I woke up not so long ago with this silly little idea running through my brain and thought I’d share it if for no other reason than I’m obsessing and need to get rid of it.
So the thought started out innocently enough, “Why are we here?” But then it got more complicated (of course, because that’s what my brain does, complicate– nothing ever gets to be simple). Perhaps the answer is that it’s an experiment in species survival, or to learn lessons, or how about as entertainment for the Great and Infinite?
If human beings are only an evolutionary experiment designed to test the parameters of species survival, what would be the point? God already created the ant that for tens of millions of years* has survived quite well, thank you, and without the encumbrance of self-awareness (unless of course you believe the Aesop fable of the ant and the grasshopper).
But, but… some would say that we increase the likelihood of survival by being a species that can function beyond its instinctual software and no one would argue that the ant is predominantly an instinctual being.
But instinct can actually become a downfall. Take for example the “death spiral”, or “ant circle” phenomenon of an endangered colony of ants where everyone follows the ant in front of them as a means of self-protection but at the possible consequence of just continuing on and on until they all drop dead.
But humans too have instinctual responses that their so-called self-awareness won’t pull them out of, witness also the fear response that the American Republican party taps into to get the masses to vote for people and things that are not in their best interest i.e. walking around with guns on their hips because they’re convinced that this will handle their fear and make them safer. Or how about societies that demean and make all their women second-class out of some fear that to do otherwise will upset the spiritual order of things? In a very real way these are human equivalents to the ant colonies’ death spiral.
Okay, perhaps we’re here to learn lessons?
That would work if the lessons were either for us individually so that we could then take them to the next dimension of existence, or to the next inhabited being, or to use the lessons to increase our chances of survival as a species (see paragraph one). Certainly they’re not for God in that an omniscient being has already learned all the lessons, heck, it created them in the first place including the answer sheet. But an awareness extended beyond the physical being into non-physicality i.e. life beyond death, would fit with the idea of the Great Infinite we imagine God to be so why not expand the lessons infinitely as well? Maybe we can actually take it with us!
Lastly, maybe we’re here as a means for God to see itself, thus we’re imbued with infinite ideas and personalities (something I’ll bet all those ants don’t have). When you’re the only one, that is if you’re everywhere, the only thing in a universe, there’s really nowhere to stand and observe yourself. Seems to me you would need to create something “not you” through which you could look back and say, “Damn I’m good looking!” And you would have to create infinite permutations of the “not you’s” because after all you’re, well, infinite.
I guess we’ll find out when the body dies i.e. we continue to be conscious, though bodiless or we won’t and won’t know that we won’t– pretty much a win-win I think.
My head’s starting to hurt again so I think I’ll stop. But now you’ve got my silly idea running in your head, sorry!
AndI’m transported into a world where everything is possible, where I’m connected to everything and everyone else, where I no longer have to defend myself or my positions, where survival is not my main purpose, where I am just fine the way I am, and where I’m no longer alone and asking this question of why am I here.
Have a great day and peace be with you!
* Some researchers suggest it’s been as much as 110 – 130 million years. That’s about as long as dinosaurs, though the ant lived through what it was that killed all the dinosaurs, so take that you big bullies! Currently they are Earth’s most successful species, though certainly I’ve tried to make it otherwise when they keep crawling into my food pantry.
Stepping out on the porch and into the night I saw silhouetted at the edge of the lawn an animal all in black, its back arched high, tail erect, and ears plastered along its head. A low guttural howl rumbled from deep inside it and grew louder with each passing moment.
I scanned the yard for the object of the black beast’s ferocity and there, cowering against a low lying bush, a white cat critter lay hunkered low to the ground with its hair raised high along its spine. Both animals stalked and circled each other and issued a racket loud enough to raise the dead.
The air was heavy, and thick with fear. I was about to witness a mindless clash of titans.
“Oh for goodness sakes you two, knock it off!” I exclaimed while stepping rapidly forward. “Shoo, shoo!” said I while dismissing the combatants with a wave of my hands. They then scattered to opposite ends of their territory and slinked off into the night, living yet for another day.
