Lilith … a trail blazer.

In the previous post ‘Adam’s Rib…and what came before’, I wrote about Lilith, the first ‘wife’ or partner of Adam in the Garden of Eden, who was exiled to the depths of the Red Sea for her refusal to be subordinate to Adam and for her blasphemy of G’d’s ineffable name. But she does arise again, as does anything that is swept under the carpet, or repressed.

It is true that she was angry and wildly hurt at her unfair expulsion. Who wouldn’t be in her shoes? She refused to be submissive to Adam and she paid the price of exile for claiming her equality with him.

This rejection was a profound and almost mortal wound to Lilith’s psyche. She spent a long while in the depths of the Red Sea, patiently licking her wounds and cleansing them with her salty tears, patiently biding her time for her return to right the wrong, all the while wondering what her crime was. She was after all born at the same time as Adam and in the image of G.d.

She was quickly demonized and according to the patriarchal myth projected on to her, it is she who causes the death of babies at birth; she who causes men lose to their sperm at night as a result of her nocturnal torments; it is she who wears seductive perfumes and jewelry to entice men away from their wives or commit unnatural acts and generally, whenever there is trouble, the projected Lilith is at the core. She is seen as sinful, frightening and threatening to male supremacy and it is no wonder that she has been repressed by the patriarchy. Men, it seems, have projected their fears onto this unidentified creature seen as the epitome of all the evil in the world.

What does this mean to us in our contemporary world?

All of us, men and women, have been wounded in one way or the other by the repression of the feminine. From time immemorial, we have all experienced rejection, hurt, pain, grief, unfair treatment, abuse. Many of us have endured unhappy childhoods when we felt we weren’t loved enough, or had absent parents either physically or emotionally, or suffered abuse from those who were meant to care for us. Our parents, grandparents and ancestors have all been wounded by the artificial divisions between the feminine and masculine archetypes – we owe it to future generations to break the pattern and to not pass on to our children or those within our milieu those seemingly entrenched and unconscious behaviours and attitudes.

We each of us carry a part of personal and collective wounding. It is with us today, not only in women but men too. The feminine has been deeply and mortally wounded; but it is in the wound that the greatest gift can be found. Men contain the feminine within and women contain the masculine within-this is how it is. They belong together and are not exclusive of each other.

Masculinity and patriarchy are not synonymous.  Masculinity is not power, nor is it patriarchy. True masculinity is NOT the enemy of the feminine. The masculine is the lover of the feminine and its protector.

We need to seek answers to our paralysis of vitality or creativity or inherent power and to take back what has been repressed. This is sometimes of our own doing or of our own collusion. It requires diligent and hard work and a willingness to plummet the depths to get to the core of our wounding and an honesty that is difficult to bear.

Lilith is to be viewed as a trailblazer for her courage in refusing to remain in the Red Sea. She knew she had to face the outside world again and not remain hidden. It was necessary to arise again, necessary to approach her sister Eve who usurped her role as first wife. She was not defeated in spite of her banishment. Lilith I think, knew that Eve would listen to her and she knew too that it was imperative that Eve did not remain within the boundaries of the Garden of Eden. So too, do we need to bring Lilith out of the shadows and to get to know her better – all her polarities, her dark and light, her joy and grief, her creativity and her destructiveness.

Lilith was the one who brought about the fall .. a necessary fall from innocence, or as Paul Tillich puts it: the Fall represented “a fall from the state of dreaming innocence” – an awakening from potentiality to actuality. This Fall, as mentioned before, was necessary to the development of humankind, into consciousness and all it entails.

It is a challenge to us all, men and women, to heal the rift for our psychological, emotional, spiritual and physical wellbeing.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Adam’s rib … and what came before

According to the ancient creation story of the Bible, you will recall that Adam was lonely in the Garden of Eden when G.d created him. So He fashioned Eve from Adam’s rib while Adam was sleeping, so that he would not be alone and would have a mate to enjoy His creation and hence Eve came into being.

What many of us do not know, is that according to the *Midrash*, there was a woman before Eve whose name was ‘Lilith‘. Who was this mostly unknown woman and what relevance does she have for us today? At a later stage I will look at the repression of Lilith and the projection of ‘guilt’ put onto Eve and what relevance this has in today’s world and more besides.

According to the Midrash, Lilith was born at the same time as Adam, from the same clay and dust as Adam, both in the image of G.d. They were equal in every way.

But, as in contemporary relationships, difficulties in communication arose at times. There came a time when Adam disputed Lilith’s equality with him. Adam wanted Lilith to be subservient to him.

This infuriated Lilith. She was very angry indeed. She begged G.d to help her make Adam see reason but G.d also did not hear her plea. So hurt and angry was Lilith at this further rejection that she blasphemed against G.d and, because of Lilith’s blasphemy, G.d banished to her to the depths of the Red Sea to never be seen or heard of again.

We all know only too well that when something very upsetting happens in relationships, we  hope that by not paying any attention to the distressing incident that it will just go away. But it is never like that in real life – anything that is dismissed, rejected, exiled or swept under the carpet in the hopes that it will never arise again, always does arise again, in different shape or form.

Lilith spent a very long time in the depths of the Red Sea biding her time for her return. She chose her moment to return when Eve was languishing under the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. Lilith appeared to Eve in disguise as the serpent, and offered Eve the apple, which Eve accepted, bit into, chewed and swallowed.

We know that G.d found them hiding and banished them both from the Garden. And we know that Adam blamed Eve and Eve blamed the serpent. We know too that women have forever more been blamed for their fall from Paradise.

