Sunday, June 23, 2019

the veiled kiss
WHAT IT ISN'T


wrapped in who we are, questions arise --
what to remove, what to add
   so we can be intimate?
where is our energy, our intention
   when we engage with one another?
how do we believe
   what we're feeling is true?
is this a feeling that's shared
   or merely exploited?
what exactly is this thing called intimacy?
   is it merely what becomes of the comfort of friendly engagement 
     when enough time gives rise to a surface bloom of the agreeably cozy?
   is it sharing our superficial then deeper secrets with one another in measured steps?
   is it slowly dissolving the boundaries of personal space as one is allowed closer?
   is it in prime evidence when removing our clothes for someone else?
   is it allowing the other to access parts of oneself
     otherwise shyly reserved, stoically hidden, vigilantly defended?
   is it allowing the other to see the real us?
     and what portion of that "real us" is shown?
     have we even shown this "real us" to ourselves?
     how can we be sure we're showing what we think we're showing?
     how are we sure what we're showing is being seen the way intended? 
to be unsure is to be unguarded, exposed, susceptible to who knows what.   
is there no intimacy without vulnerability?
is there no vulnerability without making mistakes?
are these to be our mistakes or simply experiences
   hampered by our lack of an omniscience
we shouldn't expect of ourselves?
   even if we don't blame ourselves for our leaps 
into pain out of naive vulnerability,
   nevertheless, there is still the pain.
lost in feeling, how can we ever know
   how many stages and levels there are
  on the way to true intimacy?
   maybe there are no stages at all.
   perhaps intimacy either exists or not
   in an alchemical, magical, archetypal way
   and you'll only be fooled by talk of stages,
   fooled into successive approximation away from the truth,
   fooled down the road of being taken for the fool,
   open to being used, a road leading only to more pain.
it has been said in song -- they tell you not to sleep in a strange place
   or sleep with somebody else, but either way is OK,
   you wake up with yourself --
   on the surface this is quite easy to sing,
   it can even sound like an affirmation, but the 
devil-in-the-details catch is,
   the self you wake up to 
   can't help but be changed by the encounter
   and once seen, the fall from Eden,
   the fall onto forbidden fruit,
   the fall into greater knowledge
   can't be unseen, and the sight of it can't help but change us,
   from then on changing who we are when we approach
   new vulnerabilities, new possibilities of intimacy.
whatever true intimacy is,
it isn't explored behind the veil of who we think we are
it isn't expressed behind the veil of what we wish to have
it isn't exchanged behind the veil of engendering, self-serving behaviors 
it isn't exalted behind the veil of simple carnal desire,
intimacy is something more ineffable, more revealing,
more consuming in a boundary-dissolving way,
and once dissolved, isn't thought of that way.
and so, here we are,
wrapped in the who we are, 
and the question still arises --
what to remove, what to add
   so we can be intimate?
first we must ask ourselves
but only ask if we answer with the truth --
is intimacy really what we're after
or is it a means to an ends?
yes, we spend accumulated time with one another,
we invest our energy and awareness and consideration,
we smile, we are kind to one another,
we hug, we kiss, then embrace,
eventually, buoyed by the flow of the progression 
of the close and familiar,
in due course we take each other's bodies in full,
we release a cascade of pent-up desire onto each other,
we extract peak pleasure and the facsimile of completeness
we are driven to seek,
in turn we ignore how fleeting, how ephemeral both of those are.
it is too easy in the moment of overwhelm
to content ourselves that this must be intimacy.
but in reality, the true portal into intimacy rarely opens,
and hardly ever due to the way we approach it.
what's the chance we're as yet
still kissing with veils on?
is it all merely lip service to the notion of the intimate,
a convenient excuse to gain access to the other
while ginning up some dispensation for our conscience?
the religious intention of a veil 
is to cover a part of the head or face 
as an object of some significance.
the questions then becomes,
what exactly is this special significance
and why do we feel a need to hide such a significance
from all except the rare one we deem intimate?
why place a private, personal, specially restricted nature on it?
is it because we don't dare risk such a precious thing with just anyone? 
or can it be we gain some advantage in concealment,
in hiding our cards, so to speak?
what exactly is so precious, anyway?
what makes it precious?
do we become a bit like Gollum chasing the precious one ring to rule them all,
an object external from us that wields a power we can't resist?
what power is this, this power of intimacy?
 is it simply the most profound power over others
to get them to open up to us -- for good or bad?
if so, then intimacy by itself is neither inherently a plus or minus
but can be used as both a pathway to the divine
and just as easily a tool of the predator.
maybe love is a pathway to the divine
and lovemaking a means to embody this cherished yearning,
but it's not that simple, is it?
our animal and spiritual natures wrestle
in the moment of passion and what appears as love
may not be as noble as some exulted yearning we whisper to ourselves.
to not risk is to give up the possibility of finding true intimacy.
and yet, to risk intimacy is to experience the unexpected,
for the experience we get is always more or less somehow
because by necessity it involves someone else
and that other will always have their own veil,
their own mix of intentions and drives,
their own blend of wrestling natures.
it's an old tale told with passion,
the terrible nexus of our deepest joys and most bitter tears,
it's the realm of intimacy, the mystifying.
when it's genuine there is no way to approach it with strategy,
it magically shines forth when we're in its presence
and the i's becomes we
then the we is subsumed 
into the one beyond us.
it's our transformation without explanation or method.
in all of it 
perhaps we need to take a step back
to see how the inception of true intimacy
occurs at the point we become 
truly intimate with ourselves,
and this is the most difficult aspect of all,
but it's critical and must precede 
any vulnerable engagement with another.
mostly we attempt the latter without the former
and in denying our honest engagement with ourself first
guarantee something less than intimacy with another.
this may be the crux at the heart of true intimacy.
everything else is simply talk
about what it isn't.

