Archive for November 23rd, 2009

The Delphic Oracle is a truly remarkable institution of Ancient Greece. The Priestess, according to recent evidence, officiated in an aerosolized psychedelic haze that resulted in a drug-induced hypnogogic state. Those seeking the Oracle’s counsel would approach her temple, and be ushered into a room fogged by gases that welled up from sources underneath the temple. A question would be posed to the Priestess, and she would offer a prophesy. Odds are that whatever she said was mesmerizingly vague, but the surround of the imposing Temple, the fog of gases, its short-term effects on the aspirant, and the mystique, history, folklore and tradition would soon induce a mental state likely to imbue a cryptic puzzle with the qualities of profound wisdom, and trigger many days of joyful deciphering.

The love of the Oracle is certainly not unique to the Greeks. The passion for crystal-ball gazing of one kind or another is almost as old as civilization, and persists in all societies today. One need only do a casual scan of the literature on oracles to see the power they have held over imagination. Among those with a long and colorful history, there are the:  I Ching, Tarot, psychics ( and now their networks online), the Tibetan Nechung Oracle, still consulted by the Dali Lama, the Sibylline Oracles, the Akhashwani of Ancient India, the chillanes of the Yucatec Mayas, the Runes of Norse Mythology, and so many more.

A few weeks ago, the family got together and, before long, the kids brought out an old Ouija Board. The Board has a wild history that engenders fear and dread. It is a platform for unleashing unconscious forces and, as is the case with all oracular media, should be approached with care. Recreational use is a problem if the one recreating is at risk of  decompensating, is psychically fragile, impressionable, or otherwise obsessional in ways that can feed an underlying neurosis, or an as yet undiagnosed pre-psychotic thought disorder. In any event, in no time, a dialogue was ostensibly going on with the deceased. So many pedestrian queries later, all predictable, what was revealed were the fears, worries and ruminations of those using the board notwithstanding the belief that the messages came from the beyond. The messages came from the beneath.

We are creatures of rich imagination and projection. We are incarnate complex interweavings of archetypal forces, and all of these oracular media have power and merit in serving as a blue screen on which we can place our hopes, dreams, fears and idiosyncratic imagery. In using an oracle, it is how we would interpret images that says everything, or, how we react to and re-interpret the soothsaying offered by someone else.

All the world in which we act is a canvas for our imaginations and we use many colors, brushes and styles over the course of a lifetime. There will be oracles as long as there are men and women. The love of oracles is a testament to the soul’s life in the past, in the future, and in the moment, all at once. Now, that’s a quantum psychology worth studying and musing about.

I love ambiguous forms, and the use of photos as projective tools in my practice. I have also used the Voyager Tarot. What I like about it is that the cards are montages of many images, and it is up to the person I am meeting with to choose any three, and relate to them in their own terms in telling the story of where they’ve been, who they are today, and where they think they are heading.

It is always an awe-inspiring demonstration of the imaginal faculty of the soul, and the role it plays in deep healing and self-discovery.

© Brother Anton and The Harried Mystic, 2009. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.


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Of course, we live looking ahead.  We rehearse what it is we expect. We love to muse about the possibilities of tomorrow. We predict and prophesy. Some even bet on those futures and invest their hard-earned money on a hunch.

Be that as it may, we are, in truth, so much more alive by virtue of a storied past. Reading our blog entries an/or our handwritten notes in a journal gives us the chance to see our own story anew, with different eyes, and those things that happened “once upon a time” may reveal more of the secrets hiding inside.

This is also the counsel that Alice receives from the Red Queen in Wonderland:

“That’s the effect of living backwards,” the Queen said kindly: “it always makes one a little giddy at first—”

“Living backwards!” Alice repeated in great astonishment. “I never heard of such a thing!”

“—but there’s one great advantage in it, that one’s memory works both ways.”

“I’m sure mine only works one way,” Alice remarked. “I can’t remember things before they happen.”

