Close Scapes

On the 15th, I dreamed that I walked through the courtyard of my grade school campus. Sometimes it would continue into some garden spa that, of course, wasn’t part of the campus in waking life. My therapist had arrived, and then this giant cumulonimbus cloud tried to descend to meet us—meet my therapist, really, having mistaken my therapist to be some high-ranking member of this cloud’s holy order. Unless that wasn’t a mistake…hrmm… Anyway, what I remember next was walking on the sidewalk on the main avenue that (in waking life, too) linked all the university campuses, and meeting who I intuited to be the spirit of the road, or associated with the road or something. I remembered ey introducing emself as Guidon. (Which I wrote down, with much less difficulty than I usually have writing in dreams, so I didn’t glom onto the fact that this was a dream.) As we walked together, I remember feeling mildly amused and informed by the sheer amount of intellectual posturing that Guidon was doing.

When I woke up, I ran the name through a search engine, and eventually wondered if I might have been prodded or might be called by Gwyddion.

Then I thought to divulge this dream to my corporeal friend and roommate Cecilia, who gets more vocally irritated at the undergraduates who populate the now-gentrified Universityville. I described Guidon as that, because ey looked young and dressed in the fashionably unfashionable way of the Kids These Days, and seemed to have an awful lot to say about theoretical (theo-rhetorical?) matters. Eventually, Cecilia and I got back to grumbling about how, Back In Our Day, it was condiment pasta and farmer’s wet markets crowding the empty lots, not all these fancy schmancy restaurants in newly-constructed malls with giant air-conditioned grocery stores in the basement.

Then:

“The newsletter for Ateneo de Manila University is called Guidon,” Cecilia informed me. “Spelled that way, too: G-U-I-D-O-N.”

I hadn’t know that. I must have just picked it up and forgotten it, let it steep in my subconscious until it comes out in a dream like this. Still, we had a good laugh about how the personification of the Avenue wasn’t just one of those brilliantly irritatingly twee undergrads, but an Atenean (with all the associated stereotypes born of university rivalries).

Seriously, though, I’ve considered just leaving a clove cigarette and libation of Red Bull somewhere in the corner of the Avenue, to appease this minor dream-god of Young People Going Places, may ey forgive us nearly-elderly fogies our negative expressions of nostalgia.

In waking life, I did get around to seeing my therapist again. My sessions first started nine years ago, not continuously of course, and I have angst about how much of a lifetime a person can lose to the blearghy bleargh blah life plus neurotransmitter whatever… While waiting, I did finally get my hands on a copy of Jung on Active Imagination by Joan Chodorow, and it contextualized the Red Book enough that I realized I had been going about this all wrong. (From a Jungian psychological perspective, anyway. Maybe kind of.)

Cecilia and her family also invited me to stay with them in the Visayas for the summer. I’d heard so much about the place that I was excited to actually get to walk around in it, so that’s where I’m typing this from now. More later hopefully. Probably.

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Guisers: Shell Collecting

I grew up with imagination as a very mundane thing. What does a word look like when it’s spelled correctly? I imagine rather than remember. How will that piece of furniture look in the room instead of in the furniture store? Select marquee, copy, paste. I resisted applying that to my spiritual life through visual meditations because it was too easy.

When I opened up to that, I discovered that imaginative constructs and imaginative interfaces can serve as vessels for some strange things. It felt like imagination, it had the same texture, but there would be aspects that I couldn’t make up or force out. Strange things, by themselves, had always been around; I figured that the persistently nagging sense that I exuded billows of invisible ink and everybody did, or the feeling of there being a shark in the swimming pool even though all evidence was against that, were born of the same neurological quirk that got me losing sleep and cocooning in wretched anxiety for months over a typo.

Stories shape imagination. Mythologies are stories, but hypersignificated ones. Hypersignificating a typo wasn’t helpful at all, but the hypersignification of mythologies was tolerated and even encouraged in my childhood. If I decided that they’re all stories, and I get to decide what to hypersignificate, well…not exactly.