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

set afire

SET AFIRE

bathed in a trance set afire 
by an enchantment of cobra spirit

stretched to an awareness of hidden wisdom
shining forth in phases of phainesthai

knowing the hope of engagement
among eternities of soul obsession

this is the moment out of time, the sudden infinity
showing us what we became instead

a whispered offer of regeneration from potentials thriving
when the best versions of us beckon 

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

stages within stages

STAGES WITHIN STAGES
There are so many painful and pleasurable experiences offered by life.
So how to choose?  What a question, as if the answer isn't obvious.

Or is it? The natural instinct, the psychological "normal" favors selecting pleasurable experiences. But in fact this may not be good for us. It appears natural to choose the no-pain option but everything in life seems to model "no pain, no gain." So are we ensuring no gain by accepting the easy no pain way? Should we choose the painful way because that's the way to gain?

Even when working with the sacred plant medicines, and especially during the integration process, the popular vibe always stresses doing the hard work, facing our worst fears, going into the pain, taking the most difficult shamanic journey through the underworld -- in order to gain, in order to heal.

"No Pain - No Gain!"
So choose pain?
So many aphorisms say so --

- the pain you feel today is the strength you feel tomorrow
- sometimes we need to be hurt in order to grow. we must lose in order to gain. sometimes, some lessons are learned best through pain
- everyone wants happiness, no one wants pain - but you can't have a rainbow without a little rain
- you've got to go through the worst times in life to get the best
- endure the pain, enjoy the gain
- life's a climb but the view is great
- struggle today, strength tomorrow
- it's not going to be easy, but it's going to be worth it
- no goal was ever met without a little sweat
- it hurts now but one day it'll be your warmup
- no struggle, no progress
- it's supposed to hurt
- sometimes it takes the worst pain to bring about the best change
- the truth is like surgery, it hurts but cures. a lie is a pain killer, with instant relief but side effects forever
- sometimes we have to be broken to awaken the greatness within
- your best teacher is your last mistake
- if it's not hurting it's not working
- great things never came from comfort zones
- it is by going down into the abyss that we recover the treasures of life. where you stumble, there lies your treasure. - joseph campbell
- losing is essential to success - the more you lose, the more you want to win
- we either make ourselves miserable or we make ourselves strong - the amount of work is the same - carlos castenada
- do not pray for an easy life; pray for the strength to endure a difficult one - bruce lee
- change happens when the pain of staying the same is greater than the pain of change
- there are two types of pain, one that hurts you and one that changes you
And even Carl Jung said, "There is no coming to consciousness without pain."

How exceptionally odd.
How strange.

What does that say about the whole thing
-- about us, where we are, and all of being itself?
The purpose of this place seems intent upon extracting
meaning and the continually-improved from ongoing pain.
Pain, then, is necessary to achieve something better
(and better is good),
to grow, as they say
(and growth is good).
And we're growing everyday just by being here,
that is unless we don't believe becoming conscious
through experience is growth.

So why should something good be the cause of pain?
What would be so wrong about the way-to-the-good causing pleasure?
Or having the way-to-the-good easy?
Wouldn't they be better inducements for going toward the good?
And should we then assume conversely that something bad causes pleasure?
Or, maybe cynically conclude no matter what we do,
good or bad, we'll get pain?
There isn't much symmetry of dualism in that.

Pleasure is good. Pain is bad.
No, as it turns out. That's wrong.
It's far more complicated than that.
Perhaps, in fact, there is both
good and bad pleasure
and good and bad pain.
But that's a problem
for how does one decide
which pleasure is good or bad
and which pain is good or bad?
Should we ask simply - which one makes our life better
and which one makes our life worse?
But how do we measure better or worse?
By our values?
But what if our values can also be good or bad?
Then it's possible to select the wrong better or worse
from good or bad values.
That's a pickle. And not a sweet one either.
It's part of a drama played out on stages within stages
where we are both actors and audience
and ultimately our best and worst critics,
which is probably what is meant
by the final judgment.

