The Alchemist’s Crucible

125150P-2.jpg
 The Alchemist by– David Teniers the younger (1610-1690)

I once used the term “the alchemist’s crucible.” I think this term came to me because at the time I had been reading Jung’s Memories, Dreams, and Reflections and was struck with how often he delved into the alchemical arts as a means of understanding the human psyche.

This got me to thinking about the symbolism inherent in alchemy. On the surface the alchemists seemed to be looking for a means of transmuting base metals into precious metals e.g. lead into gold. I think that they were trying, among other things, to make sense of this world of opposites and dichotomies by to find an underlying unity. Why? Well, part of the human condition seems to be that we are all separate from each other and the environment that we find ourselves in. This experience of separation breeds, as I’ve said before, various levels of fear ranging from discomfort to all-out panic. We want to protect ourselves from what is ‘not us’ whether that be on the personal or communal (meaning the tribe, state, nation) level. This of course is the basis for personal and social conflict. Finding a resolution to the conflict that arises from opposition has been key to the history of alchemy, and politics (which is a kind of alchemy itself).

The goal of trying to make sense of what-is by attempting to resolve the basic conflict caused by separation can be seen in all our mythologies where mankind is always trying to deal with its twin natures of the beast and the spirit e.g. note the invention of the Centaur (man’s torso and head on the body of a horse), or the Minotaur (a bull’s head on a man’s body) and the fact that all hero stories have a thematic conflict to resolve. A great deal of modern psychological therapy is to assist the individual with internal psychic conflicts e.g. the conflict between what you are and what you want to be.

I think that among the fundamental goals of all religions, philosophies, and sciences is to bring to consciousness the mysteries of the universe and to observe its fundamental unity.

I also maintain that this unity, this wholeness, already exists, but is generally beneath our awareness. Because of this the universe looks fragmented and dichotomous. This gives dream-work a whole new purpose in that it can bring ones unconscious psyche to consciousness so that we can experience a greater whole and thus a better understanding of what makes us tick. The more we understand of what it means to be human the better our understanding of where we’re standing. For example, to get to know a tree, one needs to stand under it, to ‘listen’ to it. To know another anything (person, place or thing) one needs to stand under it, to be within its context, or to stand in its shoes, and is thus the root meaning of ‘understanding.’

This reminds me of the teachings of G. Gurdjieff, a early 20th century Russian mystic and spiritual teacher who wrote that humanity lives its life in a “Waking Sleep” and thus only experiences reality subjectively. He suggested that the vast majority of humans live as automatons, but have the power to awaken and become something so much greater.

 

“Man lives his life in sleep, and in sleep he dies.”

                                                   – Gurdjieff

 

As automatons we become susceptible to the manipulations of others (advertisers, politicians, radio talk show hosts, religious leaders and zealots, and the hysteria of the masses). The one sided development of our humanity that most of us experience is what passes for ‘life’ in the modern world. I believe that we need to develop all aspects of who we are in order to become a fully integrated (actualized) human being that is fully present to an expanded sense of reality instead of the limited reality we currently embrace. In my experience we mostly just argue our limits without trying to see beyond them.

 

     “Argue for your limitations, and sure enough they’re yours.”

                                              – Richard Bach, Illusions

 

There again is that concept of ‘limiting’ being a root to perverted reality. For many of us we limit our personal development to one of four areas–physical, emotional, intellectual, or spiritual and for the rare few who might include more than one or even all, they limit the impact through narrow definition.

 

“The mark of your ignorance is the depth of your belief in injustice and tragedy. What the caterpillar calls the end of the world, the master calls a butterfly.”

–Richard Bach

 

What do I mean by expanded definition? This morning in a group discussion one of our group told the story of a young soldier who stepped on an IED (improvised explosive device) while patrolling in Afghanistan. He lost his foot and part of his leg. At first everyone, including the soldier, saw this as only a tragedy, but eventually it brought the family together in ways none of them could have imagined before the event. Everyone connected with the event began to see another more positive outcome, born from the very real tragedy, that would not have happened without it.

I think that the meaning of nearly every event in our lives can be used to expand our reality. Set aside your limited thinking and self-limiting thoughts and be open to reality. Learn to see beneath the meaning of your personal or collective definition to see what else may be there.

 

“And therefore as a stranger give it welcome. There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,
than are dreamt of in your philosophy.”

–Shakespeare-Hamlet

 

This will not be easy.

