The Never-Never

 

“The second star to the right and then straight on ‘til morning.”

 

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A metaphor for our Unconscious Mind?

In several blog articles I’ve explored how myth reflects the workings of the human psyche. Though not myths in and of themselves there are also popular fantasy stories that have added to our cultural mythology that themselves are allegories to the workings of the psyche. I’ve looked at such stories and poems as Shakespeare’s Mid Summer Nights Dream, Louis Carroll’s’ Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass.

Today I thought I’d tackle yet another of the English-speaking world’s favorite fantasy stories, Peter Pan.

“The second star to the right and then straight on ‘til morning.

But, Peter, how do we get to Never Land?

Fly, of course.

Fly?

It’s easy! All you have to do is to… is to… is to… Ha! That’s funny.

What’s the matter? Don’t you know?

Oh, sure. It’s… It’s just that I never thought about it before. Say, that’s it! You think of a wonderful thought. “

 

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From Disney movie Peter Pan

And thus began one of fantasy’s most incredible magical journeys, Peter Pan by J.M Barrie.

What is this Never Land of which he spoke?

Barrie thought of this land as a place found in the minds of children. Each land is as different as each child, though there are some basic similarities as it is between children as well. This seems not unlike the archetypal images of which Jung spoke which would make Never Land an archetype for the psyche’s imaginal realm.

In this way Never Land might be likened to the dream world with the “mainland” of Wendy, John and Michael Darling representing the waking world.

Barrie’s Never Land was probably a reference to the popular name for the Australian Outback i.e. The “Never-Never” that was to be found in the deserts of the Northern Territory. This wouldn’t be too far fetched when one thinks of the Australs as the southern most land mass on the planet and thus analogous to the unconscious mind from whence all dreams are born.

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Never-Never National Park

Neverland can only be reached by flying and in the dream world, flying is a metaphor for freedom and independence, it’s also a central theme in Peter Pan’s world.

The star in the beginning of the story serves as a guide or map to the place of their desire; where they aspire to be i.e. Never Land. In dreams stars also relate to ones aspirations and desires. There’s also an aspect of fate or luck in the story because you’re encouraged to believe that you just have to follow “the 2nd star to the right and then straight on ‘til morning”, a star in ones dreams also symbolizes this same aspect of luck.

In the book The Archipelago of Dreams Robert also followed a star that drew him into the Spirit World of his deeper self where he also tempted fate.

Growing up in some way is also an aspect of many stories both in the desire and the resistance to it. We all want the seeming independence of being grown up and in charge of our fate, but how many times have we all, when overwhelmed with the responsibilities of our grown-up status, wished for the simpler days of our childhood? In our dreams this often shows up in images of our childhood home, friends, events, or family.

You see, our fantasy stories as well as our myths come from the same place as our dreams– they are projections of our deeper, and all too hidden, nature.

 

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Archetypal memes in our stories and our dreams

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For several years now I’ve been slowly adding to my personal encyclopedia of dream images. After a particularly numinous dream the other day I thumbed through my collection to the archetype section and found what I was looking for. It was a comment on the archetypal images that often show up in fictional and fantasy stories.

Stories thrive on archetypal characters. There are the heroes such as Odysseus of Homer’s work, or Hercules in Greek mythology. Characters like Puck and Lady Macbeth, Othello and King Lear along with a whole host of others in the works of Shakespeare are also archetypal memes.

The White Rabbit and the Cheshire cat lead us into our inner realm, as do all animals in our dreams and music such as Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker shows evidence of characters like the trickster and shadow. The psychic archetypes portrayed within this work show up in the form of the Trickster-magician Drosselmeyer, the Shadow creature portrayed by the Mouse King and his minions and the various goddess images envisioned as the Sugar Plum and Snow fairies.

The Nutcracker itself transforms from one state of being to another, becoming human in the process, a nice metaphor for Carl Jung’s Individuation Process and not unlike the transformative performance experienced by Pinocchio who morphed from being a puppet to a real boy. Both represent the magic-like development of the human psyche as it transmutes toward wholeness and realness.

As with anything in the imaginal world of the psychic archetypes, they are more metaphor than actual. We can’t touch them, only point toward their attributes. They represent the patterns of the psychic function.