Another way of looking at this psychologically, is to acknowledge that Adam and Eve HAD to leave the Garden and make their way in the real world, albeit one of duality. From pleasure to pain; from life to death; from divinity to mortality; from G.d’s grace to alienation, perhaps at some later stage to return to the One-ness of Paradise.

Many scholars see the necessity of Adam and Eve leaving Paradise and this is not viewed as a ‘Fall’ from Paradise. It is rather seen as a way forward to consciousness.

Sometimes injunctions (many time patriarchal injunctions) have to be disobeyed for psychological well-being or consciousness. G.d I think, was not enraged at Adam and Eve for disobeying his command not to eat the forbidden fruit. Rather, He was appalled that each blamed the other and did not own up to their ‘misdeed’. Each blamed the other – something that continues to reverberate in today’s world. I think this is why He banished them from The Garden of Eden: to learn what ‘the knowledge of good and evil’ really means. And that the choices that they made henceforth in a new uncharted world, would have consequences. He knew He had to let His children go at some stage as we all know as parents that our children must leave hearth and home, hopefully with sound values instilled in them.

Adam and Eve had to learn the distinction between ‘good’ and ‘evil’ in the new world they were now thrust into. Hopefully they would make wise choices when called upon to do so, foreseeing consequences and unintended consequences. Psychological consciousness is required for this. Being true to ourselves is the first step.

* Midrash*: Exposition of the Bible…mostly dating from the early Middle Ages, and they are a valuable source for the religious ideas of the Jews of the time. The Talmuds also contain a great deal of Midrash.

 

reflections on return …

Monday 18th June, 2012.

Two people recently asked me ‘what was the highlight of your trip to Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia?’

Well, I had never thought in those terms and I am not sure that I can. But of course, some experiences do stand out, of which I will write more at some stage.

I think that overall, being exposed to different cultures, was an eye-opener. Here, in South Africa, as a white, professional, middle class individual, I am used to relative comfort. All my life I have had a roof over my head; both parents present (even though our family was the usual or ‘normal’ dysfunctional one); 3 meals a day; delivered to and fetched from school daily, taken by my mother to e.g. ballet classes, sports events. As a married woman and mother to two adult sons, my life is, on the surface, materially comfortable and pleasant. I have had the privilege of a university education and now in my ‘later years’  continue to have the means to travel and live in comfort. I assist my husband in his medical practice and get paid for it. I continue to study and write. I employ a housekeeper who has been with me for the last 30 years. I have had my share of sadness and unhappiness and I have no clue whether more ‘trials’ will come my way. I know that most of us face trials and tribulations along the way, irrespective of economic standing.

What does a life of privilege really mean? I understand for me that it means giving back when and where I can and I try to fulfill this duty or obligation in the way I best can.

What does this have to do with my ‘reflections on return’?

If I think back to our recent travels in Asia and our witnessing every day living on the streets, I was struck by the level of comfort or otherwise experienced by the people. I couldn’t help but wonder if I could live in such conditions. This was more so in Laos where the poverty levels seemed high as evidenced by grimy streets; tiny, grubby little shops; communal eating in front of shops which doubled as homes if I peeked in. What does it mean, if anything, being born when and where I was, at that time?

If my fortunes changed overnight and I was left without a roof over my head and was living hand to mouth, would I survive, coming from a life of relative privilege as I have? But more importantly I think, is my question: what would be my world view if I had been born into less prosperous and crippling conditions (according to my world view)? Would I be strong spirited as one reads of others who have surmounted enormous challenges? What does it take to rise above one’s circumstances? Would one want to if the family was loving and kind and the community was supportive?

I think back to that time when Susan and I walked to a ‘restaurant’  from our hotel in Hanoi where locals were eating (we were the only women and the men were extremely surprised to see us there) and made known to the smiling dwarf who was assisting us, that we wanted vegetables, and then the rain came down – in buckets. How sweet he was in wanting to protect us from the rain. How loving and kind have been all our interactions with all that we met. How wonderful it would be if there was more of that sentiment in the world! Maybe that’s all we really need …

 

 

Cambodia, and return…

It’s always lovely to be home … All is well here, my husband is well and pleased that I am home … he says he missed me so that is nice. The cats are fine and all seems to have proceeded apace in my absence – perhaps this recent adventure of almost 3 weeks could be a sort of a ‘trial run’ for future adventures though I won’t mention this to my husband. It will make him nervous … perhaps he’ll come along next time.

Neil is chillie’d out, ginger and garlicked out, onion and vegetable’d out and almost noodled out since my return… a nice way to eat. Though I think he is hoping for a change of ‘menu’….

This is my first opportunity since arriving home to put pen to paper so to speak. It is a task that needs completion and I have returned after all.

I know that I am yet to fully process this trip in a psychological sense. I know too that I process things after the event, which is not to say that I do not experience them in the moment. But I am a ‘late processor’ whatever that means.

I would love to maybe write/blog more at a later stage about the travels and  maybe introduce a philosophical or psychological slant to it all; and perhaps a photograph or two if/when I learn how to make camera computer friendly. I can click through my camera and view them. I purchased it in Hanoi. Dinky little Nikon with an extendable lens .. My own digital camera! And I can mostly use it! Though I still managed to switch it off instead of pressing button to take the picture….