I can remember as a school principal saying the same thing, minus the “shoo-shoo”, to a couple of boys squaring off on a high school campus. Cats, lizards and teenage boys sometimes have a lot in common, especially when they set whatever higher thinking skills they have to the side and begin to function from their reptilian brains. It’s the same brain that convinced me when I was thirteen to put on some old roller skates and hitch a rope tied around my waist to the back of an ice truck just before the driver headed out onto the main blvd. What was I thinking? And that’s the point, I wasn’t, nor were the two cats or the two teenage combatants. We were functioning exclusively in our reactive instinctual mode (self-preservation isn’t high on a teenage boys list, after all they’re immortal).
We seem to observe this mode more and more often these days, in our politics (a lot of lizard-brain posturing there), in our neighborhoods, and in the work place. Fear is the primary stimulus for reactive positioning and it is fear that is being exploited in governance, politicking (“he’s destroying our country!”), on the radio & T.V. (facts, who needs facts?), and commercial advertising (e.g. “kills 99.9% of all disease causing bacteria”). And when we get entangled in our fears we go out and buy guns, and begin to make any number of bone-headed decisions that ultimately make us even more fearful.
Overall, our animal natures are just barely subdued and held in check and when bombarded with messages of fear the veneer of self-control begins to wear dangerously thin. And when finally pushed into a defense mode we shut down the also thin thinking layer of our brains and begin to operate from the vast repository of the unconscious and the animal within arches its back and growls a warning.
These warnings show up in our waking lives all the time with low volume growls of “Bitch, bastard, A_ _hole!” and any number of even more vile expletives meant to demean another being as a means of defending ones own. They also show up in our dreams as dogs that bite, snakes that hiss, spiders threatening to ensnare us, and large animals that chase us down and attack.
Once caught up in the unconscious animalistic and irrational fight, or flight mode, it’s hard to get back to the rational thinking mode. However, no matter how threatening, these animals also have immense capacity for good. When observed prowling in our hearts or in our dreams we can use them as a signal to take note of what is happening around and within us. If we can stop in mid expletive and observe what’s happening we have a much better chance of functioning out of conscious rational choice rather than be reactively controlled by our unconscious animal. When we can be more conscious of our socio-political environment and our reactions to it through the monitoring of our dreams we can also be more at choice in our responses.
I think we need to be able to “shoo” away our inner and outer animal and stand between our warring aspects in order to scatter them and give space for more measured and thoughtful responses. God gave us a part of the brain not given to the lizard and the cat to aid us in this endeavor and I think we better start using it a little more often if we want to survive our darker natures.
Animals frequently show up in dreams and I’ve written about a number of them but I thought that I would look at these images from another perspective i.e. how they represent the interplay between psychic opposites.
For example, in both my dreams and waking life I seem to have a positive affinity to Dragons, Phoenix, Eagles, Wolves and the occasional Raven or Crow while on the other hand I have negative reactions to snakes, spiders and sharks. On the surface this sounds reasonable at least from the perspective of the negative animal images. However, when I look more closely I notice that dragon/eagle/wolf represent, among other things, freedom (freedom of expression and being), whereas snake/spider/shark represent quite the opposite i.e. these images restrain and take me over leaving me no room to express.
But there is also a unification of both the negative and positive aspects in that the
Phoenix or Eagle on the one hand and the snake on the other are both symbols of rebirth and transformation. There is a healing of the soul in the reconciliation of its opposites. The image of an Eagle or Phoenix grasping a snake or fighting a dragon is the symbol of confronting our shadow selves, our inner devil, in order to set free our soul.
Even the Dragon is both the positive of the East and the negative of the West and the snake can be both a sign of God’s power, as with the staff of Moses thrown down before Pharaoh (Exodus 7:8-10) and of the Devil as well (Rev. 12:9).