The Depth Psychologist James Hillman said that they were the root of the soul. He went on to say that because of this imaginal description of archetype we are lead “to envision the basic nature and structure of the soul in an imaginative way and to approach the basic questions of psychology first of all by means of the imagination.” (Hillman, J., A Blue Fire, Harper Perennial, 1989, pg.23)

Imagination is the faculty of imagining, or of forming mental images or concepts of what is not actually present to the senses. A Psychologist might say that it is the power of reproducing images stored in the memory under the suggestion of associated images or of recombining former experiences in the creation of new images that aid in the solution of problems or that are directed at a specific goal.

The archetypal imagination of our soul has the ability to create unreal or whimsical imagery and the decorative detail that we experience in our poetry, dramas, stories and art.

On occasion an archetypal image will visit a dream and deliver a luminous or what has been dubbed a numinous (i.e. holy or sacred) quality to the dream that can stimulate an emotional state that brings transformational meaning and purpose to ones life.

The emotion can be of deep sweetness, ecstasy or of terror and dread but definitely a wholly other experience of astonishment and wonder.

Whether the experience is “real” or not in terms of whether one has been visited by some spirit isn’t all that important because it’s the effect that it has on ones psyche and resulting behavior that is of consequence.

 

Sometimes a fairy tale can lead us home

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Early one morning as the sun was still climbing above the tops of the faraway mountains, I threw on my jacket as insurance against the lingering cold from the night just passing and headed down the street to the old river trail. As I descended from road to trail a cold wind skipped playfully about me and I zipped the jacket tighter.

It was a gorgeous morning full of promise, birds calling to one another, a croaking frog and the buzzing of bees busily working the pollen of the flowers along the water’s edge.

I decided to head toward the little town off to the west and was sure that the path I was on was the true path toward that destiny. But somehow I got lost. “Funny”, I thought “This was always the way before!”

A little further down the path the ground became rocky with pools of muddy water and broken branches making the going much tougher than I remembered. I should have turned around, but I was convinced that this had always been the way to town and that I needed to persevere.

The sky became grey and ominous, threatening to pour down and a stiff wind snaked down the gully pushing me back against the way of travel. What had started off in beauty had quickly changed into darkening struggle, but I soldiered on. Debris began to build up against my forward progress and the rain had become so forceful it actually blew horizontal to the path and every step became painful. The sun had become so covered that the sky was nearly black and I could no longer see either my way forward or my way back.

I was cold, wet and lost and rapidly losing all hope, and to make it worse, the river was rising and lapping at the edge of the trail as it crumbled and began to disappear. A stepped back against a soggy berm so as to not be pulled into the chaotic waters but soon found I had no place to stand and the thoroughly drenched hillside offered no safety even if I could have climbed its muddy flank.

It was then that an old woman came out of the thicket and beckoned me to follow. At first I resisted, who knew what this old hag was up to and what dangers she would lead me into? But after several waves to me I decided that it couldn’t get any worse should I follow her and it was a sure bet that the way I was going wasn’t going to get me home so I let go my pride and followed her into the dense forest she had come from.

The going was tough, but the deeper I went into these woods the quieter the storm became until eventually we came to the edge of a great meadow ringed with tall redwoods. A grove of fruit trees stood to the east of us and it was there that the woman led me. Crossing the meadow the sun began to dry my clothes and warm the deadening cold that had gripped my soul earlier.

Somehow the world had changed, new vistas revealed themselves and just beyond the grove sat the sweetest log cabin I’d ever seen. As she stood at the door the woman beckoned to me to enter and because I had learned to follow her lead I walked inside. It was all I could have imagined it to be, I was home.

The patriarchal society that I grew up in had always told me that I should know where I was going and how I was to get there, but the road it lead me down was never-ending and never ever felt like home– I never felt as though I’d made it.

It wasn’t until I began to trust my inner feminine nature, that part of all of us that teaches us to open to our true Self, the wholeness that we are through our connectedness with everything, that I was able to see the real path for my life.

When we let go of our fantasy of what life is and follow our destiny even though it may not seem like the rational path we’ve been taught was the only true path, when we leave our preconceived goals and ideas and carefully conceived plans, then can we follow a path toward authenticity.

