348. Let’s Locate Our Power and Use it (Kelly Maddox)

Original video by TheFourQueens. Official website: here, YouTube account: here. The following text in this entry is a transcript.

When the world is a little bit topsy-turvy, I like to begin with a good cup of tea. Don’t you? (Whispers.) I do. (Holds up a mug of tea and sips.) Mmm!

Hey there, kittens. I’m not really sure what this video is going to be. But I do feel compelled to make it. So, I’m just basically going to let my instincts take control. I’m going to flow into it and just see what comes out, what comes along, and spend a bit of time with you guys, you know? ‘Cause it’s been…a crazy few days, and I think–I think that’s fair to say! I think that’s fair, yeah? It’s a fair comment.

I knew that whatever the outcome of the U.S. Presidential election, I was not going to be over the moon in any way. I accurately predicted that with the outcome being Donald Trump, I would definitely feel (laughs) a lot more panicked and, umm, that my response would have probably somewhat of a nihilistic flavor to it, like, well, hey! If Donald Trump’s the President of the U.S.A. then why don’t we all just do what the fuck we like? (Laughs.) Right? Why do we have any rules? Why do we have any laws? Like…Everything is just on its head, you know. And that was definitely my initial reaction. I did feel like I was in the fucking Twilight Zone. A hundred percent.

But I want to be clear: There’s no bone in my body that’s pro-Hillary. I think that part of the reason that Trump is now heading to the White House is that the liberal agenda was to present Hillary as the sane, sensible choice. And actually, there is a hell of a lot wrong with her, too. You know? There’s a hell of a lot wrong with Obama. There’s like, it’s kind of, it was set up like that and I think that was dangerous. I think Hillary was seen as more of the same, and I think Donald Trump was then seen by a lot of people who are…scared, or feel disenfranchised, or don’t know any better…umm…as the only option for change. The only way to shake things up. And I have a lot of opinions. A lot of opinions about that. And about like, you know, Hillary being selected as the candidate over Bernie Sanders, and how things could’ve gone down differently, and I like to look at things [00:02:00 subjunctively].

That’s not what this video is going to be about, but let me just be clear, you know, had Hillary Clinton have gotten into the White House, I definitely wouldn’t have been over the moon, either. I read a comment on Facebook the other day that said something like, ‘I don’t know how to tell my children when they sit down for breakfast in the morning that hatred now holds the highest office in the world.’ And that was a lot of what I felt, you know. A lot of what Donald Trump symbolizes, a lot of his rhetoric, a lot of his comments…umm, they’re insidious. They’re clearly fucking odious. And there may be a very small minority of people who watch my channel regularly who did vote for Trump or are supporters of Trump, and obviously this video is not necessarily designed to cater for you. But I think there’s probably an even smaller minority of people who watch my videos on a regular basis, who would be surprised to learn that, like, I’m not pro-Trump and never was. (Laughs.) You know? So I don’t think this video’s going to come as a surprise to anybody.

There is so much confusion, and bewilderment, and anger, and apathy, and frustration, and alienation in the psycho-spiritual community right now. And it’s been interesting for me to feel the dust settle inside my own psyche and figure out where the [00:02:16 land lies now] you know? And what it is what I really want to do, how I want to choose my response to this. I’m going to start by reading the status update that I put on Facebook about this the other day, which, for a lot of people that read my Facebook page regularly, did seem to be some comfort during a really difficult time. So I’m going to start by reading that.

I know that lots of people out there in the psycho-spiritual community are feeling disjointed, disempowered, confused and overwhelmed at the moment. I know that we’re all going through our own individual ups and downs, and perhaps can’t always be the beacons of strength and empathy to each other that we would like to be, as we grapple with things in our own ways. I know that some people don’t know where to turn, who it’s safe to reach out to or what to say to comfort those who are feeling afraid. I just want to hold a hand out now to anyone who might happen upon this status and chance to read it during an uncertain moment.

The truth is that your response to this outcome is an autonomous zone. No one else gets to vote on what you choose to do next. Your response to this is your sovereignty in action. You CAN and you MUST locate the sources of power within yourself and bring them into consciousness, into beingness, into the light. If you are jarred, scared, confused or angered, it means that you have deeply held ethics, intentions and beliefs. Find them now, and ask them to lead you forward. If you believe in love, freedom, equality, compassion, acceptance and empathy, then those beliefs are now your sacred fuel. No one can stop you from being in the seat of your own power.

What can you do to spread love? What can you do to create positive change? What will you do to stand in solidarity with those who truly need to feel that their place in this world is valid? How will you put your spiritual ideas into action? How will you begin by just doing your seemingly small but incredibly significant part?

