Sex Magic

Sexology is my profession. Magic is a consuming “special interest.” Tantra has been (and is) a link between the two. So my bookshelves contain more (far more!) than first editions of the male and female Kinsey studies and The Guide to Getting It On. I’ve also got The Art of Sexual Magic (1995) by Margot Anand (tantric-inspired), Secrets of Western Sex Magic (2001) by Frater U.D., and the more recent Sex, Sorcery, and Spirit (2015) by Jason Miller. Here’s a review of Miller’s book by Donyae Coles and here’s an interview with Miller from Down at the Crossroads podcast (one of my favorite podcasts, by the way). I’ve also got tons of other books dealing with tantra, Taoist practices (though I gave a bunch of Healing Tao books away recently), sexual ecstasy and transcendence, magic, and so on.

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The Beguiling of Merlin by Burne-Jones.

The “sex magic” umbrella is pretty big: there are energetic practices (e.g., tantric, Taoist) designed to refine and boost sexual energy, to be directed in whatever manner you please; practices which imbue sigils with orgasmic energy (again, use as you wish); sex with deities and spirits; and the creation of various sexual/spiritual “elixirs.” Really, with a little practice, a good time can be had by all!

The first time I came across mentions of “sex with spirits or gods” was prior to my sexology or tantra studies, actually. I was reading Polynesian Family Systems of Ka’u, Hawai’i by Mary Kawena Pukui and E.S. Craighill handy (back when Hawaiian culture was also a consuming special interest of mine), and was fascinated by various accounts of “spirits as mates” in the chapter called “The Psychic Phase of Relationship” (pp. 116-159). These spirits were called kane or wahine o ka po–men or women of the night–and did not seem to act in a manner that Western researchers would be likely to deem incubus, succubus, or “sleep paralysis” experiences. Nor will metal bands be named after them.

Nowadays it is common to come across “god spouses” on the internet, and I give ’em all due respect.

I find this topic massively interesting, having had a few inexplicable experiences myself. And as a sexologist, I’d really like to find a sexological or socio-cultural anthropological study of this phenomena. (I’d do it myself, but I don’t have access to research funds or an internal review board.)

If I plug “sex with spirits” into Google Scholar, the first relevant thing that pops up is Achieving Invisibility and Having Sex with Spirits: Six Operations from an English Magic Collection ca. 1600 (Klassen and Bens). It looks like a good read–I bookmarked it for later. And if I achieve invisibility beyond the usual “I’m old so no one notices me anymore” thing, I’ll be sure to blog about it.

There are also practices mentioned where one meditatively imagines oneself as the form of a deity or a deity’s partner, in order to evoke the desired energies.

As for links with magic and tantra, before I left Hawai’i a very accomplished tantra dude showed me how to use the “Tai Chi Sword” (first two fingers pointed, thumb closed over the last two fingers) to hook, twist, and pull a few lurking entities down and away from the ceiling of my home. There actually was a kind of freaky “haunting” there on Mano Street, and I felt it most the first night I slept in one of the guest bedrooms (I had already loaded most my furniture in the container for shipment back to California). It was a very unpleasant encounter and one of the first I’d ever had with a noxious entity! I really had to banish the “f” out of the thing. Now I know why a couple of houseguests refused to sleep in that room.

I hadn’t known at first that tantra was associated with magic. Like most Westerners who end up involved with Neo-Tantra, I assumed the main focus was sex and transcendence. I’ve been told–anecdotally–that the taboo associations with tantra in India have more to do with magic than they do with sex. But don’t quote me. This may not be accurate.

As I look through the stack of books on my table, I can see that symbols and sigils are a major topic. The idea is to use orgasmic energy to invest a sigil with magical power to affect change. The sigils are created with specific meaning and intention. In Anand’s book, this is covered in the chapters called “Creating Your Magic Vision” and “Sexual Alchemy: Charging Your Magic Symbol.” Miller’s book deals with sigils in the chapter called “Flying Solo.” (I honestly haven’t done more than skim through the Frater U.D. book, so I can’t comment on the content with accuracy.) Since I’m in need of a literary agent and publisher for my fantasy novel, I’m strongly considering the above method to draw the right agent to me (even as I do the copious research necessary to find and approach such people).

As a younger woman, I’d imagined I’d fill my declining years with cats, orchids, and a study of slime molds. Now that I’m well on my way to being what my oldest son fondly calls “a fruit bat,” I do have the cats and two orchids which manage to survive my lack of talent for plants, but sex and magic do seem to have replaced slime molds as my obsession of choice. So why not delve as deeply and powerfully as possible in these matters, while I still have life and breath and will?

