… a thought making crooked all that is straight.

Psychology

The crooked path

Grief has wrong-footed me twice this year. And today continues the theme. It is the death day of my Seelenopa, my “soul grandpa”. His death several years ago now, like the other deaths this year, came as a shock, out of the blue. “I’ll write to you as soon as I come around from the operation!” he promised. It was a routine operation on his foot. He wrote to me as promised having begged paper off the nurse, his spidery writing even more inscrutable than ever due to the anaesthetic. A couple of days letter I received another letter – this one bordered in black. I had never received such a letter before. I saw that it was from his wife. I remember the bright curiosity that turned so rapidly into shock – dead “due to unexpected complications” – and then a wailing caw of grief. Grief is so dramatic. Like love it calls for big gestures and words that reach down into the soul, that grab the heart, cry tears of blood and wrench one from the ordinary, from the doldrums of living life one foot in front of the other. Suddenly the path is crooked – in love or in grief – and everything is questioned.

My tagline for this blog right from the start has been “A thought making crooked all that is straight”. It expresses the way I see the world – crooked, twisted, inside-out. I am not an academic thinker in spite of my academic background. I can’t quote you book, chapter and verse but once I get the scent of a thing, I can describe the essence of it in such a way that others lift their snouts to the wind and can smell it too. Not everyone. But enough people.

There was a time when I wrote out of a place of love, not just profane, although often enough that, but these days I seem stuck in a rut of grief. It catches in my throat because I like to write things that uplift others and so I censor myself and resort to silence. Absence. Which is what grief feels like – lack and loss, a negative space, an emptiness that hurts physically. Just as love flips the stomach and sight of one’s beloved clenches the heart in sweet pain, so grief cuts and grinds but without that sweetness. Lovers are happy masochists; those who grieve merely suffer.

I saw an interview the other day with a woman in her late nineties. She described how she spoke to her dead children every day. They were not absent but present. She smiled and said that others must think her “crackers”, but, she said, “I’m not. I know what I’m doing.” Yet the pain of grief still crumpled up her wrinkled face, the loss of her infant children 7 decades ago. She took obvious pleasure in her daily conversations but the pain was still there.

And perhaps that’s the point: life is not without pain. We are swamped by entertainment media that tells us life should be all hearts and flowers; anything less is failure or flawed. Can you Instagram your pain? There must be a filter for that … And so our tolerance for the hard times is worn away by an impossible expectation that turns the circuitous motions of life’s natural ups and downs into a plastic-fantastic treadmill. Worse than the straight path is the life that purports to move you forwards while tricking you into never moving from the same spot.

However, I am not glorifying pain, not saying that you are not living a true and fulsome life without a rock in your stomach, but I am suggesting that grief is to be embraced like love. Both are dramatic in their expression, and both NEED to be in order for us to bear the weight of them. A quiet, discrete love hidden under a bushel is no love at all – at most that is the scratching of an itch, the containment of a neurosis. Likewise, grief should not be shamed into silence – that cultural demand to keep a stiff upper lip, to not dwell on things or, god forbid, be a “whinger”.

And by placing love and grief side by side I do not mean to put them at opposite ends of a spectrum, just because one may appear more pleasant and desirable than the other. No. In grieving fully I give myself permission to love fully. Love in death. Death in love.

The path is never straight, it is forever crooked.

©StarofSeshat 2017

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Educate your mind to free your soul

I have recently begun an introductory course in Parapsychology with the infamous Koestler Unit at Edinburgh University. We are an intimate group of just 20 people, not for lack of interest but because small numbers encourage the most intense discussion and don’t allow for people to slip between the cracks and be lurkers.

In addition to coursebook reading (An Introduction to Parapsychology), we have specialist reading each week, as well as several expert interviews and articles to write and/or comment on. We are a varied group with people from China, UAE, Malta, UK, Australia, etc. This brings the additional twist of a range of cultural norms and interpretations. Apparently, ghostly happenings are so de rigueur in Malta that house sale contracts come with an extra clause that says, if any paranormal occurrences happen post-sale that were not declared prior to sale, you can renege on the sale and get your money back, i.e. if you end up with a spook and a spook was not listed in the house contents, you can return the house! Wowzers!

The study group comprises scientists, psychologists, therapists, alternative healers, Christians, non-Christians, a metaphysicist, a philosopher, a paranormal investigator, and me – the only one who put it out there and said, “I’m a witch.”

