With a loud piercing cry, the bare chested Native American warrior hurled his tomahawk at John Weir Perry with full force. John told me that at the last second in the dream, he caught it between both his palms just before it was buried in his heart. “Yes!” cried Jung- “See, your inner wild man is demanding your attention!” That was the memorable response to the 22 year old Perry, who had just bravely and fatefully brought his dramatic dream to “the dream master” that morning, after the first night he had slept under the same roof with Jung..
It was 1936 and Jung was staying at Perry’s house while on a trip to America for an honor given him at Harvard. Perry had picked him up at the train station and was amazed that the reserved, Germanic style scholar/physician he had expected to meet was instead a loud, boisterous and earthy, very physically powerful man.
In this vein, the evening before John’s dream, Jung animatedly had talked non-stop about his archetypal theories of dreams and the collective unconscious and of mysterious and exotic mythic themes over dinner at the genteel home of John’s patrician father, the presiding Anglican Bishop of the U.S.. While recently touring Europe, Bishop Perry had visited Jung in Zurich for guidance about his dreamer son John!
John told me that of course, Jung’s presence that night in 1936 sparked John’s psyche to have the first of countless dreams that wouldn’t have happened without their fateful encounter. That encounter transformed Perry’s life and set his vocation that resulted in him becoming the only Jungian who has carried Jung’s work on madness forward. Jung wrote the forward to Perry’s 1953 classic- “The Self In Psychotic Process.” Perry’s last book- “Trials Of the Visionary Mind,’ was published in 1998, the year of his death.
This blog is a resumption of several posts here on my personal narrative that began with one called “Initiatory Madness.” My un-medicated, untreated period of madness 45 years ago was valued and understood in large part by me fortuitously finding and then devouring much of Jung’s collected works, soon after I had become less mad. But I had never felt safe talking with another person about my madness for a dozen years until I met Perry in 1981 and he became my analyst for 4 years. I faithfully carried my dreams on 3 by 5 cards every week across the bay bridge to meet with him in San Francisco. He only charged me $35 an hour.
I met him while I was working on the I-Ward medication free madness sanctuary. When my analysis ended, we became friends and I did my doctoral research on John’s Diabasis House medication free madness sanctuary. Please click here for the full follow-up study that is available in PDF. “Alternative Treatment of Psychosis: A Qualitative Study Of Jungian Medication Free Treatment At Diabasis.”
John was on my dissertation committee and also was a clinical supervisor in my clinical training program at the California Institute of Integral Studies..
Not being shy, I also asked John to be my mentor, hoping it would be something like what John had told me Jung had done for him in their many hours alone in free wheeling discussions. Jung had recommended that happen on a regular basis in the years while John was in his training in Zurich after WW2. Jung also urged John to be in analysis with with Jung’s closest confidant,Toni Wolff and also at the same time see a male analyst named C.A. Meier. It was a dual analysis that was unprecedented.
So, for many years up to his death in 1998 I made frequent visits to John’s home for dinner and we discussed all manner of things, including how to get a Diabasis or I-Ward medication free madness sanctuary opened in the S.F. bay area again.
One evening something happened there that is the main impetus of me writing this blog on Jung, Dionysus and Diabasis. What follows may seem strange or esoteric for some readers of this Mad In America site, but please allow that the history of psychiatry and psychology and madness especially, stretches back into the most distant past when mythic energies and chthonic deities were felt presences in the lives of our ancestors.
In my personal life informed by my season of madness and by my active pursuit of them, they still are.
So here is the next unusual chapter in a circuitous story of my inner and outer seeking as a Neo-Jungian therapist who has specialized in serving those in madness for the past 35 years.
After Jung’s dramatic initiatory period of madness triggered by his break with Freud, his Dionysian sexual boundary violations of a psychotic patient that is very clearly portrayed in the film- “A Dangerous Method,” and his deep necessity to seek his own inner vocation, Jung came to insist that his Jungian analysts in training like John Perry become doctors first- become men of science so they would garner the respectability of the social setting of his time.