This blog is part of that fun.

Are you a fellow traveler? Please comment and “like” below. 

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A “Meagre Palace of Midgard”

The title of this blog is a phrase cribbed from Tom Hiddleston’s star turn as “Marvel Loki” at the 2013 Comic Con, the video of which continues to fill me with geeky glee. I go to it often for amusement and solace, just as I also turn to Puddles’ Royals cover,  assorted cat videos, and Liam Lynch singing “Let’s Make Love in the Third Dimension.”

The above makes it hard to find a date, by the way. These types of “special interests” just aren’t covered in OK Cupid algorithms. Just saying.

So… I have a woodshop on my property. That’s meagre, right? For the last few months, a surplus of neighbor’s cats have called it home. And though still inhabited by the food bowls of the two most feral felines, of late I have been a-pondering the fate of this quite serviceable structure. I don’t have the money to turn it into a tiny house and I’m not sure zoning would permit it anyway. I could turn it into my very own office, but at present I am client-less. It needs insulation, sheetrock, and painting at very least. But it does have electricity! And a view of the lake.

(I wasn’t kidding about living near a lake. See? There it is!)

Clear Lake, CA
By Federico Pizano, Sept. 14, 2013. This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported license

In my mind’s eye, I see a Tiny Temple. A Pagan Haven. A place to gather kindreds (of the most inclusive kinds). If I build it, will they come? My experience has taught me that trick never works, but the doing of it might keep me out of trouble and off the streets. Plus I could alarm the neighbors by painting Loki runes on the side… (I have wonderful neighbors though, and they already know I’m a bit strange.)

Because I am a sucker for creative futility (I’m a parent, for heaven’s sake!), I probably do need to rebrand the woodshop as an architectural folly and dedicate it to the array of deities who have captured my attention. And then invite someone over for tea…

What else have I got to do? Like I said, it’s hard to find a date… a pagan, Lokean, long-haired, clean-shaven, non-smoking, magical, witty, slightly subby date…

Are you a fellow traveler? Lemme know! And if you have an older brother…

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Loki, a God of Pleasure, Poisoned

Loki,_by_Mårten_Eskil_Winge_1890
Loki (1890), Mårten Eskil Winge. Public domain.

This. The snake drips perpetual poison on captive Loki (a Jotun “trickster” deity of the Norse tradition). One of his wives, Sigyn, holds the bowl to keep the poison away, but the bowl eventually fills and Sigyn must empty it. The poison that falls on Loki during that time causes terrible suffering–people even believed that earthquakes resulted from his writhing agony. And it never stops.

For me this is the most apt depiction of the constant suffering of the growing number of people who are chemically injured and environmentally ill. (Download PDF of  2018 study.) Industrial, agricultural, and consumer toxins are ubiquitous in our world, supposedly produced by people dedicated to “civilized” progress. All the world and all its creatures are at risk now, from the entwined catastrophes of climate change and pollution. The exposures never stop and neither do the consequences.

Those who are suffering now, and who will suffer in the future, are inevitably made outcast. They are rejected by loved ones who prefer to continue their use of designer fragrances or smelly hand lotions to that of recognizing a mild request for breathable air and unscented companionship. Marriages die, friendships wane, children grow up and start using products that make visiting difficult or impossible. Jobs are lost, employment prospects are slim to none, and activities of daily living inevitably involve toxic encounters: aisles in the supermarket (cat food is always across from the toxic cleaning products!), air fresheners in the clinic restrooms, that heavily perfumed customer behind you in line, or at the next table over, causing headaches and asthma and actually preventing you from tasting the food you ordered.

The poison drips. The agony persists. Suicide beckons. Loneliness is pervasive. You are alone in a cave (or a foil-lined studio apartment) that no one else will enter. If you’re lucky, someone is with you, doing what they can to forstall or prevent toxic exposures and letting you know you’re worth loving even when you’re spoonless. For those with chemical injuries, Sigyn’s dedication is all too rare outside the world of myth and sacred literature.

Okay. So what? This is a blog about esoteric and spiritual stuff, right?

Right.