Monday, June 17, 2019

butterflies fly crazy

Butterflies...how crazy they fly,
an yet we never see
two butterflies
in a mid-air collision.

Friday, June 14, 2019

magenta pill

take the magenta pill
because the truth is somewhere in between

Monday, June 10, 2019

always get

"I always get to where I'm going
by walking away from where I have been."  
   -winnie the pooh

Tuesday, June 4, 2019

next season premier
In the next season of the social network
everyone is in danger of getting cancelled
by Mob Law and banished to the digital ghetto
by virtue algorithms of weaponized shame.
desire for being

consciousness is the desire for being
 -j.p. sartre
evil's mysterious role
evil plays
a mysterious role
in delivering man
from darkness
and suffering
-jung
rogan
"People get obsessed with things 
they won't even be obsessed with a few years later, 
like 'hey man, I got obsessed about that thing 
you were obsessed with and now I'm like you
- 'ah, no man, I'm not even obsessed about that anymore,
I'm on to some new shit.' 

"Get obsessed with life improvement. 
Find things that you enjoy doing 
that are difficult. 
Do them and get better at them. 
It seems so simplistic. 
It seems like a ridiculous, 
idealistic point of view 
but it's effective. 
And be nice to people. 
It's not so hard."  
   -J.Rogan

Sunday, June 2, 2019

logic and the animal

Logic is one thing,
the human animal another.

You can quite easily
propose a logical solution
to something and
at the same time
hope in your heart of hearts
it won't work out.
  -Luigi Pirandello
truly value

what we truly value is near to us
in ways that defy logic
in ways that change us
in ways that whisper eternity
and in ways that may fly away
but never will be forgotten

Friday, May 31, 2019

this bird has flown

TRANSCENDENCE

i want to be a fashion model on a mediterranean shoot
i want sea breezes and a size 1 in something leather
gigantic black sunglasses that hide my roving eye
and hairdressers standing by when a curl misbehaves
in a way that shows everyone i just don't care

i want champagne at the casino sent to me
by green bond moguls yearning to feel my soft secret
but worried i'm too nihilistic to give it up
i want to be so self-full that it shapes the world around me
and be on rhinestone t-shirts for being the one
everyone believes can manifest their reality

i want emerald tortoise earrings from a limited collection
and use of someone's ferrari if i so choose
i want time to be the one who avoids the studied and noble path
and be interviewed and granted honorary degrees because i did

i want jet lag from private jets and the occasional weekend
with an artistic couple in the algarve who like threesomes
i want parties with inner parties and favorite escapes on-call
and access to the latest that anything has to offer

i want to walk nanjing road beneath a skyscraper sized
billboard flashing stock shots of me and not even notice
then lounge on a beach somewhere remote and expensive
and be comped the whole thing just so they can say I was there

i want six-hand massages and a tiny tattoo
only the most daring and privileged will ever find
i want passion without being unrealistic
and so much love here and there to make me feel
what a momentary, conditional thing it needs to be

i want living in the moment to reflect all the meaning there is
and ever can be, immersion as distraction from this world
enjoying it for what it is instead of what others yearn for it to be
this place without actual meaning or deeper value

i want not to be bothered by anything like everyone else is
not tortured by chasing phantoms of heart and ideals
i want to relish my acceptance
of how pointless everything turns out to be
in this place of deluded make-believe

and when the day comes
when no one wants to take a picture of me
i want not to want anymore

i will hide myself away in an exclusive enclave
custom built for me and my temperamental peterbald
contemplate nothing, enjoy obscurity
and relax away from the nothingness
that society, this world
 always was and will be
i will be neither content nor regretting
having lived a life of
actual transcendence

Sunday, May 26, 2019

not your mind

psychedelics allow 
you to contact the mind 
but it seems not your mind 
it seems 
and this mind turns you within in kind 
where it goes is a mystery to itself 
it seems 
outside the mystery is more 
even as you sense the more is you 
and not you 
it's the fabric 
of numinous veils being lifted 
veils without seams 
shades of perception 
beyond one's limitation to react 
another passage 
into the where that is 
and isn't what it seems 
with the faith 
of a dying wish, 
the only thing certain 
being love

