A Coded Coda: Words Made Flesh

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The last post here was in July 2014, and represented the closing of a loop, a circle unbroken – an entirely appropriate way to bring it all to a close. As I wrote at the time, there was no clear resolution to the alchemical process that had unfolded over the previous two-and-a-half-years:

Was there a final culmination to the alchemical quest – did I find the Philosopher’s Stone? Well, no, and I don’t think it works quite like that. But I have completed quite a voyage, and stand now on the threshold of a new venture, a new alchemical process. Having pursued these threads through some intuitive stratagem positioned at the shoreline of art and occult practice, I will say only that the Shoreline, the Haunted Shoreline, made a believer out of me.

It is interesting to re-read these words and reflect on them today. Because throughout the Shoreline project, there was, in fact, a sense that it was leading somewhere – that there would be some kind of culmination. On one of the final beachcombing expeditions, I had found an unusual stone ‘cup’, photographed here in situ on the beach at Birling Gap:

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This find made quite an impression on me at the time, and I nearly used it as the basis for a final post, in which I would claim it to be the Holy Grail, or at least the Grail of the Shoreline. But this felt a little too glib: the idea was resonant, but seemed strangely incomplete.

Just over a year ago, I experienced a series of events which made the current – I might now say the prophecy – of the Shoreline manifest. These events are too personal to detail here – which may seem frustrating to those who followed the project throughout – how can I convince you that there was a magical fruition, one that arrived in a dizzying sunburst of synchronicities, if I do not detail it? Throughout the Shoreline venture, I tried to keep the question of ‘belief’ irrelevant (more on this here), so it is interesting to note that I nevertheless wrote, in the final post, that the Shoreline had “made a believer out of me”. But it does not concern me whether or not anyone else is persuaded – and in any event, whatever I were to write, there would of course be the usual rationalist refutations available: “these are just coincidences”, “you’re seeing patterns because you want to”, and so forth. Would these rebuttals be valid? Does it matter? Isn’t it like arguing that an extraordinary piece of music is merely a string of sounds: factually correct, but missing the point?

For some time I have been considering adding this coda, to mark the fact that everything did, in the end, reach a resolution, a culmination, a Revelation. I have been unsure how best to do it, or whether to do it at all. But in a week’s time – at Winter solstice- I will be moving house, away from the Shoreline (though I suspect I will be forever intertwined with it, and in any case I am only moving a few miles inland). Preparing to leave has brought things into focus and crystallised the need to document something of this. So here is a small mosaic of images, which if read in a certain way, will give a sense of what happened – but I do not invite you to decode them, rather to simply drink them in, and allow them to percolate through your own nervous system, in the hope they may bring you some measure of nourishment.

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Last Rites: An Unbroken Circle

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Having realised (see previous post) that the Shoreline project had come to an end, there was one final act I wished to perform to formally close the circle and mark the end of my two-and-half-year stint as Accursed Prophet of the Haunted Shoreline, or whatever it was exactly. It has taken longer than I anticipated for all the necessary conditions to be in place for these last rites, but they have at last been enacted, and I leave you now with the photographic evidence and some final thoughts.

This thing began in 2011, with the discovery of the flint ‘head of Anubis’, and as I have noted before this was a most appropriate symbolic initiation into the liminal world of the Shoreline. The theme of cyclic renewal has been a consistent one throughout, and I knew there was only one way to satisfactorily pay tribute to the Shoreline while respecting this principle. It was time for Anubis to go back to the Underworld. I took the flint head down to the water’s edge as the tide was coming in, and watched as the sea washed over it, knocking it onto its side before it disappeared, bobbing occasionally as I lingered, before finally I turned away and slowly walked home. I felt a sense of gratitude, but also of release.

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Thank you to all readers for your attention, with particular gratitude to those fellow bloggers who have checked in here regularly, offering comments and encouragement – they know who they are. In the previous post, I mentioned a new project that has started to take shape, and I was flattered when a number of readers contacted me to ask for more details of this. It is not, however, a project that will be publicly documented, at least not in the form that the Shoreline has been, and it is unlikely to have an internet presence. In the meantime, this site’s ‘about’ page has been updated to reflect the fact that the project has now ended.