So I’m outing myself as a Lokean as of this moment, though this metamorphosis has been going on for awhile. For me that’s super big spiritual news even if it doesn’t mean much to anyone else. This spiritual journey grew from an experimental approach to Norse paganism, with a devotional practice initially dedicated to Frey, Freya, and Gerda (Frey’s Etin wife). Because of their associations with sex, fertility, reproduction, and magic, Frey and Freya (who are Vanir not Aesir) are particularly apt deities for me to cultivate. But a giant chunk of something was missing from my spiritual practice and deep down I knew what it was. Or rather, I knew who it was, but I was reluctant to “go there.” I’ve already got several social deficits: the environmental illness disability; aging; and a tendency to go batshit over “special interests.” Declaring myself a dedicated follower of Loki is just not going to win me a goodie bag at the next senior center ice cream social (not that I’ve ever been to one–a lot of older women wear perfume).

But there have been few developments in my life as inwardly gleeful, rich, and pleasurable as finally saying, “Okay, I’m in. I’m in all the way. You’ve been there all along and I finally acknowledge it.” Yes, this is a personal relationship I’m talking about. I sense interaction and exchanges–seldom in words, most often in a sense of presence and intuitive tugs at my gut. At the moment I consider myself a neophyte devotee and a sort of “plucky comic relief.”

Even so, it wasn’t until yesterday, when I considered this story of Loki’s torment, that I realized how completely perfect this is. I mean, wow, I’m hanging out with a deity who actually understands my condition (though I cannot possibly comprehend all of his).

Loki: hailed as the god of tricksters, outcasts, deviants, and more, I now hail you as the god of all who are damaged by toxic chemicals, who are made outcast by their illnesses. This probably won’t make me popular among Lokeans either, but it’s my gnosis, not theirs. And knowing what I know now will probably keep me alive a little longer. Loki is within earshot, if not actually holding a bowl.

Are you a fellow traveller? Make yourself known.

Loki's_flight_to_Jötunheim

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Unverified Personal Gnosis

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Priestess of Delphi (1891), John Collier. Public domain.

“UPG” stands for “unverified personal gnosis” and I’ve been spending time lately in internet spaces where this type of experience is either celebrated or scorned. Gnosis means “knowledge of spiritual mysteries.”

Earlier today I posted about a book I’d been reading in a social media group. I asked if others had read it too. One man responded that the book  was “one man’s UPG” with a lot of “MUS.” (The book in question actually contains material from several people.) I had to ask the meaning of “MUS.” It stands for “made-up shit.”

I read that and had feelings…

Okay, yes, there is lots of “MUS” in this world. Lots and lots. “Gubmint” is full of it these days. And I, in common with you, dear reader, deplore what seems to be a widespread, general decline in critical thinking skills.

However, I’m not willing to sneer at or dismiss “unverified personal gnosis” just because someone’s numinous, transcendent, shamanic (yes, I know this word is often overused in a culturally inappropriate way), meditative, ecstatic, or otherwise deeply meaningful experience doesn’t “fit” within an established spiritual or religious canon. And since this blog contains some of my own “UPGs,” you will understand that I have a major bias against such outright dismissal.

Not that discernment and critical thinking aren’t good things to bring into this arena, but honestly, how in the world would anyone else have been able to “verify” the quality and content of my “spontaneous combustion” experience or the meaning of some of my most powerful lucid dreams? How would someone be able to “verify” yours?

Aside from the meaning that an individual attaches to a personal gnosis, I suggest that the only context for “evaluating” so-called “UPGs” is through a socio-cultural-religious lens that incorporates anthropological and religious studies as well as a broad knowledge of sacred literature and historical accounts of mystic experiences combined with an account of what happened to the person during the specific incident.

Some people also use “PCPG” which stands for “peer-corroborated personal gnosis” in which information and narratives are vetted by comparing independent accounts from several people which might convey similar “information.” Raven Kaldera explains PCPG as a way to assessing personal accounts and experiences in Jotunbok: Working with the Giants of the Northern Tradition (pp. 3-6).

An interesting book which I need to re-read is The Woman in the Shaman’s Body: Reclaiming the Feminine in Religion and Medicine, by Barbara Tedlock, Ph.D. (an anthropologist). (Here is The Occult Book Review on YouTube.) Tedlock’s book surveys an array of cultures and practices, but with regard to this blog, I am remembering  that the book contains a discussion of how women (and female-identified people) are historically and culturally more likely to be “self-initiates” (Tedlock calls them “inspirational” shamans — having UPG experiences!) and/or hereditary shamans, linked with a family tradition. In other sorts of spiritual traditions, cis-gendered men tend to be initiated within an institution or a mystery school. (I am guessing that people who are gendered beyond binary, including those with multiple genders, were probably also often self-initiates.)

Tedlock writes: “Shamanism as a practice, however, has rarely become a formal social institution. Almost everywhere, shamanism was in the past and still is today a set of local activities and perspectives, rather than an ethnic or national institution” (p. 20). She suggests we consider “shamanic activities and perspectives” rather than “‘shamanism’ as an ideology or institution” (p. 20).

