Thursday, January 28, 2010


I felt like pulling out one of my "orb" photos, sent by a friend who used the mask of White Tara in a performance a few years ago.

Many people believe that these round objects, which have begun appearing since the invention of digital photography, are of spirits or elemental intelligences. In all fairness, there are many who also believe they are specks of dust. Having encountered some pretty dramatic "spirit photos" of my own from a 2004 performance, I keep an open mind. Personally, I think that whatever they are, they seem to be attracted to positive energy and receptive hearts.

Here's a link to a Orb Movie - takes a while to download - by a dedicated collector. I also saw a movie at Lilydale in New York last year, called The Veil is Lifting.


" The Veil is Lifting" ( is the first full-length film that brings together scientists, spiritual teachers, and experts to explore the fascinating Orb phenomenon. The film consists mainly of lots of Orb photos interspersed with interviews with people who have studied them. Among them, Miceal Ledwith, of What the Bleep fame, who has taken over 100,000 Orb photos. It's a lovely film.

This photo was sent to me by a friend who shared a ritual in her home - you can see the orbs around the ritual implements.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Soul Cakes

"A soul, a soul, a soul cake,
please good mistress, a soul cake"

I woke up at 4 am singing this song, and wonder why it just keeps replaying in my head. 4 am is an honest, if dreary hour. So, if dreams and discovering oneself singing weird songs are postcards from the unconscious, I have to ask the morning - what's a "soul cake"? And as I get caffeinated, the answer pops into my mind: soul cakes are real nourishment. Food for the soul that is authentic, food that sustains the spirit, found in nature and often in solitude. Or, in company, from generosity and mirth, from genuine warmth that offers a place at the hearth and a plate at the table.

As I write this, I think of the contemporary word "authenticity", which I've been hearing a lot lately. Authenticity, like "natural", has become a buzz word, and any word that becomes a buzz word in our "brand" conscious, consumer culture bothers me. I'm a natural born contrary, so I feel obliged when encountering buzz words to find alternatives that are not used to sell glitzy workshops or "natural" cosmetics in expensive plastic jars that will take hundreds of years to biodegrade.

But what other word is there to apply? Integrity? Passion? Honesty? Not quite.....what is meant when people talk about "authenticity" is, I think, a truly curious and contemporary concept, something unique to the peculiar time we live in. It means something "real" to be found in the dark forest of cyberspace and Walmart. Something digestible in a chemical feast of processed foods. Something that is not pre-fab, plastic, virtual reality, "reality show". Something that does not keep replicating because an anonymous hand pushed a button somewhere.

The quest for this kind of "authenticity" is something that did not exist in the not-too-distant past.

As I pursue this idea of a kind of essential authenticity, I wonder where "it" can be found within my own human psyche. I cannot say this quality is ultimately found in what I believe. We place great value on belief and faith, and belief and faith provide a backbone with which to stand and take a stand. But from a pragmatic point of view, a belief system is a habitual system of thought that enables one to organize their world, collectively as well as individually. Belief systems are mutable. I don't think "authentic" has to do with ethics either, although living with integrity does. And I know "authenticity" can become entirely lost in the towering abstractions of ideas. I suspect being authentic isn't even about emotions - any one who has ever sat with aching legs doing Vipassana meditation knows that emotions come and go, as impermanent and conditional as the breath.

"The brain isn't just in our heads. The brain is the entire body, which includes the aura, the etheric networks that exist between us and all life. Whether we're talking about a forest or another person, the abstract/cognitive removes us from that experience of communion, the ability to sense what is going on. Abstractions become what is going on. We can objectify at the drop of a hat. We have no problem making an object of anyone or anything. "

Rafael Montanez Ortiz (in a 1989 interview with the author)
Children are authentic, because they respond to their environment directly. A child experiences, without any filters, the love of Mom and Dad, and the waves of familial pain, denial, and suffering as well. Every impression is left in the psyche of a child to form, like an onion, layers of personae. Taking the masks off later, if they no longer serve us as adults, if the maturation process demands it.......... that can be hard to do.

