Interview With Melina Costello
edited: Wednesday, July 21, 2010
By Melina Costello
Rated "R" by the Author.
Posted: Wednesday, July 21, 2010
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An interview with the author of Seeking the God of Ecstasy: A Spiritual Journey of Sexual Awakening
Conducted by Fiona Capuano, Pam Bernstein & Associates Literary Agency—New York
Fiona: "Melina, I was thrilled to read your book and enjoyed the story immensely. It is a fresh approach to have an inner god guiding you through fears and desires, due to an upbringing of sexual inhibitions. How are you entering this interior world? How is it different from a nocturnal dream state?"
Melina: "Entering Dionysus' realm—the interior world—was facilitated by meditation, which redeploys awareness from dayworld preoccupations to a highly receptive, stream of consciousness state. One might call this cognitive shift a conscious movement of intention toward interiorization: withdrawing awareness from the outer world and concentrating it inward towards Self. It is in this state of wakeful repose that one's cognitive functions have the greatest capacity to absorb impressions from the depths of soul via the subconscious mind without falling asleep.
"I had always found this cognitive shift quite easy to do, as I had lots of practice as a child maintaining deeply quiet states of rapt attention while observing the lulling movement of wind in the trees that grew behind my family's house. I was fascinated with how this state of dreamy wakefulness caused disassociation from habitual modes of perception and encouraged what seemed to be a latent faculty of inner sight to come to the fore. The outer world seemed to come alive in an altogether different way than what was ordinarily gleaned through my five senses and engaged my attention as though it were the very ground of Being from which sprang all of temporal reality. As a child, I had no frame of reference for these experiences other than to ascribe them to the delightful mysteries of both heaven and my imagination.
"Years of practicing meditative disciplines in my adult life deepened my experiences of interiorization as in dreaming. However, unlike nocturnal dreams, meditative states heightened my conscious participation in the unfoldment of my inner life. Observing silence in 'contemplative awakeness' summoned psychic faculties from their quiescent states and allowed them to impress the soul's images upon the screen of my awareness."
Fiona: "Why do you fear the archetypal images are inventions of your ego?"
Melina: "Prior to my journeys into the interior world, my meditative states possessed none of the features of the underworld: the violence and vulgarity of the dark animus, 'X,' and the libidinous urges of the satyr, Pan—archetypes that emerged from my psyche, fully charged, only days into my interior journeys. On the contrary, my meditations had faithfully yielded angelic or saintly presences of benevolence and love. The intrusion of darker psychic forces into my meditations initially made me distrust their origins, as they bore no resemblance to the accustomed sacred tones and images of my interior self. Having no frame of reference for these interior encounters, I often feared the unconscious forces of my ego might be parading in various disguises to sabotage my spiritual process."
Fiona: "I love the following lines—'How does one truly know what can be let out safely and what needs to be held in check for the sake of one's daily psychic maintenance and overall sanity?' and 'How many of us possess the genuineness of self-honesty, let alone the guts, to jump into the excruciating ordeal of confronting the dark underworld's implied amorality and violence in ourselves?'"
Melina: "I'm happy you were moved by the two lines you cited—these statements resonate strongly with me as well."
Fiona: "Very early on, you slip onto Dionysus' phallus, without hesitation. It sure shocked me, as it is so early in the development of the book and I barely know what will proceed. Also, it is contradictory to the later lust reluctance with Pan."
Melina: "My psychosexual encounter with Dionysus early on in my interior journeys is preceded by Dionysus' transformation from a young man to a celestial being-angel. This transformation is important because it is a psychological significator of his divinity and confirms to me the presence of the numen in my psyche: a living force that is pre-eminently 'holy.' In the face of the holy, sexual union is not only desirable, it is an ecstatic impulse of the soul that knows no fear or hesitation. My desire is for union with the divine—or the divine principle in my Self. You'll notice during my coital experience with Dionysus, my lust responses are nearly nonexistent, while my sense of joy, vitality, and spiritual freedom is greatly enlivened.
"Pan’s strikingly coarse, half-animal body, replete with horns and tail, is the antithesis of Dionysus' dreamlike, celestial appearance. In my book I write, 'He (Pan) is amazingly dark and physical, like a tree or a rock. My first impulse is to move away from him, to quickly put space around myself.' My initial response to Pan suggests an underlying discomfort with my own body, my physicality. I’m far more comfortable with the ascending qualities and solar brilliance of 'spiritual' union with Dionysus, for I experience this union as a release from the body; sexual intimacy with Pan is reviled as bondage to the body and the primitive urges of instinct, not the least of which is lust. Seen in this light, my lust reluctance with Pan is a psychological indicator of my deep fear of the body, from which my spiritual life up to that time had largely been an escape."
Fiona: "What is the total time span of your interior journeys? If each journey is not very long, then don't you think about it constantly? You rarely mention its impact on other areas of your life, except when you talk to Ted about a session. You once vaguely mention having a child."