Ravens are often seen as tricksters, magicians, shaman, guides to and messengers from our deeper selves, as well as cultural heroes.
Ravens and crows can also be seen as psychopomps– guides to the underworld after death or as guides to the inner and unconscious self.
Within the Wolf there also lies attributes in opposition because he or she is both shadow and bright beauty, socially confident and a loner, self-confident and obsessed both in-control and out of control. The shark can be both self-empowering and an emotional threat while the spider can both threaten your well-being and yet symbolically protect you from self-destruction.
There’s no coincidence in the images one chooses to express the interplay of opposites in that the psyche is continuously working on resolving this inner conflict of personalities. This shows up in the World Psyche as well when it is noted how oppositional nations, and cultures are in their interactions with each other.
These animals represent different aspects of our nature, that part of us that is instinctual (animal-like) or conditioned (by parental and cultural values). If left to only our instinctual or conditioned selves we would be hell bent on our own destruction. But human beings also have a mediator, the ego-self, this part of the psyche that I’ve been talking about over the last week. This part of our psychological construct is far from perfect and is easily influenced, but it is there to act as a rational intermediary between the opposites of the desirous-self and the moralized-self. In short, it helps to keep the balance between the two extremes and could do a reasonable job if not coopted by either of the other two constructs.
Normally a healthy ego-self can withstand the onslaught but once in a while it is overcome by fear, that turns to anger and that makes it near impossible to hear the voice of the rational. Eventually the ego-self is so overwhelmed that it figuratively becomes fear, no longer just having it, but being it.
As everyone knows fear is extremely painful and the human body is designed to do whatever is necessary to reduce or eradicate pain. One of the most important ways of doing that is to find the source of the pain and get rid of it, that is to figuratively or physically kill it. The animal self comes to the foreground and shouts down the voices of morality and mediation or colludes with the morality-self so as to justify its actions and chaos erupts.
Now this process works pretty well for the other animals in the universe, but humankind has something that the other animals don’t have, the ability to kill huge numbers of others in a relatively short period of time. We also are much more interconnected with each other than the rest of the animal kingdom is. This connectedness is both our strength, because we can work together toward universal solutions, and weakness in that it can spiral out of hand quite quickly leaving our survival in disarray.
Having your fear without becoming your fear:
When we allow our animal nature and instinctual fear responses take us over the end product is never in anyone’s best interest. It may provide an immediate solution but over the long haul is no solution at all e.g. do we feel any safer because we have so many guns in our homes? Do we feel any safer with huge stockpiles of munitions and weapons of mass destruction? Do we feel any safer having built high walls and fences around ourselves? Do we feel safer because we’ve locked up so many of those people whom we fear?
We’ve rejected the vaccination of our children out of fear and our children are dying. Some parts of the world have rejected sexual contraceptives because they fear others are trying to kill them off and hundreds and thousands are dying. Some have started wars designed to kill off entire cultures because they fear they are destroying their way of life and millions have died. All because of irrational and unmitigated fear.
If our frequent and usual response to our fears is to pull the proverbial “trigger”, how long can we last? And do we really want to live like that, huddled in the dark corners of our mind or the bombed out buildings of our cities?
Perhaps we need to open up to another response strategy and to recondition our animal response to threat and develop some other tools for safety. Some are trying to do that, but they are too small a group to overcome the darkness alone. This will take all of us to make the shift from the exclusive-instinctive-individual-self to the self-aware-consciousness of the inclusive-global-self required of modern man. We need to get out of our social-emotional caves and deal with our problems as mature human beings, not reactive animals. What we need is to embrace a new evolutionary way of being distinct from that of our ancient cave dwelling selves. And we can’t wait for “them” to do it because “they” will never do it, they’re too afraid to come out of the cave.
Some have asked me, ”but how, how do we do it?” and I answer, “There are hundreds of wizards out there that have found ways of making the evolutionary shift in ourselves. I’ve also written over 500 articles, thousands of pages and referenced hundreds of links all dealing at some level of what kind of change we need to make in our individual and collective selves to make this shift in consciousness and action. Somewhere in there, there have to be some kernels of answers.