I know it’s so hard to feel powerful right now. But you ARE. You can create a ripple in this dark water, and so can I, and so can anyone who is prepared to take the scary, holy step out of their confines of apathy and into the fire of their deepest vision for this planet.

Let this be a rallying cry from the cosmos.

I know where I’ve been slacking. I know where I could be more present. I know where my love is more needed. I know that I want to be a piece of positive change in this place. I am slowly beginning to raise my head and decide that I’m going to let these events drive me out of my hibernation and further into the good that I can do when I set my mind and soul to it.

Let this pain inspire you…

I’ll leave the link to that Facebook post down below if you want to read it again at any point, or share it, you can do.

I was watching an interview, that a guy from Huff posted, with Gabby Bernstein. It was kind of like a 45-minute, you know, the dust has settled let’s really feel our feelings and anchor into our purpose kind of talk about the election results. In that interview, Gabby Bernstein said that her response to the result of the election…was not a spiritual response. It was not. You know, she didn’t instantly go to Love, and instantly go to Inspired Action, and think about, you know, where she’s better needed and what she can do and how she can be of service and…She was rage-filled. She was fucking angry. As a woman, as a survivor of sexual violence, as somebody who believes in compassion and equality, as somebody who believes in spiritual and religious freedom, umm, you know? She was fucking pissed off.

And to me, that was the most helpful thing that she said, actually. Was that she didn’t have a spiritual response. And that it was a loss, and it’s okay. It’s okay to recognize it as a loss. And like I said, you know, at the beginning of this video — I’m under no illusion about the two-party system in America. I’m under no illusion about what Democrats have been doing overseas, their foreign policy, the things that they’re lying about, the money that they’re embezzling, the corruption that they’re neck-deep in…I’m not under any illusion about that. I do not think Hillary is a paragon of liberal virtue. Not at all!

But when a guy that openly says racist and misogynistic and hateful things, and clearly has no background in politics, no true understanding of how the political system works, is near totally fucking ignorant of things that even I have a decent working knowledge of…when that guy wins over Hillary? You know, it’s…Your instant response is not really going to be a spiritual one! And I think that that’s the first thing that I’d like to say, is that it’s okay for us to hold space for ourselves and each other, to have a response that may not, when you look at it objectively, be described accurately as ‘useful’. You know? The initial response, I guess it’s ‘useful’ to externalize the rage and the bewilderment and the anguish. Long-term, it’s not going to be useful, it’s not going to be useful to ‘drop anchor’ there. But I think it’s really important to recognize that those responses tend to come first, before the dust settles and we think about what it is we can do — and how we can allow ourselves to feel that inner call to action.

For me (sigh) I would say…it probably took me about 48 hours to get my head together enough to think about what I wanted to do next. What was the thing that I wanted to do? How could I really kind of channel — channel the energy, channel the bewilderment?

I’m very fortunate, because I have like a platform online that I’ve built, which is a lot to do with reaching out to people and having dialogue with people, and sharing ideas, and providing comfort, and providing inspiration. And so, for me, that was a big part of what I considered to be my coping strategy, was just thinking…how can I be there for my ‘tribe’: for the people I hang out with online, my audience, my clients? And I did receive e-mails, I have had clients either scheduling extra sessions or rescheduling sessions that they had set in wake of the election results, just dealing with the response that they’re having to the election results…I’ve had people messaging me, asking me to make a video or wondering what my thoughts are. And I’ve definitely experienced, as I’ve been scrolling through Facebook and stuff, and looking at some of the spiritual peeps that I follow, just a lot of bewilderment, and a lot of discussion, a lot of dialogue, about our emotions and what’s happening within us as a result of this. For me, it was definitely nice to have that feeling of, like, I can do something for people. I can put something out into the world that will be useful. So I started to think about that, and that was a big part of where my sense of center came from. It was just basically, how can I be of service to people who are feeling bewildered and overwhelmed, and are kind of looking for things to inspire them or calm them down?

The other thing that I allowed myself to think about quite a lot, that I do tend to encourage myself to think about in times like this, and I did it as well during the whole Brexit situation, and a lot of the very hateful behavior that came up during that time…was I thought about my personal ethics, my beliefs, you know? And the way that I want to walk out into the world every single day. [00:10:00] The vibe that I want to bring to it, the things that I really want to share with people, and the energy, the vibration that I want to hold. And I thought about the fact that that’s where my agency is.

I think a lot of us are just feeling really, really fucking disempowered, like supremely powerless. Powerless to change what is happening, strapped into this rollercoaster of…inexcusable weirdness, at times, I felt. And powerless. And actually, that is an illusion. We all have agency. We all have the power to create a ripple in this dark water. And I just started thinking about that. I started thinking about how I could be of service, you know? I started by texting my friends and making sure they were okay, making sure that I was creating a vibe of openness and availability in my friendship group.