Common perspectives include perceptions of “vital energy,” “a web of life,” various “levels” of reality and the ability to journey to and through them, and “extraordinary forces, entities, or beings whose behavior in an alternative reality affects individuals and events in our ordinary world” (pp. 20-21).

According to Tedlock, shamanic activities may include forms of divination, trance work, healing, ritual ingestion of special substances, rituals, meditation, dreaming, waking dreams and visions, spirit journeys, spirit possession, gender shifting, erotic ecstasy, spirit “marriages,” chanting, and other ways of pursuing knowledge and serving the community.

These activities are ancient. And in addition to the above activities labeled as “shamanic” in Tedlock’s book, people have fasted, prayed, had ritual energetic sex, danced, ritualized pain, worked magic, focused on yantras or other sacred art, and done many other practices in pursuit of spiritual connection and transcendence, with and without concern for verification.

In ancient Greece, the Delphic Oracles experienced the gift of prophecy by inhaling ethylene fumes that occured naturally from a small cracks in the floor of the temple (first dedicated to Gaea, then Apollo). The ancient Greeks knew about the fumes as a causal factor but the Oracle, always known as Pythia, was presumably well educated and esoterically trained as well (for example, she was said to give her prophecies in a form of poetry known as dactylic hexameters). I mention this as our modern world is overrun with common sources of petrochemical toxins that effect our neurology. For example, carbon monoxide poisoning can cause hallucinations. Teenagers huff oven cleaners, glues, spray paint, and other inhalants to get high.

In addition to environmental toxins, other factors that could contribute to a UPG might include: side effects of prescription medications; recreational drug and alcohol use (not associated with esoteric ritual); “mental health” history; and even physiological or medical conditions such as electrolyte imbalances. As a teenager in the 60s, I had two experiences of nirvana on LSD, and while the effects of these two enlightenment episodes were emphemeral (compared to the life-changing impact of non-drug related UPGs I’ve written about this blog), they did seem quite “real” at the time. So I get how intentional or unintentional use of “entheogens” can work. I don’t believe that the existence of any of the above factors necessarily negates the value of the UPG either.

Ganesha_Yantra
Ganesha Yantra, by Hasanthi, March 8, 2010. Creative Commons, Attribution Share-Alike 3.0.

Given that some spiritual traditions include meditation on a “yantra” (geometric representation of a deity) or actual image of a deity or spiritual being as a way to gain spiritual advancement and attributes, I note with pleasure the role that pop culture can play in creating ecstatic experiences for fans of superheroes and antagonists, such as Marvel Loki. This video of the actor, Tom Hiddleston, appearing as Loki at the 2013 San Diego Comic Con, is a great example of a witty and vibrant invocation of an mythic figure with a growing following. I would not be surprised to learn that at least one fan “saw god” during this brief appearance! It’s no secret that persistent focus on a beloved “movie idol,” pop star, or character might very well create states similar to religious ecstasy and a longing for connection that can sometimes get out of hand for both fan and “star.” As a hypnotist, I often counsel my clients to practice self-hypnosis and/or listen to recordings to create robust neural pathways to support the changes they want. Spiritual practices are also ways of creating robust neural connections. Like the meditative focus on the tiny dot in the middle of the Ganesha yantra above, ecstatic or devotional focus on representations of deities (pop culture or otherwise) can also create experiences of personal gnosis.

So I suggest that it would interesting to know if a person’s experience of “personal gnosis” included any of the above elements. This could provide a better context for understanding and for also legitimizing the phenomena in general. (Remembering however that spontaneous experiences can also occur and transform a person’s life.)

What say all of you? If you’re a fellow traveller, please get in touch.

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To the Stars

As a child of the sixties, growing up in California, I can affirm that “what’s your sign?” was probably the second (if not first) thing people asked a new acquaintance back then (sometimes even before “what’s your name?” and “can I have a toke?”)

2560px-Magical_animal_IV,_shadow_puppet_from_Shaanxi_Province,_19th_century,_Lin_Liu-Hsin_Museum

Well, that’s mine. Something you wouldn’t want to find in a boot, let alone nesting in the pages of a cookbook (an early childhood memory from my paternal grandparent’s home in Mesa, Arizona).

However, as a teenage attendee of “love-ins,” I began to get a certain thrill from answering truthfully (I always answered truthfully…) and then watching people back away, slowly. Really, that happened about half the time. I’d say “Scorpio” and wow, instant doubling of my personal space. Cool! Of course the other half of the time, if the questioner were male, there was also the risk of instant decreasing of personal space, as we Scorpios were known to be sex-crazed. No matter that I was underage. (Yes, things could get creepy quickly back then.)

