Archive for August, 2012

To the memory

What a remarkable night that was! Woken in the small hours, an adventure in itself for a young boy to bear witness to the culmination of the greatest adventure ever undertaken by mankind. Even today, nothing compares.

My thoughts were with those brave men that night, piloting a piece of tin to the surface of the moon. And the man who said those words, sent them crackling across the void, such fine words, sent them echoing down a generation to inspire anew, my thoughts are with him now, wishing him God speed on his final journey.

With respect and gratitude, to the memory of Neil Armstrong.


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We humans are more than physical beings. There’s also a psychological dimension to our lives and both require nourishment if we are to thrive.

Our physical needs revolve around the instinct for survival. We need food, warmth and shelter in order to achieve a basic level of contentment. In the modern world, this equates to money. But once these physical needs are met, and our survival theoretically assured, the business of contentment can become problematic – its attainment and its retention a seemingly haphazard and unstable affair. Even in the lap of great luxury we find human beings who are profoundly unhappy. Contentment, it seems, has as much to do with the mysterious processes going on in the inner life as in the outer.

The nature of both the inner and the outer life are complex. Physical scientists have gone some way towards exploring the remarkable depths of our biological processes, to the extent that they can fix a lot of the malfunctions our bodies are prone to. Yet much of the workings of the inner life, even after a century of analytical psychology, remains largely unknown. Broken minds all too often remain, sadly, broken, and we don’t know why.

What we can say is the inner life, consists of two regions, not clearly divided, and both of them imaginary in that they have no physical component, relying instead, obviously, on the workings of the mind. In one region, the conscious, we can control, develop and play with the images we self-consciously create. In the other region – the unconscious – the origin of the images it generates remains mysterious, yet these images come to us unbidden in dreams, moments of quiet reflection, or creative inspiration. Yet more mysteriously, these images can remain hidden but still have the power to colour our moods as we discover at times startling reflections of them in our behaviour, our relations with others, in the way we view and value our lives, also in the way we react to the physical world.

So, as well as being able to visualise the world around us with our physical senses, we are also able to envision it with this remarkable faculty of the subjective imagination. Thus one person can look at a situation and be uplifted by it, while another is rendered cold or hostile, or depressed.

The unconscious dimension is a thing entirely independent of our personal control. It is a part of us,… yet seemingly also apart. It possesses an eerie autonomy, creating for each of us the complex and highly personal world view only we can know. It is of vital importance to us – as vital as the air we breathe. Without it, even possessed of a physical life, we would be nothing at all.

It’s worrying then, given its importance to our vital selves, how this inscrutable inner world yields so little to rational methods of enquiry. For centuries, professional scientists have given it a wide berth, abandoning it as a playground for poets, mystics and those still enamoured of the multifarious forms religious thinking – fields where some might argue intellectual rigour is notable only by its absence.

Yet it’s via the aegis of this subjective and infuriatingly Mercurial inner world we are granted the imperishable sense of our self awareness, and through it an exquisite view of life which makes us cherish our lives above all other things. But this great treasure comes to us at the price of an acute awareness of the fleeting nature of our lives. It also renders us vulnerable to psychological damage at those times we find the tides of our conscious mind seriously out of tune with the tides of the unconscious.

Maintaining harmony of the inner world, this harmony of the tides has always been, in part at least a task we delegate to the uniquely human phenomenon of supernatural belief. Through the inner life, through an interplay of conscious imagination, magical thinking and mysterious insights, we can construct systems of belief in order to make sense of those parts of the universe that would otherwise remain unknown and perhaps frightening to us. We also do it to ease our existential aches, and to lessen the fear of our inevitable demise. We tell ourselves there’s more, that our lives are not in vain, that we each mean something in the greater scheme of things, no matter how unlikely it seems given all the aeons of physical evidence to the contrary. We want to believe there’s a trick of nature that will render it so, a supernatural charm that will reveal or in some way guarantee the immortality of our souls.

Whether we consider ourselves religious or not, I think there is in each of us a kernel of the psyche resonant to such thinking. And however we choose to express this function, express it we must if we’re not to risk damage by discord between the conscious and unconscious aspects of our inner life and, remaining undamaged, live a useful, productive life, reconciled to the infinite mystery of the universe around us, and to our painfully finite obscurity within it.