Part of the reason for me taking this course is to fine-tune my bullshit detector. I’m sure we’ve all been with the woo-woo-wah-wah brigade who declare every creaking floorboard to be a ghost, and it’s hellishly frustrating. I have heard tales and encounters and sometimes I call “Bullshit!” and sometimes I think “Interesting.” But each time I am going on a gut-feeling and it’s not always clear-cut as to why I should perceive one thing to be bonafide and the other thing not.

Sometimes it boils down to trust in the individual telling the tale – personal credibility can go a long way. And as to myself, I have experienced some things that are truly inexplicable (according to science as it stands today) and some things that have proven to be a mere bump in the night and I have just laughed off. So I hope to gain some cognitive skills from this course in order for me to say WHY I think something is BS and something is not. That’s the plan anyway.

The Parapsychology course runs for another 3 months. In the meantime, at the end of April I will be starting a course on Ancient Nubian Art & Archaeology. I am totally stoked about this course. The Nubians apparently are the ones who brought high culture into the Nile Valley, and it was due to the Nubians that Egyptian culture became what it did. Again, I look forward to learning about the roots, causes and facts so that I can back up my opinions with evidence and knowledge.

I saw a thread on Facebook the other day where someone was complaining that he had corrected a Fluff about some point or other, but instead of thanks he received verbal garbage about how if person A *feels* that black is white then it is white to him. No. I do think there is a place for Unverified Personal Gnosis BUT some things just are what they are, and ultimately whatever your spiritual choice there WILL be spade loads of reading and learning involved if you want a sincere and authentic experience as opposed to a lifetime excursion of make-believe.

So embrace every opportunity to learn. However much experience you have, you are always at the beginning of your journey into knowledge.

©StarofSeshat 2014

Miroslav Vasa - Illustrations from the bugaboos or little natural history of the spooks, ghosts and phantoms (1961)

Miroslav Vasa – Illustrations from the bugaboos or little natural history of the spooks, ghosts and phantoms (1961)


Psychology and European Mysticism

What is Mystical Practice?

Hollenback states that the essence of mystical technique is the practice of single-minded concentration (recollection) plus the dedication to a mystical lifestyle, which avoids all things that might disrupt the mystical state of mind. This sustained “recollection” empowers the mind to operate on a different level, transforming perception and creating subtle awareness of others and our environment, giving us abilities we wouldn’t otherwise have. Consequently, the transformed, mystical mind has greater possibilities than the ordinary mind.

The practice of such “recollective” techniques leads to a greater ability to realise so-called paranormal phenomena or mystical experiences; these experiences are synthesized with and differentiated by language, emotion and belief systems that are determined by sociocultural context.

For example, astral projection is enabled by the empowerment of the imagination through techniques of recollection. This ability is then synthesized with the cultural belief system of the mystic: some mystical practitioners speak of being fully clothed during astral travel, whereas others take animal form. The mind externalises thoughts/images that then create an astral body.

To summarise: mystical practice comprises techniques of sustained recollection which transform the mind of the individual by expanding awareness on both a mundane and super-natural level and by empowering the imagination.

Jewish Mysticism: Developments in Safedian Kabbalah and in the Hasidic Movement

The second wave of Kabbalah was characterised by a move outwards from small, elite circles. Instead, circles of 10 to 20 people clustered around mystical, charismatic figures and Kabbalists converged from around the globe in Safed. Leaders of these groups, most notably Luria, began looking into the souls of followers to see if they were suitable to join the group: a so-called diagnosis of the soul (similar to psychoanalysis). In addition, Luria, gave each student a Tikkun (meaning to prepare, correct or fix) their soul. Safed Kabbalists promulgated that each person interprets texts according to their own soul – this personal, individualistic approach would have had a great levelling effect at a social level within the groups.

The third wave of Kabbalah, the Hasidic movement, which began at the end of the 18th century, wanted to turn Kabbalah into a social movement, moving beyond circles around charismatic figures and expanding it into a mass movement. This was achieved within 40 to 50 years, appealing to both the masses and scholars. The Zaddikim (charismatic mystical rebbes) addressed people’s everyday concerns not just their spiritual lives – this was the power of the Hasidic movement.

Garb suggests that the Zaddikim (leaders of the Hasidic movement) acted as shamans. In their role as shamans they put people into group trance, providing healing to the community. In private consultations, the rebbes would look into the person’s soul, using a form of trance hypnosis, exploring their unconscious and providing healing for the individual. The Hassidim believed that the Zaddikim had access to paranormal powers; as shamans, the roles included those of mystic and magician, healers of both body and soul. This form of healing through trance work would have had an integrating effect not only on the social community at large but on individuals.

