Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Magical Realism, Jung, Picasso & the Circus

Without the marginal or liminal world, we are not able to experience the numinous - the mystical experience, the feeling we are in the presence of the gods or a universe which fills us with awe and wonder. Often this happens in nature, sex, meditation and dreaming, but are also primary concepts in both art and the writing of Magical Realism.
The marginal or liminal world which exists outside of the constructs of society, has been named in the past in other cultures: the Celtic Sidh, the land behind Maya, the veil, in East India. It is the place between the real world and the ethereal realm, a magical world, where we confront archetypes, gods and spirits.  Both numinous experiences in liminal or marginal peoples and locations  are where we confront our own inner archetypes, the hidden inner gods, spirits and even the demon or the shadow, as Jung called it. In our dreams we meet dark and dangerous entities and helpful guides. But we can also encounter them in our waking life, by using our lunar mind in creating fantasies and active imagination; in writing, painting and meditation. 
Recently the Asheville Jung Center, presented a webinar called, Tending the Lunar Mind, by Dr. Murray Stein, a noted Jungian analyst who is also a professor at the International School of Analytical Psychology (ISAP) in Zurich, Switzerland, the same university where Jung taught. Dr. Stein spoke about two important aspects concepts of the lunar mind: the marginal and numinous.
 The liminal is the place outside of the practical, organized structured world, but it is real. Gypsies and Circuses both live marginal lives: moving from place to place, and it was interesting to discover that Picasso had an affinity for both, as well as a keen interest in primitive art, creating much along those lines in his sculptures and some of his paintings, but also in little fetishes he hid in his studios. By living as marginal life as a starving artist, not following conventional rules, he could enter the liminal realm, become very much in touch with his lunar mind. This highly evident, as if we had the visual images of his dreams, in many of his paintings where he evokes archetypal motifs: the most obvious the bull, which he felt represented himself, and which he learned to identify with form his youngest days when his father an art teacher, took him to bullfights. Picasso said that he at times, painted his women as the horses on which the bullfighter rode and who were sometimes sacrificed to the fight, as seen in paintings like Guernica, his anti World War II German Invasion of France painting. All of these searches, through the expression of his art, was his search for the Sacred Fire, that powerful act of revelation which comes through creative acts. Picasso's youngest son with Francois, Bernard Ruiz-Picasso, claimed Picasso told him how he often didn't realize the symbolism in the images he painted were relevant to his personal life until later, a while after he finished his paintings, such as in Guernica.  
And so he could be close to the deepest depths of the liminal - in touch with the numinous, driven by his left brain/lunar mind thinking. To facilitate this, he chose other people to manage the practical side of his life, his many mistresses, eating in cafes and hiring managers to sell his art.
He was so fascinated with the gypsies who brought the circuses to his childhood home, that he often portrayed himself or others in Harlequin clothes. In the early 1900's in Spain at Carnivale and later to a lesser degree, in France, the Harlequin was not a funny clown, he was more Mercrurial, much like Hermes, whose jokes could often be sinister, cruel and confusing and sometimes even dangerous and terrifying.
Picasso called the circus,The Vague Terrain, as if he was already so entrenched in the lunar mind, that he could name it - a landscape which to him was another place and time.   
I found this all to be rather comforting, and revealing after I watched the brilliant video biography: Picasso: Magic, Sex and Death, which I found at the library. One of Picasso's close friends and his biographer, John Richardson, narrates and interviews members of Picasso's family, people he knew, and their descendants, as well as primary sources.

The books I write and am editing, fall in the category of Magical Realism. Parts of the books are based on fact: locations, politics and weather events (Katrina in Shaman Circus, the n'or easter and tornadoes in Mass. in Shaman Exile, and the flooding in Australia in Fireworks, Interference Equation. The magic is not full out fantasy, but a sort of an escalation, an exaggeration of real events which become magical, often, as lived and viewed by the characters. 

Jung discovered the lunar mind in the 1920's, when he began listen to the fantasies of a patient named Miss Miller, this was before neuroscientists found it in the laboratory and named it the left brain, which he found was emotional, fantasy oriented, and worked in childlike with images and stories. At first, Jung believed the lunar or right brain was inferior to the solar mind, the left brain, which was directed, organized, logical, practical, and followed the rules of society, as taught in the schools and lived in the cities. But as he worked with Miss Miller more and more, he discovered that the lunar mind was a story teller with purpose, it's ability to hyper associate, work in images and storylines, quite different from the real world, but relating to the real world, proved more informative and valuable to the sanity of a person. Recently, neurscience has confirmed Jung's interpretations of the lunar mind and found in clinical research that without sleeping and dreaming, people are be unable to thrive and even survive.Their health suffers, they are unable to regulate their body temperature, make decisions, judge other people as trustworthy, and be correct in the flight or fight syndrome when danger arrived. They end up with their immune system challenged, their anxiety high and become unable to handle their emotions.

I'd often wondered why I called my first novel Shaman Circus, since there's no circus in the novel. Just a rather confusing round of Shamans who can't quite figure out how to live their destiny and more often fail or are punished by circumstance for their failures or perhaps as tests of their commitment, but also manage to create incredible forces of power for good in unusual ways.  My second novel in the Shaman series, Shaman in Exile, does include plot aspects within the liminal world of the Circus in the countryside of France, on the outskirts of a city. I chose to include a circus, because of the amazingly bizarre circus we have in Greenville, SC called, The Inner Circus. Beside scheduled performances, stilt walkers, poi spinners, mimes and other performers dressed in odd, not conventional circus costumes, and sometimes frightening masks, often show up at the park, on Main Street, or art fairs and our first Friday Gallery Crawls in the Pendleton Arts district. When I lived in my studio in that area, 2007 and 2008, it was a highly liminal world. At night, due to crime at that time, the area was deserted, not a car parked anywhere, not a person in sight. This was when I was writing Shaman in Exile. At that time, I had no idea the circus was considered a liminal realm, or that appeared in Magical Realism novels.
 So it was an act of synchronicity to watch the Picasso video after the Tending the Lunar Mind webinar. Now I finally get some of Picasso's cubist works, not my favorite, I prefer his blue period, but now I understand more of what his paintings mean, but also why he kept morphing his style in more and more bizarre styles. Due to the way he felt inclined to paint himself in Harlequin costume, he allows his solar mind, his massive ego, to take the liberty of entering the lunar mind when he stepped in his studio. In fact, eve3n with his solar side, the Bull, when he entered the liminal realm in his studio, he became a shaman, and often thought of himself this way, according to his son, as unpredictable as the Hermes/Mercurial Harlequin.Pierrot. Picasso is one vibrant testimony, among the many in the artists and writers to lfind the lunar realm through creative acts, at the very time Jung was discovering the liminal worlds in the minds and dreams of his patients. 

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