The Wheel Spins: a passage

I’m in the midst of writing a spiritual sci-fi/psychodrama. I’m drawing a lot of influence from Hinduism, Zen, Gnosticism and the Upanishads. It’s got psychonautics, genre-hopping and Jungian psychoanalysis. It’s like Cloud Atlas meets Valis.

Here is a passage from the book. Working title: ‘The Wheel Stops’.

(For a bit of context, this is from the chapter that takes the form of a journal. The character writing is Sophy, the daughter of a (illicitly) psychonautic psychiatrist who has suffered with psychosis (with strong sci-fi overtones) since the death of her son.

John is her father in law and current psychiatrist, Jim is her estranged husband and her father, Phil, dissapeared after she lost her son. This follows a psychedelic sci-fi chapter from the position of another character who sees Sophy in his dreams.)

“November 12th: John and Jim keep telling me I’m strong and wise, to hold out hope. I don’t feel strong or hopeful, and I have no wisdom. I am not like my Gnostic namesake, Sophia. But my God, my Father, is gone. Like the Deus Absconditus of their myth.

November 14th: These visions. The shadow, the light in my hand, they hold some truth. They hide it, obscure it, occult it from me. But the concealment implies the truth. This place/world/reality does not compute. I am not of this place.

November 20th: Sometimes, when I write, ideas appear to come from nowhere. As if they dropped into my head like rain. I get inebriated on them, giddy on the inspiration. I forget who I am, where I am. My mind wanders into the shadows. Am I the shadow at my hearth?

November 22nd: I read some Alan Watts, and he said “Lunatics frequently resemble saints”. Maybe I’m the patron saint of Lunatics. Maybe it depends on the day of the week which one I am. Later in the book, it said that Satori (“a sudden, intuitive vision”) comes coupled with an ‘overwhelming feeling of doubt’. Maybe I’m not mad. Maybe I’m becoming enlightened. Maybe I have an enlightenmental disorder.

November 23rd: Shamans would be seen as psychotic by men like John. Irrelevant, babbling madmen. Only that which goes through the ‘proper’ channels is valid. What have these ‘proper’ channels ever done for me, or the millions like me? The undulating masses of shamans labelled insane. I’d rather be mad than a one-dimensional, egotistical and shallow academic.

December 1st: John knows about the journals. Jim must have told him. I have been betrayed by every man I have ever known. John tells me I have ‘Hypergraphia’. ‘An obsessive need to write notes and diaries’, he assures me and that my ‘intense emotions and quasi-religious rants’ are indicative of my failing mental health. I wish he’d shut his mouth and open his mind. He says my theories are ‘layered illusions, moving further from truth’, that they’re ‘truisms based on errors, which are based on errors ad infinitum’. He says I’m ‘weaving a veil of illusions’. If so I’d like to throttle him with that veil. He went on (as he does, ad infinitum). I’m failing to ‘filter out all of the data I’m picking up’. This reminded me of a theory my dad had. We filter through reality with out sense of time and space. When we hallucinate, we see unfiltered reality. I’m seeing a truer picture than he ever had. But, if I AM seeing the truth; does that mean I AM an automaton. that the shadow IS there?

December 22nd: I lit a cigarette and became completely engrossed in it. I watched the flame, the curling smoke and felt the regulation of my breath. It felt like the most important thing in the universe. I can’t have a smoke without going nuts. Yet, being immersed in that moment, I felt at peace, like I’d realised something. An intuitive feeling that, like the smoke, everything is ephemeral.”

The Po(e)tion is Pois(e)on

Since I started my Spoken Word journey, I’ve often asked myself

‘Why?’


Why poetry?

Why Spoken Word?

Why perform in front of rooms full of strangers, well aware of an anxiety disorder?

Why demand an audience, whilst chasing ego death?

Why?


I have come to realise that ‘Why’ isn’t a question.

It’s a driving force.

My work, as a poet, is about asking myself questions.

Formulating codes, algorithms with which to silence my monkey mind and meditate.


As a typically anxious person,

I often find myself asking questions.

What if A hates me?

What if ACTION B causes problems, and so on.


Sitting down to write gives me a psychological framework for my questions and thoughts.

