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Inner Castles and Worlds

metaphors of self and psyche


 
Thanks to Soul Food Cafe

Heather Blakey and her richly complex site Soul Food Cafe, which includes contributions from many writers and artists, are responsible for some of the inspiration for this topic of "inner architecture."

In an interview by Chris Dunmire of Creativity Portal, Heather said, “Monastic buildings are full of fine arts and craft, which reveal the benefits of developing a rich interior life... I thought of St Theresa's interior castle, a metaphor that spoke to me for years. Thoughts rock climb up from the valleys within my brain...”

The intro to The Alluvial Mine section of Soul Food Cafe says, “By far the largest area of the mind, the subconscious, is built up with associated sense impressions and memories dating back to the womb.
 


"This submerged area of mentation is the creative part of the mind, a wonderland of mystery.

"According to Carl Jung, the famous Swiss psychiatrist, it is the area which contains a summary and reservoir of race, memory and accumulated skills. It is the submerged part which is the powerhouse from which radiates the most illuminating inspirations of artistic genius. It is synonymous with Mnemosyne, goddess of memory and mother of the Muses.”

This larger diagram of The Alluvial Mine has multiple hidden links - use your cursor.

The Interior Castle of St. Teresa

St. Teresa of Avila (1515-82) envisioned the soul as "a castle made of a single diamond... in which there are many rooms, just as in Heaven there are many mansions."
This idea came to her in about the year 1579.

A friend of hers, Fray Diego de Yepes wrote that God "showed her a most beautiful crystal globe, made in the shape of a castle, and containing seven mansions, in the seventh and innermost of which was the King of Glory... The nearer one got to the centre, the stronger was the light; outside the palace limits everything was foul, dark and infested with toads, vipers and other venomous creatures.”

This image is by Aliza Dzik from book The Interior Castle by Teresa of Avila, translation and introduction by Mirabai Starr . The castle is in the shape of a spiral - significant as an image of personal growth.


Secret Lairs

Both "V for Vendetta" (2005) and
Phantom of the Opera" (2005) feature underground, hidden and vast abodes of the protagonists - analogues of their complex minds and personalities.
V's labyrinthine Shadow Gallery [left] includes a Wurlitzer jukebox, a copy of the Koran and numerous books, movies, music and paintings banned by the government Ministry of Objectionable Material.

What do we hold in our mental vaults - and what do others and ourselves try to ban?



Jean Houston commented in our interview about the quality of personal identity that can make us multifaceted, "Polyphrenia - the orchestration of our many selves - is our extended health. We have a vast crew within."

> one of many books: A Passion for the Possible

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J. Krishnamurti in his book Think on These Things declares, “Only the mind which has no walls, no foothold, no barrier, no resting place, which is moving completely with life, timelessly pushing on, exploring, exploding - only such a mind can be happy, eternally new, because it is creative in itself.”


Alice In Wonderland

Luckily for Alice, the little magic bottle had now had its full effect, and she grew no larger: still it was very uncomfortable, and, as there seemed to be no sort of chance of her ever getting out of the room again, no wonder she felt unhappy.

‘It was much pleasanter at home,' thought poor Alice, `when one wasn't always growing larger and smaller, and being ordered about by mice and rabbits. I almost wish I hadn't gone down that rabbit-hole--and yet--and yet--it's rather curious, you know, this sort of life!'

from Alice In Wonderland Ch. 4 [online]
text and drawing by Lewis Carroll



When Alice takes her journey down the rabbit hole (and through the looking-glass) she has fallen into the realm of the unconscious, the collective unconscious.

As James Hillman writes: “The Underworld is converse to dayworld, and so its behavior will be obverse, perverse” (The Dream and the Underworld 39). ///


Alice in the underworld temporarily has her own identity crisis... she wants to know who she really is. Because she’s changed size so incredibly, she wonders: “But if I’m not the same, the next question is ‘Who in the world am I?’ Ah, that’s the great puzzle!” (Oxford Press Alice 18). 
When she tries to recite a poem from memory, the words come out wrong. Clearly, her ego identity is confused at this point -- undifferentiated, if you will.

