Friday, 23 November 2012


The two birds and the circle is a variation on a theme of basic symbols 
that recur in all of human history.
The birds could be compared with the Yin and Yang symbol and has become my logo
because my art is generally speaking about the paradoxes that arise from the inherent dualism of life.
Image copyright by the author

You may ask what the point in using symbolism to convey a message through art really is. Those who are familiar with art history know that Symbolism is a movement that started up with the paintings of Gustave Moreau around 1860 but was deemed useless and out of date by the beginning of the First World War. It was a movement that was mainly concerned with the other worldly, and to a surprisingly high degree was linked with Catholicism. Some symbolists were interested in esoteric world views, and wanted to convey these beliefs through their art. These artists felt that the best way of conveying their view of a more spiritual realm was through the use of symbols as it was a way of pointing towards realities that you couldn't otherwise describe. Many artists were, however, not necessarily expressing very complex truths. In simple terms, this artistic genre came about as a reaction against the industrial upswing and a wide spread interest in realistic art as social commentary. The war crushed a lot of idealism and made introspective and solipsist art seem self-indulgent - the art that followed was mostly socially orientated. 

Nothing in art history is, however, straightforward and subject to a strict chronological time line. When it comes to symbolism, it pops up here and there in various forms and for various reasons. In the modern era, artists often use symbols without making much of a point of it. Various forms of fantasy art are alive and well, and some of these artists of the imagination employ symbols to a very high degree. Almost anyone who is interested in investigating the deeper layers of the human psyche or spiritual visions will use symbols. 

Symbols have always been around in the form of mythology, fairy tales, as well as esoteric and alchemical explorations. These depictions of the human condition and how humans relate to the other worldly have been informative and necessary for the evolution of the human psyche, and there is no reason to believe that this has come to an end. It may seem that cynicism and a fragmentation of spirituality is here to stay, but I don't believe it. Art that expresses such disillusion is not life-affirming and constructive, and is therefore in the long run an unsatisfactory way of dealing with life's deeper issues and the human condition. 

While the psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud paved the way for dream interpretation, his disciple Carl Gustav Jung made a great job in researching the deeper meaning of widely recurring symbols and archetypes. The Depth Psychology that he and others instigated is still inspiring a great many psychotherapists who are interested in the subconscious mind and importance of dreams and archetypes in people's lives. Mythology isn't out dated - myself and many others believe that the human consciousness is constantly creating new myths and ways of story telling that help us come to terms with our lives. While the basic themes remain the same, they are being re-created, no doubt to fit new perspectives and higher levels or orders of collective understanding. I believe that we are constantly aspiring towards higher and more comprehensive levels of understanding, and so am not strictly speaking a Jungian. I've been reared in the Transpersonal (Integral) tradition. I do believe that symbols are relevant in all of life's areas nonetheless.

So what are symbols, exactly? According to Wikipedia a symbol is "something that represents an idea, a physical entity or a process but is distinct from it. The purpose of a symbol is to communicate meaning." The way I see it, symbols have levels of meaning. There are symbols that are pretty deep and universal because of our joint collective experience of these elements of life. For instance, a snake represents the other end of evolution, i.e. very primordial or basic instincts and affects. From primordial myths and belief systems we can also see that the meaning is also attached to the universal life force and sexuality. Most people are scared of snakes so in a dream it's usually about feeling threatened by basic instincts such as sexual feelings and related issues.

The same symbols also have a shallow level of meaning which is dictated by cultural meaning and individual experience. A snake may not be threatening to someone who is a snake charmer. Someone who is a Hindu and familiar with theories about the Kundalini force would be more likely to associate the snake with religious beliefs than a Westerner would. Of course, we all know about the "one eyed snake", the male organ, which is yet another reason it tends to be connected to sexuality.

I believe that the best way to learn to understand the language of symbols is by engaging in dream interpretation (you can also study and compare myths). This is no easy task as you have to understand the parts as well as the whole, i.e., how the various elements of the dream (the symbols) relate to one another and what the context of these elements is. You need to reflect upon the associations the symbols offer as well as be able to grasp the overall feel of the dream in an intuitive way. The dream also has to relate to the dreaming person, as one has to distinguish the universal meaning of the symbols from possible individual interpretations. Intuition is truly paramount during this process. The language of symbols is not quite like an ordinary language because it relies so heavily on intuition. You also have to keep in mind, that all the symbols in your dreams associate with aspects of yourself. For instance; familiar people you see in your dreams represent qualities in yourself, and buildings usually (unless you're a gypsy traveller, one would assume) symbolize the different levels of the psyche.

