Out and about in Ireland

Carlingford, County Louth

I have just returned from a trip to Dublin and it was good to see the Yeats exhibition in the National Library of Ireland. You can see an online version of the exhibition here. It was interesting to note the influence of alchemy on Yeats through the Golden Dawn.  The Golden Dawn was a magical order and incorporated traditional European cabalistic magic and astrology.

Carlingford Lough

I also enjoyed a day trip to Carlingford Lough (pictured opposite) which divides the border between the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland, the only international land border for each country. I visited the pretty village of Carlingford  (pictured above) in County Louth and met Adrienne M Finnerty at the Carlingford Craft co-op shop.

You know a place has something going for it when you notice a Four Seasons Hotel. Incidentally if you are a cash buyer and looking to invest in property you could do no worse than look at this area especially with the planned bridge linking the Republic and the North over Carlingford Lough. The Narrow Water bridge will link counties Down and Louth across Carlingford Lough.

car 1 (2)Ireland is still on its knees economically but it is good to see the spirit of the people alive and kicking. I am always intrigued how individuals respond to serious cracks in the national psyche such as the effects of the recent Irish banking crisis that has witnessed a major housing price correction and helped produce much higher levels of unemployment.

However, the people appear to be resilient in spite of the housing market continuing to worsen and real wages continuing to drop in value.


car2 (2)I found an interesting bookshop in Dublin (pictured opposite) selling transpersonal psychotherapy books whilst out strolling one morning.  Dervish bookshop is based in Aungier Street in Dublin and is well worth a stop if visiting the Fair City.

I also found a cool place for breakfast at Fallon & Byrne, 11- 17 Exchequer Street, Dublin 2, Ireland.  Whilst in the area a visit should be made to Saint Patrick’s Cathedral Dublin. The parish church of Saint Patrick on this site was granted collegiate status in 1191, and raised to cathedral status in 1224.You will pass by the Garda station on Kevin Street en route. The Cathedral is today the National Cathedral of the Church of Ireland (a church of the Anglican communion).


Fintan O’Toole interview on Irish economic crisis
Yeats exhibition online
Affordable counselling Dublin



Different initiations in a relationship

The different initiations in a relationship was part of the alchemy of relationships weekend.  What happens when you first fall in love?  You see something of the ideal or you project your ideal. So what is the ideal, what are you projecting?  Your own higher self is being projected onto that person. You are idolising them.

You can see love in all figures but this doesn’t mean that you have to marry everyone.  We become loving as we grow older and wiser. By implication we have more capacity to love many people. It becomes easier and easier to fall in love but we don’t have to act it out. Through wisdom we can see what is happening within ourselves.

The shadow has a place.  Without the shadow there could be no discrimination.  The only way you get to see different shading is because of the shadow.  In art the strongest line is black.  We can recognise differences.  Little children who are innocent, have no recognition of the shadow.  They can be so easily manipulated or hurt very easily. As they grow up they become aware of the shadow by being trained to not do this or that or not to speak to this or that person. It is through the shadow we grow and by being conscious of it we discover what it is to be human.

A lot of religions and spiritual movements make the mistake of believing we are all ultimately good.  Yes, we are all ultimately good but our actions belie their truth. The flower children movement of the 1960s failed because it didn’t recognise the shadow. The transpersonal approach is all about maintaining balance. The challenge of a relationship is unconditional love. The mistake of society is that it only sees the shadow and it becomes very controlling. We are protected from dark forces and dangerous people. The balance is to be able to see the shadow and the light.

Why are some people always falling for the bad boy?  They are seeking badness so they want to become aware of the badness. This is their way of accessing the shadow.

The same is true in relationships.  Everything is great and harmonious until we discover a bad habit  in our partner.  The ideal gives way to reality.  Why do couples break up? How many times have we heard people say You are not the person I feel in love with?  In a relationship you are being callenged to engage in unconditional love. Couples mainly break up through lack of communication, messiness, lack of intimacy etc. The ideal gives way to reality, which can be more self centred and defensive.

Different initiations in a relationship:

1. Commitment:  No-one is absolutely safe to commit to.  It is an act of faith to commit to a relationship. The ego is surrendering, otherwise there is a conditional relationship.

2. Being tested in relationships: Patience, tolerance, fidelity and truth.  We can fail but we can make reparations.  However, you break up if you keep failing. Testing is a ritual.