The traffic in the cities – Hanoi in the north of Vietnam and Ho Chi Minh (Saigon) was absurd. Mad, wild, yet there was an order to it. Crossing the streets – I kept my eyes closed mostly peeking only every now and then in getting across. I am not exaggerating. Motor cycles in their thousands on every street, dashing in and dashing out. A sight to behold. It is really very remarkable and part of the ‘trick’ is, I think, that no-one rushes on their motor cycles. Leisurely pace …faces of men, women and young adults are friendly, relaxed, open and the riders often have passengers, even babies, in front of them and maybe someone else behind. Many with masks around the lower half their faces. There was order in the chaos and this was remarkable to me, and to Susan. Susan was extremely able in crossing. She related the story a friend of her’s told her recently on her return to Phoenix, Az. Her friend said that when she and her husband were in those SE Asian cities some while back, she and her husband would take a TAXI to get from one side of the road to the opposite one when in the cities!

Things were quieter traffic wise in Cambodia though just as hot and humid.

The Killing Fields just outside Pnomh Penh in Cambodia was a very emotional experience. Each visitor is given a set of head phones and one walks at one’s own pace on this audio tour of this dreadful time in the history of Cambodia (earlier known as Kampuchea) under the brutal reign of Pol Pot, beginning 1975. Prior to this, he led the Khmer Rouge …the communist party of Kampuchea. The Khmer Rouge engaged in social engineering, which resulted in genocide. Between 1.75 and 2 million people or more by some estimates are said to have lost their lives, through brutal execution at The Killing Fields, or through starvation, exhaustion and disease. There were memorial stupas with skulls reverently and horrifically on display on this self-audio tour among beautiful trees, plants, flowers, a river, bird song, butterflies. The audio tour was very professionally done, the speaker was sensitive and empathic, a beautiful piece of music was played in honor of the dead. The were benches here and there to sit on and look out on the lakes and listen to the haunting music or listen to the commentary. And also through the earphones was the sound of valedictory singing and marching songs to drown out the yells and screams of those being tortured to death. It was not so long ago …

From Pnomh Penh we bussed to Siem Reap a 6 hour drive away, to see Angkor Wat the next morning. It was extraordinary country, lush, green, homes close to the road. When we finally arrived, we were taken to our hotel from the bus station by Kieng in a tuc tuc who fetched us the next morning to take us to Angkor Wat and the temples. They were beyond magnificent, grand and awesome in scale. I would love to attach some photographs at some stage and write a little more about them. We walked in the humid heat, down passages, into atriums, bowed at Shiva and Buddha, lit incense, said prayers. Keing fetched us at various intervals in the tuc tuc to go to to more temples … altogether an experience and a half.

This blog is already much longer than I wanted and I don’t think I have done it justice. Susan and I did well together – we were good together. We wondered whether in part because we are each rather odd in our way. I think this is true! I know I was blessed to have her as a travelling companion – a true friend indeed who was able to flow with my peculiarities. Susan had to leave a day earlier to return to the States, which worked out well. My last night was spent quietly, re-packing and having an early night before getting to Siem Reap airport the next morning to catch a flight to Bangkok and then back to Johannesburg MANY hours later …

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cambodia

It’s Monday night 28 May. We are in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, arrived ex Saigon or Ho Chi Minh City as it is also known (HCMC) this evening. We walked the busy streets this evening here in PP in search of local food which we found. How to try to distil these last few days into a few words without writing a travelogue?

HCMC … Yesterday .. The Cu Chi tunnels .. An extraordinary maze of tunnels – 250 kms long – built initially in 1948 by the erstwhile peaceful villagers of Cu Chi to fight back and protect themselves from the invasion of the French and then the Americans in the Indo-China conflict. We stopped in at a cemetery called the City of Sorrows where 50,000 Viet Congs are buried, those who lost their lives in this appalling conflict. The cemeteries are beautifully maintained in all parts of Laos and Vietnam. The dead are truly honored. From the Cu Chi tunnels we stopped in at beautiful temple where the religions of Catholicism, Confucianism and Buddhism are blended in the wish to take from each its best and thus to have the perfect religion. We witnessed a service in progress. We lunched, just Susan and I at a local family’s home where we we served the most delicious meal by the most gracious people. Poor, yet all clean and spotless, flowers in pots, chickens running around.

What is it about traveling to unknown places and not going on organized tours and rather finding out about different cultures in our own way and time? What do we hope to achieve by doing this in our rather unorthodox way? We wonder how much we are influenced by our western cultures and how much propaganda we are fed by our own? How important it is, we are coming to realize, to broaden our world view and to see the world through different lenses and not remain trapped in our comfort zones.

we visited the Re-Unification Palace this morning in HCMC. This was North Vietnam and South Vietnam negotiating an end to the conflict between the two regions and was begun in 1975. After we had walked around the Palace we asked two young women at the information kiosk how it was for them that north and south Vietnm was now united? What was interesting is that they said they they look only forward. Evidently they were not a part of the conflict. Susan and I discussed this and thought how true this is that the young lead the way forward and the elders seem to hold on to the past. The past is never to be forgotten since it does to a significant extent determine the future; but how refreshing it was to hear these young women looking forward to the future. I can’t help but think of South Africa and be hopeful that the youth will lead the way for a better future for all….

Phomn Phen … A very poor city is our first impression of walking the streets this evening. We are anxious about visiting the killing fields of the Khmer Rouge tomorrow …. Pol Pot.

 

 

 

World, a part

We arrived in Hanoi, Vietnam last night. It is blessedly cooler after the heat and humidity of Luang Prabang Laos, and Chiang Mai, northern Thailand. So far so good. Susan and I have walked the streets, eaten where the locals eat and put unknown sauces onto unknown food which has been so delicious, very inexpensIve and nutritious.

