Excerpt from Carrying Sand to the River
Mandala in Search of Spirit in the Twenty-First Century
“Psychological life is always lived as a ‘typical’ mode of being-in-the-world, and no matter how much a person tries consciously to withdraw, he or she remains bound to it.” (Roger Brooke)
1. The world we live in
Before we embark on this search of self, soul, or centre in the twenty first century, through the mandala, there must first be an awareness of the present situation in its totality. It situates the rest of the musings, memories, dreams, stories, art, and poetry in an immediate historical context, from which we can explore, explicate, and circle around the questions pertaining to the chaos, disorder, fear, and loss of individual freedom in the time of the pandemic – another fall in the history of humankind.
“The fall is not an event at the beginning of history but the intrinsic condition of self-conscious beings. Only creatures that are as flawed and ignorant as humans can be free in the way humans are free. We do not know how matter came to dream our world into being; we do not know what, if anything, comes when the dream ends for us and we die.” (John Gray)
Jailed Shadows is a poetic circumambulation of reflections and images that unfolded over the last couple of months. It circles around the attack and deconstruction of individual freedom, the control-paradigm through fear as the base level of propaganda and lies, the health crisis which is a catalysing event for the ‘Great Reset’ towards a New World Order where full control through centralisation of finances, individual movement and social interaction are forced into place – a smell of fascism in the forced development of an infrastructure of absolute control in all aspects of human life.
It comments on the struggle of creative fires to survive, the steely shadows of post-modernism that alienates individual freedom, and fear that manifests as archetypes from the unconscious to negotiate new possibilities of waking up and showing up, in the vast open spaciousness of the present, where we can create our own agora – a marketplace of communities that stand up through connecting with others through creating autonomous pockets of order and freedom; an act of decentralisation which is the best weapon against the ‘global centralisation’, in which all control will be lost. The marketplace or agora is the fourfold mandala in body, mind, soul, and spirit.
I have produced Jailed Shadows, as an audio-visual presentation, developed during 2020, in art, dreams, poetry, and musings, as a direct experience of the situation of the ‘global struggle’ during the health crisis of the Coronavirus pandemic.
2. Musing: Are our shadows in jail?
We are in a time of crises in the twenty-first century, with the threat of a deadly Coronavirus on the main stage of humanity’s unfolding story.
There are parallel and wicked stories playing on the flanks, opening, and closing doors of political agendas, challenging, and disorientating ideologies, brewing conspiracies, wicked lies, and power-hungry hyenas narcissistically devouring the collective mind, conditioning humanity to believe, despite their inner knowing, that something is seriously wrong.
Does the stranger, the shadow in us, hold the clue to better understanding? Is the nebulous appearance of an alias ‘a big dream’, a manifestation of a feeling that something vital is missing or jailed by fear?
Or are we simply bewildered by a sense of disconnection and loss?
“Act to know thyself by means of symbols in thine own mind,
Without imagining, without deliberation, without analysing,
Without meditating, without introspecting;
Keeping the mind in its natural state.” (Tilopa)
Jailed shadows. Ink on watercolour paper. 500mm x 500mm.
3. Hermes at the crossroad
Whilst working on two manuscripts in the time of the Coronavirus pandemic in the world (2020,) I had a very poignant dream.
I dreamt the presence of a being with exquisite golden hair, and a body whose pale blue suggested azure to me - his lips red, slightly parted, and silent - eyes of a brown, red – in them the fire of hell, pride, and the violet of divine water. He sat on the Emerald Tablet at the crossroads of the world. I had a sense that he could mutate into any form, stretching from the beginning, hovering in the middle to the end of a thousand suns. I felt bewildered and overwhelmed – delirious and found myself in water, a nocturnal plant in the light of the moon and the stars.
Waking up, I realised that it was Hermes, the god of the light of nature, a figure that has appeared and repetitively reappeared in my academic studies. I have been fascinated with Hermeneutics, the love of words, and the importance of an in-depth understanding of structures of thought. It has reverberated throughout my life as a Jungian therapist and my former secret game as a child, to hunt the meaning of words, images, and expressions. He appeared in a fourfold mandala-like form, blending and blurring boundaries in a playful manner, that holds beauty, comfort, and suffering, in a mandala-space of interconnectedness.
The centre point of the primordial mandala and the cross, defines the four cardinal directions of the compass. When connected, these four points form a square or diamond shape.
The cross is a universal symbol in all cultures and ontologically refers to the structural identity of the human mind and its creative expressions – the key notion is the relation of the four points, to the centre and through the centre to each other. It refers to a centre where all things meet, and from which all things are possible.