 

____________________________________________________

In my new book, The Archipelago of Dreams: The Island of the Dream Healer I explore through the genre of a fantasy story what it means to live life in a limited way.

Practical real-world magic

 

7e49c688-3e85-4cec-9524-851341a8a6a1.jpg

 

Just watched an old episode of Charmed, you know, the late 90’s to early 2000 witches in San Francisco TV drama! The visual effects were really cool even though technology was still in the flip-phone stage.

Afterwards I went outside to finish cleaning up the plant trimming mess my wife had made earlier and left for me straighten up. It was hot and the constant bending down started to take its toll on my back and I found myself wishing for a little magic such as the ability to move all that mess with just a flick of the wrist, “Depulso!”. No such luck!

But as I bent down and grunted a muffled “damn” when I gored my hand with one of the thorns of the palm tree leaf I had a thought, “I do have magic, this body is magic! I have a thought and then direct this amazing tool to stoop down and do its thing! And its all done by thought alone regardless of whether that thought originated from the millions of chemical interactions between millions of neurons or as some have suggested from some kind of mysterious force outside myself that then commands the body-tool to stoop. How magical is that?

And before I knew it something else magical happened, I was done! I’d been dreading the chore, but it was really nothing at all, “no problem” as the younger set so often say. And there it was again, the transformation of an experience through the magic of restructuring my attitude toward it. The job hadn’t changed any but how I held it did. Simple cognitive restructuring of thought distortions. Psychotherapists do it all the time with their clients e.g. help to change the thoughts, change the emotions.

No, we don’t just have emotions, we actually create the context for them and with some practice (a lot of practice actually) we can learn to transform them pretty easily.

Cognitive restructuring is a technique used to treat everything from social anxiety disorders to stress reduction. It’s called Cognitive Behavior therapy and is very effective in transforming negative thought patterns into patterns of thinking that are much more supportive and enlivening i.e. creating a new reality through thought alone– a thought incantation of sorts.

In my personal case in the example above I used a competing thought pattern that then weakened the automatic negative pattern I had been operating out of. Magic, huh? What I wanted when I wished to be magic was that the job to become significantly easier and through a little cognitive manipulation, voila! Easy peezy!

But this takes a lot of practice– not everyone can make a feather float on the first try like Hermione did– LeviosA! Nope, no luck yet!

 

Nightmares

 

Raven-Dreams.jpg

I had a nightmare the other night, you know one of those where the narrative takes you right up to the most awful part of the horror and then…you wake up. Whew, thank goodness!

Well, not always. Usually I try to get back to sleep so as to resolve the outcome, to finish the story so to speak. In that way I have some control over the outcome, or get more information on the meaning of the dream.

If you were to consider the point where you wake up as the climax of a story then perhaps asking yourself “what happens next?” Or  “How might the story end?” might be a good technique for exploring the nightmare further.

Now I don’t mean for someone who is dreaming a reenactment of a literal horror that has happened in their waking life (such as for those who are suffering from PTSD), stay away from those nightmares, they may need more professional guidance*. I’m talking about those that are symbolic of something going on inside you, or that you are reacting to in your daily life, something psychically broader. You might ask yourself, “Does this dream remind me of something in my waking life?”

Nightmares can be a normal dream occurrence after a trauma, but most of the time they present material that you’ve kept hidden (e.g. threats to your self-esteem, loss of something, or someone important, or trouble coping with certain stresses, unconscious memories stimulated by some recent event, or scary emotions that you have avoided) and the unconscious mind, in the service of your health and well-being, is trying to bring them to consciousness so that you can deal with them appropriately. They literally demand attention.

I think that many of us with the standard unfinished nightmare event want to be able to master them, it’s probably why we like such authors as Stephen King, remember Carrie? Finishing the nightmare in a psychically satisfying manner is much better than ignoring it, because if you do …it’ll be baaack!

I’m also not talking “night terrors” here, in those there’s no plot just a lot of scary chaos**. On the other hand, nightmares have a plot, and often a fairly complicated one. You go from balance, or equilibrium, to extreme out of balance then wake up. When you awaken, the climax then dominates the story and this can truncate the meaning and leave you stuck. If you were to treat the nightmare as a narrative, you would then want the story to return to equilibrium i.e. resolution. I’m talking about the process of transformation, the psychic alchemical process of turning something base into something of value.

The kind of intervention to which I’m referring has the advantage of giving you some feedback i.e. if the nightmare has recurred and then after intervention disappears you’ve been successful, if not, try something else.

