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Tuesday, 23 April 2013

Saint George and Alchemical Union

23rd April. Today is a day for lovers, for the lovers within ourselves, as our masculine parts descend and our feminine parts rise to join in amorous harmony. The union of the heart and brain. 

Edward Burne Jones dipiction of George

The prince of the skies, Saint George came down from the air. He fell from paradise, from the place of union of light, flew down through intuition and found himself confronted by his own earthly reality.  Suddenly he is no longer the prince of the skies but now a (half) human (half) being. Woaah! What is that dragon?

They say that we are born on earth impure. The Catalans would say malparits, which is literally born badly, figuratively translated as “in a sorry state”. We come out a little monstrous, not quite as perfect as our minds would like. We are our own Frankensteins. We are not in harmony with the universe (One- version) but we pipe our own out-of-unison song. The cosmos flows around in orderly lines, like a ploughed field, in harmonic unison with each other, like an orchestra with each musician playing as one creating a beautiful uplifting piece of music. And then we are born and get out those party horn things. And blow it. But it's not exactly Mozart.

The dragon is a representation of this rather uncoordinated clumsiness. We are all made up of the four elements, everything is. In an enlightened state, the four elements are equally balanced and working together: Air (intuition), Water (emotions), Fire (thinking) and Earth (sensations). We need to balance our four elements. Ether (the belonging to a whole greater than the sum of its parts) is impotent without the others in balance. It is the secret of physical and psychological health. None of us, as far as I can see, are enlightened: we've got work to do! We’ve got our dragons to face.

Aristotle's elemental qualities

The dragon is a representation of the four elements, he blows fire angrily out from his mouth, his wings allow him to fly clumsily in the air, his claws grip into the earth and he cries big baby crocodile tears. But his elements are all badly born. Clumsy and angry, his elements are all at odds with each other, like trying to light a fire in the rain or flying through tarmac...

So, Saint George finds himself in a predicament coming up against this dragon (inside of himself) as he heroically admits to discovering his instincts. And as all cavaliers, to save his good name, he is faced with one option:

Slowly, calmly, he gets out his sword and shield. 

He fights nobly from the top of his white horse of the mind, just like all of our fantasy heros do, and with his sophisticated sword work he manages to slice through the reality of himself (like Shiva´s sword) getting a little closer to the truth to give him a little more strength to dominate his dragon. Some stories just go right ahead and kill the dragon off, but how can instincts be killed? It is impossible. Some Granddad got carried away retelling the story…so in the mystic story, the dragon is dominated. Saint George is able to dominate with his mind the impulses of his instincts. Dominating the dragon he has aligned his four elements to be more in harmony. They do not fight so much anymore, the dragon is a little more docile. Ether is given a chance.

Saint George finds himself in a more balanced state, and as a result, from the mouth of the cave, steps a beautiful maiden now that the dragon is not ferociously guarding the entrance. 

Jung's dipiction from his Red Book

Saint George is rewarded by glimpsing his soul. His Anima, the feminine within, influences his interactions with the world giving them more meaning. Allowing him to begin to conceive of himself in the Uni-verse. It could be considered the path to our creative gifts. From floating in the mind, suddenly Saint George is using his heart, and if expressed in a harmonious way, while the dragon is comfortable domesticated, it is beauty and truth and purity and wonderfully creative expression. It is being fully and ecstatically alive.

We can have as much information in our brains as we can fill, but until we have understood our knowledge through love, it cannot be comprehended. Those moments of eureka when suddenly you ‘see’, when you ‘click’ into what you you know is true because you remember somewhere knowing it once. You feel it's truth, because it is so obvious, so simple. It is like peeling away an onion skin, or taking off a veil (revelation). Normally we are left with something so beautifully simple that we secretly wonder if actually we knew it all along and had just somehow forgotten.

If we only understand our world with our brains, it is dry and unconnected. Comprehension is with our hearts and we connect with our profound memories, with our entire being. This connection of knowledge and heart is represented by the union of Saint George with the beautiful maiden, and how lovely she is! She allows us to leave the dark depths of the cave and resurface to fresh air where we can wake up and smell the roses.  (The Rose is the western equivalent of the eastern Lotus flower). 

