Meet Author & Psychic:
Interview by Marlene Hennessy, PhD
Photography - Alan Wilco
Lawren Leo is a paradox. Tall, statuesque, with striking good looks, this modern-day witch has forsaken black robes and a broomstick for designer chic. A visionary healer, he has reinvented magic for the new age and a new audience: one that is radically democratic, inclusive and forward-looking. Leo is also a triple threat: a renowned psychic and medium with a broad array of clients; a successful entrepreneur as owner of New Moon Books, a psychic salon and boutique in Pompano Beach, FL; and a talented literary author whose story collection is gaining a burgeoning audience.
Leo’s dark, haunted fairy tales expose the thin veil between appearance and reality. In his stories there is a broad, deep continuum of personal history and narrative time collapsing into painful but rapturous present. Like Sicilian folktales, these stories feel as if they could have been written hundreds of years ago. They also often tease the boundaries between animals and humans, the living and dead, and the material and spiritual. While many of these stories end on a note of uncertainty and venture into the realm of the uncanny and the unknown, the collection read as a whole promises the triumph of love and beauty, loss as plenitude.
Marlene: You have given psychic readings to a wide cross-section of people, from celebrities and diplomats to academics and social workers. What is the one thing most of your clients seek from you? What is the one common denominator, if there is one? What have you learned about yourself from reading for your clients?
Lawren: To know. To learn. To grasp and hold and analyze something that they cannot: a missing puzzle piece, an affirmation, a sign, something that can bring relief. Almost every client seeks spiritual and psychological tools to help guide and/or heal him or herself, even if they don’t recognize it at the time. Sometimes a compassionate and wise phrase will come to me as a message for one of my clients, to help soothe them. I’m often surprised by this, not that I think of myself as unintelligent or less than clever, but sometimes the profundity and syntax of the phrase just does not seem to be something I would say or the way I would say it. When this happens, it helps me too. It becomes a spiritual tool that helps me evolve quicker. It always reminds me that people are complex, no matter how simple their circumstances may seem.
Marlene: You have a well-established reputation for psychic understanding and clairvoyance, but you are also interested in storytelling and writing literature. These talents place you in interesting company, as the Roman poet Vergil was considered a sorcerer, and Dante was thought to have been one, too. Many writers have been accused of being magicians and practitioners of magic and even of the dark arts. What is the connection between these practices, in your view?
Lawren: There is no separation between magic and writing and creativity. It’s easy enough to replace the word ‘magic’ with ‘inspiration,’ or ‘imagination’. In my short story The Gardenia (found in my book, Love's Shadow: Nine Crooked Paths) I explain that my inspiration is a psychic kernel, a clairvoyant vision, a trigger that fires off emotion. But whatever form it takes it originates from a subconscious or conscious desire to fill my pages. And this is where magic plays a role. Have you ever been half asleep and half awake, at night I mean, when you are first trying to fall asleep? It’s a magical time when our conscious mind is open to meaningful ideas. We’re in an altered state, perhaps a deep alpha state when we are able to get a flash of the future, or receive a self-illuminating epiphany. I have these moments often. It’s a gift. But they are not limited to bedtime for me. And they are enhanced because I am predisposed to psychic sensitivity and also meditate daily. I make it a habit, as should you, to keep a pen and paper by my bedside for journaling.
Marlene: In your stories the otherworldly has a range of powers: protection, harm, charm, renewal. Can you speak about your encounter with the otherworld, or the role of the otherworldly, in your creative process? What is the relation between your writing life and your work as a psychic?
Lawren: Writing is a multi-dimensional process. I need a muse, I need a psychic vision. By that I mean each of my stories is adapted from a personal psychic vision or experience. The vision, likewise, is ignited by a person or events that are taking place in real life – my life. It’s quite addictive actually. Sometimes I wonder if I let certain people, places, and things into my trajectory in order to excite a psychic vision! The first part of my short story The Gardenia (found in my book, Love's Shadow: Nine Crooked Paths) gives an example of this process.