Friday, May 24, 2019

complexity

the larger the system the greater the chance
there will be unintended consequences from its bulk 
or from attempting to modify the system

best outcomes manifest when one stays 
within their domain of competence 

-- but complexity will increase 
until no one will be able to do this 
without artificial aids
and the chance that those aids 
will have unintended consequences 
also compound
truth

truth is not arrived at by consensus
man

Butterfly Armageddon Effect by Displacement
------------------------------------------------------------
my boss yells at me
so I yell at my wife
my wife yells at the baby
the baby bites the cat
the cat scratches the dog
the dog pees on the neighbor
the neighbor kicks the delivery person
the delivery person flips off a cop
the cop shoots a jaywalker
the jaywalker burns down the donut shop
the fat lady clutching a jelly roll starts a riot
the rioters attack the vegan counter-protesters
the vegans pour cow's blood on the arresting SWAT team
the SWAT team beat the prisoners at the local jail
the prisoners torture the captive news reporters 
an escaping reporter spits on the governor being interviewed outside
the governor calls out the national guard
the national guard opens fire on the prison
the SWAT team return fire
the President calls in the regular army
the army uses gas to knock everybody out at the prison
a UN force fires cruise missiles to punish the army for using chemical weapons
the navy retaliates by sinking a UN frigate flying a Russian flag
Russia fires tactical nukes in pre-emptive strike against forward-deployed NATO forces in Eastern Europe
Launch codes are authorized by Russia, US, Britain, France, China, Israel, Pakistan, India, and North Korea for 9500 ballistic missiles
--- the only question is... who pissed off my boss 
and who upset them? 

Thursday, May 23, 2019

anything
what would you do if you could do anything, moment to moment?
if that was possible, within minutes you'd be unrecognizable to yourself
dead fish

only dead fish go with the flow
judgement
good judgement comes from experience

and experience?  
that comes from poor judgement
an aphorism a day

an aphorism a day keeps critical thinking away
god's limitation
what does god lack? -- limitation
but by definition, god can't lack anything
god is, always was, and always will be complete
and so ongoing creation is necessary
to manifest god's limitation - 
a limitation that makes god complete

the price you pay for being is limitation
the price you pay for limitation is suffering
but who are you?
you are god
experiencing god's limitation,
that thing called creation
centers of the universe


the universe has as many different centers as there are living beings in it - aleksandr solzhenitsyn
in the now

it is said there is a heaven and hell and the way you live your life determines which one you end up in - most misunderstand this as being religious dogma but no afterlife has to be involved for this to be true, in fact this is an accurate predictor of what happens in the now
what if

what if, at times, we are in heaven but it's not noticed because we don't believe in it?
made for fun

man suffers only because he takes seriously what the gods made for fun
complicated

things become complicated only when we think about them - alan watts

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

a wall with more there

"What you see in the world, in some sense, is a set of animated cartoons. And a lot of that is actually a consequence of you seeing nothing but your memory. Because your brain is organized so that instead of going through all of the difficulty of having to look at the thing in itself, you look at what you assume to be there. And if you can get away with that, so much the better. But the thing in itself is always much richer than your apprehension of it, which is partly why you make mistakes, but also partly why you can continue to garner wisdom in the world. There's always more there than meets the eye. And God only knows how much more there's there than meets the eye. And you can show this, even in the religious sense, to some degree, because you can say that there's an element to the transcendent that instills people with a sense of religious significance. You can do that, immediately, scientifically, by feeding people chemicals, for example, that disrupt the inhibition of perception by memory and that puts them in a place where the transcendent tends to reveal itself, sometimes in overwhelming force. So it's not fiction that this exists. What's transcendent is more real than the reality that you perceive." 
- Jordan B. Peterson / Apprehending The Transcendent

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

more than

"We think more than we can say,
we feel more than we can think,
we live more than we can feel."
--Eugene T. Gendlin
wisdom

"The small wisdom is like water in a glass - clear, transparent, pure.
The great wisdom is like the water in the sea - dark, mysterious, impenetrable."
- Rabindrarath Tagore
highest point

"I felt deep within me that the highest point a man can attain is not Knowledge or Virtue or Goodness or Victory but something even greater, more heroic and more despairing: Sacred Awe!"  --Nikos Kazantzakis

Thursday, May 16, 2019

Integration of plant medicine experiences - 
there is much talk and method these days on this topic.
When Alan Watts met Carl Jung, one of his many impressions 
may illuminate a bit of how Jung walked the talk.  

jung integration
soul telescope

soul telescope

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Crossing Passeig de Sant Joan

Reflections on the Strangeness of Still Being Here
- a moment a month ago still haunts me
Barcelona - 3/19/19 sometime after 9 pm on 9th day of trip

Crossing Passeig de Sant Joan at the intersection of Carrer d'Ali Bei not far from the Arc de Triomf, I got halfway across the street to the center median and the strangest thing happened with the weirdest feeling and timing. The light was in favor of a pedestrian crossing and while crossing I noticed the Arc de Triomf all lit up and I decided to snap a photo. My intention was to take the photo quickly then continue hurrying across the rest of the street.