So, perhaps the "authentic" I'm trying to describe here ultimately has to do with instinct. I might define instinct as being in tune with a fundamental survive-able/thrive-able/alive-able force, along with every other living being on our living planet. The will to en-joy, to take in the life force and participate with it. As I write this, I remember stories of what Clarisa Pinkola Estes called "instinct injured women" in her famous book, "Women Who Run With the Wolves." As she pointed out, there are many, many life denying themes of sacrifice, masochism, and surrender of self that are handed out to women, mythologies and belief systems that are destructive to the fundamental will to live.

"Instinct injured" includes men, and the collective psyches of cultures as well. How else could we be evolving a world civilization that is reaching the point of unsustainablity? How else can we evolve philosophies and religions that reject the immanent sanctity of world as "illusion", that seek martyrdom or salvation in some imagined "paradise". How else can we evolve economic systems that are founded upon unrestricted consumption of resources and unrestrained growth? How else can we be, as John Steele wrote in his 1989 book Earthmind (with Paul Devereaux and David Kubrin) , "geomantic amnesiacs"?

I think, in seeking my own "soul cakes", deep nourishment, I seek something many others also seek, something that has to be reclaimed deep within the roots. An instinctual theology, if such an idea is not a paradox.

"Carl Jung, one of the founders of modern psychology and dream analysis, used to say that we all drink from the same source. To explain this concept, he developed a theory whose origin can be found in the work of the ancient alchemists, who named this source the “soul of the world” (Anima Mundi). According to this theory, we always try to be independent individuals, but part of our universal memory is the same."

Paulo Coelho, "Warrior of the Light"

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Avatar thoughts

Hollywood, Gaia, and the Shadow?

I saw the movie Avatar last night, and of course, walked out amazed by the state of the art technology and beautiful artistry displayed within this movie. The creation of the imaginary planet Pandora, with it's amazing attention to detail, including a whole botany of phosphorescent, glowing night plants, was fantastic. The colors and patterns of the life forms of "Pandora" were in harsh contrast to the grey machine world of the human invaders. From a mythic perspective, one hopes the "Pandora's box" unleashed within this film are actually the angels of a paradigm shift.

Having spent so much of my life learning about indigenous (and contemporary) Earth-based spirituality, shamanism, and myth, I loved the tribal forest people and their World Tree, their Axis Mundi. I also loved the inclusion of the idea that these people could "speak with the ancestors", and with Tewa, the collective being of their world. Gaia theory is invoked in this fantasy creation of an "indigenous people" who live in recognition and attunement to the universal organism of their planet. "All energy is borrowed" the hero learns, "and eventually you have to give it back".

They even had enough anthropological understanding to include the hunter who prays over the body of the fallen prey, offering thanks for the gift of its meat - this is, indeed, what native peoples universally did in both myth and in practice, recognizing and honoring that the animal has sacrificed its life to sustain the life of the tribe. Most Americans do not equate the hamburger they buy with an animal that has lost its life, let alone do they comprehend a spiritual system that respects the exchange of life force and energy that has taken place. What a wonderful concept to introduce to the young people who watched the movie.

Avatar also includes a Rambo, one-dimensional military commander, who is bound to destroy everything, being unable to "see" the value of the world around him other than a product to be exploited. We also learn that Earth has been devastated, "there's no green at home", and it's suggested that the invaders represent a culture that has long ago forgotten how to "see the green world". What the Navi "see" is a "green vision" of inter-connectedness, the "synapse between the trees" that Sigourney Weaver's character seeks to study.

As someone who once wrote a novel (with my former husband, Duncan Eagleson: The Song of Medusa ** about an ancient sibyl of Old Europe who could "talk with the Earth Goddess" by going into sacred underground caves, I especially loved the part where the blue people connected to "Tewa", the world soul or "the Mother", at their "tree of souls".

Great mythos here, re-invented and re-told by hugely ambitious storytellers.