People often say they dreamt about something they saw on TV before going to bed, and this becomes their reason for dismissing the existence of any deeper significance attached to the dream. There's a fallacy in this thinking because you don't dream about something because you saw it on TV, but because what you saw on TV reminded your psyche of something significant that it consequently wanted to resolve through your dream. Nothing in your dream world is haphazard. The key to successful dream interpretation is that you take into account every single aspect of the dream with the understanding that it all makes sense in some deep and significant way. We also tend to remember dreams that really are significant to us, while less important dreams are forgotten. If you're grabbed by a dream, it means it has something to say to you that you may not have realized during waking consciousness. I have personally not found anything terribly revelatory within my own dreams, but that's because I'm very interested in my inner life while I'm awake and so nothing comes as a surprise. I find that dreams can clarify some issues, though. There is nothing quite like having had a vivid and deeply emotional dream that really tantalizes your imagination points to great potential,and promotes contemplation about your life situation...

In order to get your imagination going, you might like to consult a book on dream interpretation. Books cannot explain everything for you and it's very important that you choose your book well! A good Jungian style book (E.g. The New Dream Dictionary by Toni Crisp) can give you ideas and impulses, and thus aid the process of understanding the way your psyche functions and what it's communicating to you.

I'm quite a literal person, and I like to communicate in a precise way. While pictures say more than a thousand words, I also like for them to be subject to a rather literal interpretation. I don't see a contradiction in terms here, nor do I have any problem with the fact that some people will prefer to take in my images without the involvement of intellectual analysis. Others will be interested in a semantic interpretation. My experience is that both work just as well, and what really matters in the end is what resonates with people, i.e., what people feel attracted to, and it really doesn't matter whether they are aware of the reasons for this feeling. I expect that people recognize the meaning of the symbols I use either intuitively or directly, and that they strike a cord in the attentive audience because of their universal appeal. 

Artistically speaking, I started out by learning the logical language of symbols, and expressing my own inner development and the formation of a world view through symbolic art. I was intensely interested in esoteric view points while I was learning about the basic nature of reality. It was a rewarding time in my life, and I got much positive response from people from all walks of life. But things changed and I started to feel that making art about the tension between the spiritual and mundane was limited. In short, I felt I had little more to say. My interests have flipped so that at least for the time being, I'm more engaged in social issues, and my spiritual concerns have receded into the background. There is work to be done in the realm of our day to day life, and I feel compelled to do what I can to help alter people's perception of those who are marginalized in society. 

Symbols continue to be my preferred way of expression nonetheless. Through symbols I communicate a vision of life and know that it's a visual representation of something that I could also write about if I wanted to. Yet the impact is different and hopefully a more direct way of saying what I want to say. Symbols are endlessly versatile and a visual language based on symbols can be updated to suit a contemporary audience and crucial topics of the modern day.

Thursday, 15 November 2012


In Swedish there is an expression that goes something like "dear child bears many names", i.e., whom you love, you give many names. This seems to me to fit in with the apocalyptic scenario pretty well. It's a scenario that people love to entertain. For some, it's clearly a really exciting scenario.

I believe that reality is a lot more outrageous than we can possibly imagine. When I stopped seeking answers about the nature of reality about ten or twelve years ago, it was with this in mind. I don't feel a need to push through to find out more, because I feel that there is so much I wouldn't be able to grasp, and the things I'd like to know about no one really seems to be able to give conclusive answers about. I sometimes go to have a look at the integral community, and I'm struck with awe of the intellectual pursuits I find there. It's a little bit disconcerting, as it brings up feelings of inadequacy that I have to deal with. I feel a little bit upset that I am not able to indulge in so much intellectual thought... but the truth that I have to remind me of at times like this is that I don't really want to. It is simply not the life that I want or need for myself right now. It's true that my brains aren't what I'd like for them to be, but it really isn't important. This is the life I have now, and I had better be real about it and live it in a way that feels right. The integral people are intellectual, but to me, there's a bit missing in terms of openness to the real mysteries of our universe. They are so cautious about not being seen "new agey".

A few years ago I also stopped watching the New Age community with all its talk about the ascension. I felt a different sort of inadequacy within this group because I wasn't able to see what they said they were seeing. As interesting as it was, I didn't really feel that my life was within that sphere of spirituality either. So where did I belong? I guess I don't belong anywhere but right here. This was my conclusion. Again, I felt that it was of utmost importance that I stop ogling other people and their ideas, and focus on my own life. I needed not to feel scattered. I greatly simplified my existence, tried to feel as grounded in my new reality here in the new country as possible, and attempted to accept things the way they are. I didn't really have much option, because the move and my wedding left me pretty burn out, and since then I've had to try and adapt to a new culture. 