Giving to the food bank. Thinking about organizations that I could get involved with or join or learn more about. Reading articles, and reading think pieces, and opening up my mind up to different things, you know? Taking the time to really sit with myself and nurture myself and care for myself in the process of all of this. And get my brain oiled in a different way.

I’ve tried to look for the positive things. I’ve thought about how many cultural commentators and writers and things like that I’ve either overlooked or never discovered before, and as a result of being very interested in this election, and now reeling from the result, I’ve actually engaged with a lot of people’s work, and got a few new books on my book list and that’s been cool just from a personal perspective.

And just really thinking about how I can carry the energy of helpfulness and acceptance and my belief in equality. Just making people feel comfortable, making people feel included — in any way I can possibly can. And just trying to be kinder, you know? Even just while I’m out in the street, just making sure that I engage with people, and I give them eye contact, and I just make everybody feel seen and heard and loved. And just try and put that energy out into the world. And all of this has come as a direct result of me sitting down and thinking, what is my little piece of agency in this world right now? Where’s my power? Where’s my power at?

(Laughs.) I need to focus on that! You know? And I’ve been focusing on that, and my hope is that more and more of you, as the days are going on, are being able to focus on that as well, to focus on what you can do for your community, what kind of energy you want to carry with you out into the world, and how you’re not going to allow some of the incredibly potent fear that is clearly infiltrating all different areas of society right now…turn you into somebody who’s fearful, into somebody who rejects others, into somebody who is suspicious of others, and insecure about others, and wanting to snatch power and civil liberties from others.

It’s about knowing where your center is, and where you’re coming from, and not letting those things influence you to be other than what you know you are to be in your soul. There’s so much work to do now, and that’s something that can actually help you bring your A-game to every new day. And another thing that I was thinking about in the last sort of like 48 hours or so, is Shadow Work, and self-love as a daily practice, and digging deep and really anchoring in to self-discovery and self-awareness and self-mastery.

These things that we do, that we talk about with each other, you know, the courses that we pay for, the videos and the audio files that we listen to, the books that we read, these concepts that we have dialogue about…all of that isn’t for nothing. All of that isn’t for vanity! It’s not a fucking caprice! You do that…as training…for this bullshit! (Laughs.) This is what you’ve been training for, you know? And I know some of you watching this video have been training for a hell of a lot longer than me, you know? I know people watch me that have been meditating for upwards of 30 years. I know people watch me that have done upwards of 30 Ayuhuasca ceremonies deep in the jungle with a really experienced shaman. I know people have done all kinds of incredible things, you know, people have been forging their own paths, weaving their own practices, learning so much about themselves and about transpersonal experience and how to plug themselves in and how to turn this shit up! Now! On planet! In this lifetime! I know activists watch me, people that literally have thrown their bodies over Mother Nature in the service of Her greatness.

I know that there’s amazing people out there that watch me, people that have overcome all kinds of mental health difficulties, and triumphed over dark, dark nights of the fucking soul. You’ve done your work! You’re doing your work! You’re coming to your work. And this. Is what. It’s for. This is where the training wheels come off.

Because really, we’re looking at Shadow. We’re looking at Shadow unfolding now. That’s what I truly believe, you know? I truly believe that. The way that Jung was watching the rise of Hitler, and being like (side-eye) “Yeah, ahem, guys? We need to look within!” ‘Cause what we don’t want to see within ourselves is manifesting outwardly…and it’s not great! (Squeezes eyes shut.) It’s not good!

Umm. (Laughs.) That’s how I feel right now. And I feel like that’s the perfect time, then. That’s the perfect time to come at this with everything that I’ve tried to learn. (Nods.) All the strength that I’ve tried to develop. Now’s the time for you to show yourself what you can do. Show your loved ones what you can do. This is the challenge. This is the challenge almost that you’ve been training for, that you’ve been preparing for…If you feel bewildered, if you feel uncertain, if you feel like you don’t know where to start? Start with that realization.

You know, I really feel like…obviously, I run a YouTube channel. It’s not an invite-only situation. Anybody can show up and watch my videos, and there are lots of different kinds of people that do watch my videos. I’m really grateful for that, but I feel like the vast majority of people that watch my videos are people who’ve been doing some fucking work on themselves, you know? For some length of time or another. And if you’re watching this and you know you’ve been doing that work, and you’ve been showing up, you’ve been trying to love yourself more and really just dive into your darkness and bring it into integration, if you have been reading about how to live life on a deeper level, how to experience things with more meaning, how to let go of your fear, how to overcome depression…If you’ve been doing any of that shit, if you’ve been meditating, if you’ve been learning tarot, if you’ve been in the process of learning any spiritual discipline, just know that you’ve been training, you know? You’ve been preparing for this. You’ve been getting in shape for this. And that’s a really good starting point, I think. That’s somewhere that I was happy to start, and something that I’ve thought about a lot. And you know, that initial reaction, like Gabby Bernstein said, you know, we’ve got to have room for that shit, of course. You’ve got to have a meltdown. You’ve got to go and hit a punching bag. You’ve got to get that extra session with a therapist. You’ve got to let it go! You’ve got to let it out. But, I really feel like after that, come home to this sense that you’ve got this. You’ve got this.