Melina: "The total time span of my interior journeys with Dionysus is six years. The first two years of my journeys are recorded in my first book, Seeking the God of Ecstasy, while the remaining four years are documented in my second book, Dreaming with the God of Ecstasy. The dates of my sessions, dreams, and personal notes are transcribed in the text, giving the reader a clear indication of the time span between inner and outer events in my life. The actual time spent in the interior world on any given day was directly related to my energy level, the intensity of the journeys, my resistance or receptivity to the experiences, and my dayworld agendas. In other words, a journey could last anywhere from 45 minutes to three or four hours.
"The impact of my interior journeys on my outer life was subtle during the early stages of my initiation into Dionysus' world, with the exception of my sexual, creative, and spiritual life—all fairly private areas of endeavor at that time. The exploration and release of erotic love in my intimate relationship with my partner, Ted, was a primary repository for the transformative upsurges of archetypal energy triggered by my session work with Dionysus, as well as my encounters with the dark animus, 'X,' and the satyr, Pan. My journeys also released enormous reserves of creative energy that opened me to a new world of watercolor painting and storywriting. Because I worked at home in the solitude of my office, this creative enterprise afforded hours of quiet reflection and processing of my inner life as I painted watercolor illustrations for a children's book series.
"The sparsity of recorded details concerning my everyday life, as well as the journeys' impact on my outer life, were dictated by two factors during the period I was transcribing my journeys. I abstained from writing about the routine affairs of my everyday life unless these events provided strong correlatives to my inner work and experiences. This practice, which I initiated early on in my work, prevented me from using literary diversions to avoid the uncomfortable ordeal of self-confrontation. More significantly, I realized my psychic investment in the archetypal world needed to take place in a 'contained space," such as a hermetic vessel. I knew only matters of the soul must enter that vessel. Elements outside the domain of the underworld—particularly dayworld affairs—would diffuse or redirect the alchemic ripening of my soul's inner state. In the language of shamans, taking an initiatory journey into the soul without protection is to risk 'leaking' one's personal energy before it has matured sufficiently to withstand psychic contaminants in the outer world.
"Secondly, the psychic content of my inner process amassed so much weight as my session work evolved that time constraints prevented me from transcribing particulars that were not directly related to the core of my work. Simply, there were not enough hours in one day to record my dreams, plumb the depths of the interior world, process these experiences in my personal notes, maintain deadlines for my children's books, keep appointments, nurture my two children, manage a household, invest intimacy in my relationship with Ted, and enjoy social endeavors with family and friends—let alone rest and recover."
Fiona: "It is good that you periodically want to stay away from your inner world with Dionysus. It shows you expect the reader to take time off from reading to absorb the information. You mention something about 'masturbating imagination'—is reading about it self-indulgent, too? I like that you are afraid to continue, as if to prevent a psychosis."
Melina: "My initial reluctance to embrace my early experiences in the archetypal world as bonafide psychic events was due in part to psychological naïveté about the world into which I’d ventured. Fearing self-inflation and ungroundedness, I often subjected these inner events to ruthless analysis, believing my rational faculties were my only stronghold against falling into potholes of delusion. While this posture kept me safely afloat in unfamiliar waters, my analytical bent was an inconsistent guide. When venturing into matters of the soul, my rational mind often became a bully to whatever it could not size up and label, a windbag when its empirical arguments collapsed, and a coward when urged to stick its big toe in the stream of the imagination.
"My self-indictment for 'inventing' the inner images and activities as though they were 'fascinating toys with which my mind is masturbating' was an attempt to preserve the known parameters of ego-based reality. I could not yet trust the hand of Self at the helm of my inner process and, until I could build a bridge between reason and intuition, I safely chose to err on the side of reason."
Fiona: "How does the following Jungian quote apply to your story—'When an inner situation is not made conscious, it happens outside as fate?'"
Melina: "Jung’s statement about repressed inner situations happening outside as fate is a dominant theme in my second book, Dreaming with the God of Ecstasy; inner psychic conditions restrained by fear really do happen outside as fate when they have reached a point of critical mass and are barred from conscious integration. However, the inner and outer events of my life in my first book, Seeking the God of Ecstasy, portray the converse of Jung’s psychological assertion about fate: it is a story about how reclaiming elements of soul long banished from conscious life by fear and conditioning vanquishes spiritual conflict and frees the individual to live in passion and joy. For example, becoming conscious of my instinctual life through my archetypal encounters with Pan greatly enlarged my capacity for erotic intimacy in my real life partnership with Ted. It also released enormous reserves of creative energy and fresh impulses that opened me to a new world of watercolor painting and storywriting. In all candor, Seeking the God of Ecstasy embodies some of the happiest years of my life."
Fiona: "Thank you, Melina. Your book is very insight provoking and I am happy to have read it."