Could this mandala-dream be a collective invocation to enter the centre of our being, so that we may choose to take a new direction? The cross is the harbinger of the seed of change.
The ink painting on the left, emerged as a manifestation of the possibility of Negotiation with the rapidly changing world, in the time of the world-wide pandemic.
Ancient mother earth is negotiating with a hybrid, intelligent animal-human-being under a dying Acacia tree, counting the leaves still intact, amidst a broken, barren, disintegrating landscape – these mutations may be considered as leaps of consciousness:
- as avatars of light of the past, our latent history, that could refract light into rainbows and spheres of transformation in the future.
- as a distorted long-legged bubble-gum consciousness of a new reality, that is dangerously reaching out and forward, to unknown parameters, in which humans are compelled to make an integral response, that is a whole-orientated mutation of consciousness in crises.
- as a possibility of a new reality, an intensified awareness and integration of the latent old (the origin), in a diaphanous four-dimensional world-space.
The world is at a crossroad, once again, where informed choices need to be made not in a linear fashion, but in a-rational spirals of consciousness, around and through the jailed shadows of humanity, in a developing world order with lockdown restrictions, social isolation, gender confusion, livelihoods destroyed or compromised, a puzzling phenomenon of former racial divides being accentuated, the destruction of individual freedom and autonomy.
“A straight line is godless and immoral.” (Hundertwasser in H Rand)
5. Personas - archetypal images emerging
We are forced to carefully consider the ‘mutational leaps’ manifested in the creation of masked personas, which refers to the creation of a new social identity, where one is simply acting a role through which the awakening human voice speaks.
“The persona is that which in reality one is not, but which oneself as well as others think one is.” (CG Jung)
The archetypal images of the persona emerged as manifestations, of the loss of individualism – the Marionette, the Harlequin, the Joker, the Magician, the Wise Old Woman, the Shadow of the Coronavirus, and the Juggler.
On a masked planet floating in space,
we hear the cry of the joker, invoking justice.
“Is the doer identical with the reaper of his actions?
He is neither the same, nor a different one.”
Are these mutations or discontinuous transformations
from person to persona, leaps of consciousness
or a place where you cannot see yourself -
where you become a marionette or a silhouette
in the bent light of an engineered superficial
unknown cherry blossom blight?
Does our origin sing in the voice of the dead?
Do we have to know the masked night;
the dread of earth’s distorted silhouette?
Do we have to stumble in the dark world?
Elusive winds in our hands -
dying fires in the golden eye of our bellies
receding moistness of the earth in our hair
trembling polluted water in our breaths.
Are we dancing marionettes?
puppets on genetic strings
in the satire of innocent consciousness
controlled by vaccinations and rules
where no reflective thought is possible -
where our words are dying?
Are we each other’s food, each other’s prey -
what would the joker say?
“Why do you stay in prison, when the door is open so wide?”(Rumi)
The world is becoming a bricked-up window
The innocent robbed of the scent of different winds
Our individual fragrances sealed up in flacons
Protecting our valuable essences from deteriorating
Upon contact with the viral air of others
We are pulled by the strings of mandatory masks
Becoming harlequins in patched check costumes
Astute servants with barcodes
Sleeping in a still life
In becoming the light-hearted, nimble, and astute servant, the harlequin thwarts the plans of the master, with wit and resourcefulness. He/she is a trickster figure, a shaman in a kaleidoscope of disguises, figuring out a way in which to cultivate change.
The joker is a clown who has been pushed to his limits. He/she has lost his/her sense of humour which hinges on violence, in the disruption of society as we know it. He/she exists outside of society and ignites fires to show the masses the truth.
The trickster is a forerunner of the saviour… He/she/it is both subhuman and superhuman, a bestial and divine being, whose chief and most alarming characteristic is its unconsciousness.” (CG Jung)
The wise old woman and the magician, both tricksters, have emerged from the flatland of a post-modern world. Civilized humans have forgotten the trickster - their own shadow. They never suspected that their own hidden shadows have qualities of dangerousness, that could exceed their wildest dreams.
Is it possible that these archetypes have emerged and manifested as personas and archetypes, in a potentially ‘more-than-human-world’? Is it probable that they are imbibing primal truths with lies and new social rules, like vaccination laws, that seem believable?
“The more a society drifts from the truth, the more it will hate those who speak it.” (George Orwell)
The juggler – the mastery of falling objects.
