Tag Archives: spirituality

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.

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black harvest

at the high tide mark
dead birds
literally hundreds…no
thousands of their bodies
littered in the sand
stretching off in a black arc

carbon copies
of our own
unique small death we buried
here beneath the stars

the youngest of us crying
begging to know how
the magic could ever
bring us back this life
when all we have
is each other

and this ritual of
uncertain faith
we undertake
in the dark.


A Sign of the Times

God spoke to me
In a dream
Last night
I didn’t mind much
“The end of the world
is nigh!” he said
Speaking in a voice
Both deafening and
Impossibly quiet at once
I’m okay with it, I
Suppose I’ll get used
To the idea but still
Worry with such messages
Filling my head I’ll
Wind up crazy
Homeless prophet bum
Warning all
“Prepare to Meet Thy Maker!”
Wearing nothing under
A sandwich-board sign
Leaving me naked
But for being clothed
In these words of moral
Catastrophe.


“As Above, So Below!” — A Description of Spiritual Alchemy

The Alchemist; after Breugel

The Alchemist; after Breugel (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When I tell people I’m an Alchemist, the first thing they usually ask me is what that means exactly. “So, you’re, like, trying to turn metal into gold?” they say, incredulously. “What, like Harry Potter?”

No. Not like Harry Bloody Potter! I am a spiritual alchemist. For me, then, alchemy can best be described as the “chemistry of the soul”. I am a metallurgist of deeper meanings, seeking to transmute my soul, not base metals.

Believe me, I am not alone in this respect. From alchemy’s very first inception there has existed two camps within its ranks. On the one side were those literally intent on finding the secret of changing lead into gold. These alchemists are known disparagingly as “puffers”, due to the bellows they fire their alembics with. And the other camp sought the more spiritual goal of releasing their spirit (or pneuma) from the dross that makes up this imperfect physical existence.

It took the genius of Carl Jung to reinterpret the great alchemical tracts of the past as being symbolic representations of the process of becoming psychologically whole, something he called individuation.

And it is some kind of cross between Jung’s psychological approach to alchemy and the work of the earlier spiritually-minded (often Gnostic) alchemists that I feel my own Work is most-closely aligned to.

So what is it that I actually do, then, as an alchemist, if I am not trying to discover the philosopher’s stone and turn other less-precious metals into gold?

Simply put, I turn my dreams into reality.

Mostly, I’m talking about those actual dreams I remember having dreamt upon waking. Yes, those kinds of crazy, disjointed amoral psychodramas that flood our minds while we sleep. I take those and try and bring them to life. And I do this by living symbolically.

A mundane example might be that I have had (as I did last night) a dream of going ice-skating, a past-time I don’t normally partake of. And so, when I wake up, I try and find a way of incorporating the idea of skating somewhere into my daily activities.

But don’t think it’s as literal as all that. It’s not like I race off to the closest ice-rink and start skating figure-eights for the next eight hours. Trust me, I have just as many responsibilities and time constraints as you yourself.

No, I try and “distil the essence” (an alchemical reference) of the dream down to its most basic components. For instance, what did it feel like to be skating in my dream? Well, I felt powerful and my legs felt supremely muscular as I carved up the ice under my skates. It surprised me, in fact. It surprised me to feel how physically adept I was at something I have never really spent any time trying to master.

Okay, to me, then, the dream seemed to be about the joy and feeling of strength to be found in physical movement. And, you know, it took me all day to “real-ise” this feeling. But I did it, when I raced my child in the park today. Instead of sitting behind a computer for once, I suddenly “found myself” being propelled across the ground by the legs I’d almost forgotten I have. Not a moment of Olympic glory, to be sure, but a peak experience of sorts in the life of a spiritual alchemist…

And that’s enough for me. Because it’s not about going for gold, as far as I’m concerned. It’s about listening to the whispers of the soul, while chasing your dreams. And in the process, who knows what you might discover about yourself? I discovered I could write a novel, fashion handmade jewellery and create digital artwork, like the image below:

01 Citrinitas (behance)

The 3rd Stage of Spiritual Alchemy — (Citrinitas). Original artwork by Lorem Ipsum