The Universe is Change; every Change is the
Effect of an Act of Love; All Acts of Love
contain Pure Joy. Die daily.
Death is the apex of one curve of the snake Life:
Behold all opposites as necessary compliments,
– Aleister Crowley
(3) The Sidpa Bardo (or Srid-pa’i Bar-do) or Inter-mediate period of rebirth. During this bardo the consciousness descends and chooses a new body to be born into. (Buddhists do not accept the existence of a single continuing entity which “reincarnates”, and refer instead to the “rebirth” of the consciousness-stream in a new body).
We arrive at this part of the Dark Night either unconsciously or consciously. The third stage of the transformative process calls us to regenerate and renew. To the extend that we do not understand the necessity of imagining and preparing for something new during the third stage, our experience will be one of heaven or hell; rage or self-destruction. In the Western world we have little or no preparation, or guidance for for the process of transformation. We enter our transitions in from one phase in life, with no real preparation. From childhood to teenager, from teenager to adult only being prepared to fit into society and working life. We are told the rules of our culture, and that we have to find a way to make money, but little else really, unless we were very fortunate to have had elders, or a teacher to prepare us. We are told reach for our dreams but we are given no understanding our guidance to truly understand where our dreams rise from. As a result we only learn through the school of hard knocks. Even in this we are told to avoid mistakes and failure at all costs. We are applauded for our successes, and punished for our mistakes.
Nicholas Molina, reflects about the irony of success in his article “The Failure of Success”
… Eighteen years of a lack of failure teaches Harvard students to avoid it at all costs; we become extremely risk-averse. Ironically, classes might teach about the risk-reward relationship, but students who are too afraid to fail can only understand the former part of that relationship after experiencing it … Even those golden children who sail through Harvard as they’ve sailed through high school fail, in a sense. They’ve failed to experience failure, and their education is impoverished as a result. I’ve learned, sometimes painfully, to accept that it’s not possible to achieve everything and that only when we risk failure, are great gains possible … In the end, I realized that the criteria I’d been using to judge my education at Harvard were all off the mark. Even if the lessons that will be most valuable in the next chapter of my life have been those I’ve learned outside the classroom, my time at Harvard has been well spent. My only regret is that I didn’t learn the importance of taking risks earlier. That’s probably the most important lesson of all.
We are not shown that our mistakes and failures can show us new opportunities, new undiscovered potentials, and we hide our failures in the recesses of our past. With the result, young people look at those who have succeeded and see only the success, and do not know what it took to get there. The pain of growth is seen in itself as a failure, a lack of strength, an unworthiness. If a dark night comes upon anyone, we feel that either we are punished, are just a failure, or that life is just cruel and unfair. We have no understanding of the process of growth. We do not know, we have forgotten, that chaos is the very source of creation.
So we enter one transition to another, one rebirth to another with more and more accumulated shadow material, and begin to live more and more on the surface, for to go any deeper would mean to access and face the monster of the deep. We can of course just continue living like this, and numb the aching pain of surface living, of never truly accessing our depths and real potential, through the many tools available today, but sooner or later we will have to face our shadow. If we ignore the gently nudges, one day the rhino will come and give you the big knock. However , as we say here in Africa; If you think of a Rhino, you must also think of a tree. Thus if you think of a big problem you must also think about a solution. This essentially why I am writing this series on the dark night.
During this stage of the transformation process, we encounter power in its awesome properties, which we can use both to destroy and create. The mythological god associated with this stage is Pluto, husband to Persephone, who rules the underworld. This god penetrates to our core in order to reveal our deepest root issues; he destroys in order to renew, and he holds the power to transform and effect change. During this stage we make the descent into our unconscious, into our shadow.
One of my most favourite descriptions of how the shadow develops is by Bill Plotkin;The American poet Robert Bly says our first twenty years are spent stuffing 90 percent of ourselves into “the long black bag we drag behind us” and the rest of our life attempting to retrieve those items … Our Loyal Soldier, of course, is the subpersonality who shoveled all those aspects of self into the long bag in the first place. Think of the Loyal Soldier as a sort of psychic bouncer who throws out any part of self not deemed respectable by the management. The boss, in this case, is the child’s immediate family and cultural setting. When the boss spots an undesirable the Loyal Soldier starts shoveling.
Thus the shadow designates aspects of ourselves that we cannot accept; these aspects do not agree with our ego ideal, and are often in disagreement with the values established by society. We therefore repress them and prefer to see them projected onto other people, where we can fight them.