It allows me a process for progress and time in which to use it.

In my very earliest work, it was often some form of catharsis.

Releasing negative emotions onto a page made them easier to handle, to ‘close the book on’.


The stanza-rhyme-assonance framing needed some consideration.

As a result, I was more carefully considered about the material, my thoughts and emotions.

Some of my work took the form of rhyming essays and thinkpieces.

I would focus on specific topics or concepts.


My poems on ego death (Ego Trippin’) and the power of words (Words, words, words) are two prime examples.

This is much more preferable than the rambling, confused essays that I wrote before.

They now had shape, a succinct form.

My more recent work, however, has taken a different direction.

It namely uses free association.


I’ll begin with a word and jot down whatever immediately comes to mind.

Often it’s associative, but sometimes it’s a running set of rhyming words, assonance or vague connections of a more personal set.

This feels, to me, a more honest way to write.

I’m not focussing on achievement, attachment or specific ideas and instead allowing a flow state to arise.


This flow state, in my experience, is very similar to an altered state of consciousness.

Connections and processes that weren’t immediate or straightforward to achieve became illuminated and wholly possible.

It’s almost like a waking lucid dream, an improvised canvas of information using a heightened view.

Rather than forcing some catharsis into a rhyme scheme or honing in on specific theme, my mind throws up what it wants and I connect the dots in a similar fashion.


It has shown me things I needed to move on from.

I wrote three time this way, and it threw up the same topic every time.

So, I accepted the topic at hand and tried again.

It was a very different result.


These are more reflective than any of my other work, in a truer sense.

I cannot control a mirror.

It is what I show it.

Because the pieces are written in an altered, hypnagogic, meditative state, the performance also errs towards that.


The synapses enjoy these novel connections and fire clean.

I re-experience the mindset I was in whilst writing and enter a trance-like state.

Nothing else matters but the present moment.

I am no more than the conduit for the words.


It is in this moment, that I become a paradox.

I kill my ego on stage.

I perform a truth.

My anxiety forces me to show off.

Strangers become known.

My friends become stranger.

I speak written words.

I become a poem.


Then I finish and this fleshy prison wraps back around the moment.

I become a fragile little man.

I say my thanks and disappear from the stage.

I avoid eye contact as I think about what I did to myself and the crowd.


I broke open their heads and poured in my cracked mind.

Jung said

“Only the wounded physician heals”.

I hope this is true.


The renaissance physician, Paracelsus, said

“Poisons in measured doses are remedies”.

Is using my anxiety to propel me, using the poison as a potion?

Is cracking open my toxic mind using the poison a potion?


Paracelsus used toxic metals as medicine and was a pioneer.

He died of metal poisoning, though.


Am I well-versed enough to be a doctor, a shaman?

Are my measurements correct?

What danger have I brought forth?

It could be a potion, or a poison.

I could inoculate, or kill.


There is a moment, at the peak of a performance, when the audience hushes.

Their eyes centre on you, hanging on every word.

Will I become their gallows?

Could my words kill, or main if used badly?

I believe so.


I feel a power, that I did not request.

I must be careful, but not become quaint or appease my fears.

The demons must be faced and made friends with.

The darkness must be illuminated.

Otherwise, all will be lost to our fears, and that frightens me.


We are both the boogeymen and the children.

We are all paradoxical, and must accept this.

Or we will not only be afraid, but confused.


I have to take responsibility.

Doubt is just fear with another’s face.

I cannot profess the ability to do this alone.

But, I want to be part of the vanguard.


Will the others find me?

Some have.

Yet still,

others hide.


Step out of the shadows,

wounded healers.

We exist for a reason.

Don’t let the potion become a poison.

Mucky Common

Within seconds of entering the common, I see the tell-tale semi circular prints of horse hooves. Seconds later, I see the tell-tale equine bodies of horses. Minutes later, I tread in the tell-tale mud-buckets that horses hooves leave in the turf. A raven laughs at my footwear misfortune as my red trainers turn dun brown. I disbelieved there were horses here.