Jewish Mysticism: The Writings of Rabbi Kook

Rabbi Kook states that free choice is “nothing but the superficial aspect” hence already implying a system of further aspects of human experience and expression that go beyond the superficial. As Kook says, “the reality of the will that is manifested in practical choices [i.e. in the superficial world “in relation to good and evil”] is only a shadow and imprint of the hidden depth of free will.” Even though he refers to a “higher free reality”, he is in fact referring to an inner, deeper level that reflects the concepts of Depth Psychology which investigates the deep layers underlying behavioural and cognitive processes.

Kook purports that the internal level and deeper part of the psyche are beyond morality. Rabbi Kook gives context to this discussion by saying that he is “not dealing now with the psychological questions” (he takes the discussion beyond cognitive processes to a mystical level of the soul); rather it is “divine science” which occupies his thoughts. Divine science is concerned with freedom of an absolute, cosmic reality; freedom on a deeper level through choices of the soul not the ego or persona.

These two statements are indeed non-contradictory because Kook is referring to free choice on different levels and applying different meanings to each: the first being the superficial “ego” and the second being the deeper part of the soul.

Rabbi Kook’s radically monistic view laid the foundations for him to be more pluralistic and accepting of secularist movements. This view sees reality as an absolute unity where all reality is a manifestation of the divine and no single philosophy or theory can contain the multiple dimensions of existence. Kook referenced a sociological, political and spiritual vitality, akin to the “Bejahung” or Nietzschean affirmation (Nietzsche’s “Yes to Life!”): “If we affirm one moment, we thus affirm not only ourselves but all existence. For nothing is self-sufficient, neither in us ourselves nor in things; … in this single moment of affirmation all eternity was called good, redeemed, justified, and affirmed.” (Nietzsche, The Will to Power).

Kook believed that a new generation of young people would arise in the land of Israel that would revive (bring new life to) the Jewish body giving it a more vigorous independence. He developed an entire national psychology around revitalising the national psyche; he saw this vitality (a Jewish “Bejahung”) as being manifested in secular movements such as Zionism. For Kook, however, such secularism was still incomplete in that it focused on the revival of the material and secular needs of the Jewish people. He emphasized that the spiritual aspects of national revival should not be neglected, so his sympathy towards secularism was not without criticism.

Eastern Orthodox Christianity: Hesychasm & St Theophan’s Notion of Sin

St. Theophan taught that the focal point of sin is self-preoccupation. The sinner is not defined by adherence to a set of rules but instead by the psychological and existential state of their being, i.e. by being egotistical. However, the self that we, as sinners, are preoccupied with is not the true self. There is an external and an internal self; a concept common in both mysticism and Jungian psychology, for example. The external self with which we are preoccupied is focused outwards on status, possessions, conformity with society and materialism. Consequently we are alienated from the true self, represented by our heart, which is habituated to pursuing external things in a search for satisfaction.

St. Theophan’s title of his book, “Turning the Heart to God” adjures the reader not only to focus on the true internal self (the heart – that part of oneself that God works through; note the passive tense as this is an act of God’s grace), but to renounce self-preoccupation (sin) by realigning one’s focus away from external things that boost the ego and instead to turn towards God and repentance.

19th C. Hesychasm was primarily based in Eastern Europe, the Balkans, Greece, Romania and most of Russia. It was distinguished at the time by Marxist Socialist ideas of alienation and conformity with society. So the concept of sin was couched in terms of the external/false self being preoccupied specifically with social conformity, materialism and status (all points of criticism under Marxism). This changed in the 20th C. with the fall of the Soviet Union. Hesychasm moved towards the West and began to see a merging, or at least a conversation, between Eastern and Western mystical traditions in what was widely acknowledged to be a “globalization of spirituality”.

Another major change and difference between 19th and 20th C. Hesychasm is that 20th C. teachers were writing in an age post-Freud and post-Jung, so even though they continued to write within their tradition, they were heavily influenced by psychoanalytical thought and language. Archimandrite Zacharias, in his book “The Hidden Heart of Man”, speaks of a similar yet different form of transformation to that taught in the 19th C. In the 19th C. the idea of spiritual transformation involved seeing the old self as an enemy that had to be defeated through inner warfare; this self is demonic and must die – a process that happens passively only through the grace of God. In the 20th C. the process is still a passive one relying on God’s grace, but the battle is less about self-mortification and more about identifying attachments (including thoughts) and transforming them by transferring them to spiritual states. It is an ontological process, where one positively changes ones thoughts, emotions and very being.