Projection is defined as “the situation in which one unconsciously invests another person (or object) with notions or characteristics of one’s own: e.g. a man, fascinated by a woman because she corresponds to his anima, falls in love with her. Feelings, images, and thoughts can be projected onto others. One also projects negative feelings: e.g. a woman has a grudge against a friend, so she imagines that her friend is angry with her.”
If an individual shows no inclination to recognise his projections, then the projection-making factor has a free hand and can realise its object, or bring about a situation characteristic of its power. Again is should be noted that it is not the conscious mind, but the unconscious which does the projecting. The projections are not made, they are encountered. The effect of a projection is to isolate a person from their environment as instead of a real relation to it there is only an illusory one. Projections change the world into a replica of one’s own unknown face – the Shadow – and lead to an auto-erotic or autistic condition in which one dreams a world whose reality remains forever unattainable. The resulting feeling of sterility are in turn explain by projection as the malevolence of the environment, and by means of this viscous circle the isolation is intensified.
Our shadow has a reservoir of tightly coiled, focused, and concentrated energy at its disposal, which can either be used to harm others, and ourselves, or transform ourselves. It is said that should the shadow develop more energy than the ego, it will erupt in us as an overpowering rage or depression; “the shadow gone autonomous is a terrible monster in our psychic house.” During this phase of the dark night this is typically what happens and it is normally this condition that forces people to seek help. To become conscious of the Shadow takes considerable moral effort, recognising the dark aspects of the personality as present and real. Jung contended that this act is the essential condition for any kind of self-knowledge. In the ogham the ivy represents the spiral of the self, the search for the self, to see through the eyes of the soul. The maze or labyrinth is also linked to the ivy, it too symbolizes the wandering of the soul, circling inward and outward. The spirit turns inward, like Theseus following his thread into the labyrinth. The exploration for the secret center of his own being, which may appear monstrous, lying hidden most of the time.
“We still attribute to the other fellow all the evil and inferior qualities that we do not like to recognize in ourselves, and therefore have to criticize and attack him, when all that has happened is that an inferior “soul” has emigrated from one person to another. The world is still full of betes noires and scapegoats, just as it formerly teemed with witches and werewolves” – Jung
As Jung describes the Projection of the Shadow, it refers to as the principle that “[changes] the world into a replica of one’s own unknown face”. We most often become aware of our shadow through our dreams. During this phase of the dark night it is exactly this unknown face of ourselves that we need to uncover in order to reap the most benefit of the process of transformation.
“The Kingdom is like a man who had a treasure hidden in his field without knowing it. When he died, he left it to his son. The son did not know about the treasure. He inherited the field and sold it. And the one who bought it went plowing and found the treasure…” Gospel of Thomas
” … look in the deepest of your wounds, for there lies the gold of your being.” Emerald Tablet
Another way of perceiving the dark shadow is seeing it as poison.
In terms of the transmutation of poison, first one must recognize the poison – is it envy or jealousy, or is it fear or anger, or is it pride or arrogance, or is it greed or lust, or is it insecurity or doubt? It is like a person bitten by a venomous snake. When they go to the doctor seeking the antidote, the first question the doctor will ask is, “What kind of snake bit you?” The anti-venom is made from the venom; the antidote is made from the poison itself. In order to transmute the poison I must look and see exactly what kind of poison it is, for that will determine the proper response.
Whatever the poison is, the antidote is in it. Whatever form of negativity arises, it contains the holy spark of the positive in it. For example, consider jealousy. If I am jealous of someone, then it means that I see that person’s talents and virtues, and the good that is in them. Instead of remaining in jealousy, I can celebrate their talents and virtues, and honor the good that is in them – I can give praise and thanks to God, and uplift this person to God, and glorify God. Of course, when I do this, I will be drawing upon the good that is in me, and I will also serve to uplift myself as I uplift another. We receive exactly what we give!
Now we can say the same of any form of negativity we might name, even the darkest and most evil thought – all contain the holy spark of what is positive and good, and we need only look and see the good in it to draw it out. In this way we transmute the poison into an elixir of life – it is a spiritual alchemy, all in the mind.
You will note, in this we are not struggling against anything, but rather we are moving with what is happening and we are using exactly what arises to cleave to the Anointed and Mother Spirit. In this process of we must be playful and creative. Obviously, depending on the poison, there are many ways to go about transmuting it. With jealousy as our example we have given only one way – but there are many others ways and we ourselves must find exactly how it works for us in real life situations. In other words, it is an ongoing practice of the spiritual life.