Mid-climb, I glance back at the city. The rows of houses, crowned by perpendicular structures. The castle, the cathedral, cranes and nuclear chimneys. Each of them spreading their own brand of toxic material. In between the matchbox houses, brushes of grey and brown tinder raise their voices. All the bushes here are horizontal. The city itself resembles a horse-shoe, embracing the common. Or perhaps strangling it.

I greet magpies, doffing my cap. Flies assemble for a fecal festival. Moss & lichen give way for new leaves, turning rapidly in the wind. I remember the first taste of this thin air. It was a taste of renewal then and it cleanses my lungs again. The shadow of a cloud ambles hungrily up the hill, towards me. A skyward monolith. The edges of the cloud itself burn with the spectrum, before I again get my time in the sun. I am bathed in UV and Vitamin D. I have missed you, Sol. Your absence has been noted.

A red arrow shits out a plume of smoke, resembling a cardiogram. Beep…Beep. The city is still alive. I am still alive. A private plane flies overhead and I wonder if he’ll write about me. Scribbling later in his journal, about all the things he’d seen from above. The wind is bracing and embracing, cooling my jets. The paths of two dogs intertwine as they chase each others tails.

I imagine markers over the people I know dwell in this place, “They are here”. Two Red Kites take the place of those markers, as they hover at eye level, surveying this land. They are above it all, hovering. A leaf soundtracks their flapping wings. A bee flies between them and when I look again, they’re further out and higher up. Their flight pattern towers above the man-made structures I see before me. Nature reclaims her place, she is the food chain.

As I choose to amble to the wing that sits atop the hill, a green beetle lands on my left arm with a thud. It is like a tiny scarab. He wanders my arm, then flies away. Where did he come from? Does it matter? Cliches of spring and renewal come thick and fast. Such is the nature of synchronicity. Such is the synchronicity of nature.

As I trench further up the hill, my foot plummets into a well trodden, murky lake of muddy water. I hastily circumnavigate, with drenched foot, to the stairs. In the corridor of trees at the top of these stairs, I see the branches moving counter to the wind. I stop and see a barrage of goldfinches. They are all around me and care not that I am in there space. I stand silently for a minute, thanking them for being cool and pushing on.

I notice how much this large object looks like another chimney, a traffic cone or perhaps a dunces hat. Man still building higher, in competition with the kites. This is the only thing higher than God’s house. I do not care for it, nor what it represents and turn my back on it. I make haste down the hill, attempting not to muddy my feet any more.

As I descend, I meet eyes with one of the Kites, who sits atop a tree. We spend a long moment assessing each other. I imagine his claws digging into my skin, and respect him as more than an aesthetic pleasure. He is a hunter. He kills to survive and does it with skill. We part ways and I move past a freshly pooled body of water, a stream running from underneath a shelf of mud. I notice the nodules of bright green grass underneath my feet and realise this has been freshly composted. The flies abounding these nodules confirm my suspicions, as does the heaps of fresh horse shit.

Decay & Growth.

The kite kills, the horse shits, the flies feast.

I got my feet wet and dirty.

I saw clearly.

Dream : Jungblood

As I began to drift into sleep, I imagined myself walking down the steps of a deep cave. These steps began as metal, then turned to wood, which then became gnarled. I fell through and had a choice. Climb back onto the walkway, or tread the stone path. I chose the latter. The cave got darker and darker and I lost my footing several times, sliding down into mud. I progress further and then fell for a while, before landing in a shallow pool. This shallow pool reflected what little light got in and showed there was a small hole at the far end. I dived under and swam through the hole. I arrived at a beach and a skeleton guarded a treasure chest. I felt this too obvious and swam down, further into the cave. I wasn’t sure this led anywhere before the walls began to close. I reached the hole at the very bottom and it closed behind me and I fell in a waterfall to another shallow pool. I turned to take the next challenge and fell asleep.