Catholic Mysticism: The Connection Between Passivity, Trance, and Antinomianism from the 17th-18th Century Onwards

The Catholic so-called “Religion of the Heart” (RotH) movements challenged traditional authority in the name of new individualistic values, such as the idea that religious meaning is found in the heart of the individual. “The key element in their understanding of religious life … was their insistence that the “heart,” denoting the will and affections … is the central point of contact between God and humankind.” (Chapman, p. 3) For liberal Christians, the RotH movements were “an anti-communal, grossly individualistic perversion of religions belief.” (Chapman) There are three main points to look at in the RotH movements’ oppositional stance to the mainstream: passivity, trance, and their antinomian stance.

Passivity here is defined by the belief that repentance and removal of sin could not be achieved on one’s own but only through the grace of God working through the seat of emotions which is the heart. E.g. 17th C Molinos’ book ‘Spiritual Guide Which Disentangles the Soul’ says the primary thing is to allow God to do the work.

A divine influx into the psyche was believed to transform the heart of the individual, where the heart is a psychic centre of inner life as opposed to external life/authority/ritual practice (by emphasizing a passive, inner experience over external authority, the movements struck a decidedly antinomian stance).

In approaching the heart, one must bypass the intellect entering a state of trance where one looks deeply inwards to the heart or to what Teresa of Avila calls “the internal castle”. Quietness (cf. Quietism) and oneness with God are achieved by removing oneself from the distractions of the outer world of intellect. This includes letting go of the will, replacing verbal prayer with constant internal prayer; a form of self-hypnosis or guided meditative trancework.

This internal state is important to RotH movements in relation to the idea of the Catholic mass where one partakes passively of the body of Christ, ingesting Him in a state of receptivity (passivity) and deep internal focus (trance). Trance is additionally used to find new psychic resources to transform existing habits, to let go of the habituated “will” and to transform the heart to a more receptive state for God; and this is how trance works as a subversive (antinomian) force by challenging the status quo and habituated will of the individual.

E.g. in 17th century Flanders, A. Bourignon developed an entire religious critique around the belief that when the soul reaches a higher state it doesn’t need external observance (books, religious/intellectual/economic structures). She said that the true Church is in the heart and soul of the believer: this exemplifies an antinomian position (a stance opposed to mainstream conservatives and the generally accepted Church ethos) achieved by a passive approach (the belief that spiritual progress is through the grace of God and being receptive to God) that moves the mind and heart of the believer inwards through a state of trance (constant internal prayer and a focus inwards away from external, worldly trappings), thus linking all three points in the achievement of divine communion.

Protestant Mysticism: Quietism and Pietism

“Will” is defined as a property of the mind/intellect and the capacity to have desires and act on them (Wikipedia).

Molinos’ Quietist psychology says that you have to bypass the intellect and let God do the work. The mind must be calmed so that a divine influx can enter the soul, which is the main focus of connection, not the intellect/will. One should lose this active power of will. Molinos says you must go into quiet, stillness, not-doing, into the sleep of the soul. One removes oneself from the outer world of intellect, relinquishing all distractions so one can be alone with God. For Molinos, the will is something to be pacified, lost and bypassed.

Böhme speaks about the inner psychology of God, that He has various psychic forces both negative and positive. Creation is God’s therapy. Through creative play or work, God explores his own psyche, contending with various contradictions inside Himself. This divine psychology is paralleled in the psyche and will of mankind where there is an idea of dialectical opposition between conflicting forces. The resolution of psychic conflict involves going beyond one’s own desire/will, to align oneself with the divine will. Protestantism teaches that one shouldn’t rely on one’s own will (cf Molinos), because one should rely more on faith, on grace; in this point Böhme departs from tradition to some extent by saying that one has to transform one’s will. It’s not about abdicating one’s will or creative impulse. The will is necessary in order create. The point is to align your will with the will of the divine, so that your will becomes the divine will. And thus you join in God’s therapy. Böhme focuses on the transformation of the will, on aligning it with the divine will.

The Move from Mysticism to Spirituality

According to Prof. Jonathan Garb, mysticism comprises movements based within an individual religious tradition; spirituality, however, is more of a blend of mystical thoughts (plurality), collaborative across traditions without being anchored within one mystical stream. The transition from mysticism to spirituality happened at the turn of the 19th to 20th centuries and continues to the present day. It is characterised by both the exile of schools of thought during the two World Wars, and the migration of thought from East to West from the 1960s onwards (consider such teachers as Sri Aurobindo, Trungpa, the Dalai Lama, as well as Zen and Tibetan Buddhism).

However, it would be wrong to say that all strict traditions are being watered down, rather they are adapting to a world that has undergone a major levelling out in terms of accessibility to information and teachings (e.g. through use of the internet). As such, it would be worthwhile to examine the current state of affairs through both a social anthropological/ethnographical lens as well as through text-based historiography. I would not emphasize the efficacy of either approach above the other as each can provide us with a different layer of understanding.