Direct encounters with chthonic archetypes and deities via hypnosis, sacred shamanic trance, evocative ritual or mind-expanding drugs never were part of the advertised Jungian or Neo-Jungian process of inner exploration and healing. Analysts were actually expelled from the Los Angeles Jung Institute for experimenting with psychedelics according to John Perry.
The leading Neo-Jungian, James Hillman danced up close to the heretical edge, especially with his focus on Dionysus–but backed away. Because for Hillman the gods always remain ‘as if’–they may be active in us metaphorically and psychologically as archetypes he basically says, but you will never read about Hillman doing or recommending ritual trance or any other evocative ritual to explicitly call the gods forth in the timeless tradition of our polytheistic ancestors.
Not even in his book- ‘The Myth Of Analysis’- which has a painting of Dionysus on the cover does Hillman cross the Jungian party line.
My intention in pursuing the heretical, deity evoking daily rituals I started doing 25 years ago and also via a transpersonal dream process that used trance as incubation for a lucid dream process that was guided by a medial and muse-like, dream evoking hypnotist- was to not only cross, but erase the Jungian prohibition on practicing cultic ritual. I wanted to encounter autonomous deities as is our birthright and is still a common practice in some parts of the world and that I had felt the presence of in my madness.
The world that had opened out before me during my madness was uncannily described by Walter Otto in- “Dionysus Myth And Cult,” that I read almost 30 years ago and has been like my sacred text ever since. In it, Otto states that-
“Dionysus is the god who is mad. The visage of every true god is the visage of a world. There can be a god who is mad only if there is a mad world which reveals itself through him. We know him as the wild spirit of antithesis and paradox, of immediate presence and complete remoteness, of bliss and horror, of infinite vitality and the cruelest destruction. The primal mystery is itself mad- death lives cheek by jowl with life. The elemental depths gape open and out of them a monstrous creature raises it’s head before which all the limits that the normal day have set must disappear. There man stands on the threshold of madness- in fact, he is already part of it even if his wildness which wishes to pass on into destructiveness still remains mercifully hidden. But the God himself is not merely touched and seized by the ghostly spirit of the abyss. He, himself is the monstrous creature which lives in the depths. From it’s mask it looks out at man and sends him reeling with the ambiguity of nearness and remoteness, of life and death in one. It’s divine intelligence holds the contradictions together. For it is the spirit of excitation and wildness, and everything alive, which seethes and glows, resolves the schism between itself and it’s opposite and has already absorbed this spirit in it’s desire. Thus all earthly powers are united in the god: the the generating, nourishing, intoxicating rapture; the life giving inexhaustibly; and the tearing pain, the deathly pallor, the speechless night of having been. He is the mad ecstasy which hovers over every conception and birth and whose wildness is always ready to move on to destruction and death.”
I felt the presence of this reality when I was mad and do this second as I am typing.
Otto also lists the ancient epithets of Dionysus who was also called by his initiates to be incarnate in the form of a leopard, bull, or snake. He is called –
“The nurturer, the delight of mortals. the loosener, the god of many joys, the liberator, the deliverer and healer, the bestower of riches, the redeemer, the benefactor.”
But- “No single Greek god even approaches Dionysus in the horror of his epithets. He is called the render of men, the eater of raw flesh..we hear not only of human sacrifice in his cult but also the ghastly ritual where a man is torn to pieces..as a best of prey who eats flesh raw..the man eating sphinx reminds us vividly of Dionysus, etc..”
It was one evening when at John’s house for dinner that I shared something so disquieting that it made his jaw drop. As a serious writer and historian of ancient myth and culture, Perry acknowledged that he and all the Jungians he had ever known(including Jung) had unconsciously taken part in a huge cover-up which I had just exposed.
For several years preceding that evening I had been doing magical rituals to call forth Dionysus. I had read a great deal on the cultic history and rites of Dionysus and had introduced that material into the trance sessions I described above, which as usual only intensified my dreams in that inner realm. Perry had done a remarkable presentation at U.C. Berkeley on Dionysus with Joseph Campbell and Mickey Hart of The Grateful Dead. Perry was an expert on Dionysus.