Thenea wrote about some experiences with mythological figures that left shells of themselves for spiritworkers to experience, and proposed that fictional characters were the same with a few exceptions. In any being with sentience, one can find conflict deep within their eyes.

So I decided to go around and give all my Guisers eye examinations. ALL of them. Well, the ones in recent memory that have potential to overlap with fictionaries.

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On Transverse Thought

Women Who Run With the Wolves by Clarissa Pinkola Estes is a compilation of folktales with analysis and commentary added. I read it when I was about nine years of age because I didn’t know that I wasn’t supposed to. It had fairy tales, so it was age-appropriate, wasn’t it?

In any case, that was when and how I caught the idea that, in fairy tales, the main character’s parents tend to be dead before the call to adventure if they aren’t going to be antagonists in the story. This wasn’t a realistic representation of reality: niceness isn’t fatal. This wasn’t a moral demonstration. If it was an artistic choice on the part of the teller and retailers, then the cliche would eventually be enough to put audiences off…wouldn’t it?

The prevalence of this trope, as Estes explained, was in its symbolic value: that of the turning point of self-actualisation, when a person realises that their value system is different than their parents’. Stories represent this shift through the death of the good-and-perfect parent, and often the introduction of the wicked step-parent. In some extradiegetic life, supposedly, they are the same person or the same idea of authority figure, but the psyche of their child tends to make some distinction or else acknowledges the shift through understanding the event of an in-story death.

How, then, would an extradiegetic death be symbolised?

It could be by some grand natural disaster that ends all existence or life as we know it. Or it could be by the fall of a single leaf. Death could even, confusingly, be symbolised by death.

So goes the transfer between the corporeal world and the otherworld.

The nature of any given focal point in the otherworld, too, is (from what I’ve observed) not only mutable but multi-dimensional. How the word “fae” can retain its meaning when applied to all of the following: to the powers of order, to the powers of disorder and madness, to the liminal beings interacting with humanity, to personifications of non-people entities, to people on the other side of some insular idea of people that somehow still remain people but in some other reality, to beings who speak in a language like the sound of bells and that were born of the laughter of newborn humans, and to miniature humans that grow out of flowers and have butterfly wings, to corporeal human beings who claim bloodline or inner nature that is fae…is a mystery that I can respect.

I don’t know what I’m doing. I can’t know what I’m doing, unless I’m doing it wrong. I find out by doing, translations, transliterations, interpretation, creation, and all the warp and weft of fabrication.

The Otter Fat Wishes, by Carl Jung

The major push for me to begin exploring this edge of imagination, that really demonstrated how imagination did have an edge and wasn’t just endless egoistic ideations to only be used as a tool for furniture shopping (or clothes shopping, if a fitting room isn’t available,) was Carl Jung’s Liber Novus, also known as The Red Book.

It chronicles his own experiments with a psychological treatment that he called Active Imagination, that I call questing, and as he analyzes his own quests as they happen this Red Book is a great insight into his personal philosophy.

A couple of passages did cause me discomfort, such as his assertion to one of his imaginary friends that the ideological conquest by Christianity and the cultural death that it left in its wake was right to have happened, that it should be embraced, and that anybody in the world who was not Christian was either Asian or lying to themselves…such as Jews. Jung’s imaginary friend did call him out on his anti-Semitism.

Later, Jung related to his more Biblically-formed imaginary friends the realization that his own subconscious landscape was also influenced by the Epic of Gilgamesh, the Nibelunglied, and Greek mythology, and therefore polytheism was the more psychologically-fulfilling path, which I still disagreed with because it’s still universalizing his personal experience.

Another feature that bothered me, but does explain Jung’s standpoint, was this spectacularly self-abusive tirade. Jung basically threatened torture and murder upon himself because he loves personal development that much, except that the way he puts it is that he loathes himself for ever depending on people, and for the fact that whenever he feels hurt or misunderstood that his first instinct isn’t to navel-gaze and figure out why he should even care about what somebody else ever does.

I think that’s rather harsh, considering that it’s a scientific qualifier for life that a specimen would react to outside stimuli. Maybe that doesn’t apply to the level of psychology and society, but the passageway to that paradigm shift would be the notion that on that level, we are always completely isolated and only think that we’re not because, by some paradoxical nature, we can’t understand or process that fact.