We have bused to temples, walked three times around the Buddha while saying the Buddhist prayers. We’ve boated on the Mekong and stopped in at villages along the way. We’ve walked up 328 steps to see another glowing Buddha and made our obeisances to him. We’ve made purchases of beautiful hand made or hand woven goods at a small cost to ourselves in the bustling markets which the locals frequent. We have seen snakes in oil in glass bottles, tiny birds in tiny cages which for a fee you can buy and set free.

Susan and I have talked at length about the people we’ve observed and interacted with. We’ve wondered about the eastern attitude in relation to our western one. We wonder about their way of being in the world, and our western way of being in the world. I feel we can learn much from them. They seem rooted in their culture, so warm and friendly with ready smiles and willing to help where they can.

We wondered whether there is the same striving for economic wealth and material goods that we westerners have. In Luang Prebang,  Laos, now a UNESCO world heritage site since 1995, people have welcomed the economic advantages that this has brought to the country. Do they yearn for a higher standard of living such as we are used to? What may be sacrificed?

we are going to explore Hanoi today. We walk  a lot taking in the sights and sounds.

Later… I am not sure this got posted. So will re try.

 

 

eve of departure

Sunday 13 May, 2012.

Just gone 1.30 p.m. …Neil has gone to do some shopping and thereafter to chip a few balls at the golf course which suits me well as I prepare rather haphazardly to pack and be organised for leaving for destination unknown tomorrow morning. Still some bills to pay electronically and a few other things to check and tick off –

I pack light – I have the tiniest pouch for a handbag that will contain my credit card, some local currency to change at the airport either here or there, a lipstick or two, a small dainty mirror from Paris which my son Mike brought back for me recently on his European travels, my cell phone, my ID book, a tiny moleskin notebook & pen, a few toothpicks. I will also carry a small and neat backpack which will carry my Kindle, a book, and my travel documents and room enough I hope to stuff my sleeveless jacket into if it is too hot on arrival in Bangkok where last I heard 2 weeks ago that the temperature was at 37 degrees celsius. I am still to check my itinerary but perhaps I can do that on the plane. Actually I am still to double check my departure time …

My luggage is small enough for me to carry on the plane as hand luggage. It is an extra light bag which weighs only 2.3kg. It has wheels and handles …

It all still seems rather unreal to me … Susan and I will be skyping at 4 my time here in Johannesburg, South Africa this afternoon; her time in Phoenix Az will be 7.00 a.m. One more sleep for each of us and then we each set off to meet up in Bangkok on Tuesday …

I am not sure how I feel – in a sense I am on auto-pilot. I think I am organised. It was not nice however waking up in the early hours this morning with a toothache and realising that I have a slightly wobbly crown which is what is causing the toothache. Will I have the courage to phone my dentist this evening and ask him if he would see me very early tomorrow morning? I don’t even know if he is in town .. Once before when I was visiting my sister in Cape Town I had an excruciating tooth ache which required antibiotics. I do NOT want to go through that again in ‘other countries’ – I do have an antibiotic on hand if I need it but I have nearly choked to death before on those bombs … which makes me think that if I need to see a dentist in Thailand, or Vietnam, Laos or Cambodia then so be it ..

Can anything go wrong at this stage? Besides my tooth? I will be re-assured when Davey my younger son lets me know that he has returned safely to Cape Town, from playing a gig in Plettenberg Bay on Friday night. He is on the road as I write. The trip is about 550 kms.

I was watering my garden yesterday afternoon and wondering how it would look on my return. Is there is enough compost, acid compost and potting soil bought by me a few days ago to keep the gardeners busy? I wondered whether this would be the last time I would ever see my garden … morbid silly thoughts but those are the thoughts that I sometimes have – I do not dwell on them but they do enter my mind.

Will I manage without my laptop? Should I take my cell phone and buy a chip for it in those foreign countries so that I can sms the family and let them know that I am alright?  How will it be in a foreign country? What if .. what if .. what if … but there comes a time when I say to myself amongst my usual angst, to take it as it comes, take it as it comes and hope that Providence will be on my side and the future awaits!  May the future be bright for you!

 

The Psychology of Creativity.

Sunday evening.

I was watering my garden this evening and looking at ‘creation’. It was in front of my eyes. The green grass, the plants, the late afternoon sky, holding a hose in my hand and walking along watering the newly planted winter plants. Then I thought, we, I am a creation. So that was a bit of an ‘aha’ moment for me. Creation-creativity. I knew too that it was my intention to write a blog tonight, latest tomorrow, so I thought I would write about it now and strike while the iron was hot.

For the last few weeks I have been following a debate in LinkedIn via my WordPress account and adding my tuppence worth commenting back every now and then in the comments section. The debate on ‘nature vs nurture and can creativity be learned or is it innate?’ has continued in a lively fashion via LinkedIn. The debate has broadened considerably. Some of the comments have at times seemed a bit ‘dry’ to me (especially in the early stages when it was highly academic but nevertheless informative), but most of the time I’ve found the comments to very thoughtful, insightful and informative. Others have evidently put a lot of time and effort into adding their very worthwhile comments. Many professionals in different fields have added their voice. I found many of the comments – some of them very detailed – particularly interesting and I am grateful to those who have entered the debate for their expertise and knowledge (mostly men so far interestingly …). Creativity in this debate is acknow ledged in all fields of endeavour whether it be the sciences, nature or business – just think of Apple.