___________________________________

*Those suffering from PTSD might use these nightmares as part of a treatment intervention. These nightmares may also be the mind’s way of treating the psychic injury, however,  one can get stuck in a constantly recurring nightmare that reintroduces the horror of the event over and over again. This kind of nightmare needs treatment with a professional trained to work with them.
** As an adult and if you get a lot of these night terrors where you are thrashing about in bed you may want to share this with your physician.

“I see dead people”

 

ghost-07.jpg

 

This was a quote from the 1999 movie, The Sixth Sense. In it a little boy confesses to his therapist that he sees and interacts with dead people. The journey that he and the therapist go on becomes a frightening and transformational trip through the spirit world that parallels the world of the living.

An interesting fantasy, but other than those who have claimed to see ghosts, or in stories or movies, or over-dramatized TV ghost hunter shows when, if ever, has this been a reality?

There is an archetypal specter that shadows us throughout our lives and that most of us try to ignore, but one that informs the way we live, behave, and move within our personal universes–DEATH.

Dead people in our dreams have visited many of us e.g. dead relatives and loved ones, dead celebrities, or even ourselves. Ghosts, spirits, and specters fly in and out of our dream spaces, threatening, or offering cryptic advice. Some of us have teetered on the brink of death while others have fallen in. We’ve been shot, stabbed, clubbed, eaten, and died by accident, or disease, or the bite of a snake sometimes over and over again across many nights. We have witnessed mass killings on a field of battle, or in our own homes. What is all this mayhem about?

In part it’s as simple as working through the concept of death itself–an attempt to develop a working relationship with it. These dreams help us to work through our deepest fears for ourselves and for the loss of others.

Sometimes dreaming of those who have died, or fears for our own death can be messages that we have become stuck in our grief, or our fears. At a conscious level we often convince ourselves that we have handled death, or we actively suppress our fears so as to function more efficiently. However, denial, or suppression only works, if it does at all, on a superficial and temporary basis. Healing has not happened because the wound remains hidden and not exposed to the air and a weeping scab is formed under which the wound festers. Learning to face these wounds and fears can be part of a healing process that allows us to move on in our lives.

Dead people in dreams, especially those we know, can be an attempt of the mind to deal with sad feelings, memories, guilt, loss, frustrated love, or anger connected with the person who has died, or to just complete our relationship with them from when they were living.

 

“To die, to sleep
 no more; and by a sleep, to say we end
 the heart-ache, and the thousand Natural shocks
 that flesh is heir to? ‘Tis a consummation devoutly to be wished. To die to sleep, 
to sleep, perchance to dream; Ay, there’s the rub,
 for in that sleep of death, what dreams may come,
 when we have shuffled off this mortal coil, 
must give us pause.”–Shakespeare, Hamlet after the ghost of his father has come to him to tell the circumstances of his death.

 

When these dreams are faced and accepted (vs. denied, or rejected) this eventually allows the dreamer to resolve the loss and move on. There are also people whose images visit us when we are in times of stress and are looking for guidance or consolation. My Dad often shows up when an old feeling, or special memory associated with him is longed for, especially one that can lead to my own health and well being. Some people have shared with me that when facing an intractable problem and wishing the wisdom of a deceased parent were available, that that parent in their dreams will often visit them.

If you as the dreamer were to kill someone in the dream, it’s most often a symbol for the desire to “kill off” what they represent, e.g. a feeling, a relationship, their effect upon you or others, or even a circumstance or situation which their character may represent.

The death of feelings (such as when there is a loss of love for something or someone), or motivation, or the end of a plan, relationship, a belief, a chapter of ones life, or a transition about to happen e.g. mothers sometime see the death of a boy child in their dreams as the son transitions in waking life from one state of being to another– into preschool, or kindergarten, his first overnight, high school graduation, and off to college. In fact, whenever one is in transition from one state of being, or one event to another, dead people and death can show up in a dream. And when it does, ask yourself, “what is dying in my life–what is coming to an end, or what has the potential for ending soon?” This will give you clues as to the meaning of the dream.

Read more

Are we only half ourselves?

 

 

Solar-Feminine-and-Ascension-711x381.jpg

It is said that from blackness comes the light. As Massimilla Harris, a Jungian therapist reminds us, “keep in mind that birth comes out of darkness.” Many of us have some kind of hurt, some part of us that has sustained psychological, emotional, and spiritual injury that we have relegated to the darkness of our subconscious mind.