In the decades since, I’ve cultivated a healthy sense of Scorpio pride, as well as a mild sense of self-ridicule for taking such things “seriously.” But I can’t help it, the Zodiac archetypes are so much fun and mine in particular are so…flattering. Plus, most of my best friends are Scorps (or at least water signs).

My recent serious pursuit of magic studies has brought me back to a slightly deeper consideration of stellar omens and archetypes. And a recent personal crisis led me to review a rather stunning reading I had in January, 2016 from the renowned Caroline Casey, an astrologer and host of the Visionary Activist show on KPFA, 94.1 FM, Berkeley. This reading was a splurge, and took place just a couple of days before I moved to Hawai’i.

This reading was spot-on as Casey described (1) the events of the previous year and their timing (almost to the day!) and (2) my deepest inner responses to a range of life situations. This reading was ninety minutes of pure pleasure and not just because it was “all about me.” It was deeply pleasurable because Casey is a vibrant, nimble wordsmith who meshes mythic image and narrative with a compassionate, free-range “I Cover the Cosmos” perspective. Beautiful language, telling insights, and tons of humor. And she is a damned amazing astrologer. The reading was FUN.

I’ve listened to the recording twice in the last week. I took notes the second time. I’ll say too that it was difficult for me to listen to my 2016 self, at the time naively hopeful in the prospect of making a new (post-divorce) life in Hawai’i, but the reading also contained the germ of why things went so badly once I got there.

According to Casey, I’m “a kind Scorpio, yay!” My “strong fuels” are curiosity and liberation. I’m “increasingly allergic to tyranny.” (Yep!) And most of my action takes place in Scorpio in the fifth house, with Sun, Saturn, Mercury, Venus, and an asteroid, Pallas Athena. (Practically destined to be a sexologist…) And I’ve got two quintiles! That’s hella cool and rare!

Other highlights included strong “trickster” Uranus affinities, and such themes as “metabolizing poisons by conjuring the antidote” (quite appropriate given my multiple chemical sensitivity situation) and “compassion with sizzle.” And according to Casey, “the underworld is my beat” and “the dreamworld is my companion.” Sounds about right.

Casey also said “better a trickster than a martyr” and cautioned me that “no sign is more effective at broadcasting its inner assessment of others than Scorpio.” (Sorry, folks. I try to be polite and kind. Guess it hasn’t worked.)

So I’m super-tempted to save my pennies and have another reading. Getting back to California soil took almost everything I had (literally) and I’m still emotionally and physically convalescent. I’d love to have more insight into the immediate past and perhaps a glance at upcoming rays of light and bumps in the road.

A friend of mine once took a sailing lesson in the San Francisco Bay from a recent New York transplant. She asked him, “So, Tony, what’s the difference between the two coasts?” He answered, “Back deah, I wuz a wop. Out heah, I’m a Pisces.” (Sorry for the use of a perjorative, but that’s what he said.)

This chart below is from astro.com. It doesn’t mention the asteroid. I’m placing it on this blog because, what the heck, out here, I’m a Scorpio! You might as well know the worst. Be warned!

astro_w2gw_amy_marsh.60362.28778

Any fellow travelers? Let me know you’re here–and if you need to keep your distance, I’ll understand…

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I Had an Anthroposophical Epiphany But All I Got Was This Rudolf Steiner T-Shirt

Actually, the headline is misleading, as headlines so often are. It was a t-shirt that started the whole thing, and I did get far more than I bargained for, during the time I was involved. Prepare for another tale of strange…

youth200-Rudolf-Steiner-e1519533590401This is Rudolf Steiner (1861-1925) at about age eighteen. He looks like a nice young man from Austria, but he’d been clairvoyant since the age of three. For much of his adult life, he was a teacher and a scientist. He edited Goethe’s books on science. He was a serious fellow, but in his early forties decided to “come out” of the pyschic closet and therefore, in certain circles, “his rep was ruined.” He began lecturing at the Theosophical Society and later went on to found the Anthroposophical Society. (Here’s the link to the American branch.) Steiner is best known as the founder of Waldorf Schools and biodynamic farming.