The masculine and feminine come together once more, the sky and the earth rejoin... They have sex (alchemically speaking of course...)

The Alchemical union of the King and Queen

The union of Saint George with his maiden creates a third, a rebirth. This time the birth is a little better. They are transformed into the new castle and live happily ever after according to Walt D (....No!!! Don't believe it!!) The castle with its slightly better squared four walls is a representation of the four elements in slightly better harmony.

And the cycle comes to a close, but not an end. Like any spiral, Saint George is back where he began, at the same point but not the same man. Now he has aligned himself a smidgen more to the UniVersal, he has dominated his dragon for a while, and he has incorporated the Beauty of the glimpse of Truth into his self thanks to his inner maiden emerging from the cave of matter.

But too much of a good thing is never good…Saint George soon falls back down through the clouds, motivated by the image of a greater world…to go delve in the realms of his dragon land. Saint George is in constant movement, never getting stale, constantly birthing in another weird but wonderful way as he and his inner maiden evolve in greater and purer love.

Happy Saint George's day!

Carpaggio's dipiction of Saint George

Tuesday, 9 April 2013

Breaking through limits into the beauty of the unknown

Many of the fellow students at the Aegean Center

John Pack at the Aegean Center, the art school where I have been welcomed as lovingly as I could have imagined in my wildest dreams, says “Create yourself a limit and it’s yours”. Pushing through, opening the door to a new place is difficult regardless of the task at hand. But, what I see around me are brave creative souls pushing through, limit after limit...for what is on the other side?

Art to me seems to be a path into ourselves, into greater consciousness.  But what does that mean? One analogy is the ability of our heart to hear. As we step along the path our hearts open up to more and more subtle sounds, discovering worlds that were previously deaf to our ears. 

The singers experience this directly in the ensemble with Orpheus. I remember a conversation with my mother after the first class “It’s really fun Mum, you can pretend you are an opera singer and in public! You HAVE to pretend, it’s like a serious game.  I love it!”...and that was it. As I began to sing out operatically, I felt like I had pushed past the barrier of feeling like a prize idiot, warbling out notes, to be able to sing seriously in a choir. End of hard work, bring on the pleasure! I was pleased I was in tune and singing more or less at the same point as everyone else.  Quite successful I deemed myself.  But then, the ear jumps on a little bit...and suddenly I hear breathiness in that warble, that indeed there is a warble and that the vowels are coming out warped by my broad northern accent. I hit the despondency key, a minor third, and worry if I am simply not in the right place, or the right class. But I keep going and slowly pick up confidence again to sing out. Ohh how glorious to be weaving sounds! But almost as soon I am back into imagining big audiences, that little bugger of an ear jumps on ahead putting into painful display that I don’t have resonance, that my throat doesn’t know what open at the back means, nor how to push air into my nose cavity or sinuous.  Head voice, what? Too bedazzled to even tackle the idea of vibrato, I still somehow forget to remember to breathe. And so it goes on, through perilous peaks and fertile valleys.

The safe conclusion would seem that, being on a path, any path, and especially the artistic path, one is never in their comfort zone for very long. It takes discipline just to keep going and to concentrate, instead of collapsing on the floor in your favourite type of fit, blaming the world for being unfair.

Sometimes in the choir it feels scary, and more so when you have to sing alone. Sometimes it is just downright frog throat embarrassing. I often have attacks of feeling simply ridiculous. But somehow I get the musical backpack on again, and again, and again, each time starting anew. And curiously through this process I am learning to sing! I am finding my own voice.  I come out, having sang with others, feeling loved and loving, feeling high. As I deconstruct my ego fear of the unknown, I have another thin veil lifted, so I can see myself a little clearer, it is a mini re-velation (re-veil-ation). Consciousness is not only the heart hearing, but also the mind seeing.