We all need healing to one degree or another and it is the guidance of the essentially positive Great Mother, the innate and archetypal feminine, who comes to us in our dreams and our darkest hours who can lead us into the light and healing. It is in our nature to seek change and if we let her, Psyche will show us the way.

Within us are a number of wounded negative complexes that serve as obstacles to our ultimate happiness. Our dreams offer us access to these wounds so that they can be treated. Love is at the core of our very nature but most of us I fear don’t really know what love really is. The on again/off again love from our childhoods has left many unsure, insecure untrusting, in scarcity, and anxious regarding the true nature of this love.

This leads many to cripple or ignore the inner feminine aspects of self-compassion and self-nurturance and make it difficult to forgive or even love ourselves let alone to forgive and truly love others.

Our environment doesn’t really support the value of the feminine either in that at least as far as the male gender is concerned compassion, nurturance, and intuition are signs of weakness. Women are demeaned when they show these attributes in the work place and further demeaned if they show masculine traits such assertiveness or decisiveness.

In my way of thinking this denial of the feminine aspect of the human psyche has caused a cultural neurosis– a feeling of incompleteness and unfulfillment by many. This may or may not be an obstacle to personal achievement but even amongst those who have achieved much there is quite often a hole in their lives that goes deeply and negatively affects their sense of happiness and well being.

Whether our culture is ruled by the matriarchal or the patriarchal­ i.e. whether we are relational or success and identity oriented to do so without compassion, and nurturance can cause all sorts of psychic damage to individuals and societies e.g. the guilt and/or shame of not living up to expectations of self or others that can result in the dubious safety of conformity which stifles creativity and joy or the loss of what our relationship values really are.

We are as a society out of touch with the feminine aspect, the other half of us that brings balance to our being.

Next time the feminine shows up in your dream pay attention to her and the message she brings, she may be your ticket toward greater love and happiness.

The netherworld

 

shadow-2.jpg

Down in the cave of the human mind where reality stops being reality lays the world of the dream. It is here that the mind’s inner eye perceives a fantasy much richer in form and function than the theater of the waking world.

In order to enter this world one needs to suffer a kind of death, for here is a place where the body cannot go.

Unless you live in total darkness there’s always a shadow, a hidden reflection of yourself–it is by definition that place where light cannot reach because of some obstruction. And that obstruction is often your ego-self.

The ego is that part of us that forms the conscious world identity that we hide behind and the inner image of ourselves that we are both proud of and afraid of simultaneously.

It is the guardian at the gate of our consciousness. It is the judge and jury for what gets sent to the shadow lands of our unconscious mind. And like our waking world prisons our shadow lands are overcrowded with what we reject and fear to face.

This is the netherworld of the shaman, medium, and mystic. But is also the hidden world of you and I. Whether mystic or common man we are called by our dreams to explore an underworld that rules the world above. Given that most of our mind is hidden from consciousness we often act, feel, and behave out of some mysterious force. When compounded by all the individuals of a society that force can become overwhelming for good or bad and lead us to our destiny or destruction.

When we don’t acknowledge the real forces behind our actions or our pathology we often make up things to explain these behaviors. For example, we will point at our parents, our upbringing, our genetics and our experiences with each other as cause for our beliefs, ideas and behaviors. But more often than not it is our un-dealt with shadow that is the true source of much of what we do, or don’t do, and it’s often the motivating force behind our actions.

Some say that to live more authentically, to be truly free, and to be more alive, one needs to deal with their hidden aspects, their shadow nature.

 

Mind-Virus-Wetiko-Collective-Shadow-of-Humanity-Carl-Jung-Shadow.jpg

 

Magic or fact: What is truly knowable? What is real?

 

quantum.jpgDo you believe in magic? Why not?

Magic, what’s magic save perhaps something that we don’t yet understand i.e. comprehend?

It can be something distant that we cannot see or measure somehow affecting something that we cannot touch that moves the oceans, throws galaxy-sized objects into holes we cannot see and keeps each of us rooted to the land when we should actually be hurled into space because of the Earth’s one thousand mile per hour spin, this is magic. It’s also called gravity. But gravity didn’t exist in the minds of humans as a fact until Sir Isaac Newton lifted the veil between fact and magic and showed us.

But what did he show us? He showed an effect and named it but couldn’t show the thing itself.