I first encountered Waldorf education while looking for a kindergarten for my oldest child (my only child at the time). The San Francisco Waldorf School seemed perfect for this particular kid, and for many years, I do think he was served well by it. Now he has mixed feelings (as I do), especially when we discovered that some of Steiner’s lectures–the untranslated ones–are racist and contain other prejudices. He was, for all his brilliance and clairvoyance, a man subject to the ugly, unexamined prejudices of white, Eurocentric privilege. And I had no interest in Steiner either, at first. I just wanted my kid to go to a really wonderful school with lots of art and singing and drama and storytelling.

It seemed a magic place.

The incident I am about to relate is one example of why I now recognize the huge role a certain Trickster has played in my life. Most of my important and significant spiritual experiences and epiphanies have been accompanied by absurdities and incongruities. I was about forty-two when this incident happened. According to Steiner this is the time of life when the spiritual world tries to get your attention. (This story predates my spontaneous combustion story by almost a decade, by the way.)

So, just a few doors down from the SF Waldorf School, there was a toy store, The Ark, owned by one of the major donors to the school. The store was usually staffed by Pam, a hip gal with a beret who was also a Waldorf parent. (Later Pam would buy The Ark, move it to 24th Street in San Francisco and later to Fourth Street in Berkeley–but I digress.)

One day I was in there, buying crayons or beeswax or wool or something, and Pam was behind the counter. She was wearing a white t-shirt with that “portrait of the clairvoyant as a young man” image on it. Yes, the same one that I’ve placed in this article. The radio was playing “Falling in Love Again” and I couldn’t take my eyes off the image. Never have I stared so long at a woman’s chest! There was feeling I couldn’t explain–I was in the grip of something utterly new. C.S. Lewis might be the right writer to invoke here: “instantly her world was unmade” (That Hideous Strength, p. 139). I felt the presence of an unseen but welcoming assembly. It was warm, embracing, lovely. And lasting. For months.

Of course the sardonic portion of my mind was protesting, “Oh for heaven’s sake, don’t tell me I’ve finally reached the age where the image of a handsome young man is going to upset my world!” I have a horror of such emotional indignity, probably from reading too much Colette in my youth. (I still read her…) And the dadaist in me was saying, “Well, OF COURSE it would happen this way, with surreal juxtapositions and humor.” (I was just a few years past my punk rock vinyl artist phase, after all. Motherhood hadn’t completely ruined me.)

The course of my life has been overturned several times by epiphanies consisting of powerful insights and spiritually compelling calls to action. This was the second one I’d encountered (the first had to do with women and outer space exploration). My first response, after stunned wonder and gratitude, is to research the hell out of whatever it is that’s calling my name. Therefore I plunged into anthroposophical reading. The school had a dimly lit library where I checked out volume after volume of Steiner’s lectures, including his autobiography. I will say that his “foundation books” create a true esoteric experience for the reader. There is something in the way that they were constructed, not just the content, that creates a change. It’s subtle, but definite. I also joined the Anthroposophical Society (national and the Bay Area branch), went to study groups and events, had interesting conversations… but remained a loner in my explorations. Socially, I felt a certain coldness in these gatherings, even though we were always lighting candles for warmth.

I even attended the long, long production of Steiner’s mystery play, The Soul’s Awakening, which was one of the strangest theatrical experiences I’d ever known. The director (whose name I forget) gave an interesting lecture a few days before the performance. He galvanized my attention with the statement: “There are two streams, the visible and the invisible.” Since I’d been experiencing this very thing and had no one to talk with about it, I felt very grateful for this confirmation.

I also gained a lot from lectures by Dennis Klocek, who is definitely a “real deal.” I still use his “etheric star” meditation sometimes. Another notable experience was a conversation with a Christian Community priest who was the first person I ever saw with my inner eye (kind of like that scene where Arwen is bending over the injured Frodo–elf princess one moment, woodland elf the next). This man suggested that artificial chemicals, such as the ones that make me ill, were not welcomed into creation in an appropriate way and their toxicity is a result of their “agony.” It is an interesting concept and I’ve played at times with “blessing the toxins” (but have not been consistent enough to report any results).

After several years of studying (but still not feeling community), I was slammed by another series of epiphanies which swept me on to different explorations. But I’ve learned to detect the influences of anthroposophical “streams:” such as the long  association of “The Inklings:” J.R.R Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, and Owen Barfield; and in the work of Jacques Lusseyran, the “blind hero of the French Resistance.” (He was a child of anthroposophists and learned to “see” when in a state of accord and balance.)

The “tales of strange” I will relate in this blog are more than a series of spiritual “special interests” taken up by an eccentric neophyte. I feel into them now as a kaleidescopic journey through “seven directions” of a pattern which I hope actually has meaning. On the other hand, my invisible friend, The Trickster, may simply be leading me through a rabbit hole of fun house mirrors, an endless reflection of hapless self stumbling through  a multi-verse of karmic snarls.

