Tag Archives: Jungian Alchemy

The Golden Art

Original artwork by Lorem Ipsum 2014

Original artwork by Lorem Ipsum 2014

I can’t exactly confess to having been afflicted with writer’s block this past year. For instead it’s truer to say I had totally given up on being a writer altogether.

Ironically, however, the circumstances leading to my complete abandonment of my craft, I believe, make for an interesting enough story, on reflection.

After having seen my debut novel sink beneath the waves of global public indifference, it was suggested to me I seek guidance in the form of mentoring from an already established writer.

And as an example of the adage “careful what you wish for”, through a series of seemingly synchronistic events, I soon managed to make contact with one of this country’s more celebrated and awarded writers.

What thrilled me most of all was the fact that this writer in question also claims to have been largely inspired to write by the very same 17th century alchemist I myself have been. Too mind-blowingly cool!

Anyway, now the story gets a little bit more complicated. Because my first real contact with this writer is actually with his wife. An amazing experience in itself. For, literally two or three days earlier, I had quite by chance read the book of poems written for her by her future husband to be, with which he had first wooed her. And now here was this great writer’s muse standing before me — in the hallowed recesses of his writing studio no less — sharing intimate details of the intervening 40 years of their married lives together.

“I think he really is happy at last,” she confessed to me, “now that he has decided to stop writing.”

It was the usual story. There’s no money in it anymore, the dumbing down of the reading public, the all-pervasive curse of political correctness. This is a man after all that can recite whole cantos of classical poems in their original Latin, from memory. I mean, I feel stupid even thinking of myself as a writer worthy of the name in comparison.

So I listen to how this great luminary has finally decided to call it quits and feel all conviction drain from my body. Still, I leave my details with his wife and arrange for a time when it would be convenient for me to make contact with the man I wished to be my writing mentor.

Soon afterwards, I do in fact next have a telephone conversation with the man himself. Although the problem is that I can’t seem to clarify whether he thinks he is going to mentor me as an apprentice alchemist or as a failed novelist. Argggh, it’s all so hopeless! I don’t know what the hell’s going on.

“Look, it’s very hard to talk about these things abstractly,” he says, “but I’ve got a book of essays coming out next month that explains everything. Give me your address and I’ll send you a copy. Read that, and then we can start from there.”

Fine. I’m totally confused. Not least because his wife has just told me he has quit writing, and yet now I’m informed he apparently has a new collection of essays coming out. Also, I don’t know if I’m ready to start an apprenticeship as a real-life alchemist any time soon.

A month passes. Nothing. No book of essays comes my way. Just as I suspected. The whole thing was an elaborate lie to brush me off. Okay, so this writer is no JD Salinger when it comes to reclusive writer types, but he’s not exactly the kind to hold literary soirées either. All right fine. I give up, I think to myself. Being a writer simply isn’t worth it. What’s more, I’ve made a complete golden ass of myself with this whole mentoring debacle already.

Two months pass. Three, four, five. Still nada. I turn my attention to honing my guitar playing skills, swearing to never write another stinking word. Alchemy is for the birds. What delusional world had I been living in? Synchronicity? Oh, brother!

Seven, eight, nine months go by. I haven’t written a single poem, stanza or word. But my guitar playing is off the chart. Woo-hoo, couldn’t be happier.

Ten, eleven, twelve months have now past, when I pull up in the driveway and see an envelope sticking out of the letterbox. I grab the oversized piece of post and open it distractedly in the front seat of the car.

Oh, shit. It’s the book of essays, but I can’t remember their significance. I’m finally happy being just another second-rate guitarist rocking the suburbs. Man, I’ve given up. Like really given up. What the fuck. I feel like someone has just dragged the needle back across the record of my life, and that the back-masked message I’m now hearing threatens to implode the very reality of my new simple, dumbed-down choice of existence.

“Read that, and then we can start from there,” my would-be mentor had told me almost exactly a year ago.

Start what? I can’t remember what it was I wanted so badly. Let me go back to my Wild Turkey and amplified heat haze. Fuck this, I was happy. I was happy for having quit.

I crack open the cover of the book, searching for answers. But it only gets worse. My mentor has handwritten notes to me in the margins of his own book. His tone is jovial and self-deprecating; his handwriting impeccably informal.