She fears the loss of her ego identity, a genuine fear for a child under such circumstances. In the Garden of Live Flowers, the Red Queen advises Alice to “remember who you are!” (ibid. 147). Yet when she reaches the woods with the Looking-Glass insects, Alice temporarily forgets her own name (ibid. 156), symbolic of who she is.


In Zuni myth, she would be described as “uncooked” (see Will Roscoe, The Zuni Man-Woman 219).

Interestingly, Rumi, the Persian mystical poet, uses, in a patriarchal context, the same trope in one of his mystical poems: “There is a spiritual fire for the sake of cooking you. . . . If you do not flee from the fire, and become wholly cooked like well-baked bread, you will be a master and lord of the table” (Jalal al-Din al-Rumi, Mystical Poems of Rumi 2 144).

Alice’s journeys through Wonderland and in the Looking-Glass world are efforts to become “cooked,” that is to affirm her ego identity, to develop the functions of consciousness, to become as far as possible an integrated, whole person.

[illustration above by Sir John Tenniel]


Marilyn Manson and “Alice”

The musician is developing a film called “Phantasmagoria – The Visions of Lewis Carroll” and he will portray the author of Alice in Wonderland.

In an interview Manson said, ”I see people being creative and I see that as a positive thing. ... I just really want people to get lost inside themselves and not be afraid of doing it. You can compare it to going through the looking glass: the idea of getting lost inside yourself and not being afraid if you can’t tell what’s real and not real. 

"That’s not about taking drugs and having an acid trip. It’s about not being afraid to cry; not being afraid to die; not being afraid to live also. To really find out who you are and find out who your real friends are.”

[Marilyn Manson photo by Ali Mahdavi]

The Secret Garden

In The Secret Garden story by Frances Hodgson Burnett [image from a 1911 publication], a young girl, Mary, is introduced as ”a dour and unhealthy child” but after she discovers a hidden garden and begins to tend it, “crocuses and daffodils push up through the warming earth, her body begins to bloom and her manners to soften. Summer sees the complete regeneration of both Mary and [the invalid boy] Colin...”

One commentator noted “the overarching symbol of the book is the secret garden, a lost paradise of love and happiness - a version, perhaps, of the Garden of Eden, now reclaimed and rejuvenated.”

The book The Secret Garden:Temenos for Individuation- A Jungian Appreciation of Themes in the Novel By Frances Hodgson Burnett, by Margaret Meredith, is described as growing “out of the author's abiding interest in gardening as a metaphor for the process of individuation.

"It circumambulates the psychology and rich symbolism associated with gardens and secrets, with particular reference to the much-loved novel by Frances Hodgson Burnett."
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In the wisdom tradition of Sufism, the secret garden is used by various poets and teachers as a metaphor of spiritual development and understanding. Above is the cover for the book Come to the Secret Garden: Sufi Tales of Wisdom, by M. R. Bawa Muhaiyaddeen

The Mandala

"Loosely translated to mean 'circle,' a mandala is far more than a simple shape. It represents wholeness, and can be seen as a model for the organizational structure of life itself - a cosmic diagram that reminds us of our relation to the infinite, the world that extends both beyond and within our bodies and minds.

"Awareness of the mandala may have the potential of changing how we see ourselves, our planet, and perhaps even our own life purpose."

> from book Mandala: Journey to the Center, by Bailey Cunningham

This image is from the cover of The Identity Code: The 8 Essential Questions for Finding Your Purpose and Place in the World - by Laurence Ackerman - which, to quote the book site, is “designed to introduce you to yourself. Not the person you see in the mirror, physically speaking, or the one people necessarily interact with everyday, but the person inside.

"The powerful one. The one who knows more than you realize about your unique capacities and whose ability to create value in this world – and get rewarded for it in return – is remarkable.”

> also see articles by author Larry Ackerman:
The Myth of Personal Freedom and the Meaning of Identity
Getting to the Promise of Affirmation