I’ll give a little hint, however, something that I learned in the Marine Corps, of all places. It is this, we all initially react with fear when we perceive or are confronted with real threats. No one is immune to this, we may ignore the fear, deny it or gloss over it, but we will have it, it’s the way we’re wired. And there are only two fundamental responses to fear once it’s triggered– we either gird for battle or run like hell. There are lots of nuance to these two responses but fundamentally we are restricted to these two basics. Often the first reaction is to look for a way out, but all too often that’s not available to us. That’s when you “have” the fear and advance anyway.
It’s scary in todays world to confront injustice and intolerance because the purveyors of it can get quite aggressive in their defense of it and they will stop at little to have you become so fearful that you’ll run away and hide, physically or psychologically. That’s when you have to stand-up and face the fear, have it, yes, but not become it, not be overwhelmed by it. It’s when you need to step outside of your animal-self and manifest your reasoned self, your loving self.
Yesterday’s eclipse was an awe inspiring event. The Moon traversing and shadowing the disc of the sun has provided much mystery over many millennia. Though the Sun gets top billing during an eclipse of the Sun it is the Moon that is the lead actor in this heavenly drama. The Moon and it’s other solar brethren have special meaning to those of us staring up into the sky both in the everyday and in the realm of our dreams.
In the photo at left is Selene the Greek Moon goddess and guardian of the night. She was, according to legend, daughter of Hyperion–the lord of light– and sibling of Eos the goddess of the dawn and rebirth. She’s also known Luna, the Roman Titaness.
A character in the Archipelago of Dreams, Eo is named after the Celtic goddess for rebirth. She is cast as a Phoenix bush– that which burns, but does not die, becoming reborn anew. In the book she plays a role as a healer of souls and guides Robert in the processes of healing.
The Moon has even more meaning than meets the eye. An eclipse of the Moon can suggest that ones feminine side is being overshadowed, or that some hidden aspect is about to be revealed. The moon eclipsing the Sun could very well be a union of the feminine and masculine aspects of ones self. The new light peeking from behind the Moon as the eclipse passes could be a new light, knowledge, or a new perspective.
The moon is often a symbol for the Priestess, or Goddess who may in a man’s dream be about second-sight, or insight, the intuitive, and a messenger guide (this was so for me in the dream, The Blue Fresco) from the unconscious mind.
The full Moon may represent wholeness while the crescent can represent transformation (Shiva in Hinduism is the god of transformation and is represented by the crescent), openness and resurrection (as with the middle eastern crescent of Islam). A waning Moon, can symbolize letting go, whereas the waxing Moon can be about growing insight and awareness.
A red Moon can be about violence, disaster and strife, while a blue Moon can represent rarity. The moon also represents the receptive and wisdom. The Virgin Mary and Sophia were likened to The Moon of the Church, the reflector of the light of the Christ (often symbolized by the Sun). The Star of David can signify the union of Heaven and Earth.
The full Moon in the book The Archipelago of Dreams represented wholeness and completion and a goddess messenger for success. Viewing it helped the hero, Robert, to calm himself and get to sleep before battling the shadows of the Dark Lords.
Stars in ones dream can represent knowledge (universal and self) and the divine. Sometimes a star can be like an angel, a messenger from the divine spirit. In some Native American tribes the stars in the sky are the campfires of dead ancestors, with their spirits forever looking down upon you. Here too the star played a prominent role in Robert’s transformation while in the Archipelago. (from flickr.com)
The morning star (Venus the goddess of persuasive feminine charm and for the Romans, the mother of them all) heralds the rise of the Sun (the Moon’s male counterpart). This was a good sign for a new beginning and for enlightenment. However, some Christians saw the same symbol in opposition when they determined that this star represented the devil Lucifer that means “Morning Star” in Latin. Interestingly enough the archetypal image of the devil usually refers to a dark and unwanted side of our own nature that can only be dealt with in the direct light of day e.g. through conscious awareness.