Marlene: In your writing you weave in references to Buddhism, necromancy, clairvoyance, and the spirit world. Can you speak about your own syncretistic spirituality? How did it develop?
Lawren: At one point in my life I decided to discard established religion. It was after a life-altering tragedy, and I needed help with tough and huge life questions, the kind that are never quickly or fully answered. You know, the clichés like the meaning of life: Why am I here? Looking back now, it was healthy and normal to do that, but it’s only in time that we learn to ask the right questions.
Over time, studying various philosophies, such as The Golden Dawn (a Western Mystery School Tradition) and various forms of Wicca and Creative Visualization became more important to me. But it was certainly through psychic illuminations and life experiences, both heartbreaking and happy, that my true spirituality began to form.
And it is still forming, even as we speak. Each day I meet someone new that I learn from or experience something in meditation that I know is not a personal construct, but a kernel of wisdom outside of my imagination that begs analysis and integration into my daily life. Spirituality is a beautiful thing, something deeply personal that we can choose to share or to keep silent. I choose to write about it.
Marlene: Your writing often focuses on the power of the mind and the power of the emotions to shape our worlds. Can you discuss this subject, or perhaps think of an instance in your own life where this manifested most dramatically?
Lawren: It’s a tricky one, this question. Usually the power of the emotions rules the power of the mind – that’s almost always when we get hurt, but also when we learn and grow. It’s also when we’re most vulnerable. I always felt there was a certain beauty in that, being vulnerable I mean. And, I suppose, as an artist I allow my psyche to be exposed in my creations. I’m not afraid of that.
I believe our worlds are created by what we think AND what we feel. They go hand in hand. So why not think bold, feel bold, and jump into the lake naked! As long as we’re truthful to ourselves something good will come of it: a lesson, a metamorphosis, a good story if you’re lucky!
Where has this manifested most dramatically in my life? Hmmm… how about in all avenues! I need constant emotional and intellectual stimulation, both from my environment and also, especially from people or a certain ‘someone’ or muse, in order to start the writing process. My muses, almost always unwittingly, put pressure on my psyche. This can result in spontaneous illuminations and visions that can spark a story into creation.
Marlene: Who are your favorite literary authors? Influences?
Lawren: There are so many! Right now, I’d say that the Brazilian author Paulo Coelho is at the top. And so are William Blake, Ann Patchett, Brenda Hillman, Deepak Chopra, the Bronte sisters, May Swenson, and the list goes on. As far as philosophy and magic, S. L. MacGregor Mathers, Aleister Crowley, Dion Fortune, and Edgar Cayce top the charts. Music of all forms is also a great influence for me. I studied classical piano since the age of eight and fell in love with Chopin, Rachmaninoff, and Debussy right off the bat. They’ve never left my side. If you catch me in a certain mood, I just might play you a piece by Chopin on the piano I keep in my office!
Marlene: Who is your ideal reader?
Lawren: First and foremost, my ideal reader is brave, someone who is not afraid to find a self-portrait in my stories; definitely someone who wants to think, feel, and analyze deeply. I use a lot of symbolism and literary nuance because I want to make the reader think. Sometimes it’s necessary to make the reader feel uncomfortable for this to happen. So I like to take something common or familiar, and portray it in an uncommon manner. Or I use poetic phrasing with unfamiliar vocabulary. You know, I think it’s important to make people face a truth that they feel they cannot bear. In the end, everyone can learn to be an ideal reader.
Marlene: Ghosts/ancestors play an interesting role in your work. Can you comment on this, or relate a story from your own life that makes your views clear?
Lawren: Most people don’t know this about me, but I’m actually very shy. I’ve been that way since I was a little boy. That part of me, the shy part, makes me want to be invisible. I guess I know how it feels to be a ‘ghost’. But I’ve also experienced characters in my stories that have appeared to me in my mind’s eye. I actually see the characters and know something intimate about them that allows me to write an entire story. Anik, for instance, the character found in the second part of The Gardenia (found in my book, Love's Shadow: Nine Crooked Paths), appeared to me. Once that happens, I have no choice but to write. I cannot contain it. It’s as if the story must be written or the ghost/character will be upset with me. They can’t be ‘born’ in this world unless I put their existence into words. I guess we both need one another.