Most amazingly though is that Perry had recommended Otto’s book on Dionysus to me! He had read every word I just quoted above from that book about Dionysus being the maneater.
Around this time I remember too that a good friend who had trained at the Jung Institute in Zurich and was very involved at the San Francisco Institute invited me to an afternoon get together with her at the home of one of the prominent, senior analysts for a group discussion about Dionysus. I responded ruefully–“Discuss him eh, how do you think they’d like it I wanted to instead do a ritual on the spot with them to call him forth into our midst?” She, knowing me well said–“Okay, so you obviously aren’t coming with me–because you know your bull in the china shop nature can’t stand our timid, in your mind attempts to have a civilized discussion about your beloved Dionysus!”
It was well documented that in addition to Dionysus being identified by his appellation ‘the liberator’–and as the well known animal embodiments of bull, snake and leopard, Dionysus was frequently referred to by the ancient historians in their descriptions of his early rites throughout Asia Minor and the Mediterranean as–‘The Maneater.’ Human sacrifice and ritual cannibalism were practiced in his rites. His leopard epiphany spoke to his bloodthirsty nature as one aspect of his complex being which is also portrayed in his initiatory rites in the form of a large free standing phallos.
Hillman’s writings as well as almost every Jungian writing on Jung refers to Jung’s seminal first numinous childhood dream that informed Jung’s pioneering work and life. In his autobiography–‘Memories, Dreams and Reflections’ published after his death, Jung reveals the central importance of his early first dream and admits his life long pre-occupation with it.
In the childhood dream Jung, alone at night descends stone steps and enters an underground throne room in an open grassy field through a shimmering heavy curtain of green and gold. At the end of the darkened room he sees an awesome, unknown form on a throne, illumined by a light from within. In terror and awe he realizes the shape is a huge upright living, fleshy phallos with the opening on top like an eye. Suddenly his mother is there at Jung’s side and cries out to the boy in contempt and dire warning–‘Yes,– just look at him, the maneater!’ Jung woke up terrified.
Jung, who was extremely well versed in the history of antiquity never acknowledged that the phallic, man eater deity of his seminal dream was obviously a vision of Dionysus.
Throughout his life, Jung took pains to describe the tragic fate of Nietzsche as a cautionary tale of a modern worshiper of Dionysus driven mad by excess, whose brilliant philosophy of unbridled amoral Dionysian wildness and liberation was seized upon and perverted by the Nazi’s.
Jung often said in criticism that Psychiatry had turned the gods into diseases. I always uncomfortably felt that for some reason Jung and his followers had in turn reduced the gods into psychological complexes, into archetypes.
Then one day I suddenly realized that my long held frustration with the Jungian ‘as if’ approach to the gods that de-valued and reduced them in this way was brought about because Jung must have deeply feared going the way of Nietzsche. I saw that Jung had defensively put up a wall of impenetrable obfuscation and denial about his life-informing seminal first dream about the obvious phallic incarnation of Dionysus, the maneater. I also realized that because of Jung’s own almost demi-god stature among his followers, none of them, including John Perry had ever dared to let that obvious connection into their consciousness either.
We must remember that Jung’s dream wasn’t known to his followers until the early 1960’s. It was a secret not revealed until the release of his posthumous autobiography. By then the huge edifice of his decades long monumental work and legacy around the world must have served to create incredible cognitive dissonance for his followers when they first read of the maneater dream.
They were faced with three alternatives. If they allowed the realization that Jung had incredibly repressed the maneater, phallic Dionysus truth of the dream, they would be faced with the awful knowledge that their revered leader had massive feet of clay–that he who was the unrivaled seer in plumbing the depths of the unconscious for meaning had been unable to see that the ‘big dream’ that set him on his genius path was beyond his understanding.