This was a direct response to reading Jung’s attempts to work through his unconscious. Using the cave as a metaphor for my subconscious and exploring it. The steps of metal represent a solid base with which to tread comfortably. The transmogrification to wood shows the lack of control and support and it’s gnarling shows how little control my conscious brain has over it. Falling through represents the lack of support I can give myself as I go further. The choice between support and self-sufficiency was an important one and the stone path is the more natural one. The shallow pool represents the shallow, surface responses of my emotions to the deeper psychic energies held within. The exit into the other room represent a deeper probing. The skeleton guarding the treasure chest seemed a ruse, a cheap and easy attempt to probe no further. The skeleton suggesting death and the treasure, again, superficial, materialistic and shallow. Diving deeper was the way I wanted to go, to probe further. Water typically represents emotions, diving into them was accepting they could drown me, but using them to push further into the subconscious. The walls closing, are the walls of my conscious mind, trying to prevent me from going further. Yet, another shallow pool. I have many empty chambers, it appears, with surface emotions, hiding deeper things. As I accept this fact, my unconscious mind lets me in.

My dream begins at a train station, not one I recognise from my waking life. It is a simple, one platform station. Likely a parochial village station, as seen in Hammer Horror films like Frankenstein. Indeed, the only staff member is an old Swiss man. He seems overly jolly with the situation. I board the train. The scene skips ahead to another, similar station, further from my destination. I do not know my destination, but I feel like I know I’m going the wrong way. The scene has also taken on a sepia tone. I berate the old man and he apologises, still jolly, and directs me towards the train pulling up. I board again, and am taken back in time. I had transferred into the 70’s on the last journey. This time I am transported back to the 1920’s. Everything is black and white and I wear a fedora and a macintosh. I am getting increasingly frustrated as now I am on the European continent. The elderly station worker assures me I’ll get to my destination, this is just the road I have to take. So, I board again and when it arrives the scene is the late 1800’s and I am in Transylvania. I have had enough and leave before I get taken to Switzerland. I don’t want to meet Carl Jung, it’s too obvious.

The train station, with it’s single platform, seems exclusive to me. The allusion to the Hammer Horror films, suggests that my destination contains great peril, but is the vital transport to the lessons I must learn. Just as Herr Frankenstein met his own psychology brought monstrously to life in Adam, his monster, I must face my self-made monster. The singular Swiss man, I believe to be an approximation of Carl Jung. His jolly character is due to me taking a similar journey as he did, and his noticing of my frustration and calm assurances seem, to me at least, to support this. Trains, however, often relate to conformity. They many shuffled into an orderly, sequenced space and shipped around the country, a herd a tin. I was, however, alone, so am conforming to my own self-made standards. Or my version of Jung’s standards, which is why he found it all so amusing. I am formalising and overtly structuring my mental work on my psyche, not letting it happen. The time travel backwards suggests that I am retreating from my present reality, to a time where this mental work was easier. Or perhaps non-existent. My annoyance with this and my choice to walk away from the metaphor suggests some understanding of this.

I walk, almost immediately back into the present day and into a shopping centre. It’s an end of the world giveaway. Something has gone terribly wrong, something to with the water supply and stores are giving everything away. There is carnivalesque atmosphere in the place, toys, games and even a small roller coaster ride have been set up and all the stock is laid out for citizens to grab. Beer is being drank, cigarettes smoked and drugs taken in amongst the funfair. I Try my hand at one of the games, throwing cubes in tubes, which take the same shape as the roller coaster track. I fail to win, or even get the cubes in the tubes. I wander off to a carpet store and take a single square of brown carpet. I play hide and seek with some children.

My time travel over, my psyche throws up images of Queensgate. A shopping centre where I spend most of my youth. The apocalyptic mantle of this aspect of the dream suggests dramatic change in my life, couched in my view of my youth and home town. The shopping centre, as a dream model, throws up choices and decisions. The freedom to take what I want, creates even more choices. The tubes represent a structure and the cube is my ‘squareness’ being squared on itself. I am trying to fit myself, already compacted into a conservative shape into a near impossible structure for me to fit into, and I am supposed to regard it as fun. The carnival atmosphere suggests a celebration of the death of the old world, the usage of substances suggests a need to anaesthetise and force the self to celebrate. The roller-coaster track, fairly obvious, represents the twists and turns of the waking life. Interestingly enough, my partner dreamt of being on a roller-coaster in a shopping centre, so perhaps there was some psychic bleed. The carpet suggests a protection from the cold, stark reality and comfort, yet it’s size suggests that protection is largely symbolic, even to my waking self. The game playing with the children is an allowance to have fun, even in a dark time.