There are a couple of other things to mention before signing off. ‘Underworld Service’, the new album from old friend of the Shoreline, Andy Sharp aka English Heretic, is out soon, and among other delights it will contain a few minutes of a lengthy conversation that Andy and I recorded some time back. Other parts of that recording may see the light of the day in due course. And on September 13th,  if you’re anywhere near the East Sussex coast, come to Fort Process – a day of talks and music in the splendidly atmospheric surroundings of Newhaven Fort. Some big names of improv and avant-garde music (Peter Brötzmann, Steve Noble, John Butcher, Max Eastley and Thomas Köner, just for starters) will be playing, and there will also be talks – including one by your correspondent, in which I will cast an eye over the Haunted Shoreline, now that it has been brought to a kind of completion.

What was it all about? Were all those signs and portents, gleaned from flotsam and pebbles, of any actual consequence in the end? Or was it all just an exercise in playing with symbols and meanings – an amusing enough diversion but, in the end, a frivolous one?

As I mentioned once before, the project initially took shape in the aftermath of drastic emotional upheavals and the ending of a previous cycle of my muddled progress through this predicament we call the human condition. For me, it has had a significance that may not be immediately obvious from the sometimes tongue-in-cheek style in which I have documented it here. Events on the Shoreline, and the themes and concepts to which they have persistently alluded, have mirrored events in my day-to-day life to an uncanny degree, in ways in which I would not dream of writing about here.

Was there a final culmination to the alchemical quest – did I find the Philosopher’s Stone? Well, no, and I don’t think it works quite like that. But I have completed quite a voyage, and stand now on the threshold of a new venture, a new alchemical process. Having pursued these threads through some intuitive stratagem positioned at the shoreline of art and occult practice, I will say only that the Shoreline, the Haunted Shoreline, made a believer out of me.

Thanks, and goodbye. And if you want to dive back in, and let the current take you round once more, go here.

To See A World…


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For some time now, the Shoreline has been trying to tell me something.

It is difficult to pinpoint when it began – perhaps it was the change in the current towards the end of last year, or perhaps it was when the Shoreline manifested the Wheel Of Fortune, with its implicit suggestion of turning full circle, a cycle completed. And indeed I have been mulling that over ever since – only for the Shoreline to admonish this over-analysing, and push me to stop thinking and act. And now, two separate finds have made the message unavoidable.

The first is the beach ball shown above. As you can see, it is a representation of the world – and I found it not on the beach but in my back garden. It isn’t mine – my guess is that it was blown into its leafy hiding place during the winter storms, and then lay hidden for months amid the weeds and tall grass, until finally being revealed while I was cutting back the overgrown jungle of the garden a few days ago.

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In the Tarot, the World is the final card of the 22 Major Arcana – the culmination of the journey that begins with the Fool. It represents completion, ending, the closure of one cycle and the start of another. Some of its pictorial language is familiar from previous communications from the Shoreline: the symbols of the four Evangelists arranged around the corners, and the presence of the great self-resurrecting World Serpent, Ouroboros.

Then on yesterday’s beach walk, the Shoreline presented me with this small, but highly charged, double-sided stone totem:

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The head of Janus: two sides of the same coin

Many of the objects of wonder that have washed ashore and fuelled this strange quest have been in the form of stone faces, but here we have a stone with two faces, one on each side. This, then, is Janus, the Roman god said to rule all the other deities of the pantheon, the god who looks both forward and back, the god of portals and gateways, endings and new beginnings.

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The message is now inescapable, and to ignore it, or pretend I have not seen it, would be a betrayal of my whole engagement with the Shoreline over the last two and a half years.

So this is the end of the Haunted Shoreline project. There will be one further post here, to reflect and sum up, and then your correspondent’s alchemical quest will take a new form. This new venture is currently taking shape, slowly hatching from the egg of Ouroboros, but that is all I can say for now.

Thanks to all those who have followed this peculiar saga, and I hope you will join me here again soon for the last rites.

The Monkey Puzzle

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The latest avatar of the liminal to wash up from the depths on the Shoreline. Uncertain how to interpret it, I posted this image to a well-known social media site and invited readings. The results ranged from the sublime to the ridiculous, but the one that seemed to me to crackle with truth was the suggestion that this was a manifestation of Hanuman, the monkey-faced deity of the Hindu patheon.

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50ft Hanuman in Karnataka, India

50ft Hanuman in Karnataka, India

Still, I struggled to interpret it. Hanuman plays an important role in the Ramayana, the Indian epic which tells the story of Rama and his struggle against the demon king Ravana. Having puzzled through the various stories associated with Hanuman (go here to try for yourself) I felt none the wiser. Interpreting the artefacts that wash up from the depths on the Shoreline is, of course, a subjective business, but there must be some spark of recognition, some convergence of the objective and intuitive, and I could find none.