And speaking of things what is this “thing” we call space? It’s a nothing until filled with a something but is always more empty than not. It becomes bent by something unseen that cannot be measured except by its effect. Often we attempt to measure it by taking the distance between the objects floating in it but sometimes the distance doesn’t seem to exist at all such as when two particles become entangled and do a synchronized dance with each other though they be billions of miles distant. Simultaneously they respond as though there were no distance, no space, no time. Magic?

How about an object that morphs from one thing to another merely at the choice of the person who decides how they are to be observed? This is the stuff of dreams or is it magic?

What about something that exists everywhere and everywhen simultaneously until someone chooses to look at it? And what is this force that the moon exerts upon our oceans, something that is powerful enough to move trillions and trillions of tons of water but whose influence can be overcome by a mere dollar-store magnet (try it, hold a magnet over a steel paper clip. Which wins out the magnet or gravity)?

And what is it that permeates a room full of people who have a singular collective intention that then “magically” manifests into reality without any of them lifting even the smallest finger? Also how is it you can sense something happening before it happens?

We can point to things and say that they exist, we can show their effect and even name them but do we really understand them any better? For example, why does anything exist and why does it exist in the manner in which it does?

Even after we’ve explained and tested our explanation it’s still a mystery the only difference being after the testing we can call the magical thing a “fact”. It’s still magical but now it’s accepted e.g. it was once thought that the moon moving the oceans was an occult mystery, now it’s an accepted fact but the actual mechanism with all its formulas and terminology is still a mystery– it still seems magical.

When I see a hugely heavy metal object speed down a runway and leap into the air as though it weighed nothing at all it can be explained in terms of physics i.e. with airspeed, lift, and force equations but it still feels like magic.

When I see a baby born there’s a being who came together from two microscopic single-celled objects that then morphed into millions of differentiated cells that work together to form legs, hands, heart, eyes, ears, toes, fingers, skin, brain, and hair ad infinitum and all directed by a spiraling helix of some infinitesimal matter that seems to come from nowhere­– a code more complex than all the digital code that has ever been written by all the worlds programmers and hackers and all of this to create a means for the soul to express itself physically into the realm of things.

I see this and I understand some of the process, I’ve even learned to identify the processes and name some of the parts but I still don’t know how it does it or why it does it the way it does or why it does it at all. It still feels like magic.

It, or rather reality, really is all magic isn’t it? It’s either magic of the unknown or factual magic, dissected, labeled, and proved to exist, but magic none the less.

Don’t let your experience of magic be hostage to the assumptions and prejudices of others.

 

The Alchemy of Dreams: creating the Philosopher’s Stone.

 

th-1.jpegAt a Dream Conference attended in Berkeley the presenter was detailing the Alchemical method of transmutation. What, pray tell, was I doing learning about this ancient and largely discredited precursor to chemistry and what did it have to do with dreams?

The presenter spoke of the seven (combined within four primary) processes the alchemist had to perform in the most exacting of ways in order to produce the transforming element, the Philosopher’s Stone, that which would transmute lead into gold (not depicted is the seventh process and is the choosing of the unredeemed matter to be transformed–in this case, “us”).

Separate

Dissolve

   Fermentation

                                    } part of the process of letting go, by

                                      discovering what and then releasing

    Distillation

Recombine

Fix

And she likened it to the recovery of the soul. Carl Jung thought of it as representing the Individuation process, where human beings wrestled with and integrated their varied and opposing aspects so to develop into a fully actuated being, in short, the process for aligning ones outer nature with their inner nature–the quest for wholeness. To him it was the promise of our ‘becoming’. He thought that the images of the alchemical process mirrored a person’s inner psychic state of being and thus gave guidance to what was needed to achieve this inner/outer balance. Thus the emblematic alchemical arcana (see example on left) represented a roadmap to healing.

Azoth.jpg
Azoth arcana

Firstly one needs to free the soul from the body and become familiar with their unconscious identity as separated from their conscious, ego-bound identity. Dissolving, or causing one to let go, or surrendering, ones positionality is the next step. This is a form of ego-death where the ego is no longer the prime mover. In the third step one recombines the soul and consciousness to form a new and singular mind. The last step fixes ones mastery over the self after having integrated the disparate parts of the overall psyche.