In any case, that tirade came in somewhere between the folktale-structured story that Jung received by a serpent-shaped imaginary friend of his, and Philemon’s seven sermons to the dead.

Once upon a time, there was a king who couldn’t have a baby. The king visited a witch, who told him to get some otter fat and bury it for nine months before digging it up again.

The kind did so, and the otter fat grew in the ground so that when it was dug up the king found a baby, and the baby became heir to the throne. The heir grew up and asked for the throne.

The king, upset at this new development, went to the witch and asked how to get rid of his son.

The witch told him to get some otter fat and bury it for nine months before digging it up again.

The otter fat drained the life force from the son, and within nine months the heir sickened and died.

The king went back to the witch to ask how to heal his remorse. The witch told him to get some otter fat and bury it for nine months before digging it up again

Seriously, is that her solution to everything?? Excuse me, I mean…carrying on…

This action produced a baby again, which the King raised up to be the exact same heir. But this time, when the son asked his father to abdicate, the King embraced him and gave him the crown because he knew it would happen and was prepared for it, and so was willing to allow his son to do this.

It reminded me a lot of the deconstruction of three wishes in Terry Pratchett’s A Hat Full of Sky. In any story about three wishes that successfully communicates the human condition, the third wish is special and always the same. “I wish that all the harm caused by the previous two wishes would be undone.”

Jung definitely approached all this more from a psychological standpoint rather than one where the Otherworld was a real world and people went to and fro with their imaginations, or through hallucinogenic drugs, or sensory deprivation, and brought back otherworldly wisdom. I think one of Jung’s imaginary friends in his imaginary world, Salome I think it was, made the request that Jung quit calling her a “symbol” because she was real, but then again she also tried to convince Jung that he was the second coming of Jesus Christ so it was probably well and good that Jung continued to consider it all symbolic anyway.

Still, the cadence of this particular story stands on its own in stark contrast to its source that usually lacks rhyme and reason except through the filter of Jung’s express interpretation.

Another Sort of Faery Court

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Shadows, in the Jungian psychology sense of painful truths that we’d prefer to ignore but consume and corrupt our souls if we repress them, come in many forms. I guess they call for many different sorts of processes. Sometimes, it’s just a matter of making a safe space and safe time to get in a particular half-conscious state of mind where Shadow confrontation-processing can happen.

In addition to the example I linked, more recently on the 10th of September 2014, I achieved this again with confronting platitudes about my deceased abusive mother. Her voice seemed to come into my head from outside me, bypassing my ears, and echoing, “I sacrificed everything for you” “I’m not perfect” “I did the best that I knew how to do” and I wrote that down, as well as my direct responses to each of them, saying exactly why they were wrong. I seemed to get responses, so I continued this sort of conversation with whatever was generating a reply. It seemed to take form, too, at the edge of my thoughts, a dark and spiky-plated Western dragon in a cave with, I intuitively sensed, a tendency to hoard kidnapped maidens and turn them into her daughters. I named this dragon Rafflesia, to keep this floral and arboreal theme with naming my imaginary characters.

But returning to the actual notions being dealt with, when I hear the same from other people, I get similarly defensive. In what I call the blacksmything mindset, however, I could get to the heart of those harmful messages and dismantle them and dissipate them.

Other times, it’s more symbolic, such as witnessing the effect of the Shadow upon what I call the Fetch, or witnessing and interacting with a shadowy separate person (probably… I just don’t know about that last one, it’s just strange. Does it count as a Shadow of something like “my self-righteousness” when I have such a thorough conscious conviction that I’m right to have developed such an elementary thing as personal sovereignty?)

What I describe below is the most elaborate blacksmything experience I’ve had, if that’s what it even was. It did involve mulling over events that I’d prefer to forget about for their implications, but it took place in this surreal paracosm and involved characters that didn’t fit the classical image of the Jungian Shadow. This episode of manifestation of it simply dissolved, without conveying catharsis or epiphany, without even with some hint of how to progress with the process so that I can get to that point—another characteristic I attribute to blacksmything.