Your agency is somewhere, it’s somewhere within your grasp, it’s somewhere within your reach. You do not have the agency to turn this around and go back, but you do have the agency to make a difference now that it’s happening. You do have that agency. You do have that power. You can make somebody feel better. You can switch up the vibration in a room. You can teach somebody a chant or a mantra or a prayer that you use that helps you. You can pass one of your loved ones a crystal, and say, “You know what? I know you don’t believe in this shit, but I want you to have this. It’s a master communication stone, and it will help you to express what you want to express or, you know, it’s a stone for creativity and I think it wants to belong to you.” You can take someone a coffee. You can ask if somebody if they want to go for a walk. You can deliver some warm clothes to a homeless shelter. You can offer to walk someone’s dog if they’re feeling a bit frail or sad or under the weather.

Figure out where you can put a bit of your time, where you can give a bit of your money, figure out what’s going on that you agree with that you think is good and positive that you want to get involved in. Think about those things that you were planning on doing for ages that you thought would be a really good idea that you kind of wanted to do but you always convinced yourself you didn’t have time or you weren’t good enough or there’d be a better moment to do it. I’d say the moment is now, wouldn’t you? Because after being slapped on one cheek with Brexit and now being slapped on the other one with this, I’d say the time is definitely fucking now, you know? Anything, anything you want to do to bring that positivity and make that change? Do it now.

The beautiful thing is that that is such a good use of our energy. (Sighs.) We have to have that ungraceful, unmanageable reaction where we do feel rage, and we do feel bewilderment, and we do feel frustration. But that incredible ball of holy electric life force, you know, that comes out of us in that display of rage or that externalization of fear and anguish? That is raw! That is key! That is off the fucking chain! We can do something with that! We can take that. We can harness it. We can redirect it into an avenue where it actually will do something. It will be planted like a seed, and it will grow. It will make other things happen. It will be a catalyst. It will be a part of the alchemy that we need to celebrate and bring into beingness now. So, hold space for your anger. Hold space for your raw terror. And then know that that stuff is power, and you can shape that power according to your beliefs and according to the needs of your self and those around you.

So for me, it was like saying, okay, this is my time to break down, this is my time to flip out…and believe me, okay, it was 6 o’ clock in the morning, umm, and I was going through Facebook, and I realized things were going the way they were going, and I shit you not, I had a panic attack for the first time in years. [00:20:00] I’m just going to be honest. I did. I had a panic attack. I started to hyperventilate. (Breathes.) Umm, it was, it was, it was…shit got real, you know? It was legit, that’s all I’m going to say. And it was difficult. It was a difficult moment for me. And I let that happen. I rode that out. But there’s a lot of power in that, that raw reaction comes from a place of deep belief, and deep intention, and deep love, and that is some pure, real, potent, grade-A uncut shit. That is beautiful. We need to learn how to use it. We need to channel it, we need to harness it.

And when we harness it, and take it away from screaming judgments and obscenities and feeling resentful, and feeling alienated from our fellow human beings and feeling rageful and shutting down and crying and sobbing and doing things we know that are bad for us because we don’t know what else to do…When we take that power away from that cycle, and we put it into what is the next right action? Who can I help? Where can I put this energy? Who needs me? Where are people mobilizing? What can I do to show somebody that I care that they are heard? That their life is fucking valid, that their life has meaning?

That is Alchemy. That’s spiritual Alchemy! And you can do that! You have the power to do that! Every single moment of the day is another moment to choose Alchemy, to choose to be the master of that change.

I think I’ll come back and do another video later because this is my brand new video camera, and it’s not telling me how long I’ve been filming for, because I didn’t remember to kind of go into the settings and put that capability on.

[caption: I’ve actually had it on the wrong light setting and I messed the audio up a little by keeping autofocus on. But hey ho – you live, you learn!]

So I’m not sure how long I’ve been filming for, I’m not sure how long I’ve got left on the camera, I definitely want to pull some cards, I definitely want to do a Tea and Tarot episode pertaining to using our power, finding our sense of personal agency. So I’ll be back! I’ll be back, I have a lot to say, I want to sit with you guys for a lot longer. I want to feel your presence so much. I want to read your comments so much. And I’m sending so much love to you.

