Posts Tagged ‘science’


threads of energy
— gloriously contorted,
intricate system
of twisted knots locked against
letting go — tolerate it!

Lots of assonance here for anyone who appreciates such things. This poem came to me after I had stepped back from the hopeless attempt to describe my dream literally in a poem. I dreamed a woman was initiating sexual contact by kissing me on the neck and then I was putting my hand up between her legs, exploring with a mixture of tentativeness and determination. It’s completely clear to me this dream has been suggested by a news item last night, involving graphic testimony from one of the girls who was groped on New Year’s Eve in Cologne. So the dream positions me as one of the gropers. How do I deal with that? I fell to reflecting on the business of dream interpretation. Our sexual energies are contorted by so much deep, deep anxiety as to whether they’re allowed, whether they’re acceptable, whether they’re the norm. You can see that quite clearly with a dream like this, once you’re awake. It’s like glimpsing a system of knots, without being able to make sense of where all the different threads are leading, let alone having any chance of untangling it. Freud was wrong in so much of what he said and did and wrote and thought. He lost himself in a mass of speculation and called it science. His whole idea of devising a system of ‘treatment’ is a lost cause. But he is a brilliant genius nevertheless, just for identifying the existence of a problem with being alive as a human being, which nobody else had ever spotted properly: namely, our buried desires stay with us and are potentially infinite in scope.


existential prayer

— and human beings —
helplessly slotted into
the machinery
of the universe — please God
may this not be all there is

I watched a repeat of an old TV nature documentary last night, called One Million Heads, One Beautiful Mind. It shows a herd of zebra being picked off by crocodiles as they try to swim across a deep river. In my dream last night there was an evil enemy who might have been Freud. Freud certainly figured in the dream, and a sense of menace or threat from some very powerful evil intelligence. It was like being the prey of a predator. About ten years ago I had two years’ worth of Jungian psychotherapy. It was a bit disappointing, overall, but we had some good conversations and one of them was about crocodiles. I related a memory of going to the zoo as a teenager and being mesmerised by the glint in a crocodile’s eye. We joked whether the analyst himself (who was very old) was a bit like a crocodile. In writing the poem, I was very conscious also of the bits of science I have been absorbing over the last few years. Another TV programme as a matter of fact, about Einstein. Black holes, in particular, seem relevant to the subject of predators. It’s impossible to avoid the impression that cruelty is somehow built into even the inanimate operation of the universe. It made me want to question whether the universe is really as much like a machine as it seems to be. Because the monotheistic religions paint ‘God’ so implausibly, as ‘loving’, and above the laws of nature and able to ‘intervene’ — as a Westerner and a Christian I feel condemned never to be able to integrate the ‘machine’ view of things with the ‘personal God’ view. But somehow it’s all the same problem, and that is just quite simply — the fact that we and the world exist at all. Wonderment at that, can never be satisfied by the ‘machine’ view. But the personal God is just as much of a lie. In the poem I resort to that lie anyway. Please God is such a powerful phrase. It transcends the person using it.

science and magic

light is both at once
a wave and a particle —
in the same way, love’s
reality consists in
fantasy pure and simple

I dreamed last night of Anna, my first love — a long and involved dream, and unusual, for the fact that I seemed to be myself as I am now, in the dream, with all or most of the thoughts and feelings about Anna appropriate to not having seen her for thirty years. There seemed to be the opportunity for sex with her, but in the dream, I was able to interrogate myself whether sex with Anna was the wisest course to pursue. What about her marriage (she was married with children last time I met her in 1985)? The dream ended with her husband rescuing me — literally pulling me with a firm grip of his hand in mine — from the bed in which I was beginning to get it on with his wife. It was almost as if we were allies, with Anna, or Anna’s sexuality, as the enemy. I’m very pleased with this poem. After all, there was never in reality the slightest physical expression of love at all, between myself and Anna. It was pure fantasy. But all love without exception is pure fantasy. That’s just what it is, in itself.

morning prayer

letting light into
a darkened bedroom – may I
perform this action
with proper reverence for
Nature’s raw materials