Or, perhaps even less acceptable to Jung’s followers when confronted with the obvious Dionysus epiphany was to believe that the mature Jung knew full well that the phallic maneater of his dream was Dionysus, but chose, out of fear of ending up scorned like Nietzsche, to dishonestly hide that truth from the world.
It seems obvious that when faced with the choice of allowing a realization that Jung either was singularly psychologically blind to the identity of his own benefactor Dionysus, or a realization that Jung deceptively hid the identity of the phallic maneater Dionysus– that Jung’s followers were in so much cognitive dissonance, were in such a bind that they unconsciously chose the third alternative. They went into a collective trance. Like the throng in the Emperor’s New Clothes fairy tale, they couldn’t see the reality before their very eyes.
Orwell famously affirmed this psychological axiom –‘To see what is in front of one’s nose needs a constant struggle.’
That’s why Perry’s patrician jaw dropped and I saw him for the first time at a loss for words when I spoke my Jungian blasphemy about the big secret hidden in plain sight. When the defense of denial collapses on a secret that big it is a dramatic thing to witness. Perry became almost giddy–he kept repeating–“Of course Michael, yes, you are right, you are right–I never saw it, none of us did–oh, you must publish this, must publish this!” And so I am right now.
I can hear the obvious question being raised now- “But so what if Jung and his followers didn’t connect the dots between his first big dream and Dionysus–what difference does it make?”
After his break with Freud, Jung describes a long period of psychological disturbance and visionary experience that became the raw material for all of his later work. At the height of this period He experienced a room full of disembodied spirits of the dead descend on him crying out- “We have been to Jerusalem where we found not what we sought!”
Although Jung’s contribution to human knowledge is immeasurable, it can also be said that those who went to Zurich actually or symbolically ‘found not’ what they sought because Jung so disguised his Dionysian soul in Christian clothing. Especially Jung’s loyal ‘maenads’–the women followers who served and adored Jung received a half measure of what they were so clearly drawn to–Jung’s irrepressible Dionysian energy and spirit. Perry told me that such a strong and earthy, uncanny and psychic Dionysian dimension was present in every personal encounter he had or witnessed others have with Jung. Jung was either an unconfessed or unconscious portal for the channeling of the presence of Dionysus.
Jungian writer Lopez-Pedraza, who also sadly missed identifying the maneater, Dionysus connection in Jung’s seminal dream in his- “Dionysus in Exile- The Repression Of The Body And Emotion”- asserts the importance of Dionysus to psychology as the singular deity who both brings and heals madness. A psychology of Dionysus should be at the center of our clinical practice he says. Sadly and ironically too, the title of Lopez-Pedraza’s book reflects the actual state of affairs in the Jungian community.
Dionysus is still largely in exile. To embrace Dionysus fully is to embrace the dark, cthonic, forever uncivilized mammalian energies of savagery, death and destruction that live alongside love and innocence at the heart of every process of transformation and renewal- via madness or otherwise. The poles of savagery and innocence can be reconciled while not banishing or losing either end of the emotional and transpersonal power spectrum that animates them. If we shun our inner beast we project it onto others in a shadowy dance of seeking inner purity instead of wholeness. We create other people as our enemies by demomizing them as being capable of immoral acts that we tell ourselves we could never commit.
In our culture the most despised and shunned emotions are the dark and savage ones. I have found that they are the most common energies that can not be experienced and expressed for some people without them going into a metaphorical process of madness. I can’t imagine someone needing to become mad who has already really become adept at handling their subjective experiences of rage, lust, fear and grief- that is, being able to feel them, name them, own them without shame guilt or fear- and then be able to express them clearly- not act them out.
Psychiatry mainly serves to subdue those powerful Dionysian emotions as King Pentheus did in Euripides’ – “The Bacchae,” when he announced to Dionysus that he was going- “To lock you in an iron cage.” Dionysus always lives outside the walls of the city state. He calls his followers outside to be free again of the constraints of that civilized social structure. It went very badly for the King when Dionysus hypnotized him and led him outside the city gates.