Some writers link Hanuman with Thoth, the Ancient Egyptian deity variously depicted as having the head of a baboon or an ibis, and this might have been a convenient route to follow, given the longstanding Egyptian theme here and the fact that Thoth has considerable personal resonance for your correspondent. But look again at the stony visage in the top picture: let’s face it, that’s not a baboon, is it.

And so no interpretation presented itself, nothing ignited in the crucible. Until I realised why.

Hanuman symbolises the mind: the powers of consciousness but, more specifically, the mind’s wandering, erratic nature – what practictioners of Eastern meditation techniques call ‘monkey chatter’ – the ceaseless, fruitless mental babble of anxieties great and trivial, trifling distractions and transient enthusiasms. The ‘monkey chatter’ that must be tamed if we are to awaken into awareness.

My mulling over of meaning, my nervous picking at the fabric of the Shoreline’s grand design, was so much ‘monkey chatter’. I had to try to switch it off.

It would be self-defeating to attempt to analyse this further.

The Wheel Of Fortune: Springtime For Anubis

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As with the previous post, the latest message from the Shoreline comes in the form of synthetic detritus, washed up from the depths onto the beach, on this occasion at Birling Gap, near Beachy Head, a place I hadn’t visited for a while. A recent stroll along the shore there yielded a number of interesting and, in some cases, amusing finds.

Towards the end of last year I theorised that there had been a change in the alchemical polarity of the Shoreline current, from feminine to masculine. The Shoreline now appeared to confirm this in the most direct way possible – yes, it only went and got its cock out:

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Punning aside, the most striking find was the large plastic ‘wheel’ pictured above, which had come to rest in such a way that it called to mind the Wheel Of Fortune from the Tarot:

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This card drips with allusions – the angel, eagle, lion and bull arranged around the corners are the symbols of the four Evangelists… the letters on the Wheel itself can be read as ‘TORA’, ‘ROTA’ or ‘TAROT’… the interspersed Hebrew letters form the Tetragrammaton, the name of God in Judaic tradition. Then there’s the serpent wriggling down one side of the wheel, an image we have considered many times (for example here).

But here I want to focus on the horned figure that seems to be carrying the Wheel, or perhaps rising into manifestation as the Wheel turns. Most sources seem to agree that this is a representation of our old friend Anubis. The combination of Anubis and the turning Wheel is particularly apposite for the Haunted Shoreline, as Anubis was the start of this quixotic venture, back in December 2011. It was the discovery of the flint ‘head of Anubis’, also at Birling Gap, that signalled to me that it was time to embark on this psychonautical cave-diving expedition: not only was the find simply too striking to ignore, but it was also entirely appropriate, because Anubis, as we have seen elsewhere, is the guardian of the underworld, and accompanies the deceased as they make the transition from the waking world to the afterlife, from the mundane to the imaginal… or, in Shoreline terms, from land to sea. Anubis seemed the perfect starting point, not only for me, but for visitors to the blog – an initiatory presence that would guide them into the world of the Haunted Shoreline (at this point, I naively imagined that interested readers would begin at the beginning and work their way through the thing, and its various interconnected strands, as if it were a kind of novel or map. But I soon realised that most internet surfing is done in gadfly fashion; very few people engage with a website the way they might with a book).

I have often considered revisiting Anubis and saying more about his initiatory aspect here – that original post, simply a pair of images and a link to a painting I considered very relevant – was perhaps too idiosyncratic and allusive to convey the meanings at which I was aiming. But somehow it has never seemed the right time. Until now. The winter storms have passed at last, Spring is here, the Wheel Of Fortune turns, and we are back where we started. Maybe the period of time between then and now is a Shoreline Year, or something. Maybe this is even the end of the project – as ever, I have no clear idea of where it will go next, instead I simply await further signs from the beach, and from the ebb and flow of daily life.

There is, however, one other important message encoded in this latest beach find. The plastic ‘wheel’ is actually part of a lobster pot, smashed by the sea and washed up on the shore. In the last post we considered mental liberation: the breaking of William Blake’s mind-forg’d manacles. Now we have an actual revolution – in the sense of a full turn of the Wheel. Not only that, but this is a Surrealist revolution: a smashed lobster pot. Yes, the lobster is out of its pot, and who knows what mischief will follow as it roams free across the shores of consciousness…

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The first issue of La Révolution Surréaliste, Paris, 1924

 

Meditate on this. Tell everyone you know, and keep watching the shores. The lobster is out of its pot. 

 

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