Ash Fork has come to a crossroads, which is a good time to take a look at what happens at the crossroads. The intersection of two highways is a good spot for thieves, because they don't miss any traffic if they wait there. Everybody has to pass by. So the deity of the crossroads is often a trickster, such as Hermes, and the intersection of two highways is considered a good place to cast spells.

I just looked back to see when I began the Ash Fork series, and found it was in October of 2004, almost two years ago. Since that time I have done four sets of Ash Fork, all of them characterized by a discipline I imposed on myself to write narrative without pre-planning or revision beyond editing for clarity and grammar.

The point of writing in that manner was to get myself back into writing regularly, and to teach myself how to tell stories impromptu. Beneath that was the goal of exercising my mind and getting more clarity in my thinking by doing something challenging, and by publishing my rough draft work. If any of my friends can check in on what I'm doing it keeps me from being too sloppy. Publishing roughs is like publishing exploratory drawings, and from that the next step is a draft that follows some basic plan, and following that a second draft that begins to look more like finished work.

I don't have any more expectation of making money out of this than I have of winning the lottery, but I do have an expectation of providing a body of work in which a young person -- or anyone who's interested -- can find an expanded field of choices.

When I did analysis with Dr. Joseph Henderson I originally got to see him because one of my bodywork clients was the ex-wife of the administrator of the Jung Institute in San Francisco. She kept telling me about this "old shaman" who was a friend of hers, and that if she asked, he would see me. And I would think to myself, "Does she think I need to see a psychiatrist?"

Then one day she was talking about Dr. Henderson's time with Jung in Vienna, when he was studying medicine in London, and I said, "Carl Jung? He knew him?"

"He was one of his associates," she said. "That's why I thought you might be interested."

I went back and re-read, "Man and His Symbols," the first section of which was written by Dr. Henderson, and I said yes, I'd like to meet him. At that time he was in his nineties already, but he still drove across the Golden Gate Bridge every day to his office in Pacific Heights. "What do you hope to get from me?" he asked.

He was a skinny little old man immaculately dressed in an a well-fitted suit and holding a pug named Charley on his lap. He had a quick sense of humor, and our sessions after that were characterized by a good deal of laughing. "I want to strain my thinking through yours," I said, "and get rid of the dross."

He nodded and rubbed Charley under the ears. "And who have you done analysis with?" he asked.

My client had already told me that in his old age he only worked with psychologists who had already been through analysis, so as not to waste his time. I had never been in analysis. But I had read a lot, and my "Bible" was "Psychological Commentaries on the Teachings of Gurdjieff and Ouspensky," by a British psychologist named Maurice Nicoll. So I said, "Nicoll."

He raised his eyebrows. "Maurice Nicoll? I knew him."

"I didn't study with him in person," I admitted, "but I have his Commentaries, and I've read them, as well as studied them." I added in some other reading I'd done.

"Let's try a half dozen sessions and see how it goes," he said. The weeks turned to years.

It took me a long time to realize that just because he was one of the best analysts in the world, he wasn't going to give me guidance in the sense of helping me make decisions. This was the big difference between Joseph and the people I'd been exposed to, and instinctively pulled back from, who were all too willing to give me advice and "show me the way."

There was not a single time when he did anything except open up the field of choices by recalling a myth, helping me analyze a dream, talking about an opera, an author's letters, something Jung said to him -- he refused to ever take over the decision making process for me. The goal was to make me realize that nobody could help me with that if I was going to individuate myself.

It made me recall what Joseph Campbell wrote: "Most psychology attempts to adapt a person to the misconceptions of the community, whereas real religion attempts to rid the person of misconceptions."

Burroughs: "The Road to the Western Lands is devious, unpredictable, today's easy passage may be tomorrow's death trap. The obvious road is almost always a fool's road, and beware the Middle Roads, the roads of moderation, common sense and careful planning. However, there is a time for planning, moderation and common sense."

Real religion seems to me to have more in common with Jung's story about the water of life. It always comes up somewhere, he said. It's free if you can find the spring. Then somebody puts a fence around it and starts trying to sell it, and it doesn't come up there anymore. It comes up somewhere else.

What I learned from Joseph, in contrast to a lot of other people who are trying to be teachers, is to be careful of somebody -- anybody -- who has found the truth. This is a person who has become a fossil in his, or her, own time. Even though he was an old man, Joseph remained dynamic, and he didn't have any truth to give me. He instead gave me an expanding range of options.

Understanding why this is the only thing you can give without a dependency situation made the most important change in my thinking of any educational experience. In the Ash Fork series I've tried to stay true to what Joseph taught me, and not try to convince anybody of anything, but just put out ideas for consideration.

I have so much creative background work now I can't keep turning it out. I have to go back and start to pick out some elements and look at a story line for completion of a first draft.

While I'm doing this, the blog is going to take a different turn, probably concentrating more on personals and musings for awhile, and maybe some podcasts.

Posted: Tue - July 25, 2006 at 03:10 PM