Religions can do this for us of course. They provide a variety of serviceable blueprints covering the geography of inner world, and a set of useful dialogues for communing with its denizens. But religion can also be an unwieldy, ill fitting instrument and it’s often been pointed out that among the dogmas there’s many a self annihilating reference. It’s easy to become mistrustful then. Religions preach tolerance, while being themselves at times conspicuously intolerant of dissent. They preach inclusiveness while at times excluding from their communion anyone residing outside of their carefully delineated bounds. And perhaps most fatally, religions find themselves caught in the warp and weave of the nefarious power-structures of the world, contaminated by cultural noise and by the ignorant or the deliberately divisive mistranslations of ancient texts, which render profound truths intended to release the human spirit, more as shackles to bind it. And thereby have too many good men and women fallen to the slaughter of wars and religious persecution in the belief that God was on their side.

Such arguments, though not without their own flaws, remain persuasive to anyone with an enquiring and an open mind. So what’s a simple man and woman to do then, intent on harmonising their inner lives, if they reject the metaphysical mainstream?

Well,… there’s always Paganism.

But we need to be careful with Paganism too. In the strictest definition of the word, Paganism describes any ethnic belief system that lies outside of the Judaeo-Christian-Islamic tradition. It’s also a word that carries a lot of pejorative baggage, and in the western world at least, conjures up images of flaming pentangles and silly looking naked bottoms, dancing in a circle by moonlight. But beyond this it also includes of course the wisdom traditions of the east, and the rites of the ancient world – the Egyptian hermeticists, and the mystery traditions of the Greeks.

From time to time these old ways reassert themselves in the west. The turn of the nineteenth century saw a resurgence of hermeticism under guise of the “new thought” movement, and from the middle of the twentieth century, Celtic Paganism too found itself reborn under the guise of Wicca, and has been quietly thriving ever since, along with other pre-Christian beliefs that might crudely be huddled together under the general heading of “Modern Witchcraft”.

So, if you’re looking for something outside of the mainstream, and you’re tired of watching the rational world disintegrating after two hundred years of petrification on account of its own arrogant, soulless inflexibility, then you have many contemporary forms of pre-rational belief to choose from. Like any religion, you simply learn the ropes and allow their patterns to inform the shifting tides of your inner world. Then, in Canute-like fashion, armoured with these new contructs you can attempt to stem the tide of your own alarming inner world, only to find the tides rushing in as usual, sweeping before them all bullshit, rendering it as an incoherent tangle of flotsam on the foreshore of your experience, and leaving you as mystified as ever regarding the correct way to tackle the mystical path.

I have to admit to a certain attraction for those who mark the passage of their lives in terms of Esbats and Sabbats. Such things put you back in tune with the turning of the earth, and the cycle of its seasons, make you more sensitive to and appreciative of the natural world – things which appeal to me. There’s also something romantic about measuring the year by counting moons, but I find my moods fail to conform neatly to its waxings and wanings.

And those bare bottoms trouble me.

Perhaps I’m just too much of a misanthrope to be a coven type, but my experience of any group of human beings is that cliques are formed, the noisy ones gather front and centre, while the quiet ones take the back seat, and though equally present might as well have disappeared. Church, school, even the Archery club I attended once – all are the same and I don’t see why witchy covens should be any different.

I’m a solitary then? Yes, there’s a version of pagan witchery that allows for misanthropes, and I’ve explored this possibility, but I really can’t be bothered with the ropes.They slither through my hands as if greased, and I can gain no purchase on them at all. I also find my muse tittering girlishly at them. Her rituals are different, and she’s always fully if somewhat eccentrically clothed when we go about our business.

Much of Buddhism and Taoism and Hindiusm remain similarly misty to me, though I’ve dallied with them for decades and instinctively revere their teachings, but I’ve a feeling all of this is leading somewhere else now, away from any kind of religion, away from the pre-rational and magical thinking of the witches and the geomancers, into a new kind of paganism.