Sometimes the path has to be shattered and all seem lost before we can be open to the outstretched hand that offers us something new. Sometimes we need to let go our stubborn resolve of what is supposed to be in order to create a better way.

The world down the rabbit hole

 

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Every time I Google “Spirit Guide” I come up with thousands of mystical references to actual entities– animal, deity, or ancestral. It is not these that I refer to when I speak of my own Spirit Guide. I am referring to an inner voice that whispers direction when I silence my mind enough to hear it. This Spirit Guide is also real, as I am real for it is a part of me and not of some disembodied spirit coming in from somewhere outside myself. But when in my ego-self I sometimes have to imagine into being a guide that appears to be separate in order to interact with it.

It may be ancestral in that it often reflects the ancient archetypes present in all humans, it may even be a spirit in that it reflects the God that is in all of us, and my animal nature also has something to offer when I can approach it dispassionately, but what it is not is something outside myself. The Spirit travels with me wherever I go; it walks the path with me. But it is an oddly twisting path often turning back on itself with each twist a function of who I am at the moment of my arrival.

Because the road is uniquely yours, the Spirit will only give you enough direction to guide, but not enough for you to see where you’re going until you’ve added some directions of your own. This is difficult because as many of you have experienced, the directions don’t remain the same–they keep mysteriously changing! Just when you think you’ve seen the path and where it’s headed, it disappears! Why is this?

Perhaps it’s because it’s not really there! Oddly enough it could be that the path you’re following is only a projection and to complicate that even more, it may be a projection not only from you, but your family, friends, and culture. It may be that we cannot see the path we’re on except perhaps in retrospect, but even there the act of looking back changes what is seen.

Hindsight is like a book on a shelf of memories that when taken down and opened changes not only in meaning, but in style and word as well. Every remembrance alters itself. You could almost say that each review obliterates the previous review.

I wonder if the road we travel in our life is like the Cheshire Cat in the Alice in Wonderland story that keeps appearing and disappearing? And why is it always smiling? Perhaps it is because it knows that what is thought to be seen isn’t really what’s there at all?

Isn’t it odd how fantasy, and religion often reflect reality, albeit a strange reality, and stranger still there’s a reality at the infinitesimally small world that physicists call the “quantum”? When in the quantum world, matter keeps appearing then vanishing like the Cheshire Cat and all the characters that make up the matter of the real world keep changing–creating and annihilating like the Hindu god Shiva.

This path I’ve been following seems to have no end of strangeness to it. For example, many have written me with dreams that they thought might be precognitive. I’ve often responded skeptically, but readings of such physicists as Fred Alan Wolf suggest that at the quantum level the present makes the past. Eh? Really, some physicists suggest that present choices can effect what happens in the past–the past’s future (our present) can affect what happens e.g. a future cause can affect a past cause–an effect can thus come before a cause. As Wolf queries, “can we [then] reasonably affirm that choices made in the future affect our present?” My skepticism regarding the reality of precognizance may be a little too strident.

“Curiouser and curiouser” Alice was known to have muttered in her confusion over the reality of the world she found at the end of the rabbit hole. Sometimes it seems to me that Lewis Carroll was describing a reality we actually live in rather than the one we define in our consciousness. It’s curious how he presages the world of quantum physics before Einstein was even born.

So what to do when on the road of the Spirit? Take it where it leads? Be where you are when you’re there? Where is there? And why take the road in the first place? Is it all to find out who and why we are?

 

“The Caterpillar and Alice looked at each other for some time in silence: at last the Caterpillar took the hookah out of its mouth, and addressed her in a languid, sleepy voice.

 ‘Who are you?’ said the Caterpillar.

 This was not an encouraging opening for a conversation. Alice replied, rather shyly, ‘I — I hardly know, sir, just at present — at least I know who I WAS when I got up this morning, but I think I must have been changed several times since then.’

 ‘What do you mean by that?’ said the Caterpillar sternly. ‘Explain yourself!’

 ‘I can’t explain myself, I’m afraid, sir’ said Alice, ‘because I’m not myself, you see.’ “

                                      –Lewis Carroll (Alice ‘s Adventures in Wonderland)

 

This is the fun of taking this road less traveled, this Spirit-road, it’s an exciting mystery, and confusion is part of it, for in this world, “knowing” is the booby prize.