The loon (winged bird) represents the spiritual aspect of life, the exalted soul, and the fish is symbolically equivalent to the wingless bird (the red sulphur in alchemy, the instinctive drives). The tension between these two worlds represents the tension between spirit and matter, unconsciousness, and consciousness. It is in this in-between tension, that the self develops and individuates. (Marie Louise von Franz)
The tension between different structures of consciousness currently in our history, between the mythic and the mental structures, is opening and closing worlds through sectoring perspectives, each one universalising their point of view.
“You must know how to sing and jump, to speak well and play witty word-games with your audience; you have to be able to keep time with a tambourine and castanets, and to keep a whole musical ensemble going; learn how to toss and catch several apples with two knives; learn how to do bird songs and work marionettes; you have to learn to play the guitar and mandorla, and how to jump through four hoops ... teach a dog to jump over a stick, and teach him to hold the stick between his paws ...” (Les Troubadours (Paris, 1919) – in The symbolism of Juggling - Arthur Chandler)
I dreamt about a juggler, sitting in a field of arum lilies, tossing golden-red balls, singing a salacious song. I watched him, lying down flat between the big leaves of arum lilies, playing with the trumpet inside the white curls of the flowers. There was a sense of a tight deadline to complete the act, before we are discovered by the man-eater lion, in whose territory we were. Although the juggler did not see me, I knew that he/she were tossing/playing/tricking me into a fearful ambivalent state. I felt deeply worried that he/she would drop a ball and that the spell would be over.
I heard trumpets, like the symphony of a warm breeze that had come all the way… a long journey… and I felt obsessed, infused by the energy of the winds with furies and potent creatures – a gaggle of animals, dressed up bears, monkeys, savant dogs and counting cats - performing tricks, tossing, and catching objects, caught in the middle of deception and admiration, anxiety, and delight. I felt the pulsating breath of the juggler in my neck – he had transformed into a being with three loon-bird heads, just for a moment … and I winced.
Grip your feet firmly
On the crumbling slope
Of the bleeding bluff
The gravel subtly sliding
Hold on to the mandala-mind
As you trip and tumble fall
Through a gasping hole
In the bricked-up wall
Breath in draw aside the veil
Of the stars and the sun
Lying inside an arum lily
Remember the grace of ‘One’
Quivering in the ambivalence
Of lies the slight-of-hand
The tricks, the tossing of balls in the air
Acts of wonder and despair
The juggler is the dealer who opens the game; but he/she is really an illusionist, playing with us. His/her nature is divided, and thus he/she is a product of opposing principles, and his/her being is dominated by this duality. He/she is an extraordinary paradox, who builds an imaginary world with a touch of his/her hand. He/she symbolises the three worlds – God and infinity, man and all the varieties of the universe, a triad.
He/she is the archetypal persona of departure, and invites us into the world of mechanical time, into the world of the ‘I’, which looks upon nature rather than participating in it, and juggles divisive knowledge, the ambivalence of lies and deception, and totalising orientations that inflate the part to the whole.
He/she is simultaneously the bright and dark side of the Consultant and feels obliged to defend his point of view fanatically, shrewdly.
The fish and the loon
We are winged and wingless creatures
Of being and becoming -
Walking temples, concerned with truth
Breathing the stale seasons
Of our abandoned history
In-between the fish and the loon
Dragons debate the divide
While heroes’ fight
Fireballs of biases
Burning in a bloody light
The earth wrinkles a splintered reality
Pleading in the half-moon
Of matter and spirit
A mandala of malleable gold
In which spherical Selves may unfold
These archetypal images tell the story of an era of humankind in chaos and division. On the one hand there is an exaggerated individualism and on the other an equally extreme collectivism. Both are deficient modes of being replete with uncertainty, anxiety, despair, and confusion. This crisis could lead to demise or hopefully to transition. The emergence of these archetypal metaphors, in words and images, might open the possibility of an integral response, a realisation of a new reality through verition.
This does not seem to be true for the collective or archetypal shadow, according to Jung.
But when the shadow appears as a collective archetype “it is quite within the bounds of possibility of man to recognise the relative evil of his nature, but it is a rare and shattering experience for him to gaze into the face of absolute evil.”
6. Images of a disaster emerging
The Inward Skies (of Rilke) are crashing upon the brimmed edge of disaster.
