My venture into historical fiction begins

I have a little announcement, and I’m feeling awfully nervous.
For the past few weeks I’ve been throwing obstacles in the path of this. I’m beginning the demanding task of turning my doctoral thesis into a novel. Well, sort of.
My thesis concerns a corpus, a body of obscure texts. My novel will attempt to embody the life of the author. Her name is Alice Bailey. She’s a highly controversial figure nobody outside New Age and conspiracy theory circles has heard of. Yet her writing has been enormously influential on the world stage and it is easy to show how. Her life is colourful and interesting too, with themes many will relate to, including domestic violence, elitism and exclusion, jealousy and malice.
What is challenging is that I am treading the controversial path of ‘faction’ – inspired by  Heather Rose’ The Museum of Modern Love, and Melissa Ashley’s The Birdman’s Wife, both prize winning books. I am indebted to the authors for tamping down the grass on this narrow rocky path, impressing us all with the results of their hard labours. I’ve reviewed both works and I have become so enthusiastic in my praises, the authors might be wondering ‘who is this nut who keeps liking my short-list announcements with “told you so” comments?’
In reviewing these works, it appears I’ve been set a high bar.
My story will be structured differently. There will be echoes of The Chemistry of Tears by Peter Carey, for mine is a frame story. I have chosen this approach as I want to tell a little of Alice Bailey’s legacy. Creating a narrative frame set in the present seems to me the only way to achieve this.
I have the title.
I’ve conjured a protagonist to put in the frame. I already love her to bits.
I’ve completed my research on the life of Alice Bailey. I have it all written up in a submittable draft, what I thought was a submittable draft.
I’ve storyboarded the chapters.
I am about to invoke the voice of Alice Bailey.
Nothing in my literary journey to date has been more daunting and more compelling than this project.
Will I pull it off? If I do, will anyone, other than me, be interested in this mysterious woman whose story has gone untold for many decades?
So here I go, bathers donned despite the cold, facing the choppy waters of historical fiction. Already, there’s a storm on the horizon.
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A Perfect Square – esoteric fiction

A Perfect Square is on some level an exploration of the different ways people approach esotericism. Who are these people? Where can we find them? Meet the eccentric artist Harriet Brassington-Smythe, her daughter, pianist Ginny Smith, and the mysterious hidden figure of Wilhelm Schmid, a scholar of the esoteric order of the Rosicrucians.

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I cannot say that conspiracy theory is a major theme in A Perfect Square, but it does enter into one of the story lines, as mother and artist Judith, alone in an old farmhouse on the Devon moors, explores an internet forum, called ‘The Forum’.

My own thinking on esotericism and on conspiracy thinking goes much deeper. Why do the two go together and how? They are united through two words: elitism and secrecy. Simply put, conspiracy thinking always points to some sort of elite. Esoteric practice creates that elite. Esoteric practice generally occurs in secret. Power elites conduct their business in secret. Conspiracy theorists tend to also have an esoteric bent. Esoteric-minded types will always always look behind the scenes to see if they can see what’s going on. They sense the conspiring. But they get hung up on theories. Why bother? When really, conspiracy theories are themselves just mental traps.

Here’s a piece I wrote for the aptly named Paranoia magazine. Where I have tried to stretch my thinking a little further.

http://www.paranoiamagazine.com/2016/08/mastering-art-occultism/

And as for A Perfect Square, I like to think it packs a punch. Well, that was my intention. At the time of writing I was inspired very much by Umberto Eco’s The Prague Cemetery. Like Eco, I’m motivated by the fact that there is too much misinformation out there, misinformation that easily takes root in minds rendered receptive through a lack of access to alternative and perhaps accurate information. I also marvel at the way opposers, especially those on the Left, get so hot under the collar when it comes to conspiracy thinking, as though it were a personal affront. Or threat?

A Perfect Square is now available for pre-order, which is quite exciting and I’m very grateful to Odyssey Books for choosing to publish the work.

http://odysseybooks.com.au/titles/a-perfect-square-available-29-august/

I’ve commenced work on another novel, one that explores the ideas of Theosophist Alice A Bailey. If you would like to journey with me as I venture further into this strange realm of the unknown, please contact me and I’ll add you to my mailing list.

On ‘Narziss and Goldmund’ by Hermann Hesse

First published in 1930, Narziss and Goldmund forms part of a profoundly insightful body of work by Hermann Hesse.

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I visited Goodreads and was not surprised to find well over a thousand reviews. I’ve only read the first few, and I’m left wondering what I can add that would contribute to the collective understanding of this work.

I will admit I am not a scholar of literature or history, nor have I read any biography of Hesse. I first came across his work in my twenties and devoured Steppenwolf and The Glass Bead Game among others. Back then I had not a clue about the spiritual path or western esotericism. But decades have passed and now I do, and it is with fresh eyes that I can perhaps see what Hesse might have been trying to achieve.

In Narziss and Goldmund, Hesse presents the reader with two sorts of spirituality and the two paths that unfold from each. Narziss is destined to be the Abbott of a cloister. He is a philosopher, a thinker, living close to God in the realm of the abstract mind. He is the archetypal master of wisdom.