Don’t make me go back to being my old self, I beg the Fates. It’s too hard to contemplate. I’m a fraud. A master alchemist will see right through me. I’ve forgotten how to turn words into a golden phrase. I have fallen out of love with all language and it with me.

But still I hold this invitation in my hands.

On Being Out of Sync With Synchronicity — The Perils of Hitchhiking on the Electronic Superhighway

So, here’s the thing, I’ve recently managed to establish contact with the intellectual grandsire of my novel, Missing Zero. I call this man my book’s grandsire, because it was his works on Jungian alchemy, in particular, that so deeply influenced me when I first started out to become a writer of surrealist fiction.

Anyway, I have been corresponding, over the past few months, with this man about his possibly writing a preface to my book. And, gods be praised, amazingly enough, he recently agreed to actually read my manuscript, in view of providing said preface. Hallelujah!

As an aside, let me add that I’m hoping, by adding a preface to my book, uninitiated readers will not confuse its contents as being some form of satanic scripture, but rather see it for what it is, namely, a satirical take on the moral catastrophe we call modern life. Trust me, it’s meant to be funny, as well as being subversive, and I ought to know because I wrote the bloody thing! Really, you wouldn’t believe the names I’ve already been called, in the course of promoting Missing Zero to the reading public. But enough!

Whatever. The actual problem right now is that I have since found it practically impossible to forward a copy of the manuscript to this man, Missing Zero’s intellectual grandsire.

It’s quite weird, in fact. I must have tried half-a-dozen different email addresses for him, so far. But, each time, without fail, my message bounces back, along with the attachment containing my electronic manuscript.

Now, each time, this man has encouraged me to try again, with a different email address. So I’m fairly confident I’m not being given the cold shoulder here. Yet, even so, there’s something pretty wacky going on.

Which got me to thinking about not so much what Jesus would do, but what Jung would do if he were faced with a similar situation.
After all, the novel’s grandsire is a Jungian analyst and leading exponent of Jungian alchemical practice. What’s more, I also identify myself as a Jungian alchemist, having responded to being such when asked my religion in the latest census.

Well, anyhow, it seems to me the magic word for Jung (and all us Jungians, alike) was/is synchronicity. The idea of meaningful coincidences. And I’m beginning to suspect there is something meaningful about how my efforts to pass on my novel are being blocked.

It was all too easy. I first contacted this man, of whom I speak, for instance, through Facebook’s messenger application. And before you know it, I was next attempting to send off my 120,000 word manuscript to him via email, all in the twinkling of an eye.

Not too shabby for a morning’s work, eh? But to what end? So he could next skim over the first five or ten pages and decide he didn’t actually like it? Or worse yet, have him not even read it, but instead write a preface anyway based on the synopsis I had also forwarded on?

And this is the danger of the electronic age, I would argue. Everything happens so damn fast. Because of which, we constantly run the risk of being out of synch with things. We settle for the shallow and superficial, when we should seek the deeply significant.

I desperately want to see my novel published, preferably with the said preface in place (pardon the alliteration); however, it took me nearly eight years to write the thing, and so why should I be in such a screaming hurry now to give it to the world?

Maybe the world’s not ready for it yet. A satirical tale about the defunct Antichrist’s personal search for a moral compass, in a world long-gone to hell…hmm, it might not be everyone’s cup of tea. Sure, it makes me laugh, but then I’ve got an extremely wacky sense of humour.

How did my own sister describe it? Oh, yes, unpalatable. At which point, I laughed longer and harder than I have at probably any other point in the past eight years. My bad.

Hmm, what would Jung do, I wonder? Or Dali or Burroughs or Godard or Beckett or Cocteau or A Belgian Ballerina Named Frank…

Let’s Be Frank for a Minute, Shall We? — Giving Eyebrows to What We Write

Frank Zappa

Frank Zappa (Photo credit: Lord_Henry)

As writers, it’s our job (within whatever else we might personally be trying to achieve) to give readers the impression that what we write has never been put into words before.

This is, of course, something that has become increasingly difficult due to the vast collective output of the writers of ages past and present that already anticipates the subjects and themes of our own literary efforts.

Which is perhaps why it only makes sense that I should have found what I believe to be a solution to this problem, by looking beyond the world of letters and writing to other disciplines for help.

The solution, then? What is it? you ask.