The hues of the “Shadows”, if that turn of phrase is even sensible, was rather different. Captain Marigold confronted me with the religious edicts utilized by my emotionally abusive family, but blacksmything would vet what part of me still believed in the feasibility and validity of such edicts that would condemn the rest of me, and I didn’t even have a single grain of that. Captain Foxglove confronted me with how my needs have violated other people’s boundaries, and that felt more like blacksmything because I believe it was wrong even as I couldn’t have done otherwise, knowing my character and the circumstances.

Neither of them brought up this one particularly sharp and many-hued shadow. No, not this one. Well, maybe something like that one. But it’s one I haven’t mentioned yet because I only have this nascent notion of it, which was why I would have thought someone below would have brought it up at some time. I mean, it’s kind of got to do with my sexuality, and as both Marigold and Foxglove showed up, who I consider my Anima and my Animus respectively, I thought that Shadow would have been their priority. But no, instead…

Well, first, I found myself in a mindscape that I’d visited before. It was a city of white marble pillars and white granite steps that lead into clear waters under clear skies. The rivers wrapped around every block of this city, like a road system.

littlepleroma

The tops of the stairs that led into the rivers didn’t have bollards, so I imagined some in there so Foxglove could tie his ship to it.

The plot that I imagined on that spot was that I would seek out a book in a library. Foxglove declined to come with me, so I went to explore the city on my own. I found an archway of a building and walked through it. That was in August.

In mid-September, the fantasy continued from whatever stasis had halted it, and I wanted into a courtroom. Well, it was more like a giant void with a giant statue of a giant blindfolded figure holding balancing scales. Foxglove stood on one. Marigold stood on the other. I walked through the archway onto a jut of stability that just sort of elbowed me into the void, and the double doors slammed behind me.

Except there hadn’t been doors there before, there had just been an archway leading into a void. In any case…
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Psychic Chirurgery

 

Early November, 2013

My ankles are chained to an iron weight, and I wait at a low rock at high tide. The sea foam rushes up to my chin like a quilt, like I’m being tucked in for a final sleep.

How does a body rot underwater? Does the salt preserve some parts? Does the whole body grow bloated like melting waxwork? I imagine, when my chest stops aching for air at last, that starfish and crabs will welcome this body to the ocean with a silent, “May we take your coat?” like good hosts do. And a coat of scalp will hang on a claw, and a coat of toenail will hang on a tooth, and a coat of eyelid will hang on a gull’s beak, guts on a crest of wave, muscle fibers combed by shrimp, and the rest left to the sun to iron smooth. It is cold now, but I won’t miss all these coats by then. My bones will blossom into coral.

Inspired writing doesn’t always result in flowery prose. Around August of 2014, I felt moved to begin writing things out, about three hours every day at a convenience store with seats by a sunny window, on a notepad–but they were all just vague philosophical ideas about the world.

This was a different sort of inspiration. It began with an obsessive admirer’s fantasy, which I’d picked up somehow that this was A Bad Thing, so the segue into otherreal effectiveness certainly troubled the part of me that believed in mortification as the only valid path to personal development, because the Good and Right Thing Is Never Easy or Pleasant. So, the worse I feel in any aspect, the more on-track I should be to some mysteriously divine virtue, because contentment and joy are always evils in disguise. If I ever feel a light or warmth in my heart from doing something right, then I should snuff that out, because right is a duty to the world whereas something that has such a positive personal effect on myself is by nature selfish, and spoilt the good deed irreparably to feel it.

…Wow, that is a horrible worldview. That’s the part of me that was so dominant?

I don’t know how that happened, and I don’t wonder. What I can remember is how this was undone.

Basically: Captain Foxglove is overwhelmingly charismatic. My whiteboard doodles and Photoshopping don’t do him justice. He showed that desire and fantasy is a path to the numinous, not necessarily a distraction from it.

Where was I? Ah, yes. In the corporeal world, lying in a borrowed bed, waiting for sleep, fantasizing about my own death by drowning.
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Vorpal Sword 3/3

swords

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.