“It’s a poor sort of memory that only works backwards,” the Queen remarked.”  – from Through the Looking-Glass by Lewis Carroll

Self-analysis is a vital part of living the good life. Thumbing through the pages of what we’ve written long after we’ve forgotten that we did so, and maybe what we said, is a gift to oneself like few others. Like walking into a room at a favorite art museum, we draw close to a piece of art and read about it, and look at the finer details (as we are close to our own thoughts and emotions in first writing a blog). Then, after we’ve done that, most people step back and look at what hangs on the wall from a distance. [ That’s why the museums put those nice couches and benches at the center of each room.] From a distance, we are better able to experience the gestalt, the larger sweep of the artist’s imagination, mood, and message.

So it is with “living backward.”

We catch a glimpse of the wider sweep of our own lives, and we clarify the message from the watcher within as we revisit the work of our own hands. Henri Matisse summarized this so beautifully. I quote from him:

” Then I found myself or my artistic personality, by looking over my earliest works. They rarely deceive. There I found something that was always the same and which at first glance I thought to be monstrous repetition. It was the work of my personality which appeared the same no matter what different states of mind I happened to have passed through. I made an effort to develop this personality counting above all on my intuition and by returning again and again to fundamentals.”

May your own re-reading of the story of your life and mind bring you illumination.

© Brother Anton and The Harried Mystic, 2009. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

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Why spend the money to go see a movie and be tempted by the over-priced, unhealthy and obscenely sized snacks, and then subjected to unwanted, irritating advertisements?  What redeeming value does a trip to the cinema have to offer anyway?

Costs, ads, snacks, and the poor bathroom hygiene of the public aside, the time in front of the big screen is a study in the archetypes of psyche.

The image, consciously portrayed and unconsciously fed, is a central force in our spiritual lives. It is an externalization of the “Imago Dei,” the image of G-d Within. The work of Joseph Campbell in comparative mythology bears witness to the powerful imagery that replicates certain iconic patterns that cut across the global history of art. The moving image captures, even more compellingly, the dynamic qualities of patterns of images, the organizing systems of Mind, or the fields that cause structure, form, and meaning.

Case in point: we just took in “New Moon,” and we enjoyed it very much. The mythos of vampires and werewolves have exercised their power over imagination for a long time. Besides the splendid cinematography, the average acting, and the quite well composed and orchestrated soundtrack of New Moon, nine sets of signs and symbols, the imagery and its archetypal roots, struck me as particularly interesting.

The opening sepia moon: Representing the feminine aspect of the male unconscious, the new moon image anticipates the unleashing of dark forces and their conversion into something redeemable by virtue of love. It is a symbolic foreshadowing of Bella and Edward’s complete vulnerability as they abandon themselves and their fears to their overwhelming need for each other. The archetype of the vulnerable lover, taking whatever risks necessary for his/her beloved, reminds us of the great power in us all that is paradoxically only released when we are  totally opened; a time, also, when we are most susceptible to getting hurt. The tension here, from the very opening scenes of the movie, is between the unleashing of the feminine unconscious, and loss of control to its power, and conscious choice and control.

The red robes of the townsfolk of Volterra, Italy, on “St. Marcus” Day: The red robes of the fictitious “St. Marcus” Day, celebrating the expulsion of all vampires from Volterra, Italy, offers allusion to blood, passion, sensuality, and royalty (intimating power), anger, and, paradoxically, the red vestments of joyful Holy Days, especially the red vestments of Christmas. The tension, in this instance, is between the celebration of new life, freedom and redemption through love, amidst the threat of being “undead,” or annihilated by the forces of dictatorship, the will of the cruel and powerful (e.g., the Vulturi) over the weak (the townspeople and Bella), and narcissism.

The tall trees of Forks: The tall trees of the Northwest territories conjure up reflections on great age and long life, strength, deep roots, seeing far and wide from the tree-tops, self-sacrifice (the tree of the cross), the tree of knowledge (and the costs of knowing), and the tree of life (or living large, and deep).