So what am I talking about when I use the term “disparate parts of the self?” I’m talking about the various aspects of our selves that are usually in inner conflict with our self such as our feminine and masculine aspects. Most people operate as though they are one or the other based upon their anatomical differences and different ways of thinking and viewing the world. There’s also our wisdom selves, or radiant self, and our shadow selves e.g. for simplicity’s sake our positive and negative aspects–that which we readily embrace and that which we categorically reject.

But it is the ego-self that makes the decisions of what to reject or embrace and bases these choices on the basic need of the ego to stay in control. This is not a very good system for triage because of the limited vision of the ego-self. Thus the need to let go the predominance of this part of the ego, that can be likened to a huge mountain obscuring the landscape beyond, in order to see over the top of it. The ego-self doesn’t know everything of what it needs or doesn’t need in order to fully function. There is much in the unconscious that has been thrown away by the ego-self that can be immensely helpful if it were to be reintegrated into the overall psyche.

The internal alchemist can guide each of us to delve into the psyche where we have the power to change the essence of our stories.

I remember that during the height of the Polio epidemic in high school I painted a large billboard announcing the coming of a Polio clinic where people could get not only their children inoculated, but themselves as well. On it I depicted a large writhing dragon being slain by an equally large hypodermic needle. Little did I know that this symbol of slaying-the-dragon was to be the mythos for much of my life.

At one time I could have posed as the poster boy for “Robert The Blah”, but time and again I found myself in situations where I had to dig deep inside to find the power to draw my inner sword in order to confront whatever metaphorical fire-breathing dragon stood before me. Over time the mythos evolved into what might be called “Robert The Dragon Fighter” [i], but I continued to operate in the old myth. To fully manifest and use the power of what I had become I had to be willing to change my personal mythology.

In order to change our lives for what we imagine to be better, we more often than not need to change our personal mythology–to rewrite the story of ourselves and what we say we are. The ego-self resists this because to the ego-self it looks like death and it is death in a way because to rewrite ones life mythology they must kill-off, or dissolve, the old to make way for a birth, if you will, of something new. This re-envisionment can only happen after we have dissolved the current vision to make way for the new.

The dream world is our access to the imaginal, the vision of what is and what can be, it is a portal of discovery that can lead to an awakening in our so-called waking lives. It can reveal not only the archetypal conflicts of the human soul, but our own inner conflicts as well. It is quite literally our alchemical and psychosocial laboratory for evolutionary change, expansion of consciousness (i.e. what it means to be really conscious), and for the freeing of the soul. In fact, dreams always come to us in the service of our health and well-being and to aide us in our alchemical quest.

Jung suggested that at a deeper level the ancient alchemists were searching for more than just transmuting metals, but were meddling in something much bigger. For hidden in the common base metal of the human psyche was a wealth of grand value if only they could discover the path to its achievement. Many of our myths have hinted at this e.g. Jason and the Golden Fleece, Sir Percival and the Grail, Hercules and the hand of Persephone, and the innumerable stories where heroes try to reunite what has been separated into a more harmonious whole.

Even the dreams of those such as the Old Testament Jacob who wrestled with his God and learned to let go or dissolve his own ego position so as to evolve into someone more fully capable of dealing harmoniously in his world was an example of the kind of alchemy that is going on all around and within us. In Hebrew ‘Jacob’ is translated as, “Over reacher, or he who supplants” –an aspect of the separated ego-self–but is then given the name of Israel, “one who wrestles with God” an aspect I believe of the psyche trying to integrate itself.

Also such notable scientists as Sir Isaac Newton were also drawn to the alchemical sciences in an attempt to balance and ultimately unify the physical and spiritual aspects of reality.

Jean Houston, philosopher and author, has said that each of us “are valuable characters in the drama of the world soul, pushing the boundaries of their own local story and gaining the courage to be and do so much more.”

Many scholars in human development are convinced that our personal mythology informs the way in which we live our lives, that we make our decisions for better or worse as a consequence of our mythology. Much of therapy and dream work is about bringing ones mythos to consciousness, confronting it, and gaining some mastery over it–it is the alchemical process at work.

Much of dream work and personal therapy involves distilling the dross of the soul in order to work with the purified essence of the self. It is as Jung said that dreams are

The process, then, is the transformation of the unredeemed self into the ultimate expression of our being. In this way we can be the Philosopher’s Stone, or the fully Individuated, or fully Actualized human.

The Alchemists may actually have been projecting the inner processes of the psyche onto the objective world–pretty much as we all do when trying to make meaning of the world we live in. They may have inadvertently been the first of the Depth Psychologists and self-development gurus, or at least revealed the processes needed for the development of the self. It seems that metaphor may also run deep within the waking mind as well as in the dream.

