I feel how after a few days of decent sleep and not having to perform the usual professional and social personae I feel much more myself, and I can practically feel myself unfurling. I can feel body & spirit opening, allowing me to breathe, to flow, to align, to live, to shape body & self, & to bridge into the larger world, or at least local spiritual reality. I have often felt constrained and bottled up, but also smothered, silenced.
We have a non-verbal but communicative, kinetic quality to our being that is hard to describe textually (but perhaps can be described dramatically). It is not a matter of my deeper self not using words, for She does, & She does so masterfully. (That does not always bridge across into life here.) However, She also moves, lives, enacts, dances, gestures, sounds—and without that embodied aspect, I only have words. And words are not enough.
(That said, you can embed, enchant text and words to trigger an immersive imagined, alternative-attention, drama, enchantment & faërien drama. Those who are open and participatory can join in, or the lured can fall into that enchantment & watch. Insert your preferred analogy for how people fall into “entertainment,” social media, news, propaganda, etc., but also keep in mind the worlds people fall into that are far more empowering or emancipatory, as well as the false-ringing utopias and never-weres.)
Sometimes, you need time & space to sit, open, reflect. I have noted how I kept trying to distract & run from this process, this even momentary silencing. I am constantly spinning tales and singing songs and weaving cacophonies of glimmering gild and despairing dystopias and funhouse concrete prison mazes. The thing is, when I actually do stop and sit on the floor, or even just lie back and close my eyes to pause, to rest—not to sleep—it’s really quite fine. It’s great. I start to unfurl. I suspect that the “problem” is how I realize that this process involves opening myself and involves making myself vulnerable.
But I pause from playing other and others’ roles, and in doing so, I get the chance to feel who I am, ponder again how to perform myself, and I can find the depths of myself again: let my body let Her in/out again.
I wrote most of this yesterday before incidentally finding a couple of 2012 Scarlet Imprint “Summer of Love” lectures featuring Jake Stratton Kent (JSK) and Alkistis Dimech. I’m going to point to Dimech’s talk here, which offers an earlier version of her recent talk at Trans-States (that I talked about here), but embodied engagement and Sabbatic dance have been her good news to the world for a while.
So now as I write this post, her words are also on my mind—well, so are JSK’s, and they’re closer than a first glance might suggest.
As much as I’ve grown averse to the energy paradigm, and as much as the information paradigm is better but not there either, I’ve recognized that energy or “pranic” work has its place. I have no specific energy work system other than to say that it should entail mindful engagement with the breath, various levels of movement, and imagination.
Over the years, I’ve done the Middle Pillar Exercise, I’ve done various chakra visualizations, and so on. One of my challenges has been unfurling enough, opening enough, relaxing enough, to make this sort of thing work. Breath work has done well enough, and even just a deep, mindful breath can do much. Sometimes it’s also a matter of finding visualizations that work and keep working.
For example, I worked with Samuel Sagan’s Awakening the Third Eye for a bit, and I had fair success with it. While working with this text, I realized how often I would put a palm on my third-eye, and I realized I was effectively trying to block or otherwise having issues of some kind there (not enough network throughput, etc.). However, after a while with this system, I found myself feeling a bit scoured and raw, perhaps because I was doing entirely too much, too quickly, but.
All that said, for all the systems for etheric anatomy out there—and I am convinced that the spiritual has its embodiment, even if it’s something like ichor versus blood—I suppose I’ve also been learning how my body and my etheric anatomy work. In an embodied cosmology, in which we have bodies and spirits, and so does everything in the universe, then the “physical” body is something like the network node that provides hardline access to this world.
(I really do apologize for my information analogies here.)
That node, that interface between consciousness and quotidian reality is complicated, as well, and its status and ability to process and enact consciousness here depends on rest, diet, gut flora, environment, sunlight, hydration, exercise, and a thousand other things that should demonstrate just how messily connected to the world we all actually are.
However, I suspect that part of the process in energy work is learning about our own bodies. Of course, this process entails learning about our own physical bodies, even learning how to inhabit those bodies as our own, but I think I have also had to learn how my other bodies work.
The recurrent visualization in many systems (that I’ve encountered) has been the shaft of light coming down from above—that supernal higher-self light descending down as just a single shaft of brilliant (usually blue-white) light that pierces through to your core and down below. I’ve relied on this visualization myself quite a bit, but I came across an old photo I took the other day that got me trying something different.
I like looking at the sky, at the trees, at the clouds in the sky, the wind through all of them, and I will take photos of the sky and trees because I see something that the otherwise brutalist or mini-mall architecture does its best to distract me from. And one of these photos is similar to the photo that opens up this section: a shining cloud, kinda long, vertical, a bit narrow, but still diffuse.
Now, sometimes I “shine.” Like whatever shining light is always there finds a way to erupt from within the body—or the body relaxes and opens enough for me to have those moments. As I exercised one afternoon—doing mundane exercises for my core—I was sitting doggy-style, stretching my back, when I started to have one of those shining moments, and that image of the shining cloud was there, was billowing down and through me. Not the chakral laser, but a shining, burning cloud of light and wind and cloud and…well, whatever else. And while certain “chakras” seemed to align and flare, too, that cloud was also far more suffused through the body than constrained through, well, little chakra-circuit paths.