I imagine Jung’s stunning revelation in his autobiography of his own “confrontation with the unconscious,” which was in fact an initiatory madness, visionary ordeal also contributed a huge impediment to his followers being able to consciously connect Jung with the god of madness, Dionysus. Even with the recent revealing of Jungs’s “Red Book” chronicle of his ordeal, many Jungians insist he wasn’t mad!
Jung’s violation of his mad patient also is a huge factor in his shunning Dionysus because Jung almost lost everything over it. He should have lost his license to practice medicine. I believe after that sexual abuse of his mad patient, Jung greatly feared for the rest of his life being possessed by the same autonomous wild force that he believed destroyed Nietzsche, that could cause him to break with all normative behavior because he had been out of control.
Jung ended up being a world historical revolutionary though, a true mana figure because he pointed to and re-opened the doors to the depths of the collective unconscious and all the mythic powers waiting there, not just limiting possible exploration to Freud’s Oedipus myth.
Those ancient doors had been increasingly sealed shut by patriarchal thinkers who relegated the timeless polytheistic deities to mere fleeting shadows starting thousands of years ago. Through the efforts of men like Plato and culminating with the Judaeo-Christian-Islamic followers of a perceived universal monotheistic deity–countless deities of old were banished, and in their place was devised a single, invisible, imageless, ‘idol’-free omnipresent deity whose inherant role was to judge, shame and punish anyone who dared not conform to the new monotheistic myth form.
Jung often said he believed he would have been burned at the stake for his heresy against monotheistic Christianity if he had lived in the middle ages.
No wonder that when Nietzche loudly proclaimed the invisible monotheistic god dead and resurrected the pagan Dionysus to replace him, that it became such an un-paralleled seismic event in Europe. In that cultural context Jung’s great gift is that he did legitimize a spiritual, psychological return to the polytheistic inner universe of the collective unconscious even though he clearly didn’t and couldn’t go as far as Nietzche and honor the god Dionysus who came to Jung in his haunting subterranean childhood dream of the maneater.
So, I have always loved this quote from Jung at his best–‘These inner motives spring from a deep source that is not made by consciousness and is not under it’s control. In the mythology of earlier times these forces were called mana, or spirits, demons, or gods. They are as active now as they ever were.–The one thing we refuse to admit is that we are dependent on ‘powers’ that are beyond our control.’
But as Jung was always quick to point out- just because a culture has damned up the river of a certain deity, even made the dry river bed a paved freeway, the underground aquafer of numinous power is always still present, just waiting to beak through into our midst again. All it takes is a human voice to call it forth.
One night in a dream, no doubt stimulated by one of my muse’s catalyzing trances, I heard her voice tell me–“Pre-Dionysus, Dionysus, Post–Dionysus.” I took that to mean the ‘pre’ phase was the wildest pre-agricultural, pre-city state phase of Dionysus. The ‘Dionysus’ phase was when he was given that name during his always disruptive appearance from outside the societal walls of the Greeks intruding into their midst as the God ‘who comes’- who appears from atop the still wild mountains or from beneath the sea suddenly to overturn the social order of the city state.
The post-Dionysus phase I took to mean now, our present cusp of history, our own post-modern phase when Dionysus, in up-dated form along with an emerging new Goddess become manifest around and in us to usher in the next culture/zeitgeist transforming myth form.
In 1997 after one of the trances I had this hypnogogic, lucid semi-dream like vision unfold that night while alone. Obviously I was attempting to integrate the powerful polarities that were stirring in my psyche that had been constellated in my madness so many years before when I lived in the mad world of Dionysus that Otto describes.
“I shot the cougar on the open ice with the scoped rifle and drug it up a wooded gully quickly and fed on it there or a week.–Eating the hot raw pungent liver–but first it’s red, shining heart. And from time to time as I raised my head from that dark steaming feast my eyes I know were languid and burning at once. When I finally rose standing and looked around a click or crack sounded in my head like ice shattering across the frozen lake. And my body convulsed as if a riveted iron suit had exploded off me and halls and corridors in my brain long walled off cracked open and exposed new rivers of life crashing freely at last.
