'conscious attitude'). As years pass and experience increases, focus necessarily passes to the opposite, the other. The Great Work of alchemy, the conjunction of opposites. This is my life. And in the sacred bridal chamber, both Sun and Moon demand their complete satisfaction.
Hermes Trismegistus with Sun and Moon
Full Moon on Water - Victoria Laloe