Well, it is this: Give your written work eyebrows.

Let me explain. Frank Zappa had lots to say about lots of things. Don’t eat yellow snow, being just one of those things. But, also, according to his son Dweezil, Frank also said he never felt like he had finished working on a song until it had eyebrows. Which was really just his short-hand way of saying, “is this particular song going to raise any eyebrows?”

Now, we tend to think of things raising eyebrows when they are slightly scandalous. But if you have a go at lifting your own eyebrows as you read this, you’ll realize it’s also something you do when you’re surprised or intrigued by something new. Am I right?

Anyway, poets can produce this effect in their poems by putting together words or concepts (and images etc) that don’t normally fit together. Sylvia Plath’s poem Cut, is such an example:

What a thrill—
My thumb instead of an onion.
The top quite gone
Except for a sort of hinge.

The concept of feeling a thrill doesn’t ordinarily sit comfortably with the idea of cutting off the top of one’s thumb. “Ouch, what the f&*#!” seems like a much more normal response. But then normally-speaking, “normal” doesn’t always cut it where making great art is concerned.

For writers of prose the task becomes more difficult, again, however. By its very nature, prose easily lends itself to becoming prosaic, or even worse pedestrian. And soon any likelihood of anybody’s eyebrows being raised becomes increasingly remote. Whereas a poet is allowed to jumble their syntax and mess with accepted word combinations and meanings, prose writers are obliged to stick to more socially-accepted parameters of what’s allowed within their writing.

The danger we writers of novels and longer forms of literature face, therefore, is a tendency to resort to overly-elaborate plot gymnastics, so as to keep our readers on the edge of their seats. I’m referring to the kind of books where the hero finishes wrestling a crocodile straight before being sent back in time to incubate the egg from which the crocodile he has just wrestled first hatches — and all this on the first page!

So how, then, should we non-“poetic-licence”-bearing writer-types go about raising our fair share of eyebrows?

Paradoxically, in my own case, it has been by appealing to the past that, I believe, I have found something new to say as a writer.

As I have already mentioned in previous posts, I describe myself as being a spiritual alchemist. And it is through the application of the principles of spiritual alchemy that I constantly seek to present my readers with something they have never read before. In a sense, I believe, it is therefore true to say I regard my own work as being visionary.

Whoa, I hear you cry. That’s a big call!

Regardless. I generate my work using lucid dreaming practices, re-birthing experiences, active imagination techniques and other visionary states. Because of this, whether you like what I produce or not, what I write can only be described as visionary fiction. In fact, I demand nothing less of my writing — that it be visionary — and neither should you of your own. However, it might help if I explain what I mean by visionary a bit further.

For a start, there are technical visionaries or innovators within all art forms. People like Frank Zappa within the world of rock music, for instance. Or Pablo Picasso, within painting, for another. These are the people who push the boundaries of the art form itself into new territories, seemingly just for the sake of doing so sometimes.

Whereas the kind of visionaries I’m talking about now (not that the two kinds are mutually exclusive) are those people who seek to enrich other people’s lives by delivering fresh meaning to them. Again, this is a very big call, sure. But for me there is no other purpose for art. Simply put, if you can’t supply this kind of fresh meaning then don’t bother at all. You’re just clogging the airwaves.

For me personally, my own inspiration (in respect to this idea of freshness) comes directly from the often surreal and otherworldly pictures that adorn many of the great alchemical texts of the Renaissance. Because while some of these illustrations and woodcuts are now well over 500 years old, I would argue they still exert an incredible hold over the imagination to this day. Without fail, each time I see one of these images, I can’t help but look at them with fresh eyes! They are as challenging, soul-stirring and “eyebrow-raising” as when they were first produced.

So the challenge I present to you is to create written works that will survive down through the ages, make them imperishable and like they’ve just been freshly-minted, forever. Or put in other words, mould them after the fashion of the fabled phoenix the alchemists were so enamoured with. For if you should succeed, the following lines from the Emerald Tablet reveal what rewards await you:

Thus you will have the Glory of the whole world.
Therefore will all obscurity flee from you.

aurora consurgens

Aurora consurgens (illustration) — a medieval alchemical treatise, in the past sometimes attributed to Thomas Aquinas, now to a writer called the “Pseudo-Aquinas”.