Either way, the primary question is always asked and answered: “Are we having fun yet?”

If you’re a fellow traveller, let me know!

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Spontaneous Combustion

“It happens sometimes. People just explode.” Repo Man, 1984.

“Suddenly, with a roar like that of a waterfall, I felt a stream of liquid light entering my brain through my spinal cord. Entirely unprepared for such a development I was completely taken by surprise; but regaining self-control instantaneously, I remained sitting in the same posture, keeping my mind on the point of concentration. The illumination grew brighter and brighter, the roaring loude, I experienced a rocking sensation and then felt myself slipping out of my body, entirely enveloped in a halo of light.” Gopi Krishna, Kundalini – The Evolutionary Energy in Man. Shambala Publications: Boulder and London, 1971. pp.12-13.


Yes. People just explode. For me it was like a blast of wind that blew every molecule apart and put me back together again in a nanosecond, but with a slightly different assembly. Prepare for a tale of strange.

It was the evening of Nov. 7, 2001. My husband, children, and I had just moved into a new home in September. We were about to light a fire in the fireplace for the first time. I remember my husband’s mood as somewhat disgruntled though I can’t remember why. But it was a Wednesday and so it was likely he’d had a hard day at work.

I’d already had several unusual experiences in my life, especially in the year that immediately preceeded this incident. You could label them “psychic” or “spiritual,” and  though I was fascinated by them, they were not a welcome topic of conversation in my marriage. In fact, I’d become obsessed with Hawaiian culture in that last year, as most of these experiences had happened in Maui and Hawai’i Island. I wanted to understand these experiences and their possible cultural context. To that end, I’d been corresponding with some native Hawaiian activists about sovereignty, and had also taken up the study of hula. And I was doing as much reading as possible. (However it would be a few years before I was also aware of the impact of white settler/colonists having spiritual experiences in those islands).

That evening, because my husband was grumpy, I went into the bedroom to check email. I was in the middle of a particularly generous and informative correspondence with a cultural practioner in O’ahu, and I was always delighted to get an email from him. I had so many questions, and though he couldn’t answer them all (why should he?), he was kind enough to answer some. There was a phrase in his latest email, a particularly poignant one (from a historical and spiritual view), and when I read this phrase, it was like a light switch turning on.

The big wind ripped through me, the energy rushed through me, it tore me apart, left me staggered and changed. In that brief span of time I had also acquired a “visitor” and she (I know it was a she) was with me until the sponteneous kundalini surge finally subsided on Sept. 29, 2002.

“Alive…in a body…again!” The fierce visitor cried out in my soul and sounded through my body, and I, my little self encased like a small red bean in a gelatinous cube of her, could scarely believe what was happening.

So, you’re thinking “psychotic break,” right? I only wish it had been that simple. I could have gotten help. However, it might not have been the right kind of help. Stanislav and Christina Grof, who helped pioneer the concept of spiritual emergence (that might become an emergency) vs. psychosis, would have been the people I needed the most at that point. But I didn’t know of the existence of their work, or even what I was dealing with.


“…the Grofs’ definition of spiritual emergency, which is ‘both a crisis and an opportunity of rising to a new level of awareness'” (Grof & Grof, 1989, p. x)” Viggiano, D. B., & Krippner, S. (2010). The Grofs’ model of spiritual emergency in retrospect: Has it stood the test of time? International Journal of Transpersonal Studies, 29(1), 118–127.. http://dx.doi.org/10.24972/ijts.2010.29.1.118


Though I was aware that I was experiencing something that was extremely abnormal, my only way of dealing with the question of my sanity (at least at first) was to ask, “Am I functional?” And the answer was, yes, I was. I continued to take care of my children, work at a part-time job, carry on normal conversations, and look and act mostly as I usually did, even with this fierce guest surrounding me like a marshmellow aura. For she was not “in” me, she was surrounding me. I never knew her name and only really knew her emotions and “pre-thoughts” (quasi-verbal). Clear statements like “alive, in a body…” were rare. She was ancient, with a consciousness very unlike that of a modern person, the embodiment of an atavistic culture. I could not presume to know her well.

She was very emotional. The first three months were agony. In fact, as soon as she appeared in my life, a smell of death entered the house and lasted for three whole weeks. Everyone could smell it. We had heating vents and the basement inspected, tried to locate the source of the smell, nothing was found that could explain it. It was a cold, rainy season, and my youngest son was sick during part of that time, and so I could not open the windows for fresh air. The terrible odor built to a crescendo until the moment I could feel it subside. I was halfway up the stairs to the second floor, and I felt it decrease. You can imagine my thankfulness.