At photo snap time I neared the edge of the traffic lane with my attention focused to my left. A second later I half-turned to continue across the street. That's when the weird timing distortion occurred. In spite of my full intention to continue rushing across, I found myself unable to move as if I was suddenly out of time and timeless things couldn't interact with this reality with willful movement.

In that timeless space I noticed several things. First was shock - my will to move wasn't working. Second - my wife was nowhere in sight in the second half of the crosswalk as expected. Third - was blurred motion as several cars and a motorcycle sped through the intersection within inches of me. The light had changed in the traffic's favor as it raced towards the intersection. I would have been hit if I had taken one step forward. My wife was standing behind me off to my right side, having seen the pedestrian crossing time expire in the moments while I was busy being distracted. I felt extremely strange, like something surreal had just happened.

There is absolutely no reason why I should not have continued across as I fully intended - as I actually tried to do. At that moment I had no protective instinct, no intuition to pause, no sixth sense of survival nor need for caution. There is positively no good explanation why I didn't step into traffic that night.

For whatever reason, I'm still here because of strangeness in one crazy timeless moment on the Passeig de Sant Joan. Weird stuff like this can have one contemplating out-there possibilities - intercession by angelic forces, split timelines in the multiverse, a soul walk-in taking my place, borrowed time, or more likely, simple stupid luck within the cosmic giggle.

And funny enough, the photo I got for my trouble has a bus passing in front of the Arc at that moment, fully blocking the view to Parc de la Ciutadella. Maybe I just couldn't accept leaving here with this lousy photo being my last.


barcelona map

Thursday, February 21, 2019

teepee at sunset

sunset before third sacred medicine ceremony
into the darkness to encounter my light
"the parrot" yagé, liquid tobacco and rapé snuff, 
a bucket of special purge tea and a central fire 
sometimes lit, mostly not, always trance dancing its heat and light
the sweep of condor feather cleansings and mapacho smoke
icaros and fireflies, a dazzle of moon swept 
by fast-moving clouds and waves of energy
numinous visions and whispered lessons, 
outpourings of emotion and aqua de florida
a soul, once stretched, never returning to original dimensions
another eternity found in a single night

Saturday, February 2, 2019

The Jewel Case
Guillaume Seignac (French 1870–1924) - "The Jewel Case"

Chiaroscuro Tenebrism and Yagé

There once was a problem that couldn't be solved. It left a mark a half a century wide through my psyche. It remained a renewing welt from a branding most intense, painful, simmering, relentless - and yet, over time, thoroughly stuffed. In effect, it was being bothered that the sky was blue. Now what could be done about that?

"Nothing!" said San Pedro. And yet San Pedro started a process to open that issue anyway. Why, if nothing could be done? It was never my intention to start down this path. It was nothing I would have asked the medicines to address. So why was the medicine taking me there so dramatically? In a frantic attempt to summarily deal with it, I took large doses of San Pedro and Ayahuasca together and that's when the hell ride into Pandora's Box began. But why, if nothing could be done? The medicine had made it clear - there was no solution for that. But was there an answer? No solution but an answer? How could that be? It seemed only Mother Ayahuasca knew.

I journeyed with Mother and Kambo twice in two days through the dark night of the soul to find her answer, to come to grips with there being no solution. She hinted she had the answer for the problem without a solution. I saw no way that was possible. Yet I went into ceremony anyway. I knew, only in medicine space would I ever be taken somewhere that entertained the possibility of a probability that such an idea might ring true. Then make it true.

Whatever the answer turned out to be, it would never be what one expected. I expected not to be able to predict the ride with Mother. I found myself correct in being clueless. And yet the entheogenic brew was inside me. I was on the ride of the soul and there was no going back. Fine with me. I didn't want to go back, not to that pain, that torment, no matter how much I worried or dreaded the unknown rushing at me. It was far better to die in medicine space trying for something to heal and transform than ever go back. I needed relief. I needed the rules of the universe reset around me.

The eternal night deepened and I fell into it, into me, into a space where to be unsolvable and transcendent at the same time doubled me over in retching sickness, emotional excess, and pangs of hope and despair. It gave me vertigo under the falling stars and startled me as I watched zooming lightning bugs carry away my poisoned thoughts. It mesmerized me with a rising moon and a ghostly light that silhouetted the demon contorts of my emotional horror projected into the endlessly branching trees. It deepened and expanded without bounds as the icaros were sung and the night grew darker. It shook the lifeforce out of me in shards of pain and turmoil as I danced before the magical fire and sang in another language with the shaman, words I felt deeply without understanding. When silence came, I collapsed back to the wavering ground. In the middle of it all, the shaman dropped down next to me with a knowing smile and a whispered offer - "I have a special tea. Do you want some? Want to try? It's a purge tea. You must drink all then purge then drink all again. Then repeat. Come, it's ready now."