And later that winter I caught up with a man who had raided my camp and tent. He turned fearlessly as I approached until our eyes met. Then he ran but I fell on him at first with my big knife but soon only held to his throat at first with my hands and then my jaws sought surer and surer purchase on his windpipe.
I drug him up a secluded wooden gully and fed on him there for days–and heard for the first time minute sounds around me and slipped in my dreams at night past the farms and cities and roads to a riverside shining. I stand in the river and a big eagle is on shore. It wades out and I let it hold me under like a baptism. When I surface it’s on shore and amazingly picks up a lingam shaped stone with it’s talons and tosses it to be caught in my right hand.
When I awake sometimes I try and think of the River’s name wondering if I’ve heard it somewhere in my dreams. When I try and remember the river’s name I always remember instead a part of the dream I can only remember when I try and remember the name. Suddenly I see myself in the dream on shore leaning over the reflective water and see my arms and chest at first and then just a cougar’s head. In the dream it feels so good to be both, I had become so tired, it was such a burden to always remember my name.”
Shortly after recording the above–this came to me the same night.
“A Young Maiden Walking.”
Back in the mountains
because it seems
I’ve tasted the flesh forbidden
I strangely bask and walk at times
with the gentle step and eyes
of the maiden released
by the deed she would most fear-
no one had told her or me
how my love would require
or back through time
to open the greenhouse door
for her to emerge now
this new spring and feel
her smile reach this sky
at the river of warm, innocent sunshine-
It flows from a safety provided
from an ever present power
the maneater’s eyes.
“Behind every image is an emotion, behind every emotion is an archetype, behind every archetype is a deity.” A ritual incantation that came to me in a solitary trance about 20 years ago.
Jungian’s are meticulous, as was Jung –and take pride in being able to identify which archetype or ‘as if’ deity is stirring in someone’s psyche or symbolic social situation or work of art because it’s incredibly valuable to name and understand which autonomous powers we mortals are always fatefully being possessed by.
After the war, Jung finally proclaimed in a missive entitled- “After the Catastrophe”- that it was in fact Wotan, not Dionysus that the Germans were being held sway by as they proclaimed their Nazi led superior race of ‘blond beasts’ to the world. Jung said he realized that the Germanic tribes had never really assimilated the Christian religion–that Hitler called forth a flood of ancient racial power that had always been waiting to re-fill the seemingly forgotten and dry river bed that was the domain of Odin/Wotan–the wild Berserker God of Viking antiquity.
But in reading many accounts of his patients clearly Dionysian dreams, Jung unfortunately always stops short of naming the deity manifesting himself in his patients psyche.
Because of Jung’s own aversion to his first seminal dream of the phallic maneater Dionysus and the feared disaster of sinking into the morass of madness and disrepute of Nietzche- plus the catastrophic effect of Nietzche’s writings on Dionysus being appropriated by the Nazis, we have been denied a clearer light shining on the deity Dionysus who expects our attention and could be an ally in understanding and healing madness.
While writing all this I remembered years ago hearing the Wagnerian opera Tannhauser. Nietzche was a one-time fervent disciple of Wagner. Tannhuser is about the hero who sojourns in Venusberg with the Golden Goddess Aphrodite before returning to the damnation of his countrymen for his unpardonable transgression. Venusberg is the realm of taboo beauty. The barren wasteland of Tannhauser’s sterile Protestant culture mirrors the atmosphere of Yeat’s ‘Second Coming’–and the ‘Wasteland’ in Elliot’s prophetic poem about our own post-modern world as we wait for the new myth form to renew it. In the opera, Aphrodite has been banished by the priests of the austere father, senex sky God to be forever hidden away from mortals in the depths of the earth.
She was un-reachable except to reckless seekers like Tannhauser who at the end of the morality tale finally repents of his sin against the Patriarchy–his sin of dwelling for a time in the realm of Aphrodite’s pagan beauty.