She cried at the sight of islands in San Francisco Bay, while driving across the Bay Bridge. She was astonished at the sight of magnolias blooming against a bright blue sky. She wondered where her people were. She wanted to share what she was seeing. She wondered why she was torn out of time. She didn’t seem to wonder about me, at all.

I wondered about her, of course. Was this a past-life fragment? Or a spirit “sitting” on me (noho) as one of my Hawaiian correspondents thought? I experienced her as sexually and emotionally intense, proud, lonely, and full of anticipation–but anticipation for what? Whatever she was, she was 24/7 and there was no escaping her.

My own heightened kundalini surges were also part of this mix. They were agonizing too, especially before I got used to them. I also experienced powerful lucid teaching dreams during this time. But could I tell my husband about all this? It took me about six months to do it. The results were…mixed. I felt estranged. Still, my family grounded me during this period. Without them, I would have been unmoored.

Fast forward to a period of crisis. Toward the end of summer, 2002, I began to feel suicidal. I was exhausted by my experiences, but there was nothing in my life (except her) that would have caused me to have these feelings. Now I was worried. I began to question my ability to cope. And still I soldiered on with family tasks. “Professional help” was not an option for some reason. Perhaps I was afraid that I really was crazy after all.

However, I encountered two healers. One was a man skilled in a Tibetan modality that used chanting and breath work, and though he provided a bit of relief, it wasn’t enough.

Then on Sept. 29, 2002, I took my oldest kid to the Novato Renaissance Faire, feeling utterly horrible yet determined to provide a nice outing for my child. As we approached the Caravansary portion of the faire, I grabbed my kid’s hand and said, “We’re going to get a reading!” (I’d never done that before.) We made a beeline for one of two “fortune tellers.”

“You’re a writer. You have to write the happy ending,” said the fortune teller, a woman who was to become a friend. This was the key phrase to end the “enchantment” of the first phrase that had triggered the whole incident in the first place. Magic words indeed. I had the power to “write” the happy ending. The fortune teller saved my life.

By the next morning, the woman who’d been with me all that time was gone. She’d melted away. In her place was a gestalt, a vista of that woman’s situation as I could understand it, the fragment of her life that I’d relived along with her, for whatever reason.

She’d been pregnant and anticipating the baby’s arrival with love and joy. She had also counted on the baby as important to her status (within her community or perhaps with the father–I am not sure). But she’d lost the baby, either as a still birth or shortly afterwards. I think her natural grief was complicated by post-partum depression, maybe even psychosis. She leapt off a cliff, but returned to her senses just as her feet left the ground. (I could feel that, an equivalent to “oh shit!” in modern terminology.) Now, the above may just be a narrative offered by my subconscious as a comfortable context, but the essence feels “true,” even if the details are not. Who is to say?

And so my challenge had been to experience her and her emotions, but to not do as she had done. At least, that is the meaning I took away from this bewildering incident. Also, there are other parts to this story that I am not sharing as they are more deeply personal.

Once this experience was over (to my profound relief), I began to study tantra with the thought that if a spontaneous kundalini surge ever happens again, I want practices that will help me deal with it.

Later I would find the book, The Woman in the Shaman’s Body, by Barbara Tedlock (Bantam, 2005). She offers anthropological evidence of “self-initiation” among women, contrary to the usual practice for men, which she says generally consists of study and initiation within established mystery schools and traditions. She also writes of her own experiences with koyopa (“sheet lightening”) as “flowing and shimmering” body energy: “Initially these ecstatic feelings seemed strange, and I was frightened that I was becoming possessed by something outside myself” (p.79).

When I was in my late teens, someone took me to a dowdy little “psychic church” in San Diego. At the time, I was in the midst of dire circumstances, mostly involving a suicidal childhood sweetheart. When it was my turn in the circle for comment from the medium, she took one look at me and said, “Don’t waste your time on tears, honey.” And though I’ve shed too many over the years, I’ve also tried to accomplish whatever it is I think I’m supposed to be doing here.

I have come to see my own experience of “spontaneous combustion” as a true “spontaneous initiation” of the sort known by female-identified and multi-gendered people throughout time. It forced me onto a (very convoluted) path and though I haven’t always known what I’m doing, I do know that I have to do “it” anyway. Tears or not.

Thanks for reading. If you’re a fellow traveller, let me know you’re out there.

Fk-142

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