“Your vision will become clear only when you can look into your own heart. She who looks outside, dreams: she who looks inside, awakes.”- Carl Jung

____________________________________

[i] Note that I don’t use the term “Dragon Slayer” here because I don’t always slay the dragon i.e. get the better of him. Often my internal dragons, aka “self-criticisms” get the better of me. There are also times when slaying or fighting with a metaphorical dragon isn’t what’s called for. Sometimes the dragon shows up when I’ve been inflating my personal image i.e. acting arrogant and the dragon appears to cut me down to size. In this case even friends have played the role of the dragon and though they spit what seems like fire, they are only doing it because they care–this I want to nurture, not slay.

 

Do you believe in magic? Chapter VII: The Coniunctio

The+Alchemical+Wedding.jpg
The Alchemical sacred marriage– body, soul and divine self. Where Sun and moon, masculine and feminine become whole.

Chapter VII

Walking down the path and into the mist, large drops of water slid from the trees and splashed against his face running down his neck and into the fabric of a shirt now clinging fast to his body. He almost didn’t notice for his mind was taken up with other things, things like thoughts about something called “source” and “intention” and what if he weren’t ready to transform before the moon and sun conjoined?

Surely he could do this, after all he had a clever mind didn’t he? But his thoughts just spiraled into chaos and he couldn’t get them to settle and focus. Fear built up as he realized that he might have missed something important that the old man had given him, something that would mean either light and life or just darkness and death. If he couldn’t find it he could be trapped behind the eclipse forever.

Then he remembered that all too often the brain sends one in the wrong direction blowing like the wind through the trees and making one believe that something is real that actually was not.  A thought whispered from below and though almost ignored by the all too busy mind it was barely caught and brought to consciousness, “Your cleverness only separates you from reality”. It said. Another thought intruded into the maelstrom, “This is not just about you”. It whispered. “Caring only about your own condition will lead only to doom– your doom and the doom of us all. That is the wrong direction to travel.”

The boy stopped walking and looked about him as though trying to find the source of the voice that had so successfully penetrated his fears. And the voice continued.

“Stop trying to be so clever. All your thinking, all your so-called knowledge will only lead you further astray. There is a Way, but it is not through your mind. There are no answers in the chaotic voice of your head. It knows only itself.

Your wisdom does not lay within the voice of this clever little fellow that you think is the real you. You must reason beyond this voice. You have the power to use this reason but like so many others you have lost your way because you have forgotten the Way. You had it once when you were very young but it was just too hard to hear over the din of the older ones and you soon forgot.

You cannot ‘do’ the Way, or think yourself through it. All that will do is confuse. The more ingenious you try to be the more strange things tend to happen. Be content that there is an order within the chaos but that you cannot find it by searching for it. Desire of any kind will hide all but the edges of reality.”

“But everything is so crazy around me. How can I do this?” Pleaded the young man.

“Be simple. Be empty. Be at one with the dust. Do not resist the end for it is just a beginning. To have only ‘mind’ is to suffer death, to be in touch with the mother, the source of us all,  brings freedom from that. Seek not answers from outside the mother. Create while not claiming, be the Way.”

“What must I do?”

“Create while not claiming, be the Way. Give up your mind. Be not of one way or the other, but be it all. Let the conflict come to balance in you and you will have found your mother. Stop behaving as an adult for they know nothing but cleverness and knowledge. Let go of your adult knowing until you are empty of all you have learned. You cannot experience your mother through knowing. Stop doing and just be for a moment. Be small and your greatness will grow. See simplicity in the complex. And above all be last among all men.”

The rain had stopped and the clouds had begun to clear. Patches of blue peeked out from the grayness and the voice that had kept him company through the day and night was now gone. Sometime during the night he had let go of himself and now blended with the surrounding forest. Bewildered the boy looked about him. Craning his neck upward he saw the rising sun partially occluded by the full moon. The conjunction had begun.

Read more

Do you believe in magic? Chapter VI: The Source

 

a3294024776_10.jpg

Chapter VI: 

The next morning after a breakfast of fresh fruit and steamed oats the young student and his mentor took their coffee mugs to the chairs that sat before the familiar fireplace at the other end of the flat and began their study. A light rain had moved into the city and the warmth of the drink, fire, and friendship brought them both great comfort and the energy to continue the difficult task from the day before.