As a one-time official aspirant to the Christian priesthood on my way to Seminary, I was a follower of Jesus when I started exploring the archetypal inner feminine and Goddess.
In a dream about 25 years ago, there was a great throng of people gathered outside in a meadow in a scene out of the New Testament. I was standing a short distance away from the edge of the people. Suddenly, a rapturous cry went up from one person that was at once caught up by all in a huge chorus of exaltation–
“He is coming! He is coming! He is coming!”- they all joyfully cried- because we all suddenly sensed a huge presence of palpable spiritual energy coming from just over the hills bordering the meadow.
It was Jesus who was coming. Not for the first time–but finally coming again. The feeling I experienced was unspeakably awesome–it was unimaginable– numinous– because it was as if I was to really encounter a living deity! It makes me emotional and tremble even now as I write this.
As the people shouted more loudly of his coming, I remained strangely separate from them, feeling the same ecstatic emotion, but not crying out myself. Suddenly, the hills from which he would soon appear and arise up over–themselves began to rise up –grow into two large mounds the shape of two enormous upright curving breasts.
And then suddenly between them appeared the upright wooden cross of Christ. But something was wrong. It was withered and dessicated–shrunken, like it had been parched under the withering sun of a desert wasteland.
Then to our gathered shock and surprise on each hillside stood in profile a priestess with coal black hair cut straight across her brow in the custom of the Egyptians. Each priestess held aloft a large, shining golden ankh, the symbol of life. The iconic image was radiantly full of indelible beauty.
Then, as if enacting the unknowable third act of this unbelievable ritual drama, as if out of a cloud above his cross were stretched the gnarled and weathered hands of Jesus. In a voice of admonishion, grief and complete authority he demanded of us all gathered at his epiphany– “WHY—HAVE YOU MADE THIS ENGLISH CROSS SO USELESS?”
Then his powerful carpenter’s hands took the uprooted cross and broke and tore the dry and lifeless wood to pieces and crumbled it to dust.
I awoke so breathless and beside myself I feared for my mind–what was to become of me. I gradually calmed down and was filled with such a powerful sense of wonder and excitement that for some reason I remembered reading there was a Zendo in Berkeley that met for meditation at 6am. I dressed in a state of agitation and wonder at what I had just experienced. I had never had a dream that powerful. It felt like a visitation. I drove to Berkeley and went for the first time to this Zen group. The leader could sense I was in a very unusual state. I didn’t speak to anyone. When the meditation was over I silently left and drove home to get ready for work that day as a hospital therapist working with mad people without using any medication–a vocation I followed for 30 years in the footsteps of my mentor John Perry and my great loving friend Jesus who rescued me in my madness as a young man and his blood brother Dionysus. Pairing them I know is not acceptable to most people.
So, let me end my story unrepentant but paradoxically still very loved by Jesus with the dedication to “The White Goddess” by Robert Graves which has long been a touchstone of blessing for my own Dionysian transgressions and sojourns to the shores of Beauty, Love and Wild Freedom.
All saints revile her, and all sober men
Ruled by the God Apollo’s golden mean–
In scorn of which I sailed to find her
In distant regions likeliest to hold her
Whom I desired above all things to know,
Sister of the mirage and echo.
It was a virtue not to stay,
To go my headstrong and heroic way
Seeking her out at the volcano’s head,
Among pack ice, or where the track had faded
Beyond the cavern of the seven sleepers:
Whose broad high brow was white as any leper’s
Whose eyes were blue, with rowan-berry lips,
With hair curled honey-colored to white hips.
Green sap of Spring in the young wood a-stir
Will celebrate the Mountain Mother,
And every song-bird shout awhile for her:
But I am gifted, even in November
Rawest of seasons, with so huge a sense
Of her nakedly worn magnificence
I forget cruelty and past betrayal,
Careless of where the next bright bolt may fall.
Mad in America hosts blogs by a diverse group of writers. These posts are designed to serve as a public forum for a discussion—broadly speaking—of psychiatry and its treatments. The opinions expressed are the writers’ own.