Come and hang out with me on Facebook if you want to. Come and hang out with me on Twitter. If you are looking for journal prompts, if you are big on writing to externalize the emotions that you’re going through, I have just literally published 50 journal prompts which were specifically designed as a response to this complete clusterfuck. And maybe you want to use some of them to help you to explore your feelings and, you know, deal with your fears and come to a point of inspired action, so I’ll leave the link for the 50 journal prompts below, please check that out.

If you want to book a spiritual counseling session with me, if you want to have a chat with me, if you want to have a cup of tea with me, I’m available to clients as always, go to kelly-annmaddox.com and click on the Work With Me tab. I’ll leave the link below for the spiritual counseling sessions specifically. If you’ve never spoken to me before, never worked with me before, and you think now might be a good time? I’m ready. I do hour-long sessons and 90-minute long sessons, so come and see me if that’s something that you want to do, if that’s something you would like o invest in, then I’m here.

I’m going to sing you out with a chant. It’s my fucking favorite. If you don’t chant, and you’re feeling stressed, you should chant. It’s a very good use of time. Very good use of time and energy.

Okay, let’s raise this motherfucker up to the roof. (Chimes.)

Ong na mo
Guru dev na mo
Ong na mo
Guru dev na mo

That means: ‘I bow to the teacher that lives inside me.’ And we have to do that now. That’s the fucking plan, okay? So we’ll reconvene here, sooner rather than later, I’ll be back, you know where to find me if you need me. Much, much love, pickles. And blessed be.

The Way of the Wizard, by Deepak Chopra

The following blog entry may contain triggering material.

It didn’t seem unusual to me that I knew all about mild, green Camelot even though I lived under a fierce tropical sun…or that Merlin’s crystal cave really existed, despite every author assuring me that wizards were mythical. I knew differently, because I was an Indian boy, and I had met them.

I’d consider bardic mysticism a method (the things that happen, the things to do, to produce a thing) that I incorporate or is the way I incorporate, whereas alchemy is a process or mode (that is, the mechanics behind why a method works) and have been trying to combine the two. Texts of bardic mysticism at least give the reader some credit: the cauldron of poesy is stirred with joy and sorrow. Once upon a time, I would have taken that as possible telekinesis instructions, but now I’m more inclined to take that as a clue that the cauldron itself is also metaphorical. Then I read up on modern resources on alchemy that keep reminding the reader that older texts were always coded metaphors that didn’t need to literally involve precious metals. Why wouldn’t they writers of older texts have just said so, in the first place?

Chopra’s The Way of the Wizard combines these well. In it, Chopra explains an Alchemical life philosophy through a series of short stories and accompanying meditations or writing exercises. The stories describe the mysterious apprenticeship that a young King Arthur served under Merlin in the crystal caves, and how Merlin’s lessons continued to follow Arthur into adulthood.

I very much liked the format. Even fairy tales with the notes at the end about what the moral of the story was could get annoying, so accompanying meditation and journaling exercises would (should) be difficult to foist on a reader who wouldn’t already agree with what’s taught every chapter-step of the way. The “sayings” in each chapter came off to me as trite enough to ignore, but the exercises felt open enough structurally that it wasn’t necessarily patronizing.

The thought behind each lesson or chapter could be interesting, but…mostly incompatible with where I am now.

My corporeal roommate Cecilia recognized the author’s name from a signal boost (or several) by an influential talk show host named Oprah Winfrey. My mother subscribed to O magazine, and I would read those, and I caught the occasional event (an offhand remark by the great Winfrey about going vegetarian correlated with an undeclared grassroots boycott that moved cattle farmers to sue, A Million Little Pieces was a fake memoir promoted by the great Winfrey who was eventually very angry that it had been fake, and “Look under your seats…Everyone gets a car! You get a car, and you get a car, and you…”) but Deepak Chopra was a new name to me.

I can understand why this expression of spirituality fit alongside the little I’ve heard of the Law of Attraction and the Secret. Chopra’s Merlin and Arthur speak in terms of ego and energy, which came off to me as anachronistic and specific to new age spirituality (rather that psychology or physics). In chapter eighteen, King Arthur gives terrible counsel—my opinion, not the book’s opinion—to an angel in the guise of a grieving father, and in that thought I found some echo of the Middle Way of Buddhist philosophy between the illusions of the material cosmos and the asceticism that would reject that suffering. Not itself a bad idea, but I felt the way that story in that chapter set it up kind of minimized human suffering and blamed the victim for not being enlightened enough. Apart from that aspect, I might have considered a introduction of an Eastern philosophy into a Western aesthetic, even in defiance of the Heaven/Hell dichotomy of a most Christian King Arthur, as…interesting, as well as the modernizations. (Two chapters after that, Chopra ends the book with how it’s a wizard’s or alchemist’s duty to alleviate suffering. I feel ambivalent about that.)