In this light we may view the negativity that arises as an opportunity to refine and develop our soul, just as the challenges we face in life are opportunities for the development and evolution of our soul – all of life is filled with opportunities and possibilities, and it is we who choose the direction we will go … lust and greed, fear and hatred – wonderful, no problem! If self-grasping, attachment and aversion cease, what are these? They are pure energy, pure radiance, no longer bound up in the forms labeled “lust” or “murder.” The key becomes recognizing vital and mental energy is just that – *energy*, and therefore may be transformed from one form to another based upon this awareness. There are many ways to embrace and transform any negative thought or emotion that may arise, but all are based up this recognition. Thus, through practices like the silent witness and primordial meditation, we must seek to establish ourselves in this recognition.
As negativity arises, rather than avoiding it or pushing it away, calmly abide and look into it, examine it, and seek to find the holy spark that is in it, the light-power in it; just as with jealousy, all have something good in them, something luminous in them. Consider greed, in greed there is the knowledge of what is good to give, for knowing what you desire to keep for yourself, you know what is truly good to give; in the midst of lust, you recognize the beauty and desirability of another, and there is much energy suddenly at your disposal – noticing beauty can invoke awe and wonder of the source that gives rise to such glory, and the energy aroused can be directed into any activity, or it may be directed inward and upward, Godward, remembering our true Beloved: Divine or Enlightened Being. Fear has wakefulness in it, and anger is innate concentration – after all, when we are afraid we don’t exactly fall asleep very easily, and when we are angry we are very concentrated and capable of the most detailed visualization; if we direct wakefulness or concentration differently, there is no more fear, or no more anger! How wonderful! No problem!
Of course, we could point out many other qualities to these same forms of negativity – it is all about becoming intimately acquainted with the negativity arising in one’s own experience and seeking to embrace it, relate with it, and work with it creatively. If there is a specific situation, with a specific individual, a tzaddik may well be able to suggest a specific method, akin to a prescription for medicine by a doctor that may serve as a remedy for an ailment; but speak in general terms, if we are willing to embrace the negativity that arises in our experience and seek to relate with it in a different way, becoming playful and creative with it, we will find a way to transform most of the negativity that arises – we just need to remember that whatever arises is empty by nature, having no substantial or independent self-existence.
What we are talking about, of course, requires a different view and attitude regarding negativity – instead of meeting it with judgment, we need to meet it with awareness and with curiosity, and see it as an opportunity for creative practice, an opportunity to play with the energy arising and see what can be done with it that is positive and productive, actually beneficial to ourselves and others.
Essentially, we are talking about embracing and integrating the Shadow Self; unfortunately, just religious views in many forms of spirituality suggest that enjoyment is “wrong” or “sinful,” they also propose that there is something inherently “wrong” or “evil” with the Shadow Self. Yet, integrating it, we find that it is a source of immeasurable power for a greater good, a source of energy that may support the Great Work. It is all a question of creative and skillful means – using whatever arises in a way that is beneficial and helpful, rather than counterproductive to our well-being and welfare, or to the well-being and welfare of others.
Some individuals may suggest that this is “dangerous,” but look into religions in which the Shadow Self is rejected and oppressed, and notice the violent eruptions of the Shadow Self that are prevalent with those practicing such a view; then look into forms of spirituality that embrace and integrate the Shadow Self, and you will find that they are not as prone to externalize the violent inclination in such wild and unconscious outbursts. Essentially, like or not, the Shadow Self is present, and negativity will arise – the question is how to relate with it, from a Sophian perspective, rather than attempting to cut it off…
You darkness from which I come,
I love you more than all the fires
that fence out the world
for the fire makes a circle
so that no one sees you anymore
But darkness holds it all;
the shape and the flame,
the animal and myself,
how it holds them,
all powers, all sight –and it is possible; its great strength
is breaking into my body.
I have faith in the night. – Rainer Maria Rilke
To have faith in the night is to have night vision. The wanderer bravely enters the darkness to discover what is there and what has drawn you.
I proceeded down the hill and came to an old hotel. As I walked inside I remembered that I have been there in my youth. I looked inside the rooms and was surprised to find heaps and heaps of empty white shells on top of the chest of drawers even inside the cupboards. I noticed old clothes of mine in one room; clothes that I thought lost. It was as if I left it yesterday. I picked up the clothes and folded it intending to take it with me. I wondered when I left it and why it seemed as if I left in a hurry. Why could I not remember? The shells puzzled me.