The five-pointed star called a pentacle shows up in many Christian churches as a symbol to ward off evil, though in opposition, or inverted, the star represents evil. The European Roma call it the Star of Knowledge. When an apple is cut in half across the core a pentacle becomes evident–no wonder the apple gets such a bad rap.
Shooting stars are often seen as a divine sign, or as a messenger from God, hence the ancient ritual of asking (praying) for some intervention as it shoots across the sky.
Generally, stars in ones dream can represent success i.e. fame and fortune, aspirations and high ideals. Or you could be putting your fortunes into the hands of the stars e.g. luck. A star can also refer to the dreamer, the star of his or her own life.
Planets may be about creativity, exploration and adventure. Each planet has its own particular meaning e.g. Jupiter may be about success and extravagance, while Venus may represent desire, beauty and feminine power, whereas Mars may be energy, drive, passion, and masculine power.
The Zodiac is a system of explaining the universe through the movements of the stars, around the ecliptic path of the Sun, Moon and planets. To see the zodiac in your dreams is to see a representation of the various traits and aspects that one uses to connect with their universe. For those who are familiar with the signs, a particular sign may point to a particular trait or aspect in the dreamer. The zodiac can also be a metaphor for the passage of time, or the mysteries of life as well as being a metaphor for destiny e.g. something over which you have little or no control.
A while back my granddaughter and I snuggled up and watched the film Alice in Wonderland with Johnny Depp. In it Alice tries to pinch herself out of what she assumes to be her dream, but is it a dream? She wanders confused and unable to assert that she is even who she claims to be.
“’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.’”
–Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland
Like Alice are we in a dream? And like her is it our own unmet fears that keep us there? Is it our unwillingness to assert our true self that keeps us trapped in our own little madness?
Often the whole world seems a confusing place and trying to figure it out is like trying to answer the Mad Hatters oft repeated riddle, “Why is a Raven like a writing desk?” The point is that sometimes there just isn’t an answer, or meaning–sometimes life is just absurd. As one looks closer at the world we’ve made, it all gets “curioser and curioser”.
Falling down the rabbit hole into the dark underworld of our dreams will lead us to a curious and confusing realm. But if you were to imagine falling up the hole and into the daylight might it be the crazy conscious world we’ve all adapted to that is mad and the dark world of the unconscious holding the actual enlightenment we seek? Ah what then?
Trapped in a hole of our own making, preferring to limit ourselves to a very small landscape rather than to open our selves up to the endless view of our real self i.e. to be willing to live in hell for fear of heaven–what madness is that?
“But I don’t want to go among mad people,” Alice remarked.
“Oh, you can’t help that,” said the Cat: “we’re all mad here. I’m mad. You’re mad.”
“How do you know I’m mad?” said Alice.
“You must be,” said the Cat, or you wouldn’t have come here.”
–Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland
Ah, but we all think that it was happenstance that we’re here, that we didn’t choose to be here. Are you sure of that? Maybe that thought is your ego’s way of not having to be responsible for how it all turns out?
But what is madness? Deviating too far from a norm or from what is the standard for common sense? Was it madness to believe that sound and image could be broadcast through the air across great distances? Or that women could ever be the equal of any man and deserved the same rights and privileges? And that there would ever be a willing confederation of traditional enemies as is being witnessed in the European Union? Was it crazy to believe that humans could be made to fly or step foot upon the moon? Or that two young college dropouts could change the way the world communicates? At one time the answer to all of these and more was an unquestioned, “yes, it is madness”!
“The Mad Hatter: Have I gone Mad?
Alice: I’m afraid so. You’re entirely bonkers. But I’ll tell you a secret. All the best people are.”
Real madness seems to be a society that fights desperately for its freedom and then votes for someone to restrict and oppress them. Then there’s a society who believes that the answer to personal safety and security against guns is to buy more guns, bigger guns, with more bullets, and more power. Or how about those who believe that if you punish hard enough the transgressor will learn not to do bad things (look how well that works in our penal system) or that if you hit a child for hitting that it will teach him not to hit? And why the human love affair with retribution and revenge, how’s that working?