His pupil, Goldmund, is at odds with himself. Memory of part of his childhood is denied him and when he awakens to it, he begins a journey of self discovery that takes him away from the cloister and out into the world. Not the ordinary world of duty and work and family and community. His reality is akin to Arjuna in the battlefield, as written in the Bhagavad Gita; a journey through the realm of extreme emotions, with desire and lust on the one hand, and death in all its forms on the other.

So intense are Goldmund’s responses, that at first he cannot find meaning. But eventually, as he journeys into and through the experiences that befall him, he does. He is a seeker, and the journey is an initiatory one, culminating in the realisation that we transcend the ravages of the emotions through the faculty of imagination, and its finest expressions in art.

Those who resonate with this story are engaging with a work of visionary/metaphysical fiction of enormous profundity. Those who see past the compulsions and shallow satisfactions of the flesh; detect the irony in Goldmund’s relentlessly questioning mind; see into his frustrations and emerging detachment; may understand that through his character, Hesse is portraying the most fundamental pairs of opposites upon which human experience is cleaved: woman and man; lust and death, passion and intellect, good and evil.

And the esoteric thinker will also understand Hesse’s portrayal of the transmutation of the emotions through the faculty of imagination; the image maker within, existing on the plane of intuition, sees in patterns, in completed wholes; thus it is through the harnessing of this faculty of the soul through the imagination that the artist stills the emotions and imbues them with the stamp of something transcendent and universal. And so it is through this process that the pairs of opposites may sit in loose unity.

I’ve long admired Hermann Hesse’s work. I resonate with it now more strongly than ever. As an author I’m in awe of his achievement.  Narziss and Goldmund is not a piece of entertainment; it’s a literary portrayal of the spiritual path.

Don’t stop the boats, stop the injustice

I tried to watch Go Back to Where You Came From on SBS last night, but when they got to the border camp in Jordan, where 200 of the 4 million-and-rising refugees fleeing Syria arrive by the day, I welled up. Every time I picture the camps I cry.
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Appearing in my newsfeed a little later was an article in the Sydney Morning Herald about how the free trade agreement would push up the price of medicines in Australia, posing a threat to our pharmaceutical benefits scheme (PBS).
What have refugees got to do with the PBS and the free trade agreements (TPPs)? Everything.
In my view, the TPP is a global campaign designed to challenge sovereignty, designed to worsen the wellbeing of all, designed to benefit only the huge corporations. That the Australian government is currently footing a $50 million bill for court costs defending a case brought about by Phillip Morris over plain cigarette packaging should raise the alarm.
Another campaign designed to worsen wellbeing is the cultivated destabilisation of the Middle East. Cultivated through arms supplies, favouring sides, funding, training and general politicking, the result, a series of failed states. It seems a new twist on the Cold War proxy war strategy rolled out the world over wherever a chance presented itself, one that left and continues to leave unimaginable devastation in its wake.
Refugees are expendable. Just as we are expendable.
The global elite really doesn’t care. To the elite, we are less than scum in a bathtub. It’s always been this way.
For my doctoral thesis I studied the works of Theosophist (esotericist) Alice Bailey. 100,000 words and I’m the world’s leading academic authority on her work, for what it’s worth.
I woke this morning thinking about what she has to say about consciousness and how it expands and transforms. Thousands and thousands of words that can be summed up in two – Wake Up!
What she says about Power is more striking. She talks about the way power focuses to a single point. Power centralises itself and thus self-perpetuates, gaining in strength as it advances. Power is the arrow, the finger of an outstretched hand, a gun. Power has no regard for anything except power.
Thus power in human form needs an expanding evolving consciousness that embraces ideas with an open heart. Power in human form needs compassion.
Alice Bailey witnessed both World Wars. She decried the bickering and the squabbles and the infighting and divisions amongst all those who are waking up. She saw the necessity of unity in diversity (her phrase) and she knew that unless we achieve unity, we will never address the problem of power on our planet, power that has always been fundamentally evil (anti-life) – selfish, greedy, corrupt, abusive, destructive and so on.
As the veil lifts and one by one we see this power for what it is, then we must also realise the other sort of power and help it manifest – the power of unity in diversity.
That’s why the sight of refugees in border camps makes me cry.

…the Forces of Darkness.

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It is always good to discover new voices that contribute to a critique of our time. Much is made of George Orwell and Franz Kafka whose  insights in literary form resonate with many today. Out of the same groundswell of intellectual, artistic and literary dissent and concern for the suffering of humanity that emerged in the first half of the twentieth century, came second-generation Theosophist, Alice Bailey. Out of her vast collection of works, many of them metaphysical in nature, can be found some valuable insights into the nature of humanity. Today, I stumbled upon this paragraph while researching background material for my latest project.