When I come back to the central paradox of my life, I find the journey of enquiry has left me quietly assured of the existence of a dimension beyond – or rather deep within – imagination. It helps that I stepped into it by accident one summer’s day, long ago, mystified at first and then astonished to find references to to it in the accounts of mystics down the centuries. I can’t explain it, or even adequately describe it, but its impact has left me confident of its abiding nature. The tides of my inner life are as tumultuous now as they’ve always been, but I seem to ride them better – touch wood – no need for daily prayer, nor spells, nor runes nor bare bottoms by moonlight, nor even the mysterious glowing alembics of the alchemists.

I find, much to my surprise, science is helping, first of all by having become less scientistic in recent decades, at least around the more dubious of its edges, as it steps back from its hard materialist dogmas. I find myself persuaded by respectable, scientific studies which seem to confirm what the less materialist philosophers have been saying for centuries, that the mind is separate to the brain, and essentially non-local. This makes sense of my own experience, also of the many unexplained faculties of the psyche.

I find I’m also persuaded by similarly sober studies of near death, and willing to accept that the tales told by survivors are exactly what they appear to be. I do this because they appeal to reason, as much to mystical thinking, and the counter explanations by the scientistically inclined, seem the more desperate, contrived and childish by comparison. I’m therefore no longer as bereft at thoughts of annihilation as I have been in the past, at the passing of friends and loved ones. Instead I’m persuaded that we must seriously reckon with the possibility of a journey that continues, that what awaits us at the end of our dream of life might be the greatest and most lucid dream of all, the dream of the universe itself, and ourselves safe within it.

That you can arrive at such conclusions simply through a spirit of open-minded enquiry, and a reading of respectable, intellectually coherent literature, tempts one into viewing all the dancing and prancing and magical chanting of our multifarious religions as merely the decorative trimmings of folklore, a lore from which the underlying meaning has been stripped or rendered so opaque as to be inaccessible to all but a few. I don’t mean to denigrate religion. Any system, no matter how fanciful, that attempts to map out the inner landscape must be respected, and sincere persistence within a system of belief is perhaps still the surest route to any kind of spiritual enlightenment. But my own experience is that you don’t need religion to make your way. You already carry the clues inside your head, and there are a sufficient number of footprints now, crystallising from the fog of intellectual enquiry, to lead us on. We may not find ourselves rocketed into the core of the paranormal, nor even religious enlightenment, but in any kind of spiritual endeavour it is not the destination that’s important, so much as the journey.

It’s not that I can explain any of this, or tell you with any more certainty than the next muddle headed mystic what any of it means. Nor less have I the guile, nor indeed the intent, to persuade the non-believer to my peculiar point of view. Indeed I suspect that for the modern pagan at least the journey and one’s relationship with the inner world must always be a personal one.

And of course the great mystery remains unsolved, why the cosmos would want to take such a limited view of itself, and from the perspective of so many different pairs of eyes – also that since it’s so very, very old, there surely can’t be many lessons it has left to learn through the pitfalls and pratfalls of our small, intermeshing lives. But even Hermes that master alchemist of old, couldn’t, or wouldn’t, answer that one.

For now, this modern pagan shoulders his pack and moves along the trail, curiously and perhaps inappropriately reassured by the journey so far. And if you find any resonance here, sufficient to have reached this closing paragraph in my narrative, I suspect you too are a modern pagan my friend. And not a bare bottom between us,…


Consciousness beyond life – Pim Van Lommel

The Spiritual Brain – Beauregard/O’Leary

Science and the Akashic field – Laszlow

Science and the near death experience – Carter

A course in Demonic Creativity – Cardin

Is there Life after death? – Fontana

Life beyond death – what can we expect?  – Fontana

Randi’s Prize – McLuhan

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Always on the lookout for any new catch free self-publishing avenues I’ve just discovered this outfit called BookieJar. They’ve been around since 2011 and deal only with ebooks. You can offer your work for free, or set a download price from which BookieJar will take their cut. I loaded my short story The Man Who Talked to Machines on there yesterday by way of an experiment and found the whole process to be very simple indeed. You just need a copy of your story in MS Word format, and away you go. Signup was very simple and the whole process took no more than ten minutes.