It was medicine space transformation. It was reliving trauma. It was exultant and torturous. It was blissful and a desperate surrender. And so, after all, did I get the answer, my answer? Is the problem still with me, the problem that can't be solved? What does one say about the other, how does one inform the other? Where to now? Can the problem without a solution find a healing?

I have been taken apart and spun back together. Not everything fits, nor is it supposed to, not anymore. Mother showed me the dawn, brought Pacific Horneros to call insistently in my ear, she blew the acrid scent of ash and incense and glowing embers and snorts of liquid tobacco into my senses. She showed me, she implored me, ultimately she challenged me.

Being given a hard lesson is a far cry from shouldering that lesson and moving forward. That's her hardest lesson yet. As usual, Mother Ayahuasca knew exactly what she was doing. The sense of it settles clearly even if I find myself too raw to absorb it. It seems there is no other miracle than me. In the final analysis, it's the only thing I have any control over. What a thing for Mother to hit me with. It flattened me on the ground with its awesome power and terrible responsibility. It was defeat and transcendence all at once. I am the cage, the lock, the key, and the animal inside. So many new perspectives were made available during my dark night of the soul. And yet, still - the sky is blue.

In one poignant message, Mother Ayahuasca whispered to me - "On some level you will always be bothered, but you can actively establish a deeper dimension that will shine brightly and reduce that deep darkness to a mere shadow of what it was before. Your unresolved darkness will then be providing meaningful contrast, not obsessive blindness."

In my time of integration since hearing those words, I've meditated quite a lot on polarity, the highs and lows, the light and shadow aspects of life. It does seem strangely ironic that getting used to the dark makes the lights seem brighter, that dying of thirst makes that first gulp of water taste sweeter, that tragedy and catastrophes bring out the best in people. On some level, it is the shadow of life that allow the highlights of color and brilliant definition to take shape. The same is true in painting and the history of art demonstrates this very well. Carl Jung is famous for developing the notion of the shadow aspects of our unconscious motivations and projections. He insisted the shadow was not bad, it was necessary, but it could be a monster if not acknowledged and integrated well. And yet, when one studies the history of art, it's amazing to follow how this archetypal component to our makeup has developed over time. Consider this progression as summarized so well by the Oxford University Press --- (to see the photo slideshow, go here -- https://blog.oup.com/2017/11/shadows-visual-arts-timeline/)

  • "The ancient Greeks were the first artists to use cast shadows, as they developed a 'geometry of the light' that located objects in relation to a consistent light source.
  • Mistrusting the way that shadows helped such painters to deceive the eye, Plato insisted that shadows mislead people about the true nature of reality. In his Allegory of the Cave (375BCE), Plato set up a shadow-substance opposition that has dominated Western thinking about shadows ever since.
  • As if to challenge Plato’s reasoned dismissal of shadows, the Roman historian Pliny the Elder asserted in his Natural History (79 CE) that art was born when a young woman named Dibutades traced the shadow of her lover on a wall, by the light of a lamp. Since the lover was about to leave on a long journey, the shadow image not only became the first human-made representation, it also became an almost magical substitute for his presence. While Plato thought that shadows were dangerously false, Pliny suggested that they could be romantically true, as if to capture a person’s shadow was to capture part of his vital essence.
  • The story of Dibutades was highly popular in the 18th Century, when it reinforced the vogue for a new form of shadow-capture, silhouettes. In English, cut-paper silhouettes were first known as Shadowgraphs or Shades, since they were often made by tracing a person’s shadow. Silhouettes exploit one of the key features of the shadow, its dark, mysterious interior, into which viewers can project whatever details imagination can provide.
  • Meanwhile, after a dormant period in medieval times, Renaissance artists returned to the Greco-Roman shadow and developed its use in relation to the emerging art of perspective. Shadows became more accurately shaped and placed, even as unwritten rules governed their use so that they would not impinge too greatly on the human figure. In Masaccio’s The Tribute Money (1425), for example, cast shadows cover the ground but never obscure the human form. 
  • In the first painting to make a shadow its primary subject, Saint Peter Healing the Sick with His Shadow (1427-1428), Masaccio made sure that the transformative shadow of St. Peter falls around and under the figures that it touches with its heaven-sent power. Like many villainous shadows later to come, the holy shadow has a special power that emanates from its source, but the Renaissance painter will not let the shadow dominate the work pictorially.
  • From the Renaissance onward, most painted shadows serve to make objects seem more “real” in volume and placement, but Rembrandt was a pioneer in giving the shadow psychological weight. In an early self-portrait he depicts himself with his eyes in shadow, as if to show how his very vision is embedded in the chiaroscuro that makes his paintings so dramatic.
  • After the Renaissance, the Western world adapted so well to the idea that artistically rendered people need shadows that the absence of a personal shadow could cause a great commotion. Illustrated by many artists, Adelbert von Chamisso’s story of Peter Schlemiel, the man who sold his shadow (1814), became a big hit in Europe in the early nineteenth century. Since Peter’s acquaintances would have nothing to do with a man who had no shadow, it became clear from the story that having a shadow was a sign of humanity, a signal of full participation in human life.
  • But only a few decades later, the first stand-alone shadows of humans appeared in art, independent of anybody to cast them. It was as if the shadow alone could now do the work of the substance-shadow couple. It was William Collins who discovered in his painting Rustic Civility (1833) just how visually effective a “mere” shadow could be, introducing a powerful narrative element at the same time. Here children open a gate for their social “betters,” in the form of a horseman who represents the English country gentry.
  • The advent of photography was initially regarded as a matter of “fixing a shadow.” Henry Fox Talbot explained his process in 1839 by saying that, using chemistry, he had found a way to capture “the most transitory of all things, a shadow.” The way photographs “drew” with light connected them in the public mind with Pliny’s story of tracing shadows on a wall. The poet Elizabeth Barrett wrote to a friend in 1843, that a photograph was like “the very shadow of the person lying there fixed forever!”
  • As cinema developed, film directors rapidly picked up the atmospheric and dramatic shadow-vocabulary used by painters since the time of Caravaggio and Rembrandt. In classics such as The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari and Nosferatu, the German Expressionists made shadows into active participants in the drama. “Murder by shadow” soon became an integral part of cinematic lore.
  • More recently, artists have used actual shadows made by high-powered lights to construct interactive street art in which people can encounter their own shadows in settings that reveal just how alien yet also reassuring shadows can be."

