Emeli Sandé: Receptive to Reality



in her agony awesome

incomparable grief and rage

divine suffering

excruciating pain

such terrible agony

beauty sublime beauty

how is love possible?

yet this is what i feel


Some time ago I wrote an essay, Soul in Oblivion, which shows how our modern culture is on a deadly trajectory, the endpoint of which is the total elimination of the psyche or soul as a recognizable experience and even as a concept that may be discussed in any way that could matter to our daily lives.[2] This “attack” on the psyche is taking place at the level of language, as my essay shows. There is one contemporary figure who crystallizes this rejection of psyche, both in language and daily practice, so that we can see quite clearly the trajectory of a life lived with no concern for psyche whatsoever. His name is Donald Trump. In an interview last year, we read that:

he is by turns animated and bored, boastful and stubborn when prodded toward soul-searching. “No, I don’t want to think about it,” he said when Mr. D’Antonio asked him to contemplate the meaning of his life. “I don’t like to analyze myself because I might not like what I see.”[3]

Trump just does not look, ergo the psyche no longer exists, or so he believes.

But the psyche is not just one more exploitable concept to be pragmatically cast aside when we are done with it, or repelled by what it may show. The psyche is another way of saying “Being” or “Life”—i.e. the reflected aspect of Being that can reach us and “speak” to us, in “voice” or image. Shutting psyche out linguistically or via our dominant cultural practices (such as neuroscience that insists that mind=brain, f.i.) is analogous to cutting ourselves off completely from any living connection with our bodies, while turning our attention, in the way we live, to other “more important” matters. Our bodies, Life, or Being, become utterly alien to our daily experience, until the ineluctable reality of the body or of Life, or Being, finally intrudes in on us. At present we are accounting for such unwelcome intrusions, when they happen, only in the language of trauma. But this is only one way to language the emerging presence of Being, i.e. as the violent “alien other” who so “violates” the many ways we egoistically choose to live our lives. This narrow interpretation of Being’s calling card (named by us as “trauma”) leaves us feeling victimized, justified in our righteous claims, and generates a renewed will to keep the “alien” out. But there is another way, one that our artists are showing us. For example, Emeli Sandé:

’cause baby when you’re gentle

It’s all that it takes

and oh, my heart breaks

yeah oh, my soul shakes[4]

This way speaks to the penetrating power of water, or “the preponderance of the small” or the many other images of being gently or tenderly opened up by Being.

I will explore all this in more detail in my next essay, asking how can we each arrive at the “place” where such gentle yet powerful “intrusions” from Being can teach us our place in Life, as belonging to Life, not opposed to it, or controlling it, as I recently heard in an interview from a committed ISIS “warrior” who horrifyingly claims, “we love Death the way you love Life!”

We have not yet plumbed the depth of this astonishing and horrifying new thought now breaking onto the world stage for the very first time in history (so I claim—if it is to be understood without reducing it to merely another instance of past violent times, or some such). Terrorism as a love of Death can at last begin to be understood if we can grasp this hint offered by this ISIS spokesman from the point of view of the now “forgotten psyche”. I was granted a vision in 1995 that showed me this horrifying thought as Death being the final vehicle of Being or Life. The vision shows Life (pictured as the goddess) in a mood of rage-despair, Her response to our callous, mad treatment of what in effect constitutes the Ground of our existence. Her rage-despair reaches the agony of a crescendo in the form of a “nuclear bomb”. Her agony expresses the horrifying knowledge that, in destroying everything, She is, at the same time, destroying Herself. The rage-despair governing the mood of this vision almost destroyed me at the time, yet transformation was still possible, as the vision also taught me.[5]

Death as the final, dreadful vehicle of Being or Life’s attempt to “break in” on our constructed reality! We can’t argue with Death, although our cultural practices are desperately trying to exclude Death in all its forms, like the knight in Ingmar Bergman’s great movie, The Seventh Seal, who toyed with defeating Death by playing chess with Him, even cheating by upturning the board when it became clear that he was losing. But he ended up, nonetheless, dancing the Danse Macabre, like other casualties of the Plague. In one last desperate attempt to penetrate our incorrigible obtuseness, Being calls up its vehicle of Death, its final, ineluctable calling card!

But we can maybe soften this form of the “visitor” if we can become more welcoming, as Sandé’s music teaches us, i.e., less fearful, less defensive, more open to Being’s advances, more willing to be impressed by the ineluctable reality of Life, more willing to be taught our place as belonging to Life, more receptive to Life breaking into us. As the artist says:

this entire album is about me not holding back and not censoring myself. I wanted to release ‘Hurts’ first because it felt like everything I’d avoided saying for so long. It’s a real explosion. It’s everything I wish I’d said years and years ago. I didn’t want to hold anything back anymore.

When we can “prepare” in this more receptive manner, then the “alien” other can then enter us, not only in the form of its ultimate “alien” status, Death, but as its equally excluded brother, Love. As Sandé further says:

I am no angel. These songs are stories of a very flawed human, but I hope in my honesty we may have a deeper connection and grow stronger, united together. Take note of colours in your dreams. Things aren’t as dark as they may seem. We are so powerful. I chose my side. No more gently gently. Love needs being protected and fought for. More than ever. By any means necessary. LONG LIVE THE ANGELS!

Or, perhaps, this way:


love agony of creation

seeking to bring

a gift to humankind

it can be transmitted only

in the sacred place

help help

i must give it

your womb is the sacred vessel

to pour my golden shower

my sacred word, my breath

i must pour into you

please come to me

i need you

i am swollen

burdened with love

you fill me

i must come to you

i open myself up to you

empty your fullness into me

i am the cup

i am the wine

you pour into me

you are the sacred space

do not refuse me

i do not refuse you

i welcome you welcome me

i can wait no longer do you need to wait

you are mine is yours

we are one

[1] A self-presentational “poem” as given in my “goddess” vision of 1995.  See also my book Poems of Making, Poems of Death, 3rd ed. (revised), 2015.

[2] https://www.academia.edu/15234142/Soul_in_Oblivion

[3] http://www.nytimes.com/2016/10/26/us/politics/donald-trump-interviews.html?_r=0

[4] “Shakes”. From her new album, Long Live the Angels.

[5] See my “poem” above. I describe my vision of 1995 in full detail throughout my books and essays. See for example, “Drought, or The Wasteland” in The Peril in Thinking (2015) or at: https://www.academia.edu/16279865/Drought_or_The_Wasteland

[6] From my book, Poems of Making Poems of Death. Again this “poem” was self-presentational.