I heard my name called again and I looked to see who was calling me. A beautiful black girl made a graceful leap from the balcony above me to right next to me. She said:” I remember you …” I could not remember but thought that I could question her on why I had to leave so unexpectedly. Maybe she will know what the hidden secret was.
We went back inside the hotel to her room. She was recalling what fun we had. I observed that her room was not full of shells like mine. I was still straining to remember what she was recalling, when suddenly in the ceiling I saw a small vortex appear. Swirling like a universe. Out of this appeared what looked like an orange sea anemone. Intense fear arose in me as I suddenly remembered why I left in such a hurry. I tried to warn her but the thing sucked her up. I remembered that it only took live things and I held out some red and white flowers that was in the room to give me enough time to escape through the door. I now knew why there were so many empty shells.
Little Swan flew through the Dream time. Looking for the future. She rested for a moment in the coolness of the pond, looking for a way to find the entry point to the future. This was a moment of confusion for Swan, as she knew that she had happened into the Dream time by accident. As Swan looked high above Sacred Mountain, she saw the biggest swirling black hole she had ever see. Dragonfly came flying by, and Swan stopped to ask about the black hole. Dragonfly said, “Swan that is the doorway to the other planes of imagination. I have been guardian of illusion for many, many moons. If you want to enter there, you would have to ask permission and earn the right.”
Swan was not so sure that she wanted to enter the black hole. She asked Dragonfly what was necessary for her to earn entry. Dragonfly replied, “ You must be willing to accept whatever the future holds as it is presented, without trying to change Great Spirit plan.” Swan looked at her ugly little duckling body and then answered, “I will be happy to abide by Great Spirit’s plan. I won’t fight the currents of the black hole. I will surrender to the flow of the spiral and trust what I am shown.”
Dragonfly was very happy with Swan’s answer and began to spin the magic to break the pond’s illusion. Suddenly, Swan was engulfed by a whirlpool in the centre of the pond.
Swan reappeared many days later, but now she was graceful and white and long-necked. Dragonfly was stunned! “ Swan what happened to you!” he exclaimed. Swan smiled and said, “Dragonfly, I learned to surrender my body to the power of the Great Spirit and was taken to where the future lives. I saw many wonders high on Sacred Mountain and because of my faith and acceptance I have been changed. I learned to accept the state of grace.”- Sun Bear – The Animal Medicine Cards
“If you want to know who you were in your past life, look to your present circumstances. If you want to know who you will be in your future life, look to your present actions.” – Buddhist
The Maori pattern of the koru depicts the relationship of the past and the future. One spiral comes up from the past, coiling in to a central point, which is the present moment, before changing direction and spiralling up into the future. The magic point, the only point where change can occur is the centre point, the point where the certainty of the past touches the uncertainty of the future.
When talking about the koru, I described time as a vortex. We see time as moving from the past to the present and to the future. The past and the future swirl around continuously changing, creating a present moment that is always different. Even though the present moment is always changing, it also remains the same just as the whirlpool is always changing, but retains a stable shape. We live in an ever changing present moment.
When we see time in this way, we realise that we do not move through time from yesterday to today to tomorrow, but rather we stand in the present moment while time moves through us.
Everything from our past has happened is certain and cannot be changed. If we place our identity in the past, we live for what was, for our past achievements, for people and events which have gone, for things that are fixed and cannot be changed, then the present can have no meaning or power.
Similalrly, if we place our identity in the future, we live for what will be, for our future achievements, for what people around us will be, then again, the present has no meaning or power.
In addition to that, the future is full of uncertainty, so, it is always possible, in fact, likely, that those thing in the future in which we invest our identity in will not come to pass and therefore we again place our identity in something that has no reality…
The present moment is balanced on the edge between the certain past and the uncertain future. Sitting right in the edge of certainty and uncertainty is the present moment; not restricted by the past and free to create the future. If we place our consciousness in the past or the future, we place it in the turbulent swirling winds of the vortex, where we are buffeted about and have little control over our lives. If, instead, we place ourselves at the still centre of the present moment, there is a calmness we find within ourselves. It doesn’t mean we avoid the difficulties of the world. It doesn’t mean we ignore the past or future, but we see them from the still point and remain calm. We are actually at the only place where true change can be made, certain enough to allow stability, uncertain enough to allow growth.
The vortex is something we see in nature appearing out of nowhere and mysteriously disappearing again. They exist as obvious forms as a tornado or whirlpool, but also in more subtle forms such as human beings and human identity. By learning to ride the edge of the interactions at the still point, we open ourselves to the full richness of what it is to be a person and a full child of the universe.