“How you play is what you win.” (Ursula Le Guin)
Taking out the rubbish
Has become an act of freedom,
That is when I dance in the streets
Watched by the masked ones
Trapped in tiny apartments
(LA Punt-Fouché - inspired by a YouTube video of a dancer in Italy)
On the news and in the media, many brave warriors are sitting
On the other side of the wind, throwing light upon the masked
truth in mainstream media …
To save the words that are dying in the fountain grass
Fountain grass in the Sky
“Poetry is an incandescent mode of life.” (Karl Tiege)
Today is an ominous day. The air is smutty and gritty, and shortens my breath into asterisks and cheeky dashes, which slashes the flame of my thoughts into short-circuited sparks, and trails of smoke swirling into auspicious dark and alien patterns.
The progressive darkening of the earth, by steel metallic clouds, conjures a feeling of cunning and tricks in the form of a coyote. The clouds are rolling like a roller blind, slowly closing the vault of the sky – no sun, no azure light, no colour. I hear a rumbling, grumbling sound that at times screeches like cold tyres on a too hot asphalt road. It triggers a memory of a long-ago little girl skipping on bare feet to the café, burning her little toes and a feeling of panic – a sensation of drowning in the mirages of streaking mist, illusions of dying and spite. I am a sprite that has lost heart and is dying in a non-human world; heat-drought-famine – fear – polemics of predators on the news; the coronavirus that rolls like fountain grass (‘rolbos’) through consciousness, infecting the electro-magnetic fields of ions in the air, raging war.
I feel indescribable pain and discomfort in the sky. The creatures on earth, are wincing in the black rain of propaganda on social media, and the tin men posturing on the news, that are progressively destroying the heart of our living truths as we know it; the historical flickering lamps of intelligence and our freedom to question the status quo.
I feel like a lump of living flesh, bleeding compassion for the collective suffering and pain; livelihoods destroyed, the vision of a future survival of our children tainted with fear. The fountain grass rolls a huge quilt over the earth, with patched divisive stories collected all over the world; the collective put to sleep with lullabies of dreams and lies. And a few Jokers are doing their spectacular tricks in the courts of the powerful ones.
And women are walking away… into the shadows of the threat to their gender’s existence as we have known it.
Have we unconsciously become Walkers?
Humanity is walking away from the threat of their immediate survival, deflecting, rationalising, suppressing, dissociating; our defense mechanisms in times of the ultimate threat to our basic survival, or are we stuck in the jailed shadows of our time?
Long time ago I read a children’s story about a miller and his wife that struggled to make a living. The devil came past, in the guise of an old man and offered to help the family, but on one condition – he wanted to have the miller’s daughter to come to his home and live with him, when she was old enough. The miller decided that it was a worthwhile exchange, consoling himself with the idea, that this old man could do no real harm to his daughter. He told his daughter and wife about the arrangement with the old man and convinced them that everything will be okay. They prospered for many years and then the day arrived that the devil in the guise of the old man, came to collect his promised reward.
The daughter had been groomed by her parents to accept this arrangement and went to the old man’s dwelling, without protest. When she arrived, she felt uncertain and apprehensive, especially because she could not see the old man hiding in the darkest corner of his house, but only heard his smooth, cajoling voice calling her to come closer. She tried to stop her trembling heart and admonished herself with thoughts like, “What can be so bad, there is nothing really that can harm me, and I must remember that he helped us to survive?”
Then she moved closer and saw a formless blob, staring at her and again she soothed herself with similar thoughts. And then… she saw his dead eyes staring at her, clear and unwaveringly. There was no expression in his eyes, there was no movement, no flicker of intelligence, no light in the pupils, no deep trenches in the eyeballs, no feeling, no colour – only mesmerising nothingness, darkness… and she screamed in terror…
I remember having read this story somewhere but cannot trace the name of the book or the author. This story has made a huge impression on me and I have often recounted it. I have encountered dead-fish eyes in humans numerous times in my life – in the eyes of those around me and in my work as a therapist. The experience of a ‘dead consciousness’ in a living body is beyond description.
It reminds me of a Grimm - story where the ineffable winks at you and where the stars do not move. It feels like a more-or-less-than-human-world, where you involuntary mutate into an eerie kinetic sculpture, a machine that does not feel. There is no past, no future, and the present grimaces new forms of life, that steals breath and dissolves spirit into steel.
These non-human-devil-creature-beings live amongst us, and vampire life out of the innocent, and especially the loving, kind ones. Is this devil inside us or outside us, or is it a ruse or a mutation? Who is deceiving whom? Or does it live in a reality parallel to ours, as a fully integrated formless darkness that belongs to all of us?