The book generally reads with a lot of bait-and-switch philosophical progression. It’s after the chapter that framed enmity as a kind of love, (because enmity was attention, and love as an enlightened wizard understands it is the very makeup of the cosmos that becomes evident with any and all flow of attention,) that comes the chapter on how to break down the objectification of another person in the first place. Most of all, I noticed a call to replace blame, dislike, and other negative value judgments with a cosmic trust, that is, to cultivate complacency as a spiritual tenet. Justice is portrayed as an illusion that’s far less useful than suffering, for pain can be recognized as an untruth that at least serves as a way to truth.

So, I want to say that a handful of the chapters at least delve a little further that the sort of victim-blaming, cosmos-trusting sort of spirituality that I can only take as a reflection of the spirituality of the privileged (despite the claims that a privileged life is a reflection of or developed from this spirituality). Maybe it does a bit?

I was at least entertained at some parts that portrayed Merlin being a dickweed.

Arthur pitched into his task, digging with all his might, but after an hour he was exhausted, and still Merlin had not told him to stop. “Is this long enough?” he asked. Merlin regarded the ditch, which was perhaps ten feet long and two feet deep.

“Yes, quite sufficient,” he said. “Now fill it up again.”

Accustomed as he was to obeying, Arthur did not like the order very much. Sweating and grim faced, the toiled under the blazing sun until the ditch was entirely filled again.

“Now sit beside me,” said Merlin. “What did you think of that work you did?”

“It was pointless,” Arthur blurted out.

“Exactly, and so is most human effort. But the pointlessness isn’t discovered until too late, after the work has been done. If you lived backward in time, you would have seen ditch digging as pointless and not begun in the first place.”

Merlin, you dickweed!

I did like the chapter that described Arthur introducing Guinevere to some of what he’d learned from Merlin. I thought it was sweet. For brevity, unfortunately, I don’t include the lead-in in the quote below, which had Guinevere and Arthur conversing as anachronistic equals and Guinevere’s medieval sass:

He asked the queen to leave their chamber and promise not to return until the stroke of midnight. Guinevere did as she was told, and when she returned she found that the room was pitch black, all the tapers extinguished and the velvet curtains drawn. “Don’t worry,” and voice said. “I’m here.”

“My lord, what do you want me to do?” Guinevere asked.

Arthur replied, “I want to find out how well you know this room. Walk toward me and describe what objects are around you, but don’t touch anything.” His wife thought this a very strange test, but she did as she was bidden.

“This is our bed, and over there the oak dowry chest I brought across the water. A tall candelabra of wrought Spanish iron stands there in the corner, and two tapestries hang on either side.” Walking cautiously so as not to bump into things, Guinevere was able to describe every detail of the room, which in truth had been furnished down to the last pillow by herself.

“Now look,” Arthur said. He lit a candle, then a second and a third. Gazing around, Guinevere was astonished to see that the room was entirely empty. “I don’t understand,” she murmured.

“Everything you described was an expectation of what this room contains, not what was really there. But expectation is powerful. Even without a light, you saw what you anticipated and reacted accordingly. Didn’t the room feel the same to you? Didn’t you tread cautiously where you feared you might stumble into things?” Guinevere nodded. “Even in the light of day,” Arthur said, “we walk around according to what we expect to see, hear, and touch. Every experience is based on continuity, which we nurture by remembering everything as it was the day before, the hour before, or the second before. Merlin told me that if I could see entirely without expectations, nothing I took for granted would be real. The world the wizard sees is the real world, after the light comes on. Ours is a shadow world we grope through in the dark.”

I enjoyed some aspects of a few other chapters: the ones that demonstrate that labels are meaningless, and the ones that demonstrate that words (and labels) mean things.

But when I read the one above to Cecilia, her reaction was basically:

“Arthur, you dickweed!”

The second part of the book has Merlin encounter Percival and Galahad in the woods and talking at them about the development of a spiritual self from the immature stage to the mature. I thought that was a bore, but maybe it was better-organized.


Here’s a checklist of the exercises from this book that I paraphrased.