For example, would reading the bible give us an accurate understanding of the way Christianity is practised today? Or even in the 17th Century? No. It would provide us with a theoretical framework, an inspirational text which the practitioner interprets and aspires to fulfil. In order to understand actual practice, we would have to look at a social anthropological study of practitioners, e.g. Luhrmann on American Evangelicals.

But an ethnographical account provides us with only one layer, including all the flaws and transgressions innate to human activity. If our aim is to document, then ethnography is the way, although the danger is of exercising overzealous “Presentism” to the exclusion of the past, leaving mankind a form of free-floating organism without mystical roots (and also no history of mistakes from which to learn).

What if, through our study of mankind’s relation to the divine, we wish to inspire and not just document? Then we might turn to mystical texts such as those of Ignatius of Loyola and the mystical visions of Jung in his Red Book. It is text-based historiography that shows a glimpse of what mankind aspires to and what drives both mystical and spiritual movements forwards.

In summary, humanity has moved gradually and inexorably, due in large part to the globalisation of cultures through technology, from separate, partially closed lines of mystical tradition towards an open melting pot of spiritual expression. In order to continue raising our souls to the divine, I, myself, would include both an examination of spirituality as practised now with a text-based historiography. History is but a minute ago. Religious thinkers and mystics continue to publish their thoughts; and those publications reach wider audiences than ever before in human history. The challenge is not just to read, but to do. To quote the title of Rabbi Cooper’s book: “God is a verb”.

 ©StarofSeshat 2014


Who is my enemy?

Over the last few months I have discovered the joys and travesties of Facebook Groups (not an option I had explored before). I have encountered trolls (not directly at me, just generally wandering the cyberscape) as well as overly egotistical admins who ban posts, responses and people willy-nilly in an attempt to keep some kind of Aryan purity of group intent and clique integrity, instead of which they turn the group into a vocal platform for a bolshy few and a minefield of vitriolic filled eggshells for those on the outside of the elected minority.

In spite of these online shenanigans, which I’m sure you are all familiar with, the thing that has struck me recently amongst Hoodoo and Vodou groups is the prevalence of talk about enemies:

I need to bind my enemies…
Have you put up protections against your enemies?
Have you done an uncrossing spell?
You need an uncrossing spell …
How can I stop people from talking about me?
How do I bind someone’s tongue?
How do I find out who is working bad stuff against me?

… and on and on it goes. At first I was interested in the answers and the stories, before I stopped: Who are all these enemies? How does one get one? And for that matter, how does one get so many?!

Enemy: A person who is actively opposed or hostile to someone. That’s the dictionary definition, but for me that is not enough. In my life, according to this definition, I will have made enemies; people opposed to me and what I do. But do I care? I believe this enemy relationship works two ways and if I refuse to “enemize” you by opposing you, well, then your opposition just kind of dribbles off into an ineffective, directionless waste of energy.

I have experienced bad things in life that have gone beyond gossip or people just disliking me; I have been raped, strangled, threatened verbally and physically abused. I have been in fear of my life. Once out of those situations, pagan friends have jumped on their boxes of judgement and out of a sense of outrage by proxy have insisted that I blast them with “my witchy thang”. But I have always had a sense of the precious nature of magick – it takes time, concentration, energy, and a little piece of me to work magick and frankly I don’t think the people who hurt me deserve any of those things which I could just as well put to good use (thereby actively benefiting me instead of just harming them) by spending time with friends, concentrating on my own wellness, turning energy to those who deserve it and save me for me and those who deserve to share the preciousness of my self.

So what I did was banish these people from my life. They no longer exist for me and I no longer encounter them. It is one thing to make someone suffer, but another to symbolically kill them and make their existence in your world cease. They are dead to me. Their physical death is irrelevant.

But if I met my so-called enemies with hate and spells to jinx and hex them, my focus on them would strengthen the connection between us. Hate pulls people as closely together on an energetic level as does love. If I really hate someone, then I don’t want them anywhere near me; and I don’t want to be joined with them etherically through my emotions which call them back again and again.

This is why in a banishing it is so important to rid yourself of anything associated with that person. If you do a banishing but keep a photo of them because it was “from the good times” and you are sentimental, then you don’t really want them to go; what you want is for them to change back to being lovely and that your relationship will continue. Banishment? Fail!