What I really admire of the people around me here in the Aegean Centre if that they are prepared to go through these unveiling limits into the new unknown.  I see it in their eyes when Jane or Jun hold up their work as an example for others to see: it is exposure, it is uncomfortable and it is scary. In each piece, each person is expressing their real selves to the world, and it feels as if the light of attention would burn us alive naked without our blanket fears to protect us - and yet on the other side of that woolly limit we keep discovering that nothing happens at all: we are not rejected, but instead feel closer to the others, nor do people snigger at our lob-sided proportions, but are supportive...They know too well how we feel and that underlying a botched up expression are shifts and changes within helping us along the path to Beauty. Each class we discover that our drawings parallel how we are learning to see more consciously, when marvellously, magically, we are taught to allow our inner figures, once dull and flat, to dance into new dimensions onto the pages of life.

The same fear knocks about in the writing class. Unusual it is for someone to read without a slight quiver to their voice, a shaky hand, or having to repeat bumbled lines.  It is really scary, especially the first couple of times, where one feels like throwing down the paper and collapsing into the rapidly forming pool of sweat beneath one’s chair, or screaming out “Fire! Fire!” and jumping out through the window.  But thankfully, one does not.  One continues through the torture, only to realise that the discipline of getting to the other side brings a deep sense of satisfaction.

On one public reading there was a girl who didn’t want to read, but Jeffery announced her to the public, unbeknownst to her, no prior warning. As she dazed to a stand her work was shoved into her hand. Crikey! I can imagine how she felt, the energy for holding her legs up disappearing into thin air, eyes unable to grasp that simple idea of focus, hands suddenly forgetting how to hold onto paper thin dimensions and the mind simply collapsing into autopilot, blindly flying through a war zone as all on board have fainted under the pressure. But did she scream and shout at Jeffery afterwards, accusing him of being a psychological criminal?  No, she did not. She thanked him.  He had pushed her through to greater self confidence, because she experienced in her body (she in-corporated) the fact that her fears were not real, that actually nothing had happened at all: she didn’t die, or faint, or collapse, she read her work, people liked it, and everyone moved on.

I think everyone can relate to feeling uncomfortable expressing their true selves. I was brought up in a family where farty is the adjective for arty, and where collage is something kiddies do in primary school to fill in time before they are able to do proper studies like maths.  It has been difficult to fully believe my own belief that art is useful, but harder is the idea that I will not be shot down by some World War II fighter plane for enjoying myself. Somehow it feels like a crime to allow myself to become more who I really am. I struggle through this limit, wondering about bills, my waist line and raining bullets, and yet, nothing dire happens at all. Quite the contrary in fact: it is me firing up, exploding with excitement, and I find that instead of bullets raining down, work comes in. 

My right brain is so thankful that after years of being tied up in the dark, damp dungeon of my mind, it is being given fresh air, it is allowed to go out to play...class after class, singing, writing, drawing. This intuitive, random, holistic hemisphere is being asked to take over, something that she has been ready to do for years, waiting for the day she can shine. As I continue through the exhaustion of dealing with the constant new, class after wonderful class, each little step is adding up. I can feel a shift in my brain, I am seeing a little more of this wonderful world that we live in, as new ideas greet me changing my inner landscape. I feel something in the world within me that I have never met before and yet feels like an age-old friend: I am contacting with my own creativity. It breathes a sigh of relief as I breathe a sigh of deep gratitude to the Aegean Centre. I am sure I cannot be an exception to the rule. Feeling the others as they walk along their paths beside mine fills me with confidence that after exposing my inner world not only to them, but to (fear of fears!) to myself, I will not burn in the flames of chaos, but instead will come closer to a deeper understanding of who, and more importantly what, we are. Each class, each step takes us a little closer. Stepping through limits into a new open space, we begin to feel more confident expressing ourselves, motivated onwards by the joy of creating...until of course our ears open a little more, our eyes see wider horizons or our pens dig to previously un-delved depths, throwing us back into that un-comfort zone, into that red rawness that gradually, our brave creative souls, get more and more used to rising through.