Hollywood has been talking about the conflict between the technological/corporate/patriarchal/ paradigm and an emerging paradigm of a Gaian, wholistic consciousness for a long time. I've complained about the violence, vulgarity, and propaganda machine of Hollywood, but now offer applause as well. The not-so-independent film industry has been making the Shadow of our world visible for a while.

In the computer animated science fiction film of 2001 Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within the world was besieged by the ghosts of a planet destroyed by war; the protagonists desperately strive to heal the "Gaia - World Soul" of that world while trying to protect the "Gaia" of their own from another military commander. I think of the "heart of the elder elves", the tree city of Lothlorian in the Lord of the Rings trilogy. There the wise guardians of Middle Earth live in gigantic trees and confront a Dark Lord whose minions lay the world to waste. In the 80's Emerald Forest, an Amazon tribe steals away an American child to save him from the "Termite People" who are clear cutting the rain forests.

I actually had a Big Box Theatre revelation while recovering from this film extravaganza, and I'm somewhat at a loss to write about it. I'll try.

Viggo Mortensen is a brilliant actor, so I next visited The Road, currently showing. Here was another "road warrior" imagined future where society has broken down, and Mortensen's character travels with his son through a horrific world of rape and cannibalism. I reflected, leaving this truly grim film, on how this motif of a world survived only by the violent (and almost exclusively, violent men).........has occurred over and over and over, and offers a desperately nihilistic view of the human capacity for compassion and for cooperation.

"How I hate the scribblers, who only write of war,
and leave the true glory of the past all unsung."

......Robin Williamson
The patriarchal paradigm is based upon competition and hierarchy, and founded upon preoccupation with military might. This is our overwhelmingly predominant cultural mythos, reinforced again and again and again by endless variations on the same theme.

History is taught from the vantage point of wars fought and lost. Events like the development of art, philosophy, agriculture, religion, architecture, and medicine are almost noted as a sideline, secondary peripheral events that managed to occur between wars of conquest and defense, in spite of the rise and fall of empires. This view of history reflects an inability to see that the developments of creation and nurture, of peacemaking and trade, of sharing and cooperation, are more truly the true wealth and foundation of a civilization than the forces that destroy. Notions of violence are so universal that it is utterly underwritten in our cultural mythos. War is regarded as inevitable and even desirable: how else can one be a "warrior" without a war?

Even in the realm of new age spirituality I find myself struck with the popular idea of the "spiritual warrior". How about "spiritual peacemaker"? A teenage friend recently told me it was kind of a wimpy* sounding word. But why do we need to bring the concept of war even into the concept of creating peace?

Guns and swords are virtual talismens in our culture. We have a vast military complex in the United States, an atomic arsenal that is as terrible as any science fiction writer could have dreamed up. Even in the midst of economic meltdown and urgent news about climate change, our goverment continues to pour huge resources into a futile war. And although I grew up with the specter of nuclear annihilation, there is still no "Department of Peace" . Young people flood to careers in the military, careers that encourage enlistment with the ultimate idealism, pomp, and mythos of the noble warrior - yet, to the best of my knowledge, there are no specific career tracks for "peacemakers", "consensus makers", and "conflict resolvers".

Last March I stumbled serendipitously (and literally) into the dark vision of a movie (soon to be released) called "The Book of Eli". It was a synchronicity for me, because I went to Corrizozo, New Mexico, to visit a friend who was working on a forthcoming group show. As it turned out, the entire main street of little Corrizozo, N.M. had been rented, and made into a dark, post-apocalyptic movie set. Complete with ruined buildings and overturned buses, chain gangs of "slave" extras listlessly strode by, black smoke spewed from armored cars, and the sounds of snipers came from set windows. It was fun to watch the filming, and the detail was astounding.


The irony was that, after the movie was shot, the desolate veneer of the set was gradually peeled away by the crew, to reveal again the old street with its art galleries and studios. And when all was renewed in the spring light of April, my friends had their show, about the return of the Goddess, appropriately titled "The Return of the Mother". I like to think it was a good omen, that the dark future of war lords and slave masters, killing each other over (ultimate irony - the "book of Eli is the Bible)...........should be vanish like a film set or a dissolving water color, to reveal beneath the surface the bright hope of The Return of the Mother.