So I look at all these petitions and declarations about enemies and I wonder, “Why do you care? Why do you strengthen your attachment to that person, and therefore their influence over you by caring?” Protect yourself. Yes. Banish them. Yes. Freeze them out of your life. Yes. There are many ways to cut the astral cord that binds you, and that requires singleminded focus and belief that you really do want them out of your life. Or are you actually thriving on the drama? Do you like to play the victim as a sympathetic response can sometimes feel like being loved, and if you are lonely you will undergo many a masochistic thing to scavenge love-scraps from other people’s tables?

There may indeed be people who consider themselves my enemy. Cute. I consider them nothing … a breath on the wind. However, don’t think that I am forgiving, nor that I am a pushover. The fact is that I am a warrior, and I pick and choose my own battles; I have survived a lot and I will survive petty gossips and people whose tongues should rot in their heads. But if someone should turn against an innocent, against someone I love, then all bets are off. Once my anger is on, it is an anger with deep, deep roots and it comes in the form of Kali. I know how to be an enemy, but I choose not to be one. And those who would jump at my ankles and yap that they dislike me – shoo! You are nothing to me. You are dead to me.

I wonder if some of the Hoodoo and Vodou practitioners (especially the former) would learn to focus on more edifying things if they really considered the word “enemy” that they bandy around so freely.

Ultimately, as my aunt said to me once: If people keep treating you like shit, associate with a better class of person.

Sometimes spells, hexing and crossing work feels like putting a sticking plaster over a pus filled wound. You do it, it contains it momentarily, but the root cause is unaffected and you will keep having to cast your spells which will appeal to your ego on many levels: look at me, doing all this hexing! Look at me with all these enemies, I must be doing something right as even Jesus was rejected by those who knew him. And even Winston Churchill said, “You have enemies? Good. That means you’ve stood up for something, sometime in your life.” … But maybe you’re just a prick. Maybe your conduct encourages gossip. But do you really care what other people say? A confident person, content in their own skin, will walk the earth and be at peace with compliments and criticism because they say nothing (whether the good or the bad) about the essential essence – the divine spark within.

It seems to me that with all this talk of “my enemies”, hexin’ and flexin’ your mojo muscles, that perspective has been lost for the edification of your soul and spirit, for the purification and elevation of mind and heart. And none of this is so that you too can be the twinkliest fairy in the forest, it is so that you can begin to attune yourself in this life with the energies of truth and knowledge that will see you pass the crossroads without being challenged by Papa Legba himself; instead your heart will be weighed against the feather of Ma’at and it will be unencumbered by residual attachments to petty, human arguments and ego-fights.

So hate me if you like because I will cut you off at the knees and forget about you. Love me if your heart is big enough, because my love in return is more rewarding.

Enemies? What enemies? I choose not to acknowledge, and therefore empower, my enemies.

The supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy without fighting.” Sun Tzu

©StarofSeshat 2013


My face in a tea-cup

Today I went to my private spot at the cathedral, had a cup of tea and a smoke. Like a true English person I braved the rain, thinking “It will just refill my tea-cup,” and then I experienced that sense of justification when the sun finally broke through, “I knew you would! You bastard!” as I sat there steaming slightly in the sun, buffeted by the wind.

I looked into my tea-cup and fished out the leaves that had blown in. My hair was all over the place, my fringe now long enough to cover my eyes, so I felt like I was a teenager hiding from the world. Face in a tea-cup. Amber Leaf drifting around me in swirls on the wind. An old man across the courtyard stared at me. I glanced occasionally at him and each time I saw him staring I felt like I wanted to cry. It was the human contact. I think I must have looked a sorry sight, because he didn’t look unkindly at me, rather curious and sympathetic.

So, as is my wont when I feel emotional, it’s time to start distracting you from my vulnerable state – look at the shiny-shiny, don’t look at me!!

On my way back I discovered some Guerrilla art, a declaration about recycling, hidden in a copse of bushes. Everyone who saw it was grinning, including me… I LOVE Guerrilla art. Photos are a bit blurred because they were all taken with my mobile phone:


… and a bush I happened to like:

©StarofSeshat 2011


Cut the cow shit!

I’m as tall as a cow. I found this out as I walked through the cow fields and one came up and eye-balled me. Cows today must be GM-cows because I’m sure they never used to be that tall, and at 1.75m I’m not short either.

Short. I wish that was the excuse for why I struggle so much with the stiles. Predominantly a British phenomenon:

Doesn’t look too tricky to clamber over, does it? But is it left foot first or right? Which leg do I swing over and when? Usually I get stuck half-way across and sit with a blasé expression, pretending to admire the view while I consider whether to just throw myself off the thing or tackle it limb by limb.