I thought back to some recents comments posted on this above mentioned ‘debate’ while walking along with the hose on my hand, watering. There were some lovely ones – a father evidently, who wrote inter alia of watching a babe on the ground explore with all its senses – a lovely image. Someone else commented on Leonardo and Michelangelo and the different other talents these artists also had and how these talents were employed in their creations e.g. their knowledge of anatomy, astronomy. Much else besides ..

For the purposes of this blog I am going to write a bit about creativity and how I see it pertaining to me.

We had breakfast mid-morning at a new place up the road. Sons Mike and Dave, husband Neil and myself. A lovely, bright, sunny, warm autumn highveld day. A lovely occasion to be with our sons, prior to their departure this afternoon to Sun City, to attend the SAMA awards held over two nights (South African Music Association). Mike is one of five who has been nominated in the video section. He is responsible for the latest GoldFish video.

Mike arrived last evening from Europe where he’s been for the last 3 weeks. At breakfast this morning he showed us photographs and videos on his smart phone taken on his recent trip, tout sole. There were many works of art in various museums he visited. He took photographs outside too – musicians busking inter alia – one of a man who had champagne glasses lined up with coloured liquid in them, and wet his fingers and made the glasses ring and sing. One indoor photograph was of the actual passage on his floor at one of his hotels .. an extremely striking photograph and one I may appropriate for the cover of my next book. I already said to him this morning, I wondered whether that picture could be stretched onto a canvas somehow. Mike’s eye in capturing that particular passage was a work of art; so too is the smart phone that he used in its aiding of the capture; art too, in the passage just being there. Mike does say that it reminds him of the film “The Shining” – I think it was in it s way quite scary, but very beautiful to my eye.

He showed photographs of statues from 2000 years ago that still seemed ‘alive’ even in the photographs on his smart phone – in that their patina seemed to glow. He showed photographs of paintings and said how the artists used glazing in between every layer of paint and that this made the painting seem almost 3D. He showed photographs of art works hanging from the ceiling; a video of people or a person moving as an art work; Robert Crumbs’ work … much much else besides .. sculptures from a long time ago and more recent works. He showed a beautiful creation hanging from the ceiling on very thin wires, attached to which were objects, fashioned by tin foil (I might try something along those lines – play with tin foil).

There was a dramatic one of HUGE condoms filled with different coloured liquids hanging from the ceiling. Such imagination in all that I saw. I was reminded of a person’s recent comment on LinkedIn that the word ‘imagination’ is what it says it is – image innate. I thanked him for that via LinkedIn, because this is precisely what it is. And so clever too – innate image – of particular interest to me and my psychological bent (Jungian).

Well, it is not my intention to give a blow by blow breakdown of his many photographs and videos (besides which, he and his smart phone are now not here); I was struck by HIS experience and I had the pleasure of this and also, significantly, to have personally experienced art in many media albeit vicariously. I felt something pricking in me – it was an interesting feeling. I don’t know what to call it … an aliveness maybe, or a pricking of curiousity. And whenever curiousity is pricked or piqued, this is a bit of a wake-up call for the creative process to begin to manifest. I also thought of the long history of Europe and elsewhere and its artists … and of how it is valued. There is an awakening of creativity here in South Africa manifesting in so many ways … this too needs to be valued. It is I believe.

I read an article in the Business Section of the Sunday Times today in which the art therapist explained the value of using art as a form of therapy. She explained how this art form has no particular structure – the therapist observes whatever medium the person chooses and that person creates whatever their own inner process is. They may destroy their ‘creation’ thereafter – that too is significant. Materials are provided for the person to choose to use in whatever way. But something creative begins, no matter how haltingly or hesitatingly.

I know how hard it is for me to get the creative juices going. Especially when I have experienced a long drought which seems never-ending and is perfectly horrible and depressing. I like the quote by Oscar Wilde: ‘I spent the morning putting a comma in, and the afternoon taking it out’. But I think I feel the creative juices stirring –

This is much more else that I could say – but I am getting beyond myself already. Do comment if you wish – you should be able to hit the blue blog address below.

I should also mention that the LinkedIn debate is ongoing under the title of “The Psychology of Creativity”.

Susan Scott

The Black Madonna

Monday 23rd April 2012

We’re a small group of 4 women, Carly, Monika, Margaret and myself who meet (mostly) every alternate Saturday afternoon to study the Black Madonna. We started on ‘The Black Madonna’ by Fred Gustafson on the 8th Jan this year. We read from the book and discuss what we have read. Prior to starting this, we last year had read and studied ‘The Mystery of the Coniunctio: Alchemical Image of Individuation’ by Edward F. Edinger – a now deceased American Jungian Analyst. Rich pickings indeed. Inter alia, the significance of the opposites was much highlighted by using alchemical symbology – the philosopher’s task in extracting gold from base metal.

We decided on ‘The Black Madonna’ for various reasons. Monika has been interested in Lilith for many years. Her many paintings and etchings are about Lilith and her darkness and her relevance for today’s woman in that she represents the Dark Feminine, that aspect of ourselves with which we need to be in touch for individual and collective healing. Many of her paintings are large scale and very powerful oils showing Lilith’s darkness and all her attendant serpents with an understanding of the symbol of the serpent. I have written about Lilith and she is close to my heart. For Carly and Margaret, Lilith exerts her fascination. We thought we would start with the Black Madonna and try to determine her spiritual significance for us today and to see if we could link Lilith and the Black Madonna and learn more about the dark feminine.