I’m sure that the readers of this blog could come up with many more bits of curious madness than I’ve detailed here. The point is that perhaps in our madness we’ve reversed what it means to be sane. Maybe we all ought to be a little more mad? In the best sort of way, of course, I mean, all the best people are.
The gist of this blog came from both John 8:32, “Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” And a Flannery O’Connor’s quote, “You shall know the truth, and the truth will make you odd.”
We live in an age where truth is whatever you want it to be– that is whatever makes you right (or at least makes you think you are). We also live in an age with unprecedented access to facts. One click of the “return” key on a computer keyboard can give you billions of facts. Never before has the ability to dispel ignorance been so available to so many. And yet…
For the sake of personal need, or greed, or zealous beliefs the truth as it is reflected in facts is ignored at a profound level. It’s as though the world is embracing ignorance at an ever-increasing rate. If you don’t believe this just listen to those who run for political office (or are currently in it), or those who dominate the radio waves with political ranting–twisting and turning truths into macabre representations of reality. Religions no longer represent the truth of the Spirit from whence they were born, but for many have become a form of sanctioned self-delusion.
We wrap these delusions in something we call “conviction” and once settled these strong beliefs need no evidence, or proof to exist. But it is these convictions that are the enemies of truth. Worse than lies, they keep us bound up and unable to fly free. In short, our beliefs are a prison for they don’t allow for truth.
“Truth will have no gods before it. The belief in truth begins with the doubt of all truths in which one has previously believed.”
But many are lazy, too lazy to think for their selves, so they leave the truth up to others. When those truths align with what is already thought then they are embraced as truth. The folly of this approach is that we then only perceive what we believe. How much we miss with this approach especially because God does not exist within the small confines of our beliefs. Heck, even you and I aren’t really reflected in the narrow confines of what we believe ourselves to be.
“Men occasionally stumble over the truth, but most of them pick themselves up and hurry off as if nothing happened.”
~ Winston Churchill
Deep inside us is an unconscious part of ourselves it is full of shadows, bright glowing spirit, joys and fears. It is the home of our instincts, our intuitions, and stimuli for creativity. It can also be the home of truth for us. Truth is not something that is preached from the outside because it only comes from within.
How to tell if it’s truth vs. just another idea? If it nurtures, if it encourages growth, if it enlivens and frees the spirit, if it engenders love and acceptance, and fosters forbearance and gentleness it is said that it is then the truth. Anything else is an ego-self prejudice.
In the I Ching it is said that when the heart is free of prejudices, it is open to the truth. The intractable mind cannot hear the truth. Any form of self-righteousness prevents the discovery of truth.
I suggest that Truth is the essence of immortality. It is in the prisons of belief and conviction that we are mortal, that we are doomed to the dust of the earth. Truth is also something that can be chased after, something like happiness, but never caught as a function of the chase. The pursuit only prepares you for when truth enters the door.
Is there “the” truth, or is it as the Lebanese philosopher Kahlil Gibran suggested, “I have found ‘a’ truth?” And is it forever a truth, or just in the moment? Is it as the physicist Niels Bohr said “The opposite of a correct statement is a false statement. But the opposite of a profound truth may well be another profound truth?“
I suggest that truth is a state of enlightenment, a place where the ego that you think you are becomes silent, when thought itself becomes still. It is here that you can hear the truth. It is here that you awaken and begin to seek. You may look as though you are alone, but in truth there is God all around you and you begin to glow.