Anger as the trigger for conversion to werewolf: The Janus head in monstrous guise, the werewolf has two faces, one by day, another by the light of the moon. It symbolizes a hidden evil, hidden stirrings, forces of undoing, and the potential for hurting those we love in acting out when we are not in touch with our deep emotion, inner rage and the unintegrated darkness.

The enmity between werewolves and vampires: In the case of vampires, the predatory instinct is played out in full consciousness. The werewolves, on the other hand,  commit evils incited by forces beyond their own control. Those forces are  animal and primal. The tension here is between the forces of destiny, and our freedom to choose: a dynamic tension played out throughout Twilight and New Moon.

The Allure of the Vampire: Capable of bestowing immortality and, especially, perpetual youth, but at a great price, as one is also consigned to being forever a parasite. Even here, the archetype of blood-union, made by those to whom we are forever bound, conjures an extreme intimacy: a radical level of self-abandonment to the other.

Bella’s Physical Pain Over Separation: As if having been dealt a mortal blow, Bella is stricken with interminable and inconsolable grief for many months after Edward leaves her. The archetype of being abandoned and lost is powerful, and it triggers our own deepest fears of being alone, cut off from those closest to us. The tension is between loving one so much we can let them go, and holding on with every fiber of our being. New Moon is largely an homage to this existential dilemma.

Adrenaline Rush & Seeing the Beloved: High risk sports such as sky-diving, cave diving, scuba diving, flying, bungee jumping, or, as in the movie, cliff diving, attracts many people. The link to “seeing” one’s Beloved is a striking series of moments in the film. Bella intuits Edward when she confronts her fears. She takes up motorcycling to “see” him and then, ultimately, takes a near fatal leap from a cliff to force a reunion, mystically, with her beloved. The myth of Orpheus and Euridice embodies the underlying archetype. Orpheus travels into Hades to see Euridice whom he loves. This is an allusion to complete self-abandonment, throwing all caution to the wind for love, and, in submitting totally to one’s passion, we catch a glimpse of what we seek. Ironically, however, the glimpse is very fleeting. The tension here is between living safely, comfortably, surrounded by what we know, and striking out into the unknown, engaging with adventure, and discovering possibilities yet undisclosed. Bella also dives into turbulent seas as waves break on the shores and the rocks violently. Added to this scene, the vampire Victoria, bent on killing Bella, swims toward Bella just before Bella strikes her head on the rocks, and is unconscious and at risk of drowning. Our worst fears and the greatest of adventures are the one’s authored by the collective and personal unconscious.

Wanting Immortality, Envying Mortality: Bella wants Edward for all eternity and is willing to give up her mortal life to join him as a vampire. Edward pushes back recognizing what he lost in not being “normal,” and living out a regular life, with all of its pleasures and its limitations. From the Epic of Gilgamesh on, literature and art is replete with allusions to our thirst for eternal life. Much of the world’s religious traditions are preoccupied with the pursuit of the promise of life beyond the grave. Yet, at the same time, life’s finitude and limitations add significance and urgency to how we use the time we have. This is a central tension running throughout the books and the movies. It reminds us of  the archetype of the living waters of eternal life promised in scripture and about which we dream and mythologize. The tension is between the urgency and savor of life’s moments, and the fear of the loss of who and what we think we are. This one archetypal thread deserves many pages of refection as it also is a pivot point around which our unconscious and conscious energies obsessively revolve.

Our love affair with the cinema is far more than mere escapism. It is an opportunity to live vicariously in a sea of archetypal vibrations that awaken deep stirrings in the unconscious. It is a complex retreat to the Platonic world of forms that dynamically shape all phenomena and noumena. A night at the movies makes them manifest in visual and acoustical imagery and is an excursion into the realms of Mind that we may otherwise make little time to transit.

See you at the movies.

© Brother Anton and The Harried Mystic, 2009. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

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