There are indeed links … firstly, they are both archetypal figures, yet not that much is known about them. As some of you may know, Lilith, according to the Midrash, was the first wife of Adam in the Garden of Eden, who was expelled for her refusal to submit or be obedient to Adam. She does arise again (as the serpent) and presents her sister Eve with the apple which Eve took – and we know the consequences of that. But a positive and real way of viewing that is that she and Adam, though forced out of the Garden for their transgression, moved from unconsciousness towards consciousness into the real world, albeit one of duality, choice and free will. Heavy but necessary responsibilities.

Ean Begg, in his book, The Cult of the Black Virgin, finds that there about 400 Black Madonnas around the world and writes about the thousands of pilgrims who visit her shrine in Einsiedeln, Switzerland. These pilgrims find that their souls are in some way touched. To quote from Gustafson’s book in the introduction ‘…by an aspect of the feminine embodied by her yet not normally acknowledged. This darker aspect of the feminine has throughout history been both feared and sought after, both hated and admired…that seem to imagistically express their dark side of the feminine in a creative transformational manner for both the individual and the collective’.

I write about the dark feminine in my essay on Lilith in my book and the necessity of being in touch with those aspects for our wholeness, never wholly achieved perhaps; but each little bit of understanding of the dark feminine within each of us, man and woman, brings us closer to wholeness and healing, individually and collectively. The Black Madonna has her counterpart in Kali of India, Isis of Egypt, the Greek goddesses eg Artemis, Aphrodite, Demeter and Persephone and many others. These matriarchal myths had Mother Nature as their Supreme Goddess, and were replaced by worship of the monotheistic sun god Apollo who assumed ascent as the matriarchal goddesses began their descent.

The dark aspect of the Mother archetype needs recognition and integration – her light and dark polarities, her wildness and her conformity, her saint and sinner aspects, her giving and taking, the nurturing and the murderous aspects of her, her manic and depressive sides … For too long now we have been too one-sided about living … the forest and its darkness, the wilderness and all its shadows need exploring …

I could write more but this is enough for now.

to write a blog today

Thursday 19th April

As someone said the other day, April is one of those months that seems to be neither one thing nor the other. I am trying to recall the exact words but I can’t remember what that person said. So I am just trying to get the sense of those words.

Yes, April is a rather ‘strange’ month. Here in the southern hemisphere it is a harbinger of winter. The autumn leaves are all over; some of the colours of the trees are rather lovely. The trees though are slowly starting to look a bit bare. My garden looks a bit tired, though there is still some colour in the flowers and the grass is still green. . Some of the flowers in the pot plants look a bit straggly. My Monday gardener Lowan (a Malawian) wants me to get 600 primulas for April planting and plenty compost. I am glad he reminded me .. as he said to me this past Monday, I will have to ask my bank manager for a loan. I always say to Lowan when he requests new plants, that I will have to ask my bank manager for a loan – it is always a costly exercise. I am not really glad he reminded me – because of the money outlay – but if I think about it, when I get back from Vietnam in early June, they will probably be flowering and a delight to the eye. So – I mustn’t complain.

The MNINB challenge is really quite something. I veer between hope and despair. Hope in that I can do some of the daily challenges, despair in that I am so green about so much. Hash tags?? But Robert Lee Brewer is evidently a kind and patient man and encouraging in every challenge. The comments made by those who meet the challenges and by those who don’t are always interesting and helpful.

Some other thoughts on April .. the month after March which held the equinox – seasons start to tip in the other direction. April is for me also the month before I set off for travels and the speed at which this month is going by, it will be here before I know it. Arrive back in Johannesburg in June which will mean that we are advancing towards the longest night and shortest day. And then 6 months of the year will be over…

So, mission accomplished. The blog for today done. But how to post it so that others doing it can see? Shall I twitter? FB? FB I am still a bit anxious about … I read something about pininterest today and it seems that using this may well infringe on privacy rights.