I encountered similar difficulties when getting into the jeeps and pick-up trucks of my family in New Mexico. They live in the mountain desert so it’s high off-roaders only for them. I tried reversing in, but my legs are two short. I tried launching myself in front first and army-crawling my way on elbows over the back seat. Nothing but nothing was elegant. My family found it hilarious. I pursued different options like an alchemist seeking a way to transmute base metal into gold; but my elegance remained tin.

This evening I sat down by the river, watching fish jumping for the evening flies. Four swans floated past, each raising up out of the water to stretch and flap their wings, not together or randomly but one after the other. I saw flowers floating past and thought about garlands of flowers offered on the Ganges. A flock of ravens hiding in a tree was disturbed and raised a great racket as they flew off – I have never seen so many in one group. The pinky-orange sun slipped behind a cloud and I headed home.

On my walk I thought about art group today. There was only me, Woman and Beta Psych, so we just sat and talked. Woman narrowly avoided having her eyes jabbed out with paintbrushes when she TOLD me that I wouldn’t self-harm if I had a boyfriend. I coughed up a fur ball and said, “Cutting is not about being single.” She said other stupid, facile things and contradicted herself, or damned me to hell as irredeemable, by saying that men would be scared off by the intensity of my scars. I’m fucked either way, or not as the case may be. I said, that such people could “jog on” as far as I was concerned, that I didn’t need namby-pamby people who cringed at the sight of my scars around me. Life is too short and there are plenty of people who accept all aspects of me, or who have indeed been there themselves. As an LHP-er I don’t think that I have to surround myself with the twee people to feel good. No I don’t have to be nice about people’s beliefs in angels because that will make me a good person. Angelly-Wangelly stuff does my head in as much as therapy-werapy stuff dressed up under the abhorrent term “life coaching” – both run the triple knife edge of doing nothing, being childish make-believe or doing harm to fragile psyches. In any case you might as well imagine a smurf on your shoulder and listen to what the smurfing hell it has to say to you … you will make just as much progress by channeling your own subconscious that way. You do not invoke an archangel for a cuddle, FFS.

I said, I missed TMIWTM. Woman asked, “What does he give you that you can’t get from us?” I replied, “Everything! I have told him things I haven’t said here, and he knows things about me that no one else here knows or will ever know.” She looked shocked. Beta Psych appeased her with, “One-to-one is very different to a group working environment.” You bet your bejeezes it is. I said that I had never been so emotionally close to a man before. I heard her jaw hit the floor. She doesn’t like TMIWTM. She saw him for a couple of sessions 15 years ago and he told her she needed marriage counselling. 15 years later, she still needs marriage counselling… today she admitted to violence in the marriage on both parts.

Nobody’s perfect. But I do get tired of people trying to heal others when their own lives are fucked; or people in bad relationships telling you that a relationship will sort all your problems; or when people pretend to be open-minded but have surprisingly narrow and sudden limitations. I’m fucked in the head. I know that and admit it freely. You literally read my heart on my sleeve and the state of mind in the scars on my arms; but at least I am honest about it. I don’t bullshit and I don’t play around with other people, pretending to be something I’m not.

If I’m tin, then I’m tin but I keep trying to be gold. And somethings will never change: I will always be as tall as a cow.

©StarofSeshat 2011


New Age Gematria

Yesterday evening Kundalini yoga was on the study plan. I worked through the introduction to Jung’s Psychology of Kundalini Yoga (based on the seminar he gave in 1932) and took notes. By the time I had finished I was pooped so snuggled in bed with a Kundalini-lite book.

I bought it because I want to learn new positions, new hand mudras (which I love!), mantras, breathwork … well, anything new really. Some of you may remember me talking about it last year, and about some of the really appallingly sugary sound-bites that are sprinkled through the book, and the fact that apparently I should be wearing a turban whenever I do my yoga. Argh!

Last night, maybe because I was tired, I just became aware of all the numbers being thrown at me: pseudo-scientific statistics to give credence to some very dodgy dogma. I wondered if such numerical profligacy was an example of New Age gematria…

  • Women are 16 times stronger than men (oh, just don’t even ask!)
  • We are 15 % slaves to routine
  • 1 negative habit will automatically attract 4 sister habits
  • There are 2 guiding instincts in man – to improve his future or to block improvement of his future
  • There are 4 stages to sleep and a healthy adult only needs 5.5 hours sleep (my arse!)
  • There are 6 steps to prepare for bed (one of which includes running cold water over your feet … like I said, just don’t ask!)
  • And there are 2 things you must do every day – sweat and laugh

I was also slightly baffled at the author’s obsession with people going insane. [More numbers…] In the 1960s, out of twenty million young people [random!!], millions died, were permanently damaged or went insane from using marijuana. Later she says, “demoting” i.e. negative habits will make you a “physical wreck, mentally insane and/or spiritually defunct”. Some of my best friends are mad 🙂 but I do quite like the phrase “spiritually defunct”!