“So what of your dreams?” Asked the older man and the younger shared a number of dreams about dark shadowy figures of people and animals that he was either running from or trying valiantly to kill.

“These are probably representative of your shadow self– the darker sides of your personality. Running from and trying to kill them off are two sides of the instinctual coin that runs us all. The first is an avoidance metaphor or what we call the “flight” instinct while the latter is the “fight” instinct– a means of ridding oneself from ones demons. Both are resistance symbols to what is and are representative of the ego-self, not the spirit self. This brings us to the eighth law of magic that says that one needs to ‘call out’ their shadows and demons, name them rather than suppress them. Just because you have negative aspects to your personality doesn’t mean that you are your negative aspects.”

“Tell me more.”

“Everything in the universe is energy in one form or another such as your thoughts, your body, your feelings, the environment around you. You’ll also notice that for every positive occurrence, circumstance, situation, feeling, thought there is an equal and opposite negative. The earth thrives in opposition; each gives energy to the other. Simply put ‘good’ only exists in contrast to ‘bad’ and vice versa. Resisting the ‘bad’ only gives it more than its equal share of energy. One needs to learn to bring both sides of themselves into balance. You do this by not resisting what is, by accepting both sides of yourself and working harmoniously with the energy of each.”

“The next, or ninth law, states that Magic cannot come from ‘thinking’. One needs to quiet the mind and stop ‘thinking’ things to death. Remember that In the tenth law it is stated that magic does not come from the rational. Live at least some of your life in the incomprehensible and trust your intuitive self. This ties in nicely with the ‘thinking’ law of the ninth law. Thinking is of the rational self. Necessary in very many ways, but it cannot be used to summon forth the power of magic. How are we doing so far?”

“Good, good, keep going” Said the young man as he motioned his mentor to continue and gently placed his cup down on the side table.

“The eleventh law states that Magic grows from the secret orderliness of chaos.” At this the student screwed up his face in confusion. “No really! Said the magus, “Allow yourself to be confused. Thinking that you know something about what is real can be very limiting to living what is real, to perceiving what is real, and to performing real magic. To think that you know something produces an expectation, the expectation that the universe will always support that knowledge, but that’s not how it really works is it? And when the universe lets you down you get upset, right?” The boy nodded and the magus went on. “This is because you think that you are in control when you’re not at all, never have been. I might also add that before you clear out the junk you’ve buried into your unconscious mind you’ve never been at choice with anything and that so-called ‘free-will’ of yours requires the ability to be at choice, that is real choice.”

“Real choice?”

“Yes, if you can’t say no and yes to everything then you are not really at choice. You have to be okay with either state of being. What you can then do is ‘choose’ what is best for the situation and circumstance you find yourself in– best for you and everyone and thing around you. You also can’t be consciously at choice if the material not dealt with in your unconscious mind, you know, all the stuff you’ve hidden there, and all the instinctual stuff, is actually running the show. Being clear about your hidden motivations is a prerequisite for free-will. Which is of course a requisite for magic.”

“In the twelfth law one is told that they must maintain their authority over expectations and standards by remaining at choice with their behaviors, thoughts, and self-expressions. In short, young man, be what you are, not what someone else wants you to be or think or believe, even if that someone else is me. If the laws don’t resonate, then don’t follow.”

“Eh? I don’t get it. Your negating all you said?”

“Yes, because if you take these laws and expect them to do the magic, then you will be sorely disappointed. The ‘laws’ are only a framework or matrix to live within. The real secret to magic can only be found within the source of your very being. It is only by surrendering what you think you are to that source that magic can come forth. All the rest is just a ‘do’ but the source is something and an immeasurable and indescribable nothing that you connect to in order to produce magic. Connect to the source and you’ll ‘be’ the magic. Live your life in the source and there is no end to what you are.”

“What is this source?” Pleaded the young man.

“This is what you have to wrestle with over the next day and a half. I suggest that you go be with yourself and take all that I’ve taught, all that I’ve said, and all that I’ve alluded to and meditate on it. You may even want to embody some of it that is to bring it to life and dialog with it as though it were alive, alive within you. Remember that it has to be done before the joining of the Moon and Sun two days from now. For if you don’t succeed you could be trapped between and behind them forever.”

At that the young man picked up his jacket and went out into the rain, heading almost aimlessly toward the city forest at the end of the street but with an air of what could only be called intention.