­I have carried a newspaper cutting around for years – the short article speaks of a school in England who made the pupils who got detention listen to classical music and write down William Blake’s lauded poem Jerusalem – thus learning it by heart. The result was less truancy and fewer misdemeanours by the repeat offenders. I have carried this small piece of newsprint around with me because it spoke of a resounding truth – the power of the inspired written word, the eudemonic and enlivening nature of beauty and the exceptional perspicacity of human kind (in this instance the staff) to meet wrongdoing with a redemptive activity. This small obscure article held one of the alchemical secrets of healing and yet for many it would have been lost in the hubbub of inconsequential news. Many of us know that the learning of a particular verse or prose can help to engender a sense of self and offer a source of resolve and transformation – it can become a mantra of sorts. As Buddha said ‘with our thoughts we make our world’. The right verse, the right poem can lift us from the profane into the extraordinary and transformative.

Living into imaginations such as those provided by Blake can re-enforce and instil visions of courage and spirit that lie within us: Bring me my Bow of burning gold; Bring me my Arrows of desire: Bring me my Spear: O clouds unfold! Bring me my Chariot of fire! Imagine if we were to wage all our personal battles with such vital imaginations!

Everyday we go to battle in one way or another – by simply living in the world as it is today – by simply being human. We are constantly challenged by the frenetic nature of human existence, we have personal, inter-personal, professional, environmental and societal pressures to overcome. How do we do this with dignity, honour, compassion, strength, enthusiasm and a sense of our true self? We need to prepare ourselves, to cloak ourselves in what can be called ‘spiritual armour’ ––­ armour that we ourselves have created through our own inner striving. Every time we put our will and effort into self-development, whether it be doing basic soul development exercises, meditating or by corralling ourselves not to be distracted by something mundane or profane and to put our forces into something ‘worthy’ – we strengthen our spiritual muscles – we become more inwardly robust. We also develop perceptions and heighten our sense of the super-sensory.

The renowned depictions of Michael and the Dragon can speak of our own personal power to transform our inner demons. We all have ‘shadow’ aspects of ourselves that need the sword of courage and discernment to redeem them. In our darkest moments the shadow aspects of ourselves can ‘act’ out like beasts manifesting as anger, guilt and fear. The more we develop ourselves the more we can become a witness to our own shadow and the particular ways it manifests– this is key to self-knowledge and self-transformation– to observe and become an objective witness to who we are.

To be a strong individual and leader in the 21st Century, has little to do with physicality or wealth (certainly these are powerful currencies today) but to cultivate true self-leadership in todays world we must cultivate our Higher Self and tread the path to self-knowledge. To not cease from mental fight, to not let the sword of discernment sleep in our hand – but to build a deep sense of our higher self within our very own being. By transforming ourselves, we transform the world. Our imaginations become our reality.

– Emily


Michael, also known as St. George, is commonly depicted in full armour overcoming a dragon. Historically he is personified as an Archangel and bearer of cosmic wisdom and intelligence, symbolically represented by his sword or spear Ascalon – the holy weapon of perception. While Michael wants humans to develop a consciousness that is shone through with cosmic wisdom, inspired from every person’s Higher Self, the dragon wishes for humans to live an instinctive, dark, animal-like existence, yet illuminated by cold unfeeling intelligence.

Sometimes, in these depictions of Michael and the dragon, a maiden – a symbol of the human soul itself – is seen in the background bound to a tree. She is a prisoner of these lower soul forces. Uccello painted this theme but in his version Michael has wounded the dragon. The maiden, no longer bound to a tree, has the tamed dragon on a lead. In the background is the dragon’s cold, crystalline cave.



Above: Saint George and the Dragon, Paolo Uccello, circa 1470

Existential suffering and perseverance

Many abandon the path of self-development because progress is not immediately evident. In fact life can become more arduous as one undertakes this journey – because by bringing a light to our unconscious activity or as Jung called it, by ‘individuating’ – an existential suffering can take place as we grapple with the truth of our imperfection and gain a greater knowledge of self and the world – which is not always comfortable or ‘pretty’. Jung described this process of individuation as a journey through ‘the swamplands of the soul’.

A dedicated, mindfulness and meditation practice can cultivate and support peace, equanimity and insight, however, sustaining and maintaining such a discipline can be very difficult given the frenetic world we live in, with its constant demands and distractions. Patience, trust and openness to what may come are imperative, along with a determination to cultivate will-power, even though we may lapse in our practice from time to time. It is like learning to ride a bike; the fact that we fall off time and again, does not deter our will to master the bike.

Here at Alamandria we have sustained our inner and outer work-life, like so many others, by finding inspiration in people, art, books, nature and poetry. In this on-going series we wish to share some snap-shots of our explorations – in the hope that as they have help support, enliven and inform us on our journey – they can in turn offer the same to you.


1 Carl Jung, book cover –The Undiscovered Self / 2 Lotus flower / 3 Buddhist statue at Po Lin Monastery, Hong Kong / 4 Carl Jung (1875–1961) / 5 Woman holding lotus flower / 6 Passiflora, photograph by Kaarl Blossfeldt / 7 Lotus flower for Buddhist religious ceremony


‘As experience unfortunately shows, the inner man remains unchanged however much community he has. His environment cannot give him as a gift that which he can win for himself only with effort and suffering.’

‘Most people confuse ‘self-knowledge’ with knowledge of their conscious ego personalities. Anyone who has ego consciousness at all takes it for granted that he knows himself. But the ego knows only its own contents, not the unconscious and its contents. People measure their self knowledge by what the average person in their social environment knows of himself, but not by the real psychic facts which are for the most part hidden from them.’

‘…the individual has an ineradicable tendency to get rid of everything he does not know and does not want to know about himself by foisting it off on somebody else. Nothing has a more divisive and alienating effect upon society than this moral complacency and lack of responsibility, and nothing promotes understanding and rapprochement more than the mutual withdrawal of projections.’

The flower shows us the way out of the darkness and into the light. Challenges must be overcome for the seed to become flower as the young shoot moves and grows toward the light.


Islands of bliss and everlasting youth,
Floating like flowers on an endless sea
And never touched by sorrows from this world:
Such happy islands thou wilt never see.
Behold: what thou hast dreamt of may be real,
It is not elsewhere, it is what thou art
If thou rememb’rest God; then thou wilt find
The golden island in thy deepest heart.
The singing of a flute came from the sea;
The waters vanished, and the flute was me.