3. Empathise/understand each other as we both are: Assimilate each other, create a bond. Helps the two of you to get through difficult things in life.

4. Begin to see the ideal in the other:  Not in mind but in heart.  You are seeing the ideal.  Some see this as the vision of the soul or essence.

5.  Take responsibility for reminding partner of their quality: “active vision”. The building of the ideal must be mutual.

6. Seeing the ideal (the 4th stage of love): Mirroring back to each other. Spiritual realisation.

Related post The Alchemy of Relationships

Additional resources
Anima and Animus
10 signs you are falling in love
The science of love
Falling in Love
Falling in love can take a fifth of a second


The alchemy of Relationships

Are you in a balanced relationship?  Attraction between two people can be seen through the lens of the elements (air, fire, water and earth) although the shadow can emerge following the get together (which emerges around our limitations).  For instance, you might be a balanced fire type, in that you are confident and direct but perhaps get attracted to a balanced earth type. Your impulsive and potentially destructive qualities are seeking a bond with a big hearted and noble type.  The bonding in a healthy relationship is when you develop the qualities of your partner (the blending of the chemical reactions).  It is these qualities that you are attracted to in the first place.

The ideas and qualities for an ideal relationship:

Air: Listening, explaining, facilitating decisions. The basis of anger is fear.  if anger is met with anger then primitive fears kick in and conflict takes place.  Therefore, it is advisable to give space and slow down.

Fire: Keeping you from getting too serious.  Keeping spirits up, helping with career/goal, maintaining ideals, supporting ideals.

Water: Co-creating family life. Source of love and hugs.  Tune into your emotions.  Appreciating talents. Realise your patience.

Earth: Provides security, sense of belonging, always being there, keeping aligned with purpose.

It is important to remember that all elements exist within us all, but some can be unconscious.  It is from the experiences of entering into relationships that we come to be aware of the unconscious elements within us.  We may project things onto our partners or get irritated by these reactions.

Different stages of love: in terms of experience.  As we mature something within our psychology allows for a greater understanding of love. Love begins in a physical way but can end up in a very sublime (spiritual) love. Carl Jung referred to the anima and animus.   Jung recognised in his clients that all men had an inner female (anima) figure in their dreams and this seemed an important aspect of their psyche and how he related to the feminine.  Jung postulated that the feminine figure in a male represents his soul, not the ultimate representation but a state of a man’s soul.  For women he found that there was a male figure that wished to get expressed in every day life (animus).

Was this a dated idea given the conjugal roles that existed in the 1920s? Perhaps. But Jung came up with some intriguing insights.  Anima and animus are to do with love.  Anima and animus can evolve through four stages, regardless of one’s gender or gender orientation.

Exemplars can come out in dreams as archetypes.  That tells us where we are with our feelings.

1. Passion: You might attract that part of you that you are not in touch with. We project onto other people that particular stage of love.  Tarzan and Jane could be exemplars. This is fiery. If you are out of touch with that part within you the more it regresses. Someone that is very intellectual could fall for a very physical person.  The famous German film Blue Angel demonstrates this when a professor falls for a nightclub hostess.

2. Romantic: This is when emotions start to get involved.  We project romantic feelings onto people.  Cleopatra was a classical exemplar, as was Helen of Troy.  Harrison Ford would be a male version. Love becomes affectionate.

3. Admiration: Standing up for the weak. The ideal transcends their personality and its this that endures.  Exemplars would be MLK, Nelson Mandela and Ghandi. We project outside onto another, we don’t realise its within ourselves.

4. Angelic: To glorify and worship someone. The Goddess within. The Goddess of wisdom.  Two become one.  There is no going back.  Christ, Buddha, Mohamed etc. The culmination of the spiritual path.

What happens when we fall in love?  More soon ………..


The benefits of meditation when dealing with addiction and alchemy of transformation

Meditation is not just for new age spiritualists or oddballs but should be seen as a practice for everyone, even for children. It is easy and simple and can be done anywhere. Meditation is a powerful antidote to the threats posed by addictions.

There are many great resources on the Internet and from books on how to meditate and on the benefits of meditation.  See the list of resources at the end of the post.