A follower of truth, listens to the inner voice, not the one in your head that is talking right now, or the one in the radio, or TV, or even the pulpit (yes, I know, and even this blog). The true follower surrenders their ideas, their thoughts and beliefs. The student of truth accepts their shadow selves as well as the “self” that they imagine them selves to be, or wish that they were. Truth does not tie itself to any illusion, any time or place. Truth is not a judgment, belief or thought, or anything else that one may have attached themselves to. It cannot be held, or given to another. It cannot be pursued, or sought after and only comes to you when released. It cannot be found in efforting and can only be found in the moment. Truth may only come in the letting go of it, or of anything for that matter.
“The ultimate Truth is beyond words. Doctrines are words. They’re not the Way. The Way is wordless. Words are Illusions.”
Truth is not something apart from you, it’s not something you discover and take in. It’s always been there. It is not in your words, but is sometimes hidden between them. And it can only be found at the moment of death. The death of what you think you are.
“Forgive them Lord for they do not know what they are doing.” This quote by Jesus prior to his death struck me deeply as a young boy. Here was someone enough outside of their own self-interest outside their own ego that they could understand and forgive the wrong thinking of those who not only tormented him but want to kill him.
This could be construed as intercession but it could also be stating a fact about the human condition where most of humankind is unaware of their true nature and therefore can only act out of misunderstanding. Only someone who was conscious of their real self and the reality of the world around them i.e. someone who could transcend their ego could make such a statement.
When people define and categorize each other they cut off their access to love. When they imagine that who and what they see outside themselves is real without the slightest notion of what they personally added to that reality they affect how love is experienced. Too often they experience the love as something outside themselves and the cause of their experience when in fact they are the cause of what they experience.
Later this week I’ll be posting the Love/Hate conflict in the Dark Knight of the Soul blog. Click on the picture link to the right of these posts.
As one begins to see that they are cause of their reality they begin to be more aware of what’s actually out there beyond their skin, what exists beyond the ego. When this happens the next time they experience love they know that it comes from within them and when they experience hate it is because the love has been buried or projected away.
We long for what we are down deep. It is this longing, this connection that moves us when we see love in any of its many forms.
One of the paradoxes of being human is that we hold within us both the dark and the light.
Carl Jung the Swiss psychiatrist described how each of us has that part of us that we identify with and present to the world and that part of us that we keep hidden, the dark and unbearable characteristics of ourselves. This shadow, or dark, side of our nature is kept cut off from the rest of our being but is still attached through the unconscious part of our selves.
Jung went on to say that our growth into wholeness required that we come to terms with our unacceptable aspects– our desires, hidden impulses, hostility, greed, and selfishness. What he believed was that we all long for the essence of ourselves, what some might call the soul, that part of us that is connected to the divine.
Prior to being born we may have been fully integrated with the wholeness of the universe and only after acquiring a body and by extension an ego did we become separated from this whole. It is then thought that each of us in our own unique way is going through a process of reintegration from the incomplete status of a separated body and soul toward the harmonious fullness of a being integrated with all other beings.
Thus the process of integrating our shadow parts is a major goal of spiritual growth, but how to do this?
It’s a little like Peter Pan trying to get Wendy to help him reconnect with his shadow by having her sew it back on. The way we do this is to reacquaint ourselves with what we’ve cut off from ourselves. What keeps us from doing this is fear.
We know that this part of us has a negative charm attached to it and whenever we get too close it will invalidate and make wrong any of the good in you. This extends to the world as well. Have you ever noticed how anger, fear, and negativity comes up whenever it looks as though peace is about to break out?
While the lower thought forms of our unconscious mind control us we are stuck until we learn to transcend the forces that lay there. We can only do that by bringing to light what is hidden in the darkness.
We can’t overcome the shadow by hating it for hate is of the shadow itself. The shadow is only the wounded part of ourselves that needs to be reunited with the rest of us much like Peter needed. And it was only through the love of Wendy that this could be accomplished, which is why he came to visit in the first place. The answer to dealing with the shadow is through love, compassion, and forgiveness. This is true for both the individual and the society in which he lives.
