Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Following the Muse - the Psychopomp

(From an essay I wrote in May of this year...)

The word "psychopomp" originated in Greek mythology and was a guide of souls to the place of the dead (from psukhe "soul" and pompos "conductor"). It is generally defined, however, as the spiritual guide of a living person's "soul".

But who or what is the muse and how is it related to the psychopomp? That is a question that cannot be answered by any direct means. It can only be approached in terms of ones own personal journey as an artist and/or "creative", and, therefore, any conclusions that one draws are at once subjective.

In my experience, the muse is what brings me to the computer, the drawing board, the clay, the colored pencils, the notebook. It is what attracts me to shells, stones, leaves, insects, the organic detritus beneath a rotting tree, or, conversely, a pretty piece of fabric, an antique button, the rusted components of a broken machine. It is the muse which is peering through my eyes at such discoveries... and the muse who will eventually dictate how these various items will be utilized and/or absorbed for our creations.

I say "our" because the muse - one of several - is my collaborator. It is intrinsically part of my psyche, but it is not the me who fries an egg, goes to the grocery store, pays a bill, draws a bath. This is an important distinction. This is why, the inspired artist, the artist in the throes of possession by the muse, is almost useless and inept at any variety of mundane mechanics; that is, temporarily disabled regarding the physical, technical, and social resources required for corporeal existence.

The muse then is more like a primal force. It has no understanding or interest in the technical aspects of day-to-day human life. It has no comprehension of grocery lists, retirement funds, lawsuits, political issues. It doesn't even understand the most base requirements of physical existence, such as eating or sleeping.

In many ways the muse is like a monkey on your back; a drug, no less powerful than any other addiction. I suspect, not even death can shake it. Like a drug it enhances your perception of the world; and it enables you to internalize what you perceive... hence, the photographic memory, the music in ones head like continual white-noise... and the holographic imprints of loved ones who never die. Those who follow the muse are haunted... haunted by a personal past and haunted by objective futures that can never be realized in a single life.

The muse stands outside of time, and in muse-space, a space of no dimension, time has no relative meaning. "Missing time" is a frequent occurrence.

The muse is not human. It is not the least bit interested in what humans do or what humans are. It has no concept of marriage, procreation, holidays, burial plots. Which is not to say that the muse is disconnected from the libido.... no, in fact, the muse seems to have a very peculiar relationship to ones sexuality... but, once again, in a primal way... the muse is bored by particulars. The muse is fed by sexual energy but it also generates a variety of quasi-libidinous force, though it is wrong to assume that the muse is merely a product of ones hormones. The muse is perhaps the one facet of human experience which is independent of ones hormones.

To follow the muse (and/or muses) then is to walk a weird tightrope, between the creative dictates of the muse and the dictates of ones physical, emotional, and social reality. The former often has no relation to the latter, and this is difficult for almost anyone to grasp. The modern human tends to think in terms of an ideally homogenous, holistic existence, but, for an artist, this is almost as impossible as driving a car and "reaching for the stars" simultaneously. So, achieving this delicate balance between art via the muse, and life via you, is the greatest challenge the artist must face. Success seems to be rarely possible. The more "inspired" an artist is, the greater the chance that, like the fool in the tarot cards focused on an air-borne butterfly, he or she falls off a cliff.

Following the muse then is a precarious journey. The muse, seemingly, must be tamed and we must not become so enthralled that we lose footing. It is a dilemma that all creative people face... but, in this society, one that especially is challenging for those of the female gender. But, that's another story. And, there is a great deal more to be said about the muse. For I haven't really defined it in these paragraphs. Ultimately, it might be beyond definition. It is one of the "others", or perhaps the only "other" a human can intimately know... a creative force, at once subjective, and yet capable of interfacing with forces and transdimensional or transpersonal intelligences greater than itself. It is, in my opinion, the vestige of a primary intelligent force. It is an individual's "knowing" force. It is also a force with, seemingly no other agenda, but to express, create and explicate.

I was once told by a friend and fellow creative, that life must be very difficult for me. When I asked why, grappling for words, the friend said that I seemed to live at a "higher frequency". Apart from possibly intimating several psychological disorders, it is possible that the term frequency - defined as: The rate at which a vibration occurs that constitutes a wave, either in a material (as in sound waves), or in an electromagnetic field (as in radio waves and light), usually measured per second. The particular waveband at which a radio station or other system broadcasts or transmits signals. - might actually be, in some way, related to the muse and other "paranormal" (i.e., transdimensional) experiences. That is to say, the space which we live within and which "lives" within us may be teeming with codified information... and it's merely a matter of what wavelengths we're willing an/or able to tune in into and our ability to translate the information we "pick up".


For those, interested, I've just updated my July 13 post to reflect a link to new short video by Tara Sophia Mohr regarding "fear" that might resonate with you, regardless of gender.


  1. Great great post! Trandimensionality notwithstanding, I wonder sometimes if the internet is a false psychopomp. My favourite psychopomp is Gaiman's character Death, who was so weirdly sympathetic.

  2. Thanks, L! I don't know that the internet is a psychopomp - unless it's a million of them combined (!) - but I will say that the internet is a rudimentary and superficial "techno" facsimile of the more organic "psychic internet"... that is, the "tangled" reality of consciousness... (if I may be so bold!) ;-)

    I love Gaiman's Sandman stuff - that is, the stuff that I have... I think "Death" appeared in it, but I never got deeply involved... I'll have to look again! My favorite Gaiman novels were "American Gods" and "Neverwhere"... I used to follow his blog but I got lazy!

  3. Superb post!!

    I find your explorations of the muse attendant most fascinating, fitting into my own 'shape' of how I view the creative process...and I find the perspective to be most educational.

    Pray continue...........

  4. Thanks, Bob!

    In a weird way, writing things down - that is, pulling together a chaotic mess of ideas and giving them a recognizable form - is a self-educational process as well... It may as well be another muse-generated exercise in that I'm often surprised myself by the connections that are made. (well, on a good day that is!)

    But I really want to avoid just talking at people. Ultimately, I'm just letting the memes fly out of my head, letting them land where they will, and hoping that those who stumble across them send a few of their own my way!

  5. Ah...and I would, but my memes are all mimsy borogroved and the mome raths outgrabed.

    Seriously, toss what you will, where you will -- we'll sort 'em out.

  6. I came back to this post because you hyperlinked it in a newer post, and this one especially is just so great. "The muse then is more like a primal force. It has no understanding or interest in the technical aspects of day-to-day human life. It has no comprehension of grocery lists, retirement funds, lawsuits, political issues. It doesn't even understand the most base requirements of physical existence, such as eating or sleeping."

    I also like "primary intelligent force" - there is a huge conflict now in social media definitions of success - follow your dream, build what inspires you, stay in touch with your soul, be creative, etc etc etc. But then the same gurus turn around and want you to put a price tag on this stuff and pay your light bill, which means they don't understand. Many people are very judgemental of and threatened by the creative impulse because it looks revolutionary even if it isn't - it disregards all the mundane concerns of existence. It makes the artist look irresponsible and feckless, even when he or she is taking on the highest possible responsibility in a society. I also think vibrating on a higher frequency - picking up stuff on the far ends of the spectrum is very true, also threatening to those who have limited their scope and profit from that.

    1. Thanks for commenting again, TB. In most ways the hierarchy of the "Official World" has perpetually dominated the playing field in spades... and those who stray (or strayed) outside of its established "scriptures" - the Protocol - are (and/or were) either marginalized, ridiculed, suppressed, institutionalized, excluded, or duly condemned. Today's social media is merely a reflection of some very old news.