Addiction has nasty associations these days.  However, it originally merely mean’t something you liked.  It was only in the 20th century that it became to be known as a slave to drugs. Addiction is a devotion to yourself.  We are really attached to ourselves but in a dangerous way.  Recuperation, or recovery, comes from the Latin word “recupare” meaning “to regain.” Through meditation we can regain consciousness and reach a certain peace with ourselves.  When we are hooked we lose consciousness, as we become obsessed with ourselves. To recover is to push back the border of our consciousness, to know more and to regain interests in relationships. We begin to feel more present and happier in the here and now,

The important aspect of meditation is to do it on a daily basis.  Here, the fidelity of the practice is important.  Do it even when you don’t want to do it.  It is by the practice of a good habit that gradually outweighs the power of a bad habit. You don’t even need belief, just faith,  to do the practice.

Despair and Acadia will try to tell you to give up hope, that you are no use at the practice. Acadia had been one of the deadly sins but did not make the final 7. You should not, however, look for anything dramatic in meditative practice.  Instead, concentrate on the daily practice without expectation.

Meditation has given me glimpses of a new way of being.  Through the alchemy of transformation I can uncover a lot of my negative past or my shadow in the nigredo stage, similar to undertaking personal inventory work, and through to a brighter stage of albedo. Citrinas is largely unconscious and rubedo is an emerging new life. I have spent most of life struggling in nigredo and flipping between one addiction to another.  I have received glimpses of albedo through therapy and meditation but sometimes it can be fleeting and any attempts at acquiring serenity can feel like pushing water uphill. For me, personal transformation is predicated on the willingness to “let go”.  How can I achieve this if I am nursing unhealthy fantasies and active addictions? I do not have much experience of mastering.  In my meditation I can feel great resistance as my ego defences are very solid. Mastering for me would represent being able to sit with my feelings and not have some manic activity consuming my attention. Is this what we are all searching for?  A peace to be with our own feelings and not having to have any manic activity going on?

My own personal therapy is a journey of letting go, acquiring a new rhythm, keeping an open mind, trusting the process and developing new layers of honesty with my therapist. Freedom is when we are free of our history, or at least when our personal history is not the primary reference in our lives. We no longer react in the instance but can provide a considered response to the events in our lives.

Meditation calms you down.  The practice of meditation eases you into a new state of calm mindful being.  It helps in brain training. However, the higher benefit of meditation is that we are led to the ultimate truth of our own being. Try it.  It might even work.

Learning to meditate Practical guide
Meditation books Useful list of books on meditation
21 Awake Explores authentic 21st century meditation practice, written by a London Insight regular
AA Alcoholics Anonymous is a fellowship of men and women who share their experience, strength and hope with each other that they may solve their common problem and help others to recover from alcoholism
GA Meetings for problem gamblers
Narcotics Anonymous non a nonprofit fellowship or society of men and women for whom drugs had become a major problem. Recovering addicts who meet regularly to help each other stay clean
SLAA Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous is a Twelve Step, Twelve Tradition-oriented fellowship based on the model pioneered by Alcoholics Anonymous
Silence in the City Meditation in London
The 12 steps of recovery


Evaluate the relevance of elements typology to transpersonal integrative psychotherapy

Evaluate the relevance of elements typology to transpersonal integrative psychotherapy

The Elements model has a balanced view of personality. Whereas Jung believed we have a type, the elements model indicates that whilst we might have a particular orientation, we can develop other parts for a more balanced type. In some areas of our life, we are extroverted but introverted in other areas. The Elements model has 3 positions: expressive, receptive balanced, therefore, comprising twelve types in all, master, prophet and saint. However, no one is a pure type.

1. air (expressive, receptive, balanced)

2. fire (expressive, receptive, balanced)

3. water (expressive, receptive, balanced)

4. earth (expressive, receptive, balanced)

In this model expressive qualities are similar to the extroverted type, the more apparent, active dimension of the element and are connected with the path of the Master who overcomes limitation. The receptive dimension, on the other hand, is more inner, and therefore more introverted and subtle and is associated with the path of the Saint who consciously surrenders to the Divine Will. The middle ground of balance is the path of the Prophet who shows wisdom and discrimination to balance the two other paths. In this model the twelve groups of qualities are then associated with an archetype that is the ideal for each.

A transpersonal perspective on the psyche (Wilber 1978) is that we come from spirit, our true nature is divine and our essence is of a split-off fragment of an all-encompassing consciousness. The word ‘spirit’ is derived from spiritus which implies wind or breath. The alchemical journey is to reveal our true nature, before we were born. If we think of a garden, our personality is what we plant in the garden, the trees and the shrubbery. Character is defined by how we tender the garden. Attending to a fertile soil in the garden when there is abundant sunlight and temperate climate is very different to attending to a stony garden in the west of Ireland. In transpersonal therapy we create the fertile soil, the inner marriage with our inner selves. We can find the voice for the client or mirror a desire for the client.