The Boy on the mountain

 

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I met the boy on the mountain

There with his drum

Tapping out the rhythms of his soul.

 

Hello, said I

Having forgotten his name

And he looked up and he smiled.

 

Then he fixed me with his gaze

And pulled me into the source.

I know the secret, he said.

 

The secret? said I.

The secret to life, he said

And turned back to his drum

 

Will you tell me? I asked.

You already know, he said

You already know

 

But I’ve forgotten, I pleaded.

We all forget, he said

Then we remember all over again,

 

Again and again,

Again and again,

And again, each time new.

 

It’s funny that way

The forgetting and remembering,

But that’s the way He wants it.

 

RJC ’14

Top 10 Christmas symbols

 

IMG_2770.JPGOver the next five days  I plan to publish a number of articles that highlight the Christian celebration of the birth of the Christ child. The symbolism comes from the deep unconscious. But symbolic imagery is not limited to the unconscious and its visits through ones dreams. It is spread all through the waking world that has given rise to the significance of the images in the dream world.

Though there are many traditions celebrated around the time of Christmas throughout the Christian world I have narrowed them to 10 that we in North America are the most familiar with.

Holly was a Druid symbol for the promise of new life to come at winters end and of strength and protection, goodwill and everlasting life. Druids brought holly boughs into their homes to shelter elves and faeries that joined mortals during Yuletide.

It was also the sacred plant of the Roman god Saturn, the father of Jupiter. During the festival of Saturnalia celebrated since the 2nd century BCE. Between December 17th through the 23rd , the Romans used to give each other sprigs of Holly. Christians have since co-opted it as a reminder that Jesus wore a crown of thorns at his crucifixion, though this would make more sense during the time of Easter, than Christmas.

A star atop the tree: This may have originated as a protection symbol against fire and lightning. Druids may have used the six-pointed star as a protection symbol against evil spirits. Early Alchemists used it as a symbol for a chemical interaction before it became a symbol Judaism. The Star of Bethlehem allegedly guided the three wise men and announced the birth of Jesus.

Christmas tree: When choosing the date of Jesus the early church chose a time already celebrated by much of what was known as the modern world and is now derisively called the pagan world. The people of the time celebrated the tree of life, the symbol for life in the known universe. During the 17th century the Germans brought the trees indoors and decorated them with candles. The Germans also saw the evergreen tree as the “Paradise Tree” from which the apple featured in the Adam and Eve story was picked.

The Poinsettia: In Mexico there is the legend of the Poinsettia that tells of a poor girl, IMG_2779.JPGMaria and her little brother Pablo, who were disappointed they had no money to buy a present for baby Jesus at the annual Mexican Christmas festival. On Christmas eve Maria and Pablo stopped to pick some weeds, for baby Jesus. As they placed the weeds around the Manger, the green leaves miraculously turned into bright red petals. Soon the Manger was surrounded by beautiful star-shaped flowers.

The ringing of bells is to ward off evil. Ancient priests used to wear them on their robes. Bells also used to ring in the medieval towers of churches to warn (threaten?) the devil of Jesus’ coming.

Santa Claus: Originally St. Nicholas born in 4th century Turkey and known for his generosity and love of children and later became known as the patron saint of both children and sailors. By the 16th century Dutch children would place their wooden shoes by the hearth in hopes that they would be filled with treats by their Sinter Klass. In Great Britain the image of Father Christmas may have been first depicted by Dickens’ portrayal of the Ghost of Christmas present in his novel, “The Christmas Carol.” By 1822 Clement C. Moore wrote a poem , “A visit from St Nicholas, which was later published as “The night before Christmas.” This poem wasn’t originally for publication, but was a gift for his children. Some of the ideas for this poem came from the old Dutch colony in the Americas. Originally the “jolly old elf’ was dressed in dark clothing, the colorful Santa Claus that we see today was popularized by Haddon Sunblom drawing for the Coca Cola company advertising in the 1930’s.

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Scrooge’s third visitor from Charles Dickens: A Christmas Carol Illustrations by John Leech. London: Chapman and Hall, 1843

Yule log burning: The Yule celebration was originally a winter festival for the Wild Hunt where a spectral group of huntsman racing across the frozen winter landscape.