I believe in ancestor veneration as practiced in East Asian cultures – lighting candles, giving offerings, putting flowers on the graves of my ancestors. I feel that many people have a lost sense of connection with their ancestors. It can, however, be rebuilt through memory or commemoration. My ancestors were from Italy, Naples and Rome, and the Italian heritage plays a large role in my life. And this extends to my spirituality.
Marlene: Your stories also often involve experiments with time and temporality. In the Middle Ages writers often portrayed time as “collapsible.” What is your sense of the role of time in your fiction?
Lawren: Time is altogether mysterious to me. Unless I give an exact date and/or place, I want the reader to feel a sense of freedom and mystery. My stories are created to allow the reader to envision any time or era. The use of metaphor and symbols also plays an important role in my stories. I use these devices to create a sense of “thinking through,” to almost become an argument of what they mean or do not mean. By the end of the story, the reader should feel as if she or he is standing at the intersection of what is real and unreal.
Marlene: Dreams have unleashed hidden powers to you, and they suffuse your stories in atmosphere, imagery, and tone. Your stories often experiment or tease boundaries: anima/human, reality/dream, past/present, and the living/dead. Can you suggest to readers ways they can harness the energy of their own dreams for creativity and fulfillment?
Lawren: Keeping a journal is most important. To ‘catch’ or remember a dream and write it down immediately is a way of telling your dreams that you are ready to start a healthy rapport with them. In return, you will get more profound dreams. Start by writing down a question on a piece of paper and sleeping with it under your pillow until you receive a dream that you feel answers it satisfactorily. Lighting a white candle with clear quartz next to it can also enhance dream powers. Let it burn throughout the night and extinguish itself naturally. There are so many ways to delve into your dreams. I speak of several powerful methods in my book, Dragonflame: Tap Into Your Reservoir of Power Using Talismans, Manifestation & Visualization (New Page Books), for both the beginner and the advanced.
Writing is a relatively new art form to me. That is, I never thought of myself as a professional writer until about twelve years ago. Around that time I felt very lost and unsure what aspect of my career to pursue. I just was not fulfilled. For a long time all I could bring myself to do was light a candle and pray a chant that had come to me while in deep meditation. Then, I had a life-altering experience. It came in the form of a lucid dream, which is one where you become aware that you are dreaming and have particular control over your surroundings. No rules apply except the ones you make – you can fly, change form, travel to parallel realms. It’s quite fun really and is a fundamental ingredient to magic and making it work properly. But that’s another story entirely.
Anyway, within this lucid dream I followed music that took me to a cabin near a river. I entered and went directly to one of the bedrooms instinctively. And there, I saw myself lying on my back, meditating in the bed. Of course, I was shocked to see myself so clearly. The ‘me’ that was meditating in the dream woke up and was so happy to see that I had found my way to him. He told me that he had been meditating on bringing me to him and that he represented my hidden talent – writing. The metaphor dawned on me: I have awakened a latent talent. We embraced crying, and I woke up with something special, with a dream to pursue. A couple years later I transformed the experience into a magical ritual intended to help other people find their ‘dream.’ Because isn’t that what your hidden talent really is? It could be the most important thing that ever happens to you in your lifetime. Imagine a huge finger pointing you in the correct direction! That ritual is in my book Dragonflame: Tap Into Your Reservoir of Power Using Talismans, Manifestation & Visualization (New Page Books).
Photography - Celia Oliva
Marlene: What’s next for you?
Lawren: More writing and research. I will also be giving classes and psychic counsel in Los Angeles, New York City, and at my store in Pompano Beach, Florida.
Marlene Hennessy, PhD
New York City