Through the alchemy of transformation I can uncover a lot of my negative past or my shadow in the nigredo stage, similar to undertaking personal inventory work, and through to a brighter stage of albedo. Citrinas is largely unconscious and rubedo is an emerging new life. I have spent most of life struggling in nigredo and flipping between one addiction to another. I have received glimpses of albedo through therapy and meditation but sometimes it can be fleeting and any attempts at acquiring serenity can feel like pushing water uphill. For me, personal transformation is predicated on the willingness to “let go”. How can I achieve this if I am nursing unhealthy fantasies and active addictions? I do not have much experience of mastering. In my meditation I can feel great resistance as my ego defences are very solid. Mastering for me would represent being able to sit with my feelings and not have some manic activity consuming my attention. My own personal therapy is a journey of letting go, acquiring a new rhythm, keeping an open mind, trusting the process and developing new layers of honesty with my therapist.

Freedom in the elements model is when we are free of our history. We no longer react in the instance but can provide a considered response as the soul has its own journey.

For the elements model I like to think of the analogy of a balloon. A balloon when full of ‘air’ and ‘fire’ will rise and be up in the clouds before very long. I can be very ‘intellectual’ and be powered by researching and pontificating economic ideas whilst I fail to change the light bulb in my house. Through meditation or therapy sessions, I realise that my ‘air’ element is distorted. I, therefore, feel the need to walk in green surroundings taking in the fresh air and I notice my breathing becoming more relaxed and whole. My receptive ‘earth’ and ‘water’ qualities are accessed and I then feel less compelled to intellectualise or to argue but rather to “just be” and to take in the smells and the colours. It doesn’t always work. Sometimes I am at a serene place and yet am in distorted ‘fire’. I can feel ill at ease. This is when ‘fire’ can be a liability. Or I may be so wrapped up in my own head that I fail to appreciate the colours and the beauty and completely miss what is beautiful and, therefore, suffer from too much ‘air.’

In the CCPE weekend groups, we observed in group work the elements at play in walking. It was intriguing to note that some walked with so much air they were up in the clouds and ran the risk of walking into things. Others walked with lots of fire and were very off putting in their stance. I have since used the observations in coffee bars whilst observing people come and go. This is useful when seeing clients since body language can be another indicator of what is happening at an unconscious level. I believe that our job as transpersonal therapists is to make conscious the unconscious. Observing body language can be an essential part of our basic toolkit.

Critique of elements

Critics of the elements model suggest that those with borderline personality or psychotic symptoms are not appropriate candidates for transpersonal therapy techniques because of the potential for ego defences to be overwhelmed. But these conditions are probably relative contraindications at best. However, for Linehan, she used and visualisation with borderline patients in Dialectical Behaviour Therapy and suggested that even patients with fragile or unstable ego functioning can benefit from such work.

The assumption in the elements model is that we carry all elements in ourselves and we adapt and repress others but we can potentially get in touch with all of them. Through the transformation of alchemy in the elements model, we discover harmony in the relationships between all parts.

Ultimately true healing does not happen in the head. It occurs through feeling toned realisations in response to a lived experience. That is why the analytic process, when pursued on an intellectual level, and that includes most self-analysis, is sterile. As we come to understand and appreciate transpersonal experiences and process, we can evaluate other cultures better and learn from their accumulated centuries of transpersonal wisdom. We can, in effect, reclaim what has been called “the Great Tradition,” the sum total of humankind’s cross-cultural religious and philosophical wisdom so that we may better serve our patients.


Related posts

Alchemy of transformation



The alchemical process is only for those who are deemed spiritually adept masters?

I have had knowledge of the mysticism of the higher planes from a previous lecture which gave me the necessary insights into a basic understanding of myself, particularly the relationship between my essence (soul) and personality (temperament). Years ago, alchemy in the West was primarily an experimental scientific process dedicated to transforming physical, material lead into physical and actual material gold. The alchemists from ancient Greece had been cited as among the chemists of their day. Then, much later on, during the European Renaissance the primary goal for many alchemists had evolved and had been transformed into something of a very different nature. For many of the alchemists in these times, the alchemical process became part of bringing about a mysterious corresponding inner transformation process within the human psyche.  Jung, by accident,  discovered in the images of alchemy further validation of his ground breaking psychological theories regarding the universal nature of symbols. This was essentially a development of his earlier discovery of universal symbols contained in sacred religious writings, myths, fairy tales and  in dreams.