Originally the log was an entire tree. Known in Germany as the Christ Log and in England originally as the Yule Clog. The burning of the log may be a holdover from the ancient fire-festival of the winter solstice when it was considered a magical protective amulet. In Serbian tradition the log burns all night with the belief that its warmth and light symbolize the coming of Christ as well as providing a warm welcome to the Virgin Mary and the family’s ancestors who may be guests at the table

Mistletoe: In old Saxon (part of modern day Germany) mistletoe was known as Mist Tang, or Dung on a twig.

“The mistletoe is still hung up in farm-houses and kitchens at Christmas, and the young men have the privilege of kissing the girls under it, plucking each time a berry from the bush. When the berries are all plucked the privilege ceases.”

Washington Irving (1820)

Ancient Celts thought that it was a remedy for barrenness in cattle.

Candles: Ancient Romans thought that they warded off evil spirits and may have been used to convince the sun to shine again. Candles in the window were to announce that the house would welcome passerby to shelter and warmth. The Christians use them during Advent to remind of the coming of “the light of the world,” Jesus. Of the five candles affixed to a wreath four represent each week of advent with the fifth in the center representing the Christ Candle that is lit on Christmas Eve.

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Ornaments on the tree: Once only wafers signifying the body of Christ and then later uniquely shaped cookies were hung on the tree in Germany. Sugar ornaments were later hung along with apples, nuts, dates and paper flowers as part of the Yule celebration.

 

 

 

 

The Darkling Wood

 

 

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Follow the path, I’ll show you the way.

Look carefully now for all crawly and slither

They’ll make you all creepy, scaredy and shiver.

The night falls here with a cackle and thump

A crack of a twig, a murmer and bump.

For it’s these dark woods where the nightmares play

The nightwoods where your darkmares say,

Beware, beware the darkling soul

He cannot be bested by fairy nor troll.

For he rules the forests of your mind

Your lighter and darker forever entwined.

Look close dear one for there is a charm

That can tame before there is too much harm.

Face the demon to make you wise

Embrace his fire and don’t despise.

Give only what he is due and

Accept that he is but a part of you.

He will bow his head and give you due

For his master is really you.

So harness him up and together take flight

Across the deep lake and into the night.

–R.J. Cole

 

Take a peek at the Dark Knight of the Soul blog and see what it is that dark dreams have to tell us.

Meditation and Magic

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“Come Fairies, take me out of this dull world, for I would ride with you upon the wind and dance upon the mountains like a flame!”

–William Butler Yeats

 

“On my meditation walks I am often moved by the life going on about me– boys with hockey sticks battling in the streets at dusk, flocks of screeching Crows nesting in trees, the smile of the crescent moon with the brightly seductive Venus off her bow. And on a warm night there’s crickets and barking dogs, but on a cold and crisp one there’s nothing but silence and the sound of my own footsteps. Sometimes a breeze whips through the branches and rustles the leaves and I hear the raucous laughter of a dinner party just seen through the picture window of the house across the street.

And the world seems right.

But on other nights my mind is disturbed with its thoughts that whirl like a demented vortex and I hear nothing but my own voice. It’s a boring voice droning on and on about inane this’s and that’s and burying the peace of the night in rubble.

And nothing in the world seems right.

I long for the magic I’ve so often felt on so many earlier sojourns through the dark, but on this night it’s not to be. This is when I cry out to the dark denizens of the otherworld, “Come oh magic creatures of the imaginal and entertain me. Bring to me your mystery, your awe, your wonder, and your hidden treasure– make it better than it is.”

That night’s dreams brought me headstones and skulls, darkness and gray empty fields– a reflection of the mood carried back from the earlier journey. And then I ran across the poem by Yeats and I thought, ‘It’s not the fairies of the land he is calling to, but those of the inner soul who are entreated to crawl out from the rubbish and dance with me ‘.  And I remember once again that it is I, it is I who can summon the magic from within.

And the world seems right again.”

“True magic is discovered in creative interaction with the world and one’s inner life and imagination, not the misguided desire to have power over the world of time and its illusions. The Magus liberates one from bondage to the world of appearances, teaching that the secret of true magic is the right use of will and intention based in recognition of the holistic nature of reality.”

–L.J. McCloskey, Tarot Revisioned, 2003