Emanations III

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In October of last year, I fell into my shadow. She was vicious, bold and offensive; unafraid to say everything I never could. And she was so damn attractive with it! I never stood a chance.

As soon as she knew she had me, I found myself alone on her shore. The sun had set long ago, but a cold glimmer from her skin lit up my world. Her eyes brimmed with the awe of all I could become. How do you extract your good potential when it’s so mixed up with the bad? Everything beyond ego, including the shadow, cares little for the distinction. I didn’t know the answer, and that could only mean she held that particular key.

So, when I raised the question, she raised her mace. I cowered. I screamed. I tried desperately to claw my way out through the sand. But she was quick, and she had no mercy. She swung her weapon and thumped me right in the chest with it. My rib cage shattered into a thousand jagged pieces, and moths burst out in a cloud. Some turned to dust upon contact with the air; others flew away across the sands. I strained to take a breath, but my lungs and throat were pierced in too many places. Through fading consciousness, I could just make out my shadow picking up a piece of bone, turning it over in her fingers and admiring herself in its reflective surface. With the other hand, she ripped out my heart.

The life poured out of my veins. I could do nothing but lay in wait of the tide. It was over.

My shadow flicked away her makeshift mirror, and pulled a jar out of her back pack. She squeezed the contents of my heart into it: a deep iridescent red. Memory, personality, soul. As she took a sip, her sharp posture began to dissolve. Her black hair softened to light grey, her fur robe melted away to reveal the pink butterfly dress I’d been wearing that day, and her smile turned from cunning to kindness. At first I could only see through her eyes from a distance, but it didn’t take long for my mind to recognise its home. Everything came into focus. I screwed the lid tightly onto the jar, strapped it to my back pack, and began my ascent back to the village.

***

Emanations is an experiment in automatic flash fiction writing. These stories are intended to be read as streams of consciousness; little windows into the back rooms of the mind.

If you enjoyed this, perhaps you will like my collection Fragments of Perception. It is on offer for just 99p in the UK and $1.99 in the US, but only until midnight tonight!

5 Non-fiction Books that Shaped Me

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I’ve always loved reading non-fiction as much as fiction, and have a particular attraction to all things philosophy and psychology. I always manage to take something away from every book I read and feed it into my worldview, so I thought it would be an interesting exercise to write a little bit about the ones that have had the biggest impact on me over the years. I’ve chosen my top 5, listed in the order I read them.

 

1. Friedrich Nietzsche – Thus Spoke Zarathustra

When I was 15, I wrote an essay on my typewriter called ‘The Personal God’. It wasn’t for school, and it wasn’t really planned out; it just sort of wrote itself. In it, I set out my reasons for believing that God was created subjectively in the minds of men, and that the concept of a mythical overlord was becoming less relevant as we developed as a species. It wasn’t great: I was 15. But it meant that when I saw a documentary about Nietzsche on TV a few months later – the first time I’d ever heard of him – I was immediately drawn to his ideas. I got a copy of Thus Spoke Zarathustra as soon as I could, devoured it, and covered it in pencil notes.

Apart from the opinions on women he expresses in the book, which frankly seem primitive compared to his other musings, there are many themes that made a big impression on me. The will to power, the bowels of existence; herd morality. His succinct descriptions of the suffering that is so very human and rooted in the self. The idea that the only meaning we can create in this absurdity we call life is that which we make for ourselves. His existentialism set my mindset up nicely to understand the ideas of Thelema a couple of years later, and I have continued to return to this book and his others many times. I think there is an appropriate Nietzsche quote for every situation in life.

 

2. C.G. Jung – The Essential

Jung’s psychology has had a profound impact on the way I see the world. Generally, a major criticism of his work is that he was swayed too readily by mystical fancies, yet the very fact he was not afraid to face the metaphysical and the unknown is one of the reasons he appeals to me so much. His thought attempts to bridge the gap between science and religion, the rational and the irrational, and had he been around to see modern developments in neuroscience I think he’d have had a lot more to give.

Science or pseudoscience, Jung’s model of the psyche works very well for me. I use it to analyse my mental states, my dreams, my path to individuation (which is remarkably similar to both alchemy and, at times, taoism), and the way I interact with others. His thoughts on the collective unconscious and personal myth constantly feed into my creative work.

I chose this book as the one that shaped me simply because it is the first one of his I read. I borrowed it from my local library when I was about 16 or 17, and was hooked on Jung’s style straight away. Since then I have been working my way through all of his books, including the stunning Red Book, the full folio version of which sits pride of place on my bookshelf.

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7. Somebody Else’s Dream

“So you definitely saw purple?” Hertz quizzed me back at the hotel.

“Yes. It was a big, fat, purple scream.”

“Interesting. I saw red. Ida?”

“Red,” Ida agreed.

“I knew we were right to name you Purple, it’s obviously the colour you see anything magical in.” Hertz seemed satisfied with his own judgement.

“Well it doesn’t matter now.” Ida dispelled his gloating with a flick of her wrist. “The question is what are we going to do? That poor woman was quite distressed. She recognised us.”

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The Spell of the Sensuous – David Abram

As we have evolved, the way we understand the world around us has changed. Nature plays a less obvious part in our lives than it once did, and we pay far more attention to technological devices and man made structures. The Spell of the Sensuous aims to explore the reasons for this, and to demonstrate how we might improve our lives by reconnecting with the natural world. It is a book that successfully merges anthropology, philosophy and ecology, and I expect it will hold the intrigue of anyone with an interest in one or more of these disciplines.

A particular curiosity of mine concerns perception, and how it alters the way we experience, so I was delighted to see the book began with that aspect. Abram considers the feeling of connectedness we get when we truly immerse ourselves in our surroundings, becoming conscious of everything our senses are telling us as we do in the practice of mindfulness. He argues that we are in essence inseparable from the things we perceive, and are in a reciprocal dance with the earth, plants and animals. He relies heavily on the ideas of Maurice Merleau-Ponty as support; a philosopher I hadn’t studied before but found intriguing. Early on in the book we are given the most convincing explanation for a belief in animism I have come across.

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The Active Side of Infinity – Carlos Castaneda

Experience would have me believe that we find books at the precise moment we are ready to receive their message. Such is the case with this book for me, and come to think of it, every Castaneda book I have read. I have been missing a few from my collection, and finally found them hiding on the shelves downstairs at Watkins Books in London. This was the one I was drawn to at the time: the final book written by the author before his death in 1998.

Castaneda’s books are all about his apprenticeship with a Yacqui Indian Shaman, Don Juan Matus, who may or may not have existed in reality; though this is a detail I find ultimately unimportant to the philosophy. They are a delight to read because the events described are in a simple and light-hearted guise, yet on a deeper level there are some hard-hitting spiritual messages.

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The Fire from Within – Carlos Castaneda

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It’s about 10 years since I last read anything by Carlos Castaneda. I always found his books entertaining and insightful, and couldn’t put them down once started. But I moved on to other things and never got back to the series until now. This has been a virtue actually: I don’t think I’d have gotten quite so much out of The Fire from Within had I not reached the point of spiritual development I am at today.

All of Castaneda’s books tell the stories of his apprenticeship with Yacqui Indian Sorcerer Don Juan Matus. I use the word sorcerer here, but it might be more appropriate to say he is a shaman, a spiritual teacher or a master of awareness. He teaches Castaneda to see that everything he considers to be real is based upon just one possible configuration of human perception. There are many, many other possibilities out there, and by accessing other ways of seeing we can reach new understandings and make some incredible achievements. Continue reading “The Fire from Within – Carlos Castaneda”