Inner Transformation

Jung valued alchemy for its rich symbolic content and imagery.   The transformation of worthless metals into precious gold unconsciously reflected an internal developmental process of “wholeness” and health in the human psyche (which Jung termed as “individuation”).

For Jung, what really set apart the symbols of transformation found in alchemy was due to the early alchemists’ beliefs that they were strictly dealing with physical, chemical, material processes. He  found psychological gold in the writings of the alchemists.  3 large volumes of Jung’s Collected Works had been devoted to alchemy and alchemical symbols in relation to the development of the human psyche and individuation.  Jung’s alchemy is only directed toward emotionally healthy people having established a strong and solid sense of ego identity and having a strong and solid grip on reality.

The alchemical process is only for those who are deemed spiritually adept masters?  Not for me.  But answers on a postcard.

Remember what the philosopher William James said, it is by listening to people’s stories that we get to understand people.



1 Jun 2002 Prepared as a class for Spring Quarter 1986, Rogue Community College. This class provided feedback and interaction which fed into my Phanes.

C. G. Jung and the Alchemical Renewal

“The Chinese Connection” thus revealed to Jung that alchemy is based upon universal archetypal principles which are of equal relevance to ancient Gnostics

Carl Jung – Alchemy

Jung’s interest for alchemy starts from two directions. One is the necessity to find a historic parallel to his own discoveries of the unconscious psychic

BBC – h2g2 – The Secret Art of Alchemy

30 Nov 2001  The Swiss psychologist, Dr Carl Jung, who began studying alchemy when aged 53, realised that the alchemist was really working symbolically

Alchemy – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Alchemical symbolism has been occasionally used by psychologists and philosophers. CarlJung reexamined alchemical symbolism and theory and began to show 

Carl JungAlchemy and Neo-Gnosticism

The New Alchemy Website – Jung on Active Imagination: “But active imagination, as the term denotes, means that the images have a life of their own

On Alchemy, C.G.Jung and Ecological Intelligence « Heidekolb’s Blog

10 Feb 2010 To his surprise Jung found in alchemy a model that he identified as the basis of our modern way of perceiving things.

Gift of the Gods: Download Jung’s Alchemical Red Book | Mysterious 

For nearly a quarter of a century following the death of famed psychoanalyst Carl Jung’s, his family kept the Red Book locked in a safety deposit box, 



Alchemy “The Process of Transformation”

At the weekend I attended the second of the monthly weekend courses as part of my diploma course.  The first one (a month ago)  was on fundamental skills which whilst very dynamic was also tiring and challenging.  This past weekend was a more relaxed opportunity to experience and understand the process of my own transformation. In the mornings the lectures were on the knowledge of alchemy and the planes of consciousness crucial to this understanding. It covered the classical stages of alchemy:

• Purification
• Rediscovering our essence
• The immaculate state
• Alchemical marriage
• Embodying our new perspective
• Clarifying our life purpose and the qualities we need

We looked at the transformational process in life, such as in our work and in our relationships. A knowledge of the mysticism of the higher planes gave me the necessary insights into understanding myself, particularly the relationship between my essence (soul) and personality (temperament).

I am intrigued by the role of neuroscience in determining how we feel and how our brains work in relation to positive and negative neural pathways.  During lectures I can also hear myself speculating on the extent of the holistic approach being adopted by my College to the degree of integration in their learning and development model. I can, for instance, wonder about the empirical studies on the brain that neuroscientists refer to as well as to the benefits of healthy feelings brought about by meditation. I can also find myself wondering about the socio economic conditions we face and the impact of these conditions on mental health. I was reassured when the lecturer said that the course should be seen as holistic and fully integrative.  I should, therefore,  follow my interests and read up on the Marxism of therapy, or assess what scientists have to tell us,  if that is my particular area of interest.  I like this approach.  I can see myself drawing on many sources in the course of my work. Sometimes I think the philosophical teachings of Karl Marx are as relevant today as the writings of Jung and Freud when investigating the causes of depression and feelings of alienation. One therefore needs to draw on many sources when seeking to understand a client’s story. Remember what the philosopher William James said, it is by listening to people’s stories that we get to understand people.

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alchemy symbols

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philosopher’s stone

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