Writing in 1938, Bailey writes:

”The Forces of Darkness are powerful energies, working to preserve that which is ancient and material; hence they are pre-eminently the forces of crystallisation, of form preservation, of the attractiveness of matter, and of the lure of that which is existent in the form life of the three worlds. They consequently block deliberately the inflow of that which is new and life-giving; they work to prevent the understanding of that which is of the New Age; they endeavour to preserve that which is familiar and old, to counteract the effects of the oncoming culture and civilisation, to bring blindness to the peoples and to feed steadily the existing fires of hate, of separateness, of criticism and of cruelty. These forces, as far as the intelligent peoples of the world are concerned, work insidiously and cloak their effort in fair words, leading even disciples to express hatred of persons and ideologies, fostering the hidden seeds of hatred found in many human beings. They fan to fury the fear and hate of the world in an effort to preserve that which is old and make the unknown appear undesirable, and they hold back the forces of evolution and of progress for their own ends.”  Externalisation of the Hierarchy, Lucis Trust, 1957, p 76.

I find this an excellent summation of the crises humanity faces at the current time: Whether climate change, war, hunger, social injustice, at root all these crises have been and continue to be fostered by the corruption and selfishness of the world’s powerful elite.  Bailey’s is one voice among many, her perspective inspiring some and not others. I draw from a number of wells but find it refreshing to dip into her esoteric waters now and then, even if, as today, purely by chance.

Alice Bailey and the Externalisation of the Hierarchy

Alice Bailey

                                                                 Writing from the end of WWI through to 1949, Theosophist Alice Bailey was concerned for the well-being of the whole of humanity. She saw the rise of fascism in Europe as an evil that must be abated. She could see that dark forces were afoot on the planet, and believed that these forces were fundamentally materialistic and that for humanity to free itself from their vice-like grip, each individual must learn to recognise and learn to dispel glamour and illusion; learn that the nature of evil is selfishness, with all the associated greed and lust for power. Individuals must train themselves to avoid all selfishness, serve humanity and exercise goodwill. And train in the creation of thoughtforms (ideas, concepts, theories) that would help to raise awareness and benefit humanity. Finally, Alice Bailey placed great faith in the United Nations as the single global humanitarian vehicle in the service of human and planetary betterment.

What has happened to her work today? Setting aside her followers who continue to practice and apply her teachings, often behind the scenes; Alice Bailey, for example, inspiring founder of Transpersonal Psychology Roberto Assagioli who was a Secretary of her Arcane School of Esoteric Practice. Setting aside too those bloggers and commentators who follow on from evangelical Christian, Constance Cumbey, whose work, Hidden Dangers of the Rainbow (Huntington House, 1983) I and others have discredited on the grounds of poor scholarship and false claims. Commentators such as Cumbey persist in denigrating Bailey’s teachings, largely by aligning her work with the anti-Christ.

It would seem that Alice Bailey’s teachings are being used elsewhere in text-book fashion, not for the purposes they were intended but to bring about conditions such as those depicted in the works from Orwell and Kafka. In other words to foster not spiritual enlightenment but a blanket of darkness, making full use of her notion of the manifestation and function of glamour and illusion.

We are living therefore in an era of lies, where a thing is in reality its own other, its opposite. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the various think tanks from the Heartland Institute to Australia’s Institute of Public Affairs, dedicated to producing propaganda,  lies and spin, misinformation, disinformation, to perpetuating ideology and, most insidious of all, to the appropriation and systematic undermining of critical concepts aligned to thoughtforms seeking human and planetary betterment, words with enormous conceptual power such as inclusivity, empowerment, sustainability and so on. In essence through these think tanks the creation of glamour and illusion is all-pervasive and hugely successful, aided and abetted as it is by the mainstream media.

The United Nations, for Bailey humanity’s greatest hope, seems to have been reduced to a front organisation designed to perpetuate the myth of humanitarianism and progress. As a front it perpetuates gloss, an illusion without substance, a far-reaching veil behind which the reality of power, addicted to a cult of violent destruction, resides. Evidenced in the use made of glamourous celebrity figures such as Hollywoood actress Angelina Jolie, 2001 UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador, in April 2012 appointed as Special Envoy of UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres, and now appealing to United Nations Security Council to stop sexual violence in war zones. The placement of Hollywood celebrities in key positions of humanitarian advocacy to my mind runs parallel with Gucci (part of global corporation Kering) funding a Beyonce-fronted campaign for the empowerment of women as part of their Chime for Change. Both create a superficial gloss; packaging, corporatising or otherwise obfuscating in careful speeches and touching images the extremely unpalatable, and in so doing, reinforcing that it is the elite who will foster human betterment, thus stealing the ground from the vast cohort of at-the-coal-face activists.

Exacerbating an already dire situation, a veil of narcissism has descended on our planet. Constructed in the 1950s, largely through such institutions as Hollywood, the internalisation of narcissism is so successful, so aligned and intertwined with consumerism and the entire neoliberal capitalist project that few can successful wrest themselves from its grasp.

Put simply, it would appear that Alice Bailey’s books have been opened by the wrong hands. She would call these hands the Black Lodge, her work, seeking to establish the conditions for the emergence on our planet of the White Lodge, or Spiritual Hierarchy as depicted in The Externalisation of the Hierarchy (Lucis Trust, 1957). I regard both lodges in a metaphoric way, ascribing them symbolic and not literal truth. For it is metaphoric or artistic ways of knowing that have the power to cut through veils of glamour and illusion.