Pathways into the imaginal – the blues and love’s torture

“From the black comes rising, a sudden shade of blue”

Last time, over some blue flower coffee, i spoke about the way that the way we conceptualise music stops us hearing it’s imaginal qualities.   Today, I want to talk about the promise of a sudden shade of blue –  the moment when the blue feeling emerges from whatever black mood, despair or stuck place has a grip on us.

photo by Tanya Shadrick, shepherds hut floor
At the heart of this essay is this song:

The split between nature and psyche in the heart

Music gives us access to the imaginal because more often than not, it is the song of the dreaming heart.  I think the split between nature and psyche runs right through the human heart.  Just as we are part of a culture that objectifies nature as a resource to be exploited, so we very easily objectify the heart and then each other in love.

  Often quite subtly, the magical other becomes the  fantasy gateway to apparent paradise.  The dreamy thought starts to think “If i can just meet the right person, get the right validation, get the right kind of love, it can seem, the gates to paradise will open, and my dreams of happiness, creative fulfillment, the right kind of work will all come to fruition in  garden of their love.”

The divine image in love

  Yet this kind of person, male or female is not a real person at all, but a kind of divine image, we carry within us.  I think we glimpse the radiance of the divine image most strongly in the beginnings of love.  Even if we know other people are not magic gods who will transform our lives into a new Eden, the heart still has it’s say.

 Thomas Moore says:

“The soul so hungers for love that you go after it, even if there is only the slightest chance of it succeeding”

Yet what is actually attractive about other people,and so what is the true fountain of
love, is generally not their godlike powers, but something far more ordinary and less
glamorous.  What is really attractive about other people is just that they are who they are, and act like they do, with all their problems and scenarios, the small things that define them, their foolishness and bravado.
It is precisely that they are not a template of an idealised image within us that gives us something to love.  It is generally the places where we feel the beloved’s woundedness that love blossoms.  Our desire to create the other from our fantasies eventually leads to a particular and personal form of grief.

Orpheus had to learn that the hard way, when on his exit from the Underworld heneeded to turn back to confirm if it really was his beloved or just another song he had sang, and she slipped away, back into the shadows.  It was only then he learned the limits of creativity in relation to real life and that any image he made of his beloved would not match the experience of knowing her.

Ordinary everyday beauty
Without the “ordinary everyday beauty” of a real person to relate to, the divine image of the Other we carry within us can become cruel, over idealistic, naive judgemental, filled with unbending sacred convictions, that others have to be perfect.   Chasing a divine figure within at the expense of relating to real people doesn’t lead to paradise but to the hell of isolation, hidden superiority and soul possession.   The Other will never be that person, and we must find the qualities that we seek in other in ourselves.   Often when we do chase another, it is really this divine figure we seek, that we seem to have been exiled from.

Placing that image on another, although perhaps inevitable, is also destructive.  Moore also says : “Everyone talks of the power of love to build relationships; they say nothing of it’s capacity to destroy them.”

This destruction comes from the imperative that what we are attracted to in others can will destroy us if we can’t relate to it as a part of ourselves.   In the creative process of making a song recently i found myself sining the words
“What i need from you/Is what i need to do.”

I think that says something fundamental about relationships quite well and in rhyme too…
The Rag and Bone shop of the Heart

Just as we can subtley exploit and objectify each other in relationships when we idealise the beloved, so we objectify and exploit the heart when we feel it to be solely a source of wisdom and goodness to tap into.  Perhaps the heart is not simply a source of radiant compassion but what Yeat’s called “a rag and bone shop”.
Perhaps rather than a divine oracle, it could be the centre of a lifelong alchemical operation,  where innocence becomes experience, and shadows gain substance through love’s winding tortures.  Because more often than not, the language that the heart sings is yearning, loss, grief, blue notes and tones of blue.

The Alchemy of Blue
James Hillman wrote about the shift from black to blue in alchemy, as a moment when what seemed dark, fixed and dead, releases a colour that is not redemptive and pure like the colour white, but filled with a reflective yearning, that deepens and vibrates, and lends something of it’s tone to all other colours.

The torture of love can help this shift from black to blue.  As what we are unconscious of about ourselves lies in the black, in the places we don’t want to go, the shadow that I “everything I am not”.  We seem to always realise this about other peope before we realise it about ourself.  It seems no accident that the lover and the shadow are so entwined, that the intense love of the other leads to a perception of their darkness.  Blue then represents the movement away from purely projecting our own shadow onto the failures of the beloved to be the sacred image, and into our own blues.  Our own recognition of our limitations and inability to control other people.  In some ways, blue represents the feeling of not being able to change the other, or the world, and the sorrow that transforms.

Just as the blue sky is both backdrop for all the colours spread out below and within in, so the feeling of blue acts as both backdrop and root for the movements of the heart.  There is something alchemical in that moment when despair is replaced by sorrow and yearning.  In this moment “a sudden shade of blue”  transforms desire into love.

A sudden shade of blue (lyrics)

Oh I saw your letter
Confetti on the floor
I saw you’d better
Open up that door

The door where does it lead to?
Gold and green and blue
The door where does it lead to?
Does it lead to you?

All these places go past
Water in the stream
Days that rush by so fast
Lost in someone’s dream

Oh I see these places
Marked upon the heart
Oh they leave such traces
What are we without scars?

Oh my heart it seemed so innocent
I thought  my heart was so pure
And like a deerskin across a dark shape
It was just a door

Walked through a doorway
A woman let me in
She served grapes and flowers
Whispered in my ears of many sins

Oh I waited for a season
For my heart to mature
All the time I was waiting
Waiting by a closed barred door

All those seasons they have aged me
There are golems in my soul
All the times I have waited
The ways I have tried to maintain control

A soft heart a humble heart
I was waiting

I got my flower
It has dark roots
But the flower is pearly white
I have an amulet of amber
I wear a badge of night

My heart it is flaming
My water it is too
From the black comes rising
A sudden shade of blue