As I’ve recently had the chance to unfurl myself, as my physical body opens and grows receptive to the world and spirit, much as Dimech has addressed, I’ve also recognized how that body also grows receptive—or can—to those deeper levels of my spirit. My body and life here can be the “mirror” “to absorb and reflect” and the “cup” to fill with what I can of that spiritual self.
However, I also want to say that that shining cloud is one aspect, one manifestation of that deeper self. The enterprise is very much a “hermetic” one, but where others (okay, lots of us) might work to bring down a spirit to inhabit a statue or image, we are working on how to best bring our deeper, more whole selves down into our bodies and our lives. We are the images through which we conjure ourselves, and we should work to make our local conditions conducive to such spirit contact. We also happen to be in the enviable position that we can choose how to shape and make ourselves, can choose how to shape and make our images and how we manifest to visible appearance in this reality.
Much of what I’ve written above isn’t limited to the human-centric world. I got a free little golden sage plant back on Earth Day, and I could feel how it has its own spiritual presence—not just the “aura” of the plant but also its broader consciousness. That consciousness, as I glanced against it, was “solar”—basking in and singing non-English songs of the sun and environment and growth and sage-like things. Water was a joy. The rosemary I have growing outside is an absolute presence, its aromatic quality seeming to expand the scope of that presence.
That embeddedness in the world for these plants—their reality as integrating sun, wind, rain, the aromas of other plants, the action of animals, etc.—also suggests our own embeddedness in the world. It occurred to me the other day that part of myself that I’ve been seeking out, trying to align with, is also out there.
I have been sitting on the stoop outside at twilight recently, looking at the trees and sky and clouds, hearing and feeling the wind through them, and—well, I was noticing the language of these lives and forces. For the longest time, growing up, I would think about “the secret of the trees,” some great wisdom they knew. And I reached desperately after trying to make sense of it. Right now, though, I’m going to point to Eduardo Kohn’s presentation on “How Forests Think & How Magic Works”:
Now, as I’ve listened to and even spoken with this windy, cloudy, sky-forest-twilight, I’ve also seen how I’ve dreamt of these experiences, how I’ve wandered these realities, and how I’m also still there (and elsewhere). I don’t mean—I don’t think, at least—that I’ve experienced some kind of “soul loss” there in the woods; I mean that there is a me-in-that-experience there. And I want to better align with and integrate with her.
My thinking here goes to Augustin Berque and his ideas of trajection and mediance, (but I’m pretty sure similar ideas emerge in Nishida Kitaro’s Place and Dialectic, as well.) However, I’ll rely on Berque at the moment, who posits a relationship with environment in which humans perceive the environment, project their expectations and ideas and imagination onto that environment, which in turn penetrates humans back to shape the human experience of environment and thus the human experience itself. Although Berque’s emphasis is primarily human-centric, he does gesture at the influence on and penetration of humanity from space and locality. I find it fruitful to then put Berque’s work in dialogue with Kohn’s, even as both are drawing on others’ far more developed relationships and knowledge of these processes.
But one of my senses has been that I’m out there in that twilight space, looking at me while I try to take in what I’m trying to embed myself into. And I’ve been realizing, as I pay attention to my dreaming, that there’s a kind of “forest language” in my relationship with spirits and in considering spirit contact. JSK says that western practitioners should go back to our “classical roots” that provide us with traditions and lore for engaging with the spirits about us—if you want to go talk to spirits, you should go to where the spirits are. (Otherwise, you have to game ways to make it easier for them to find and get to you.) But as he notes in his own talk I link above, even your flat has its own occult geography—or it can.
However, as I started to notice myself out there in the twilight forest, I realized that we were apart, and we don’t need to be. It actually makes me wonder about the image of the Green Man. In many cases, I’m sure the image was inspired by seeing faces in the forest, but I wonder how much it also may emerge from seeing one’s own face, of seeing your self-in-the-forest. Note that I’m not saying we should see the forest as a mere projection of ourselves onto the landscape, but instead that we should see ourselves reflected back in a landscape even as we are embedded within, are a part of that landscape.
And in doing so, we have to unfurl ourselves beyond the “the sick & constraining social skins” that Dimech points to, that keep us stuck within unfamiliar, “occulted” bodies and within our mirror-skin maze of words and social selves. To do so can also entail us imagining our bodies as other bodies—as who we imagine ourselves to be, and as the body of the forest and world, of the cities and of our neighbors.
 Kitaro, Nishida. Place and Dialectic: Two Essays by Nishida Kitaro. Translated by John W. M. Krummel and Shigenori Nagatomo. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2012. Dimech actually points to this book in her Trans-States talk, and although I have it in front of me at the moment, I’ve not had the chance to dive into it. Berque draws on Watsuji Tetsurô’s philosophical works, though.