psychological comments on yesterday’s art circle

I attended art circle at Monika’s lovely home yesterday morning. It has been a long time since I last attended; sometime last year. It was so nice to re-meet the others and to meet Marita for the first time. Many of them are serious artists with their MA’s in Fine Art and continue to create on an ongoing basis. Monika herself is a most acclaimed and revered artist; she uses her dreams as her source of inspiration. She inspires us with her wise comments when works on display are criticized; others also comment and for me it always enlivening to come away from these meetings feeling and believing that I ‘saw’ more than I saw before in these works, or connected a bit better with others’ representations and I felt a little more in touch with my own inner processes. Valuable time indeed!All the works that were on display touched me on the level of psyche and it is this that I want to blog about today. The art works were representative of archetypal themes (The Great Mother inter a lia). > > > > > > Marita explained that she is attending an animation course and that she is a 60 yr old among 20-ish yr old students and the leader of the course is no more than 24 yrs old. > > > She photo-shopped a drawing that she did on a tablet (an unfamiliar term to a few of us). The painting she put up on the lectern showed a winged (wings of a bird) woman with claw like feet, and a lion. She said that some years ago she was at The British Museum and saw a Sumerian tablet that was about 5000 years old. It depicted the descent of Inanna into the underworld (or the Nether World) to meet her twin sister Ereshkigal down down down at the very bottom of this harrowing journey. Innana withdrew a piece of clothing at each gateway so that by the time she has descended to the ‘end’ (the 7th gate) she was naked, turned into a corpse and was hung upon a stake. She said that she knew that one day she would attempt to make her own art work about this as it spoke to her.This spoke to me too in that the symbolism is powerful and struck a chord in me – that descent into the underworld not knowing where it will lead. Innana contains all the opposites within her – vengeful and gener ous; love and rage; Sometimes one has to sacrifice one’s self in order to emerge from one’s own darkness. This myth is a great one – and is worthy of study. > > > > > > Marguerite’s painting of water based oils (I didn’t know there was such a something) on a large canvas, was fascinating. It showed feet descending from the top slightly towards the right hand side and touching a curve, which brought to my mind the feet of G.d touching the earth – heaven meeting the earth. For me it was very powerful. In the middle of the curvature were a pair of eyes – or so it seemed to me. Towards the bottom right hand side was the face of a woman with frog like eyes. Marguerite explained that in the Koi tradition frogs have a particular meaning and we discussed the symbolism of the frog. Many images came to my mind – eg the tadpole becoming a frog, like the butterfly emerging from its cocoon, fertility. There was also a hand emerging from the bottom right hand side that touched the centre of the earth which I liked so much … making real contact. On the left hand taking up about a third of the painting was a nude woman with her hands on her hips. I liked th is painting so much as it showed for me feminine strength in amongst the light and dark shadows. > > > > > > Anita’s lovely composition of shells, twigs, forest, stone, dark and light paint and the outline of a woman with an arm raised it seemed to me in a hailing gesture illustrated the shadow tracking the shadow-a very powerful psychological concept. Her eyes werebarely discernible but they were there – watchful, perhaps apprehensive. We had a good discussion about this. It brought home to me the shadow that we each contain within us, with which we need to become familiar if we are to become more whole, in the knowing of our darkness. The shadow tracking the shadow I thought was extremely clever and insightful. > > > > > > Diana’s models of rhino horns – there were 4 of them made from different substances, and were life size. The destruction of the rhino is very close to her heart as has been evidenced in paintings of hers I have seen in the past. They have been vivid, disturbing large scale pieces. These rhino horn facsimiles seen yesterday were works of art, made as they were from iron, glass, wool – and I forget what the 4th one was made from. She also presented two oil canvases of beetroot – those vivid colours with stems apparent. If I think back on these 2 canvases, the blood of the beetroot is synonymous with the bleeding agony of the rhino. > > > > Lastly, I believe that Edvard Munch’s ‘The Scream’ was recently on auction somewhere … I caught a quick glimpse of a clip on TV. But the curator at the art gallery said how this painting spoke to the existential crisis of man and for him personally, when the sky became blood red as he was walking along, he felt inexplicably tired and anguished. I will look this up in due course, but my seeing this on TV as I did just recently, seemed synchronous with my own experience at ‘art circle’. > > > > Thank you to all at art circle .. > > > > My damp newspaper is still in process … I do not know quite what I will fashion with it. I will bring it along next time.

the unconscious agreement with mediocrity

Saturday 14th April 2012.

I came home a few hours ago after attending Monika’s art circle at her home in Bryanston, my first attendance in a long while. It was so nice to see old friends and meet a new person. It was altogether lively and lovely, discussing inter alia a few art works that were presented by those who had brought their art works for criticism. I may comment later on a different and separate blog on those art works and what they expressed – for me – but for the moment just to say that the artworks were mostly to do with the descent into the unconscious; re-claiming the feminine; acknowledging the shadow, inter alia. I felt much enlivened when I left around midday.

When home, I had the pleasure of listening to a 9 minute audio on my computer by Michael Bernard Beckwith on ‘Breaking the Arrangement with Mediocrity’, courtesy of ‘Sounds True’ to which I subscribe. It was a wake-up call for me, speaking as he does about the status quo and how many of us get caught in it – I felt as if he was speaking to me. So I am blogging about this, this afternoon – do comment if you wish.

Mediocrity is like an insidious poison; it creeps silently like a snake in the night into one’s soul. Slowly, the status quo takes up permanent residence; my brain gets dulled; I feel enfeebled; I care less; I feel indifferent … I feel so stuck in this mediocrity and I have to wonder what my fear is towards getting out of it. That feeling of being stuck in the status quo is a feeling that I have experienced before (and written about) in my life – it is simply awful. I know that this is when I feel I have not a single creative spark in me. I feel deadened, dull, unable to move physically, mentally, emotionally or spiritually, in an agony of impotence, fearful of making the first step towards getting myself out of the quagmire. I feel as if I have struck a bargain with the Devil no less when I try to put those dismal thoughts aside and reach out for some comfort usually by way of food .. it is all so unconscious and I am so often quite unwilling to confront this in an honest way.

As Michael Bernard Beckwith says and as I see as valid and true, there is a collective tendency to mediocrity, evidenced in society on many levels. If I look at the ‘Shorter OED on Historical Principles’ definition of ‘mediocrity’, it says, inter alia (point 5) ‘the quality or condition of being mediocre. Now chiefly disparaging. 1588’. The word ‘mediocre’ is defined inter alia as ‘of middle height’ … ‘of middling quality, neither good nor bad; indifferent’. Carlyle is quoted: ‘It is thus that mediocre people seek to lower great men’.

This tendency of our society towards mediocrity has been punted before in the press and on the radio. We have a few lively independent radio and TV stations as well as the press – at the moment. It is always refreshing to realise that there is awareness of mediocrity in many levels of society; but awareness is one thing and action is another. We actually do put up with poor service, poor delivery, unsatisfying relationships, uncreative lives, ‘living small lives in our sheltered and comfortable boxes’ to paraphrase Michael Bernard Beckwith. It is almost a conspiracy to keep things stuck in the status quo – don’t rock my boat and I won’t rock yours. If you do, you will be alienated in some subtle way.