I know that if I allow myself, I'll just start tormenting myself with questions and doubt about my own ability to lead my life as best as I can. I'll go around feeling guilty for not doing well enough - in any number of areas of life. A great number of things don't really make sense to me. I used to work on myself a lot, but it got tiring. These days I find myself thinking, oh I need to fix this and the other problem with negative emotions, but when I look at what Shadow I'm projecting I'm not getting a hold of it. It's all so complex... I just don't feel there are any simple answers any more. Well, unless you call taking the problems seriously but going easy on myself simple, of course... no, I haven't given up on myself but I no longer feel obsessed by inner work. Who knows, maybe there is infiltration of higher energies into the world... I rather not speculate, because I don't want to mess with my head. I try and take things at face value. What I do feel though, is that something is pushing me a bit, as if I was in a hurry to sort out some personal issues. I also have deep questions about my creative life and what I'm supposed to do next.

It's only a month until that date everyone knows about, that so-called "End of the World". I don't give a toss about some Mayan calendar... it's a great deal of hype about something very unclear. I don't know much about it but it's nevertheless my guess that this date signifies a shift of some sort. People have made prophesies about the end of the world many, many times in the past - check this article out, for instance. There is no evidence that the world would come to an end. There's a lot of rather confused talk about a different kind of "end" though. I believe in evolution - and no doubt, evolution believes in me. I believe we have come to a point in our collective evolution that will propel us forward, maybe as a quantum leap (which seems to have happened before, historically speaking). You could call it an ascension if you wanted to, because it's moving up the evolutionary step ladder. What I do find a bit worrying is that "ascension talk" is basically the same year after year. All the "channellings" follow the same script of telling us that we are co-creators of this world and that those who refuse to wake up to this fact are going to feel very uncomfortable during these times of extreme cleansing of negative energy. They always say that we are going through difficult times and it will all seem very confusing. A wonderful future lies ahead though. That's about it. To me, it sounds like opium for the people.

These are dark and confusing times - well, if you want to be sure of your facts, you could look at what history teaches us. For instance, this is the ideal time for a new start. Think what it was like after the world wars, for instance. If a similar change was to be had on a larger scale, well could it look like something we might be heading for? I feel that a clarity is about to descend upon the human consciousness. Whether it involves extra terrestrial intelligence I don't know... frankly, I don't really care that much. I shall wait and see. I also know that changes can take a long time to take effect, so I am not about to make any prophesies that involves second guessing what I might still experience in my life time. I do think we are ready for change, that the collective has "had it". I don't think that we can sit down and expect everything to be served for us. There is much work to be done, but let's hope these end of days will see a new dawn with new possibilities. Actually, that's what I see. But more than anything else, I believe that we are responsible for our own life here on Earth and that it's really up to ourselves to make things work better, even if we are being facilitated through a shift of consciousness.

Read about how the world may be doing much better than we think.
Read a worthwhile article by Andrew Cohen about how we may relate to each other in the future when people have come to a realization of their authentic selves.
Listen to Ken Wilber and Andrew Cohen discuss the end of the world

Monday, 12 November 2012


I hope to get back to this subject matter at some later stage when I have more conclusive view points to report... I still wish to start this discussion on issues of anger and other negative emotions. For whatever reason, the necessity to deal with such emotions has come up again, with unprecedented obstinacy. I clearly need to find a way of dealing with them.

Many moons ago, I was looking into my own chakras as a result of studying what books were saying about them. The one chakra that seemed non-existent was the third one, i.e. at the solar plexus. I lived with the illusion there was nothing wrong with my Ego. The truth unravelled as I went along, and the problems gradually appeared. This is one of the most complicated chakras - well, at least in my mind - and one that humanity is collectively dealing with at this point in time. It represents matters of the Ego, but it has to be understood that the Ego is not all bad. The healthy Ego is simply our individual selves as manifest in this body, with this mind and these emotions, at this point in time. The "bad" Ego is the skewed and distorted sense of self, one that isn't honest and true. It's an inflated or disintegrated Ego. Most people have shadow issues to deal with on this level. How do we relate to ourselves, to other people, to the world, to the Universe..? Do we have a general sense of belonging? What feelings do we have for occurrences in our environment? How do we build up healthy self-esteem? How do we learn to be diplomatic rather than confrontational? These are just a few of the issues we all have to be mindful about. Not surprisingly, anger often comes out of imbalances in this chakra, because we're upset with the way others treat us and we don't feel respected.  We feel powerless in the face of injustice, or reversely, we experience a need to control that can lead to pathological power games.

I would say that most people are both aggressive and passive-aggressive, though I think that people lean towards one or the other. For instance, you could lash out aggressively but then retreat with a defensive attitude in a passive-aggressive way, claiming to be a victim ("you can't do this to me because I have this illness" , "you make me lose my temper" and so on). The idea of victim hood is typical of modern day society, it's an easy way of justifying one's suffering and negative attitudes in general. I think most people use this way of manipulation at one time or another. Therefore it's important to be able to admit to it - if we all do it, there is no need to feel embarrassed. I know I've been in denial of some tendencies to retreat into victim hood when I've felt powerless and threatened. If you don't admit to it you'll never heal. But getting your butt out of the hole you have dug for yourself can be quite difficult and requires a great deal of determination. You need to think about how you act in the world and why many of your relationships don't work that well.