I have encountered living beings that have dead eyes. I have encountered mental states that live on the sinister side of the unconscious, in an original savage state where the eyes are not dead. I have witnessed historical events of our time, where the psyche is painted in indelible colours of blood and fire, wasting itself in the exploitation of material power, in attempts to create utopias, but the human heart is still visible in many colours, and the eyes are wicked, selfish, uncanny, yet not empty, dead like the eyes of a dead fish.
But the living dead…
It shows up in life and in humankind, like a being, not human, devoid of the vital force, or spirit of the living. What am I witnessing? Why has the fish died, the symbol of the soul in mythic structures?
Why are foetuses born with dead eyes? What is happening to humanity? What are we giving birth to? Is it all a ruse or is humanity emerging into a world-space of non-humans, machines?
Ralph Waldo Emerson says that “Every time you wink the stars move.” We are dying stars, made of star dust. If we cannot wink or blink our eyes anymore, what then? Will the stars stop moving?
8. Are we running out of colours?
Are we growing weary?
are we growing weary?
are we running out of colours
of the imagination?
are we all feeling wretched,
too incognisant, too small?
do we live in a graveyard
of failed ideas?
walking with the burnt trees
changed, growing taller, smaller
over the last few years?
can we emerge
out of the embers of loss?
without a why-
reflective, responsive suns and stars
in a ‘just-is’ sky
9. What are we negotiating?
“All will be erased from existence in this age, except the one
who is established in his way and firm in his thoughts?”
(Allama Iqbal in A. Nicholson)
Is negotiation at all possible?
Are the losses already irreparable?
Have we as a collective, become James Corbett’s sheeple?
Is this perhaps the end of the world as we have known it?
Are we in World War III, at the mercy of leaders; conspirators that are dancing cleverly in shadows, that we do not understand?
Are the emerging mutations in the creative world-space, real manifestations of this transition?
10. Musing: Handbags of responsibilities – an invocation
Today is the day, that I invoke all the mothers before me, to take their handbags to war, doffing themselves out in frills and lace, high heels, and very red lipstick, like Frida Kahlo.
Let us march on wonky, lame legs, to fight for our children’s future. Let us do this thing that mothers do. Let the wildlings, the feline creatures dress up in stripes of ‘no more’ and ‘enough’ and let us dance in the flames and ashes of our history undone, our gender destroyed, our children’s survival destroyed.
Let us fix our almond-shaped, feline eyes on the darkness of power-hungry, damaged beings, hybrids of perhaps once kind and compassionate beings, now elevated to the status of the Hydra.
Let us slay its thousand heads with our fearlessness, and burn their being-ness with the salt of our compassion, and a deep understanding of being present to presence, in silence…
I say, let us march, whether in our minds, dreams, and in real life – and awaken the dead fisheyes of those that cannot, or do not want to see – to remember their birth mothers who loved them unconditionally – to remember the womb of Mother Earth, the warmth and protection.
This impending new world order in the hands of broken, but powerful beings, is more gruesome than the deaths of thousands of unfortunate ones.
Let us march through the fucked-up minds of puppets, that do not see the strings attached to them.
Let us extinguish the fires of destruction with our handbags, filled with the treasures of magical-mythic mother earth, the wondrous mysteries of progress, the past in our DNA, and awaken to the truth that is transparent and timeless.
Let us show our faces, doff our masks, and scream our fury into the ethers.
Let us follow the butterflies, like those before us in the concentration camps, and survive with intelligence.
Let us fly from flower to flower
“Wisdom begins in wonder.” (Socrates)
Let us allow the colours in our wings
To shimmer the mutual perceiving of meaning
Let us slay the fear of being blinded moths
Flying to our deaths in the abiding
False neon light of division –
Let us fly from flower to flower
And taste the nectar of reality
Let us be fearlessly present
To the Wonder of Intelligence
That can shatter universes
The world is in trouble, perhaps hinging on yet another fall in the history of humankind. It is time to carry the sand of our individual transformation to the river, to the mandalas in the clouds, to transform into rain, so that it can fall on nature and humankind, and water the seed-mandala of change, in the barren soil of the meaning crisis.
Do not become submerged in the dust of every day
Step into the circle-crystal-palace and play
Stepping in and out and through being
Hover in the miraculous, mutational way
Without beginning, without end
With our past, with our future
The clouds disappear in deep-blue space
The sun-moon shining through diaphanous lace
Loving kindness, compassion, sympathetic joy
Equanimity, the four boundless tinkling bells
Ringing the sound of the ever-present in a sphere
Today, a thread of sheer presence could be near