It’s our own individual and collective arrogance that disallows the points-of-view of others and won’t give deference to the spiritual views of others. On an individual level this is a person who runs rough shod over the beliefs of others. On a collective level like the United States for example (and I only use this example because it is where I call home) the great American shadow through capitalism and its powerful defender, militarism, tends to take whatever it wants and disallows the spiritual principles of anyone and everyone.
It goes on to display an arrogant disregard for the effects on others and the environment that it too often exploits. Corporate America affects more than the other countries it shares the world with it also disenfranchises the people of its own country. This will only get worse because America refuses to acknowledge its shadow and wields its heavy hand all over the world.
Oh it has better angels within itself and these do a lot of good in the world, but its unacknowledged dark side causes it much self-inflicted grief and prevents the outbreak of peace.
Now, America is not the only country that ignores its shadow and the effects it has on the world, arrogance is not limited to only one country, or one people, there are many, many other perpetrators of this kind of grief– its part of the human condition to be arrogant and dismissive of what one thinks is not them.
But the transformation needed to reintegrate the fragmented self begins with the individual– you and I and what we support in ourselves and in others around us. Do we support what brings joy and healing or do we continue to maintain the separateness through our own self-righteousness? It’s up to us– you, me.
Like Peter Pan each of us need to find our own internal Wendy to reattach what we’ve become separated from and become whole again.
Both are allegorical in that they both point to something and teach a lesson. “That’s like a fable! You might say.” Though both parables and fables teach lessons, the former uses people, whereas the latter uses animals. Both teach morals, both are a form of guidance.
However, a parable generally refers to spiritual lessons and in this way is not unlike many dreams that help one to develop a connection with their spirit. Over the centuries many people have claimed to have received messages from God through the medium of the dream. Throughout the history of the Abrahamic religions (Judaism, Christianity and Islam) dreams were said to have been sent from God to certain individuals that were supposed to be used for the good of all people, or to advance the understanding of one so that they may do more good for others. Parables were for all of these religions a means for communicating religious and spiritual concepts.
Why do parables, fables and dreams exist? The answer may be because that they are easier to remember than a direct example. “Dreams, easier to remember?” You say incredulously.
We don’t remember many dreams these days because it is not encouraged by the culture, but once a dream comes through, it’s hard to forget, especially if you’ve figured out what it means. But just because we don’t use them much, dreams haven’t gone the way of the appendix. Ever notice how much you dream after you start reading about dreams?
Mysteries bewilder us and tend to make us pay attention and to focus. Few of us would want to leave a mystery unsolved. Bewilderment makes us strive to know why, or what, or how–it is the carrot at the end of the stick. Dream symbols also beg that we interpret them just as we tend to add meaning to every event and person in our waking life (though this is most often an unexamined ego-supporting process where we project ourselves onto everything and then label it as reality).
Unlocking the meaning of a dream is not unlike discovering the meaning of a parable in that the process starts with asking the right questions and noting that these questions are affected by our beliefs regarding the symbols. Certain questions will often determine the answers, or at least bias them. So before you ask the questions, take a look at the foundation that they sit on. If you already have an answer, that will drive the question and bend it toward your answer. You see this phenomenon frequently with regard to news articles. This is just another form of, “We see what we want to see.”
What did this parable really mean? If the word “shepherd” were a metaphor for soul, your soul (your guide), what would the parable mean?
Is it possible to read this parable in yet another way, other than the traditional shepherd/flock metaphor? Might Jesus be telling us of our own divinity, our own spiritual nature and its connection with God? Might he be showing us how we can be following the wrong shepherd (the ego-self)? Might the guide that is within us all and that can come to us through a dream be the unconscious self?
Parables and dreams encourage us to dig deeper into their meaning and then apply the lessons to our everyday lives. Neither have to be an accurate depiction of actual events– they only need to point to the idea being conveyed in order to be instructive.
*Photo by-The Yorck Project: 10.000 Meisterwerke der Malerei. DVD-ROM, 2002. ISBN 3936122202. Distributed by DIRECTMEDIA Publishing GmbH.
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.
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. “
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.
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 TheArchipelago 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.