He contrasts this with the impulse towards the evolution and unfolding of our souls, the impulse towards excellence and our ‘…conscious participation in the evolutionary impulse that governs all creation’. And it is on this hopeful note that I want to end. Doing something ‘out of the box’ is a great step in moving away from from mediocrity and towards that spark of creativity within ourselves, which yearns for ever unfolding and boundless expression.

On my side, I have placed torn strips of old newspapers into a large bowl, dampened thoroughly with water – and I plan to make something out of this. I am not quite sure what .. I think I will have to make a flour paste or something and let the newspapers and goo harden – and then just see where my fingers take me in fashioning something. It will be my attempt at striking a blow towards my inner tendency to mediocrity.

http://www.gardenofedenblog.com – my personal blog

MNINB

I have allocated the whole day today to catching up on the MNINB April challenge. It is extremely challenging – day 5 (I am still several days behind) requires that a posting be done to my blog today so I am doing that now. Day 4 required twitter account to be set up; that was done a little while ago with help of my son. Bob said in his Day 4 challenge to add ‘in comments below’ the twitter handle but I was not able to do that but I will use this blog post to add to this post. @susanscottsa

Pesach and Easter.

On Saturday 07 April 2012 at 4:16 PM, Susan Scott wrote:

> Sat 7th April 2012…. > > Pesach and Easter – both occur over the weekend of the full moon. At the Council of Nicea in 325 AD it was agreed that both would be linked to the full moon on or following the vernal equinox (in the northern hemisphere) and thus would fall on any Sunday between 22 March and 22 April. > > Chag Sameach to all of you – may it be a blessed time. And the same to all of you for Easter, may it be a blessed time. > > Just some thoughts from me about Easter and Pesach. I have undoubtedly bitten off more than I can chew but I do want to share a few things on this blog. > > Someone on the radio recently, took exception to people saying ‘Happy Easter’. That person said it was not a happy time because of Christ’s death. There was a brief discussion – this was not the topic of conversation on the radio – but the anchor did say that it was also a time of redemption and renewal. He captured this very well in a few words. > > Pesach or the Passover has a different focus to Easter. Pesach is what it says .. a Passover. > > Pesach is a time for ‘looking back to the going forward’, whereas Easter is inter alia a remembrance of Christ’s crucifixion and His resurrection. > > Pesach commemorates the Exodus (Greek : going out; second book of the Bible) of the Israelites from Egypt who up until then had lived as slaves since the time of Joseph. Four hundred years after the end of Genesis, Moses leads the children of Israel to the land which God promised on oath to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob. Moses and the Israelites had lived as slaves under the rule of Pharaoh and the Pharaoh refused to release them. God sends 10 plagues upon Egypt, the last of which was the slaying of the first born in any home. But, God told Moses, none of the Israelites would be killed – their homes would be passed-over. Pharaoh pleads with Moses to end the plagues and so lets the Israelites free. They flee their homes with unprepared and unleavened bread and also after slaying their lambs. The Pharaoh reneges on the deal and chases after the Israelites but Moses strikes the Red Sea which parts and the Pharaoh and his army are drowned > > And as Joseph requested on his death-bed: > > Moses took the bones of Joseph with him for Joseph had surely sworn to the children of Israel, saying: God will surely remember you, and you shall carry my bones away with you. > -Exodus 13:19 > > This amazing story tells of the birth of Moses and the parting of the Red Sea under Moses, and their arrival at Mt. Sinai where Moses received the Ten Commandments. There is much much more by way of narrative to this story but it is not my aim to re-tell it. On their journey from Egypt to Israel, their hardships are great and many. My aim is rather to focus a bit on what this annual and very religious time means at least in terms of my (probable) limited understanding; and also in a way that has nothing to do with my being Jewish or non-Jewish. I like to think back and wonder what it all means in terms of me, today; and indeed the relevance for all of us today. > > And indeed, it is curious is it not, that Easter and Pesach overlap … and for me it is, as I write this, a duty almost, to look briefly at the symbolism of these two events. > > Christ’s act of His descent into Hell after the crucifixion is the ultimate act of individuation. It is in preparation for His ascension into Heaven. The scriptures tell the story of Jesus and His life and they are beautiful beyond imagining. Every word, every setting, every moment is painfully poignant. They are also very challenging – to take in the words of the scriptures in a meaningful way, is to enter into the story and feel it. From all points of view, from every angle, I can’t help but see that the scriptures are very psychological indeed – they speak straight to the psyche. How can He not be celebrated, not least for sacrificing His own life that our sins be forgiven; but also for His unconditional love, His sympathy and empathy; His poetic justice; His showing us that the spirit alone is of value; His love for the sinner who repented … so for me the time of Easter is a remembrance of Jesus’ life and message. > > The Pesach means for me the end of slavery and finally reaching the Promised Land; it is a remembrance of the fulfilment of God’s promise that is joyfully celebrated. In terms of my world today, it is timely to remember freedom from slavery which can take many forms .. being a slave to lust, material wealth, being trapped in so many ways and looking to myself to try to discern where I am a slave or trapped in my complexes. Joy in the possibility of being free from all forms of slavery; pain in Christ’s death – yet also a fulfilment of God’s promise and joy in that too. > > Well, I think I have bitten off more than I can chew … both Moses and Jesus long dead but their message lives on. > > All best wishes, > > Susan

> Susan Scott > — > http://www.gardenofedenblog.com – my personal blog >

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