The one niggle I have with BookieJar is they don’t seem to offer their authors any stats, so it’s impossible to tell how successful their site is in reaching an audience for your work. I’m the slightly eccentric kind of indie who’d sooner reach a thousand readers by giving his work away than charge a fee and only attract the interest of half a dozen. But it’s impossible to know when or if I’ll ever reach a thousand readers with BookieJar, and that makes me hesitate before putting more of my work on there. Maybe I’m just a shameless stats voyeur but I like to know how many readers I’m getting – if I’m ramping up, reaching market saturation, tailing off or bumping along the bottom.***

On the plus side the site encourages social-media type interaction between readers and writers. If you’re active in reading and commenting on other BookieJar titles, you’ll find your profile appearing more frequently on the home-page, which in turn should raise the profile of your work, so to some extent you get out whatever you’re willing to put in. This is different and interesting, and fair.

Anyway, if you’re a writer exploring the self publishing options available online, then do check out BookieJar. And if you’ve not discovered them yet, check out Feedbooks, Smashwords and Lulu as well.

Respects and stay safe.

Graeme Out.


*** Update 26/08/12 ***

I’m wrong here. Bookiejar’s download stats are available on the author’s account page – my thanks to fellow writer and blogger Paul Samael for pointing this out. From this I was able to see that “The Man Who Talked to Machines” achieved just one download in the space of a week. By comparison, it’s been up on Feedbooks since 2010, and is still achieving around 5 downloads per day. Bookiejar’s not exactly set my world alight then, but it was worth a shot.

I don’t know how Feedbooks manage such an impressive download rate for their authors – it may be because they don’t require you to sign up, like other sites do, before you can download – you just click on the story, select your format and you’re reading it in seconds. I’m speculating, but the business of signing up which other self publishing sites insist on, may be deterring casual browsing, and thus eliminating a lot of potential readers.

So, BookieJar or Feedebooks? Well, obviously Feedbooks will deliver you the most impressive download rates, but any self publishing outlet is better than none, especially if it’s free, and you never know. Well done to BookiJar, anyway.


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There’s a belief in New Age circles that we create our own reality, or that we attract those possibilities in life that resonate with our mood or some other subconscious state. The upshot of this, at least according to the theory, is that we tend to experience the kind of world we expect. Expect to struggle with every aspect of our life, and struggle we will. Expect our world to be populated by difficult, insensitive or aggressive people and such characters will be our permanent bedfellows. Conversely, adopt an easy going approach to life and we’ll sail through it unscathed. Right?

Well, it’s a view I have some cautious sympathy with, though I also think it’s far from being as simple as the trite cloud-cuckoo self-help books make out. However, I’ve tried to take on board the lessons of an angst ridden past and have striven to adopt an easy going approach to life. But what do you do when the world, through the nature of it’s apparent actions upon you, seems to be telling you the opposite? That you’re not so laid back and angst free as you think. I mean have you ever had one of those periods when it all goes wrong, to the point of being spooky? And if you really are attracting such a cluster of misfortune, what does that say about you? And more to the point what do you do about it?

How do you make it stop?

I’ve just returned from holiday where my vehicle conked out on the first day and I found myself ripped off for an expensive and ineffective repair that had to be put right, even more expensively when I got home. My boiler packed in, my radiators, windows and gutters are suddenly leaking, I broke a favourite pair of binoculars that I like to take out with me when walking, and I’m currently typing this rather clumsily on the glass screen of my ipad because I suddenly noticed the letter “r” on my laptop has stopped working. I have another computer, but that got strangled by a nasty piece of malware that took me a couple of days to remove and I’m still suspicious of it. I also whacked the end of my finger with a lump hammer, spent the following few days propped up on paracetamol and am now awaiting the moment when my fingernail drops off. I could go on.

I don’t mean to strike a sour note here – I mean we all have bad runs like this from time to time – and even writing them down now I’m feeling a chuckle coming on, but should I really take these things as a sign I need some serious self-analysis? Or do I put my rational hat back on, tell myself to pull myself together, and simply carry on chuckling?

Does the darkening of one’s psyche trigger these things, or do these things darken one’s psyche? And is this clustering effect simply on account of a sudden sensitivity rendering us more observant of life’s little cock-ups, more inclined to take account of them and more inclined to escalate their importance to woe-is-me proportions?

I’m really not sure, but I’ll be spending this weekend in an armchair doing as little as possible in case I break something else. I’ll also be thinking very nice thoughts about everything and everyone.

Sounds like a plan?

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