1.) Meditate without like or dislike on existence alone.
2.) Notice, without anticipating, one’s responses to the list of words provided. (Lesson: words for things are bad because labels are awful.)
3.) Seek the light (levity) and love in all things. (In my notebook, this item has an arrow going to item 7.)
4.) Immersive meditation that voids thoughts and names.
5.) Complete the sentence “I am afraid of…” several times with a different ending each time.
6.) Remember someone you know well, and deconstruct the appearance of their memory.
7.) Allow moments of absent-mindedness to become gates to divine impulse.
8.) Develop a god complex by stargazing. (I did not like this chapter and exercise, must be why I phrased it this way.)
9.) Clear a path from intention to reality by developing cognitive bias. (This note is the same as item 8.)
10.) Access subpersonalities by revisiting traumatic memories and breathing through them.
11.) Imagine a scroll of your life to more to and fro in time; transcend this awareness of mortality.
12.) Imagine the scroll in exercise 11 is a film of Nemo Nobody. (Alternatively, The Butterfly Effect, starring Ashton Kutcher. These weren’t in the bok, I was just watching something that reminded me of the exercise for this chapter and thought, close enough to something like that yeah.)

13.) Taste tests w/ blindfolds are the power of uncertainty.
14.) Accept loss, admire devastation, replace blame and dislike with cosmic trust. (Ditto 8 and 9 for notes.)
15.) Age your beloved’s image with imagination, remember a time that ego turned love to hate.
16.) Ask what happened before a given point in time and after, up to an eternal infinity. Rewrite nowhere as now here.
17.) Seek signs, turn self-pitying Why Me into a question out of genuine curiosity.
18.) Supplementary: void meditations for spiritual pursuit.
19.) Recall past desires, live the desires now.

Some of these were helpful, some interesting, some I’m put off by, and some maybe I’ll get around to another time. This is a book I’d like to keep as a product of post-colonial relative personhood, as well as an example of dated bodies of mythology and how these become filtered through a contemporary perspective.


Oh, these quaint medieval mystics. Nobody has a use for alchemy anymore. We have chemistry now! Sure, my therapist has dropped a buzzword or two about my moving from nigredo through rubedo to albedo, and from what I understood of the concept, it was more of a poetic way of identifying and referring to stages in the recovery of depression (in my case, at least) but completely useless in making recovery happen.

That was the general idea that I had somehow formed about alchemy, until I read of Catherine MacCoun’s book On Becoming An Alchemist recommended on Sophia Gubb’s blog and decided to give the book a read-through.

The first misconception that changed during the reading was that Alchemy wasn’t a belief system but a set of methods based around one belief, that is, of being able to turn lead into gold. That made it all more of a superstition, really.

As it turns out, Alchemy does have an associated system of beliefs, which MacCoun lucidly and simply explained as the foundation: the division of the gross (or existential) and the subtle (or experiential); why even though we know that the notions referred to in Alchemical spirituality do not occupy space and therefore have no direction, an Alchemist would still refer to movement between levity and gravity; and much more.

A short digression: from what else I’ve read here and there about the subject, Alchemy wasn’t limited to attempting to turn less valuable metals into gold, but also included (in the case of the homunculi) creating life from non-living things without resorting to sexual intercourse, and (in the case of the creation of a basilisk) genetic engineering before anybody knew about genetics.

In the Alchemical creation of the Philosopher’s Stone, there would be anywhere from four to twelve steps depending on who wrote the how-to manual that the Alchemist is presently working with. Such distinguished authors would be Mary Hebraica (or “Mary the Jew” and are you kidding me there are like umpteen gazillion women throughout history named Mary who were also Jewish I am only slightly exaggerating), Roger Bacon or someone pretending to be Roger Bacon, Cleopatra the Alchemist who is not to be confused with Cleopatra Philopator VII, and numerous others.

The main “ingredient” remained ever a mystery, but once obtained, the tasks that an Alchemist would take to would involve burning something dry and grinding it down, adding fluids, separating one component from the rest of the resulting liquid, emulsifying other components that had curdled, leaving the whole thing alone to ferment, watching for the changes in colour, boiling until the thing produces vapours and then collecting the vapours in a retort (which is a crooked sort of flask), and imitating the conditions of the earth in heat and pressure so that a stone (the Philosopher’s Stone) would coagulate in the Alchemist’s own little cauldron.

MacCoun sets out seven steps to create the Philosopher’s stone, and explains these processes as metaphors for the development of one’s own personal qualities. Calcination, for example, is a tragedy in life that forces a person to face their fears, because thei fears are actually happening, and thus become more confident. Dissolution would be the growth from a shallow love to true devotion to or compassion for another person.


While the underlying Hermetic and Alchemical philosophy didn’t suit me because of its preoccupation with binaries, the main value being transformation or transmutation was a powerful idea to me. The motions of Alchemy with the goals at every stage became a refreshing way to parse the personal experiences of transformation as they happened. It’s more detailed than what I originally took from Jungian therapy, which is simply, “this is happening” in the metaphor of the colour of the bubbling brew; rather it was a process “this is what your subconscious is doing” in the metaphor of flasks and bunsen burners and accompanying actions.