There are some emotional problems you can't resolve through just thinking about them (this is what CBT, Cognitive Behavioural Therapy attempts to do). There are two things you need to accept; one is that nobody can take these away for you, and the other is that if you only deal with them in your mind, your Ego's defences will come into play. Listen to yourself some time and notice how you keep making excuses about certain issues in your life... how you refuse to believe that there are any solutions to your problems. This can be the false Ego talking, the one that doesn't want change because it's scary. Of course, a clear "no" in your mind can be a healthy no. How do you see that a negative discourse in your mind is not healthy? Well, it's not necessarily easy... I think one sign is that it's victimizing you and feeding off a state of powerlessness. You need to try and listen to yourself objectively, be honest about what you feel, but also have compassion towards this state of affairs. There is probably a wounded child or something similar in there somewhere...

You could use mental imagery to work with this problem if that comes naturally to you. It helps some people to meditate over the idea that they are not their feelings, but I would warn people against becoming dissociated from their feelings and experiences by being too much of a witness. You must embody your life, feel it through and through. This kind of "getting real" is in my opinion of the utmost importance, and I don't personally find it very useful to think of this reality as "just an illusion".

I think there are some issues you can resolve in your mind by seeing the absurdity of your own discourse, but there are some issues that are buried so deep in your psyche you simply cannot get to them that way. In this case, you need to complement the thinking with other work. This other work could be physical exercise and receiving physical treatments to open up knots in your body, or it could be meditation. With really tough issues you might like to do all of these along side with each other, consistently, until your psyche starts to flex.

I personally feel the block in my solar plexus quite tangibly. There's a whiny voice that seems to come from there. The block cuts off some of my love, compassion and intuitive understanding from my emotions, my relationship with the rest of the world, and my body. I feel wronged by the Universe and the people inhabiting this world. The anger and disappointment I experience from feeling helpless within a limited body is one of the major challenges in this life. As I have become less able to whip myself into action, my self-confidence has faltered and I have become a bit too concerned with the way people see me and whether they appreciate what I'm trying to achieve in this life. People care so little about so many things... It's a case of accepting that the issue of feeling limited and helpless is a lesson of some kind and that it is probably ultimately useful to me. It's also about finding a way of not caring that others don't care as much about me and other people as I'd like for them to care. And the way I should "not care" is obviously not by closing off emotionally but by realizing that it's simply a pointless stance. The "entity" that feels wronged is a false Ego and not the true Self. What others do is their business and I shouldn't take it personally. This is difficult and there is no easy way out of this cul de sac. 

My husband posed a good question when I talked to him about all this. He said; well if I'd prefer to be a compassionate person, then how does criticism, anger and retribution help? I have fought many wars, so to speak, and I have won a few of them. I have felt, that it's my duty to inform the world about many things that are wrong because I have the ability to see them. I often feel, that where others just go "oh and ah" in a way that seems mindless, I know better and should point out that it's not all as great as it's cracked up to be. Well, you can already hear the false voice speaking when it says "I know better"... Perhaps I do, perhaps I don't. It's pride that makes me state that I do. This kind of civil dissidence is probably a good thing per se. Someone has to be disobedient and complain where injustice prevails. An adrenaline rush can beat you into action where otherwise you'd just sit and do nothing. I don't want to be anybody's doormat, and I fight for my rights to be anything but. That's all very well, and has a lot to do with healthy boundaries.

The problem is that these "wars" hurt my peace of mind, and tend to carry over to general complaints that are more personal in nature. They become automated. The attitude can spill over to your close relationships and harm the connection with the people who matter to you. You may say things that are unnecessarily unkind, and with more negative energy than is called for. It can burn bridges of all kinds. It can get quite destructive. Ultimately, you ask yourself, how does all this help with the attempts to become a more loving and compassionate person? I don't have any good answers just yet, but I'm working on it. For the moment, I try and pause myself before I say something critical about anything at all - I try and be even more vigilant than before, questioning all my critical statements. I ask myself, how is this particular statement useful, and I try and stop automated behaviour. When and if, is anger justified? Meanwhile, my husband has agreed to work on my tense and painful back muscles (the ones right behind the solar plexus have, interestingly, become very painful at late). Let's see if this will ultimately release some of the issues I'm dwelling on in my mind.

Check out this book, it promises to be quite good - taking into account the different life circumstances we find ourselves in, as well as looking at life as a whole.

Integral Life Practice book cover