"Shadows speak about the shape, volume, location, and texture of objects, as well as about the source of light, the time of day or season, the quality of the atmosphere. But as the famous example of Peter Pan’s amputated shadow reveals, shadows depicted in artworks can be arbitrarily shaped, placed, and even cut off by their creators. Therefore, beyond offering physical information, shadows have much to tell us on a social and psychological level. Consciously or not, whenever we see shadows we 'read' them (and their creators’ intentions) in a cultural context that lends the shadows power or denies their substance, causing them to seem prophetic or threatening or willful or wispy."

A great book that fleshes out these concepts is Grasping Shadows - The Dark Side of Literature, Painting, Photography, and Film / Oxford University Press (Professor of English at Barnard College) ISBN: 9780190675271 by William Chapman  Sharpe.

"Chiaroscuro, in art, is the use of strong contrasts between light and dark, usually bold contrasts affecting a whole composition. Tenebrism, from Italian tenebroso ("dark, gloomy, mysterious"), also occasionally called dramatic illumination, is a style of painting using profoundly pronounced chiaroscuro, where there are violent contrasts of light and dark, and where darkness becomes a dominating feature of the image. Tenebrism is used only to obtain a dramatic impact while chiaroscuro is a broader term, also covering the use of less extreme contrasts of light to enhance the illusion of three-dimensionality. The word chiaroscuro is Italian for light and shadow. It's one of the classic techniques used in the works of artists like Rembrandt, da Vinci, and Caravaggio. Every shadow tells a story. Whether painted, filmed, photographed, or generated in real time, shadows provide vital information that makes a representation engaging to the eye."  http://www.heldermann-verlag.de/jgg/jgg01_05/jgg0506.pdf

Mother Ayahuasca was trying to show me - in life, as in painting, without light nothing can be seen. But without shadow, no object or subject could be realistically defined. Shadow also creates the illusion of a three dimensional space on a two dimensional surface. In some remarkable way, our shadow self, if properly integrated in correct proportion, is the contrast that allows us to access higher dimensions for ourselves here, where otherwise such higher states couldn't exist if the shadow also didn't exist. I find it particularly interesting that the first painting in history to feature a shadow as its main subject should have the shadow conducting an act of healing, simply by falling upon a person.

Mother implored me -- "You can never know for certain what's in another's heart. You can’t change the outside world into the ideal you want, but you can make yourself your own ideal. You can direct yourself towards it. You can make the attempt. Find meaning in the pursuit of that --- for it's the only thing you have control over."

In the middle of the night we danced and sang with the shaman around the fire as he repeated the words of a song over and over, each time with more emphasis and feeling. I felt he was chiming in with Mother, intuiting and modeling the feeling to be gained by this new change of perspective and meaningful pursuit. "Fly like the condor! Flying so high! Circling the universe! With wings of pure light!"

Finally, back in the teepee, the shaman told a story about a magical place where we co-create the universe, where we as a sovereign part of the infinite have the freedom to choose to redefine the rules of the universe for ourselves, thus resetting our lives. It was then I heard Mother Ayahuasca whisper one last time -- "What bothers you will fall away when you no longer want to be tortured by it."