A good time later, I am living in a large cabin with a few families. I am the protector of the children. From beasts, from those who took in the poison water and went mad and from the angry adults they live with. There is a ritual we have, where we all dress in white, paint our skin and hair white and let out our primal anger. I did it too earnestly and terrified the children. I try to make them feel better, but am warned off by a director. I walk into the cabin, sadly, and see an adult trying to eat a child. I exile them, in front of the others, for Cannibalism.

The post-apocalyptic nature of this vignette is a representation of difficulties being overcome and a fending for the self, or smaller group. The cabin an image of self-sufficiency. I take on the role of protector, to protect the child in myself. The poisoned water, going on the supposition that water represents emotions, are the tainted emotional baggage of others, and/or of parts of myself. The ritual, in general shows a need to cleanse, especially with the ‘whiting out’ of the skin, clothes and hair. To start afresh, a clean slate. My overeager anger act shows my fear of letting out negative emotions, even under the context in which I believe they are allowed. The director suggests I feel my life is being guided by people who believe life is an act. The cannibalism is a destructive desire, persons draining vitality and enthusiasm. Their exile is an alienation from my psyche.

I turn my head, still whited up, with a large beard and a slicked wedge of hair atop my head. In the near distance is a window to a Miami Vice style scene. A large glass house, filled with tropical plants and various well-to-do people and celebrities. Two of whom are Robert Downey Jr. and Michael C Hall, as Dexter. They trade barbs, before it devolves into a fist fight. This fist fight gets progressive gruesome, as Dexter throws RDJ through a window, cutting him badly. RDJ responds in kind, before Dexter tears his left arm off to beat him with. RDJ has an epiphany and realises he’s been here before. He sidesteps Dexter and a car crashes into him and through the window.

RDJ realises this is the day his father was stabbed by a one-armed man. Dexter appears from the house, with a knife and goes for him. RDJ and his younger self watch as he jumps at him. RDJ changes history and blocks the attempt, the stabs Dexter.

The long beard is a marker of individuality, the hair a drastic change (as I am bald in real life). The 1980’s Miami Vice setting, to me, presents an air of privilege and self-aggrandisement. The inclusion of Robert Downey Jr. and Michael C Hall, seems very specific. Yet, I believe they are aspects of myself. Michael C Hall is very specifically his Dexter character and RDJ very specifically Tony Stark. Both are shallow men, for differing reasons. Dexter is a psychopath and Tony Stark is a narcissist. Both tread the line between anti-hero and hero. Both are violent men with father complexes. Dexter represents the colder, shadow aspect of my personality. Animalistic and primal. Stark represents the superficial and egotistical aspects of myself. The fight they have is symbolic of the struggle between repressed emotions and outward appearance. My separation from this, using celebrities as figurines, shows my separation from this psychological battle. The bloody gruesomeness of this fight show how fervent this battle is. (at the point of self-dismemberment, the dream snapped into myself and my partner watching this happen on television and laughing, slightly grossed out at what had happened, another degree of separation, yet closer to home.) The disarming, is an active choice by the id/shadow aspect to be rid of the nurturing aspect of myself, seeing it as a hindrance to his goals. The side stepping/car collision suggest that some aspect of me saw ‘this car crash coming’ in my waking life and simply stepped aside, letting the shadow take the brunt of the damage. The car crash is others jolting actions, that I cannot directly control. The realisation that Stark IS his own father, and can save himself, suggests some realisation of similar traits that I feel I can augment to my own psychic advantage. Not be shaped by, like my father was. Stark manipulates the shadow to take itself out and the ego wins out.

I turn my head back and walk back into the cabin. Water is leaking everywhere, especially onto the square of carpet I had salvaged from before. A mother and daughter were trying to wash their hair and pulled a pipe out of a wall. I am calm and reconnect the pipe.

The leak onto the carpet suggests an emotional outpouring, soiling comfort. The mother and daughter, perhaps have real life analogues. The reconnection of the pipe, is my attempt to allow emotions to be meted out with control. Perhaps another form of repression?