Now that is a living metaphor; what author Paulo Coelho calls "a sign"; I like to think it is a hope for the future.

* "Wimp" is an old English word that originally meant "young woman". "Wimpy" means cowardly, weak - there's a whole his-story of disrespect for the feminine right there, if you stop to think about it.


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Sunday, January 3, 2010

The "Power of the Now"

"Form is Empty" from "Prayers for the Dying" series (2008

"The word Personality is derived from the Latin persona, or mask. In ancient Greece the players in the sacred Mystery plays, which formed part of the Dionysiac Mysteries, always wore masks, which were conventional representations of the part they took. We can readily imagine the player, in the course of the play-cycle which formed part of the Mystery celebrations, assuming first one mask and then another as his parts changed with the play that was being performed. Thus we conceive of the immortal soul in the Mysteries; we think of it as assuming first one personality, persona, or mask, after another as it plays its allotted part in the successive Mystery plays which form the changing cycle of spiritual experience."...... Dion Fortune

 As the new decade and year emerges, and the knowledge of life's fragility and privilege is renewed with the sun rising over the familiar Catalina mountains of Tucson today............I feel like a good way to start the day is to thank everyone. For everything.

All the fellow travellers who have shared meals, thoughts, intersections, beds, battles, confidences, conflicts, delusions, divorces, betrayals, childish dreams and mature insights, ideas, shared creation, toys, personae, hopes, disappointments.........all the people who have, directly or indirectly, with good will or not, with profound concern or with utter indifference, from long acquaintance or as a nameless stranger, "resolved", "lost", forgiven or not, "connected" or "not connected"........all have my gratitude for graciously, for the Grace, of engaging me in the dance of life.

Back in Tucson, I have some difficult things to deal with, things I wish I could deny, but I'm finding strength in accepting the situation for what it is.

In a nutshell, my brother had a brain stem stoke over a year ago and is in a vegetative state in a nursing home, with no hope of any recovery. I do not have the power of attorney in this circumstance. Is he conscious? No one knows. I pray that he is not. I pray that he is not in his body, that he is somehow free on other planes of existence, that there are guides or angels or bodhisattvas helping him. I pray to what powers may be, I hope, but I don't know.

I would like to add here that (even though I personally have a "do not resuscitate" living will) I am not opposed to circumstances where life support is provided - obviously there are many unique circumstances where coma victims have recovered, and there are many people who are sustained by extensive life support who nevertheless lead conscious and meaningful lives. I define meaningful not by some cultural standard, but by the ability to experience some form of pleasure, and the ability to interact with the physical environment in some manner. But my brother, like the famous Karen Quinlan case, will never speak, or see, or touch, or taste, or interact with another person, or even breathe again. There are many people like him in that place, people who are artificially kept here by a technology that until very recently did not exist.

In the past people died more swiftly. There are many who would have died much earlier and did not (I'm one - I was a "blue baby"). Equally, death that is terminal and inevitable is now prolonged for months and even years, and occurs in impersonal institutions instead of within the family and community as it once did. I understand the ethical and even spiritual ambiguity here. And the truth is also that science, and ambiguous ethical issues, can now prolong the suffering of those who are dying immeasurably. I'm somewhat reluctant to make this entry, and yet, this is something that preoccupies much of my energy, something I do not know how to come to grips with, but must nevertheless find resources for.

So. Life is fragile. All we really have is the present moment. And some part of awareness has to step aside, even at the most challenging moments, and remember that it has to be savored. That's a choice and power one can develop. There's no great esoteric secret to it, no tantra or yogic discipline - just, reminding oneself of what the truth of our physical existence, here in the field of time, really is.

Then, I find, even if there are no solutions, there is always a rose, or a sunrise, a good cup of coffee, a warm pair of eyes, a idea for a painting, a sweet memory, a sudden insight, something, even everything, to be grateful for.