So what about that problem without a solution?
What about the answer?

Well, the sky is still blue.
But not the clouds.
And they're up there too.
There's also the nighttime sky,
comprising half the day,
and not a hint of blue.

darkness and light

Sir Laurens Jan van der Post was many things - Afrikaner author, farmer, war hero, political adviser to British heads of government, close friend of Prince Charles, godfather of Prince William, educator, journalist, humanitarian, philosopher, explorer and conservationist. And he was something else, something that led him to write a fascinating book titled Jung and the Story of Our Time.  For the last 16 years of Carl Jung's life, the two men shared a nuanced friendship of respect and depth. Fourteen years after Jung's death, Sir Laurens' book was published. For those interested in not only making the attempt to understand Jung's life work and impact on society but are ever curious about Jung the man and his most personal perspectives near the end of life, Sir Laurens' book gives a glimpse behind the veil. 

For me, certain things jumped off the page, resonating a higher appreciation for what Jung was after and the expanded view he left us of ourselves and our place in all there is. The idea of the feminine soul, the anima, being the way to reconcile the shadow. The idea that God has a Shadow and we are in partnership with God in realizing the transcendental, infinite meaning of that necessity for there to be anything at all. The idea that reconciling opposites means realizing something greater than just the blend of polarized parts. The idea that infinite creation implies meaning itself  is ever being created and never static and done and we play a dynamic part in creating ever more expressive manifestations of that Divine meaning. The idea that God gave us the greatest resource to help us face God's Shadow, and that resource was love, and this love is mediated in us through the feminine soul. The idea that we are the answer to the problem for which life was created, the problem implicit in creation. Through our energy and actions, through our will and creative work to reconcile the light and dark in us, we continue the most wondrous aspect of all - creating new transcendental meaning for ourselves and all there is. The idea that all philosophers have been after the same eternal truths of Being -- purity of heart, honesty of mind, love of God, and a patience of immeasurable love which endures and bares all things to the true end.  For Jung at the end of his life, all of the psychological concepts fell away and in awe he faced one great mystery, a mystery he never grasped the full measure of - that was the mystery of love, the feminine mystery.
  
Here are some excerpts from the book - the highlights are my own:

"For the feminine soul in man is the go-between and guide to reconciliation of man and his shadow ...the conscious will of the masculine in creation was increasingly being joined to serve the love of the feminine and a creation, no longer static but procreatively on the move."

...No one could be real and not throw a shadow. I had learned this as a boy from my own black friends in Africa who, if they wanted to pay a sincere compliment said, "But you do throw a shadow." One would look at his own shadow, quixotically lean and long at sunset, and say of it, "You see that man there? When I die he goes up into the sky to join the sun, but I go down into the earth where he now lies."

...Coming to terms with the shadow, the problem of reconciling the opposites in a whole greater than their parts, was an ultimate of his seeking. As far as the shadow of the All-Highest was concerned, it had bothered Jung all his conscious life. In this paradoxical pattern the image of God was both terrible and lovable. There the fear of God always was the beginning of all wisdom, and the love of God the only protection of the spirit that ventured in his presence. Fear and love were mysteriously joined to enable both man and God to achieve greater meaning. He saw man and God, as it were, in partnership, the traffic between them no longer one-sided but two-way. Man was no longer at an almost intolerable receiving end but also at a giving end; he too now could contribute to the conscious reality of God as God contributed to his power to do so. 

...Jung found man and his unconscious self, man in all four aspects of himself, the man and his feminine self, the woman and her masculine self, joined with God in a task of transcendental meaning. Man was the chosen instrument for enabling life to answer the problem for which it had been invented. Life was a process of living an answer to a problem implicit in its creation. The suffering of man was meaningful because it reflected the suffering of its Creator. In this role, man might look as exposed as Job was to what appeared at times an almost capricious exercise of divine power. But even in his most miserable state, man was not alone, because Jung had clearly demonstrated that where man and God were encountered face to face, a vital, indescribable element of the greatest transforming energies at the disposal of this master pattern was delegated to intercede for man. This was the long-rejected and despised feminine and its highest value of love.

...As a result one finds that at the end of his days, when he is ready to close his own account of what he had laboured to do in life, he leaves the last word not with these great new concepts of his but with a mystery which he confesses he is incapable of articulating, the mystery of love. And that love in the last analysis is a feminine mystery.

...They were seeking to create a new sort of man, a greater awareness of reality and increase of meaning. It was obvious to Jung now that their work was full of living symbolism of the most transformative kind. There was not one of any distinction among them from Hermes Trismegistus to Paracelsus who did not lay down as the first and most important laws of his science those of purity of heart, honesty of mind, love of God, and the patience of that love which endured and bore all things to the true end."