Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Giants at Samhain

Ahoy - Samhain descends. Just enjoyed a quick visit from Dark Mountain founder Paul Kingsnorth and his wonderful family. We are planning many juicy twists and turns for our weekend at the end of November - sold out with big waiting list alas.

Something on Giants, regression and the more positive aspects of Mars this week. This comes from a commentary on the story of Brutus of Troy - who, on arriving on the coast of what became Devon, has to encounter a race of aggressive giants. Taken as indications of what happens as we get to know our own psyches better - an inner journey - we find our own Giants pop out. So, this follows that lead....

PSYCHE AND EROS day in Dartington (please scroll to last post), is speedily filling up - get in touch today if you'd like to book a place, or risk losing a seat.

Giants of Regression: Taking the Strain

Giant energy is a harsh force when not aligned to a great cause. It is giant energy that pours through a community when they tie a woman to the stake and light the kindling. Giant energy has no eye for nuance, or the patiently grown herb garden, the subtle array of greys and blues in a painting by Cezanne. It towers too high off the ground to catch the scent of the wild lilies, its irritable eyes struggle to make out distinctions on the small canvas. Giant energy is distrustful of difference, of paradox, of ambiguity. Anything other than a yes or no enrages it.

Growing up in the eighties I would encounter it first hand in the terrorising of our local pubs by right wing skinheads. They had a rigid dress code, brutal fists, were utterly aligned around an intense but basic symbolic language, and if you did not fit within that language then they would gleefully inflict as much damage as they could.

In the Greek world that stands behind much of this story, Zeus had to defeat the giants, or Titans, to instigate culture and civic order. Hesiod, the oral poet and shepherd (of somewhere between 750 and 650 BC), claims the etymology of Titan is “to strain”. So the sense of the Titan’s in our own being is one of stress. Stress being a major killer in the new century, we see that it is creating a flesh harvest in Hades. If domination by giants indicates that gods are no longer present (i.e. no Zeus), then in losing our mythos, we allow a damaging flood of exhausting strain.

We all have giant energy. Harnessed well it is a tremendous source of will. It is giants who are in service to saints who get some of the great cathedrals built in old Gaelic stories. It is a raw reserve of sheer grunt power; if we deny it or fail to educate it, then we exile a great deal of momentum and stamina. It is not to deny giant power but to anchor it.

Brutus encountering the giants is like moments in our lives when we face up to large energies within our own being that have grown hostile. Whatever we neglect, or unduly abandon, tends to become aggressive. Greasy, mean-eyed, sadistic. To get to our own mythic ground and all its lucid abundance, we have the challenge of absorbing these marginal impulses that we would far rather ignore. But, in the process of any real growth, low and behold out they trot – sharp yellow teeth and club swinging, god only knows how long they have been languishing.

We have a tendency to view these exiled parts with great suspicion. We may 'decide' to be a free thinking artist, loose and unconstrained - groovy. Immediately anyone in a suit looks suspicious. Down into the cellar goes that part of ourselves that keeps a close eye on the contract, works to a deadline, balances the books – frankly that’s so uncool. But as the years pass and we end up selling our work for far less than its worth, or get tied up in knots with the tax man, or are beset with rip offs, we may have to pick up the key and wander down to the cellar where we exiled that part of ourselves so many years before. Do you think they will be pleased to see you?

For others, the lover could be down there - starved of dusk, the scent of sun on skin, the joy of erotic friendship – locked up by a life rigid and only focused on statistically viable results. No one down there, no exiled energy, is going to show you anything but the giant when they emerge. They’re pissed, regressed, woefully hostile. So, to repeat, we can see Brutus’s journey as one within ourselves towards the interior world, contact with what’s called the soul.

Those who had difficulty absorbing the fury of some feminism towards the masculine during the sixties and seventies may benefit from studying this story. If you had been squeezed down, relegated, abandoned, then what would your mood be when you finally got some space? It’s no great mystery.

Blake regarded many of these cellared beings as more than personal – as “divine influxes”, that rage and lust and grandeur drew us closer to a world soul. To repress them entirely is to numb routes out into wider consciousness. When we engage them, we start to get a sense of what they are about.

Being named after Mars, always associated with war, has been an interesting dynamic in my own life. But I use the word dynamic deliberately. Few want associations of mass bloodshed, annihilated villages or heads on poles, as connections to the name they carry. But Mars, when allowed out from the cellar, has other things to do.

It could be tempting to view the accomplishment of Mars, and indeed all these
giants, as apocalypse, nuclear war, the end of everything. But James Hillman reminds us that Mars asks us for engagement, not wipe-out, that even victory is not essential.

Mars is about instigation - a god of beginnings. The ram god mobilises. No Mars, and we have indistinct paranoid fumblings,vagueness. Apocalypse is not on his radar because it is the ending of all things. When Mars (really a god of agriculture, not of the city) arises, with all the drama and attendant movement, then we need to get closer to the message, not further away. We need to differentiate his passions. So to cure something of what we dread involves knowledge of the deity behind it.

The Homeric Hymn to Mars (Ares) calls for a devotion that assists understanding, that grows ever more subtle: “beam down from up there your gentle light on our lives and your martial power so that I can shake off cruel cowardice from my head, and diminish that receptive rush of my spirit, and restrain that shrill voice in my heart that provokes me to enter the chilling din of battle”. So real attention to Mars creates discernment, helps you choose your battles, calls on an expert's eye in the field of rousing activity, hones a point to angry, aimless spears. Throw all that away, and you just invite mayhem.

I have occasionally worked alongside the writer and therapist John Lee. John’s phrase for recognising when you are in the grip of one of these powerful entities is to “grow yourself back up!” In his book of almost the same name, he lays out the thought that regression is the moment we leave the present moment. So to be caught in the grip of the giant is a moment when we are utterly cut off from what is actually happening now and hurled into a place of imagined powerlessness, to be without choice, inflated with rage, unable to articulate what it is that we need.

To act ‘the giant’ is a leap away from the vulnerability that feeling small evokes. We tumble away from the present moment, often into a childhood scene where we first experienced the unique wounding that instigates regression in the first place.

His “red flags” of regression include – raging and hysteria (classic giant behaviour) and unreal time – when we are in it, time slows in perfect synch with our anxiety and we have utterly tragic imaginings that we can’t appear to control, we are full of childish questions. A favourite question of his is 'do you love me?' It's loaded with neediness. His advice is to ask the far grittier question: 'how well am I loving you?' Lee associates regression with the possibility of trance-states, states that we slip in and out of daily, depending on our triggers. Following this lead we see that to be a sovereign of your own kingdom requires an encountering and tempering of regression.

Copyright Martin Shaw 2012

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