I attended Mass yesterday evening, and during the sermon found myself getting a bit emotional with love for the priest (Fr Tom Forde of Our Lady Help of Christians Kentish Town) whose sincerity and intelligence is really quite something. He made some reference to the idea of making time every morning and evening for prayer. It’s likely this may have led to last night’s dream of opening a curtain and letting the light in. Reverence for the light (and, I suppose, fear of the dark) is surely religion at its simplest and most basic. For Jung, the psychology of the unconscious seems to have been, in many ways, simply a logical extension of this. He constantly uses the opposites of light and darkness, conscious and unconscious, interchangeably — the word metaphor is far too weak to cover this interchangeability. It’s a metaphor which seems always, in my mind at least, to want to tip over into literalism. In some mysterious way I will never understand, I believe light and consciousness to be a single phenomenon.

postmodern hell

how shall I preserve
my soul? — damnation is a
consumer, grazing
the multiplicity of
competing philosophies

And yet there is no answer for me in single-minded devotion to any single religion or philosophy. Christianity is the religion of my childhood, which my inner child responds to like no other. Buddhism seduces me with the promise of a superior spirituality. Taoism accords most closely with the Jungian doctrine of opposites which I do go along with, heart and soul. But there is something so coldly intellectual in the idea of opposites as the basis of all psychic life. And if Jung was right about it, how come the world hasn’t embraced the idea? Or to put that another way — what use to me, to possess ‘the truth’, if I am in such a tiny minority of believers? And how can it be science (as it claims to be) if it requires me to believe? The fourth belief system I am tempted by is the belief in a mother goddess. This relates to last night’s dream where I was in the garden of Robert Graves’ house in Mallorca, getting along famously with Graves himself. In reality I met him when I turned up at his house unannounced in 1983, and his wife kindly entertained me for half an hour or so. Graves himself was in a wheelchair and by that time had retreated into dementia and silence. For a Wikipedia summary of the Graves-goddess connection see here


mathematics professor —
old man — who were you?
— when my world turned pure evil
your mind held its vision clear


Well, the internet has its uses. I just discovered more about Peter Landsberg in the last five minutes browsing than I knew during the the last fifty years of having known him (in my own mind) as the father of my best friend at school. His Telegraph obituary is here. In my dream last night, I was having an uneasy but fundamentally good natured reunion with his son Max, whom I knew 45 years ago as Edwin. The story of how, around the age of thirteen or fourteen, my best friend began to turn imperceptibly into my worst enemy, doesn’t belong here. Nor, really, the story of my years of homelessness — and psychosis — in the early nineties when I believed I had seen Peter Landsberg shuffling at an old man’s snail pace past the shop doorway where I was holed up with cardboard boxes and a blanket. This poem is an attempt to capture that moment. I was not even sure that it was him. Yet I felt I had had a glimpse of the true essence of Peter Landsberg — the strength of his mind an unexpected ally somehow, in my own struggles with madness. He appeared almost like a vision, something straight out of Sophocles. In my dream last night, I was offering him the dedication of a piece of music I’d composed. I wish I could understand why he looms so archetypally in my imagination. It has something to do with comparing him with my own father, which I did as a matter of course back in the sixties when I knew Edwin. Since then I’ve realised what an unequal contest it was. Landsberg was a formidable intellect. His part in my life would seem to have been almost completely negligible. But at the level of fantasy he represents something unique and intriguing.


Fate, Destiny, Shame
and Guilt — to feel their touch is
to pray for release

The gods are still with us, and maybe monotheism is to blame for encapsulating the divine aspects of our all-too-human nature into a supposed single truth (the existence of “God”), which constitutes an open invitation for non-believers to throw out the baby with the bathwater. For me at least, polytheism, compared with monotheism, seems much more amenable to interpretation as being that “the gods” are our own drives. Human beings go a little bit crazy when they start talking about the One God. Hardly surprising, since by definition, nothing can be said about Him. My dream last night, which has given rise to these reflections, entailed my being rejected by the family of the gay lover I had in my teens. In reality his family were welcoming to me, while it was mine who were rejecting of him. All very traumatic — hence the sense of fate, destiny, shame and guilt.