The page that finished me off for the night included advice for women (originally from a man, naturally!):

  • Make-up is evidence you are handicapped
  • Stimulants kill you
  • Do not jump out of bed like a hot potato (perhaps he has been smoking too much of that marijuana, I have never seen potatoes jumping out of bed, hot or otherwise)
  • Wash your hair with oil and yoghurt (nice)
  • And because god does not allow hair to grow on our foreheads, women should not have fringes

When I read such twaddle it makes me feel extremely contrary … in fact, right now I think I will apply full Goth-style make-up, make a strong cup of coffee … I may have trouble growing hair on my forehead … but I shall lounge in bed while jumping out at regular intervals like a hot spud to apply more make-up … It’s a picture, isn’t it? My left-hand path to enlightenment … or is that right-hand? Where’s a potato to ask when you need one…

©StarofSeshat 2009


Maggots Part II: A sense of the ridiculous

Ok, ok, so know your maggots but for goddess’ sake don’t go around dissecting everything that just LOOKS like a maggot … some things just are, some things are not in your control, some things do not respond to the rationalist analysis.

I’m sitting on a chair. Why am I sitting on this chair? It’s a bit uncomfortable. Ah, I must be punishing myself and this stems from my Catholic upbringing and the inherent guilt. It wasn’t my fault. I was brought up Catholic it was my mother’s fault. Ergo. It is my mother’s fault I am sitting on this chair.

I’m eating breakfast in the kitchen and not in the living room. Why is this? A living room is for relaxing in, therefore I am not giving myself permission often enough in my life to relax. This is because of the work ethic I was brought up with. It wasn’t my fault. My mother is German. Ergo. It’s my mother’s fault that I sit in the kitchen to eat breakfast.

It’s raining today. The weather report yesterday said it would be sunny. I feel disappointed that it’s raining. Why is this? I thought it would be sunny but it is raining; the meteorologist lied. This supports my belief that everybody lies to me. It’s not my fault. My mother never warned me that life is unpredictable. Ergo. It’s my mother’s fault that it’s raining.

Do you see what I mean?? And do NOT come back and congratulate me for this blinding psychological discovery that it’s all my mother’s fault! I am J.O.K.I.N.G. Geddit?

I can be as intense as the next person, but I sprinkle it with humour and the ability to laugh at myself. While writing this I am giggling away. The RH came into the office and said, “Are you laughing at yourself again?” He says that I find myself the most amusing subject matter, more so than anybody or anything else. It is true. I see the ridiculous in myself and it makes me laugh. My humour helps me climb mountains, and even when my feet are bleeding I am chuckling because I have wide feet that look like duck’s feet and my mind will start to envisage a duck quacking up a mountainside. When my ex turned up on the scene recently I was terrified, but I could still laugh about it at moments because it felt like I was Penelope Pitstock legging it in thigh-high pink boots from my adversary who loped behind me in a black cloak while twiddling his moustache …

Life is ridiculous. It is not always (or ever!) to be controlled. Other people cannot be controlled … So another person needs therapy and they won’t go for it? So what? Let them stew in their own complexes and when their life self-combusts maybe they will reconsider. Harsh? Pragmatic. If someone is ill and then refuses to take care of him-/herself but expects copious amounts of sympathy and emotional balm; leave them crippled. How else will they learn the simple lesson of cause and effect if you keep leaping in like some divine abrogator who deflects the consequences of their actions, sooths, calms and sacrifices your self on the altar of their ego (this does not preclude helping people with everything you have when they truly want to be helped – but believe me, not everyone does want help – some people actually like their life a bit shitty – apparent victims often hold all the power!).

I am right royally sick of it. And there I was yesterday saying I would control my urge to use the blog as an outlet for my vitriol. Oh no. Did you believe me? Do you feel betrayed and hurt? Have I just confirmed the ‘fact’ in your life that everyone lets you down? Glad to be of service.

Have you heard the one about the Jew who every time he dropped his buttered toast it fell on the buttered side. One day it fell butter side up. He was elated. Was this to be a change of fortune for him? He ran to the rabbi and said, “Rabbi, whenever I drop my buttered toast it always lands on the buttered side, but this morning I dropped it and it landed butter side up. Is this a sign from G-d that my fortunes are changing?” The rabbi pondered, and hummed and ha-ed and consulted various Talmudic reference books. Finally he came back to the man and said, “You buttered the wrong side of the bread.” Oy vey!

©StarofSeshat 2009