MacCoun’s book is still my favourite resource about it. The tone is accessible, and the content is densely-packed.

There’s a lot of sexism and this ideal of heterosexuality as the basis for the belief, and Vajrayana Buddhism mentioned ostensibly because it had something to do with Occidental Alchemy (which, while those mentions of Vajrayana were interesting, I didn’t always see the connection) so it’s not perfect, of course, but this is what I’ve used as a springboard to my own practice.


The Alchemical path that applies to personal qualities as the subtle reality (of which the physical practice is representative) is, from what I’ve gathered, most commonly known as Inner Alchemy.

I’d take it a step further, however, and take these transformative notions into qualities present between people rather than within a person. It’s working with (to take a turn for the fey) the Glamour, which is what I call this vague concept of “power” and its imbalances evident on a societal and psychological level. These blend into one another especially if we consider situated cognition, how the psyche cannot be isolated from its context and sustain existence as a thing, and society is composed entirely of a sum of psyches.

To be sure, to cultivate a nature that would have such a conscious and effective action on the world rather than my world was metaphorically the chrysopoeia after the formation of the stone.

But in any case, it is this sort of Alchemically-inspired method that I refer to as the way of the Changeling.

Vorpal Sword 3/3


It doesn’t matter that my weapon is a sword. At least, it doesn’t matter in the way that I thought it would matter. I thought, “Why a rapier? My short stature wouldn’t have an advantageous reach: why not a spear? I don’t like direct stabby-slashy confrontation: why not an archery set? I don’t like combat at all: why not something defensive like an invisibility cloak, or a shield? Sure, I wanted a sword, but I wanted a katana.”

My sword does have ranged attacks. I don’t “blast” out billows combatively without my hands—my sword does that. My sword also creates protective bubbles and warps, so that’s a defensive function that doesn’t suit the symbolic form. That’s archery and shielding together, and I don’t know how or why that is.

The form that it takes, if it means anything, means something else that I haven’t figured out yet.

So, I propose a notable difference between the real world and otherworlds: form doesn’t always determine function.

I noticed that there’s a certain kind of anger that arises in me, that seems to correlate to the sword’s blade lengthening. There’s another kind of anger that correlates to the sword’s color darkening. Other times, I feel like I won’t get carried away with any sort of anger, and my sword turns into something that looks like silver or ivory. (It doesn’t turn into a flower, or anything like that.) This started on New Year’s eve, 31st of December 2012.

In mid-January of 2013, my sword took on the appearance of a gold hilt with a red gemstone: definitely not my style, but there was a rightness in that form. Or so I thought. When I descended into the surreal with the red-gold sword in hand—I was wandering the most unhappy grade school I had ever attended, and not voluntarily—I encountered what appeared to be an aggressive figure. I also identified it as an acceptable target, because (I sensed) it would continue to be aggressive and do harm without any capacity for negotiation—so, I ran it through with my red-and-gold sword. It only grew bigger, and appeared jauntier, without necessarily becoming friendly.

I snapped out of Surreality, and haven’t seen the aggressive figure again, but I figured that this was yet another example of form defying function in Fairyland. To wit, when you attack a target with the intent to damage, that target shouldn’t get healthier.

It continued to bother me that this had no name. I could think up of some way to refer to it or another, but it would always feel vague or wrong.

In September 2013, I was walking around the mall with the extended family. We passed by a hardware store, and I saw a wrench. We chatted, had dinner, and I recalled that the red jewel on the gold sword sometimes pulsed like a heart.

I named it Heartwrench, and while I recognized it when it was in my hand the next time, the form had changed to one even more cumbersome. It was a broadsword, with a central fuller groove.

Sometimes it would darken, and I would feel the cursedness of the sword being its main feature, and then it would be useful for attacking. Other times it would redden, and I would fall upon the blade and come out feeling healthier.

It remains terribly ugly and not at all the weapon I would have chosen, but it’s mine–perhaps it’s even me. I don’t need to use it, I’m even loathe to use it—but I like having it. I never thought I’d be like that.

I guess Heartwrench represents the warrior ideal, which is that it’s an innately noble and harmless thing to have a warrior’s spirit. To be a warrior does not mean just being a mass-murderer with good public relations. Rather, it’s a philosophy that adds fullness to life…I’m guessing. I haven’t quite figured any of this all out yet.

Later on, I consciously recalled this “black, red, white” psychological jargon that I’d read in Clarissa Pinkola Estes’ Women Who Run with the Wolves, and “nigredo, rubedo, albedo” that my own therapist had mentioned. When I finally got around to looking up alchemy, I found some version which had four color-coded stages: black, white, yellow, and red.

The symbol for psychological alchemy was more applicable to my psyche than I’d thought, then.