EDGE OF CHAOS
The Edge of Chaos is a key concept in chaos and complexity. If a system is too unstable it lacks the ability to work as a coherent whole and lapses into deep chaos. If a system is too stable, it becomes rigid and unable to adapt to a changing environment. There is a critical balance point called the Edge of Chaos, just before the point of lapsing into deep chaos, where the system is not only stable enough to maintain coherence, but can self organise such that new levels of organisation and stability can emerge. The Edge of Chaos is not a static equilibrium, but rather a dynamic balance, like the balance of a tightrope walker, who is constantly using feedback loops of balance to stay on the rope.
– Victor McGill
The sign of the end of the putrefaction step is the peacock’s tail (the coat of many colors) symbolizing unlimited potential.
This where the dark night of the soul has been drawing us towards, drawing us into being fully present stripped bare of the past perceptions and future ones not yet formed. Into the bosom of dark Nox and Erebus, entwined rising out of chaos, on the edge of utter chaos. Nox the unconscious form of nature and Erebus, the latent divine potency. From their first cosmic and elemental embrace, Eros was born from a silver egg. He who is the driving force behind the entire theogonia, the unfoldment of thought, the liberating agent who releases and activates the creative process of the mind. He who awakens the ego to its true nature.
The current English word “soul” may have originated from the Old English sawol, documented in 970 AD. “Sawol” has possible etymological links with a Germanic root from which we also get the word “sea”. The old German word is called ‘se(u)la’, which means: belonging to the sea (ancient Germanic conceptions involved the souls of the unborn and of the dead “living” being part of a medium, similar to water), or perhaps, “living water” – Wikkipedia
“The cosmic ocean pervades space and time. It is the basis of all things; the energies of the visible world originate from the primordial energy that is inherent in its creative potentials.” Gopi Krishna
In your dark night you may have a sensation you would call ‘oceanic’ – being in the sea, at sea, or immersed in the waters of the womb. The sea is the vast potential of life, but it it is also your dark night, which may force you to surrender some knowledge you have achieved. It helps to regularly undo the hard-won ego development over the years, to unravel the self of culture you have woven over the years. The night sea journey takes you back to your primordial self, not the heroic self that burns out and falls to judgement, but to your original self, yourself as a sea of possibility, your greater and deeper being … You return to the womb of imagination so that your pregnancy can recycle. You are always being born, always dying to the day to find the restorative waters of the night. – Thomas Moore
We are drawn down and under, as surely as the moon draws the waters of the ocean, by an irresistible ancient longing. Here in the deep depths of our soul lies the undifferentiated waters of the vast cosmic ocean of unity. In this space between worlds and time, between incarnations, bardo, the dark night provides an opening into the underworld of our unconscious, where we can access the entire universe of past, present and future flowing into our psyche. In this intermediate state of now, the present eternal moment, in this dark night, we are linked to the past and the future through the present. We have access to hidden memories of both past failures and successes, here our angels and demons are intertwined, here we meet both our angels (our highest potentials) and our demons (our fears); the guardians of the thresholds.
The dark dimension, which lies hidden beneath the surface of our conscious awareness, holds the storehouse of forgotten memories from the past, and the potentialities of future possibilities. It contains both our personal storehouse, and deeper into the transpersonal stratum of the collective unconscious. Our dark shadow has an equal counterpart: the bright or golden shadow which contains our highest potentials and abilities, the inner aspect of ourselves which is our best and brightest aspect, our finest potential. In the Kabbalah this is reflected in Da’at, which appear according to the state of mind of one who approaches it. Thus it can appear as a great angel or a great demon. A demon carries one further away from enlightenment, and an angel is something that brings us closer to the divine. Da’at is also called The Abyss,or the Bridal Chamber.
This exactly what this stage of the dark night represents, if you cling to past fears, judgments an outworn concepts you will face the angel of wrath, if you courageously face what you have been trying to avoid all these years, you face the angel of your divine potential, hidden in the depths of your soul.
Now you find yourself having to face your shadow; both the bright and dark aspects of it. This is the stage in bardo, between lives that is also called The Judgment. At this point one can enter either heaven or hell. From here the future will germinate from a seed capsule which we create during this stage. Into this seed capsule are placed three things;
- The distillation of our wisdom essence from the past cycle
- Our unfinished karma and unconscious habits
- Our commitments for the future cycle
If you had no limitations and possibilities were wide open; imagine there were no obstacles whatsoever – money, education, training, degree, age, sex, race, health – What would you put into that seed pod? If you could do anything you want, what would it be? It may not be possible for us to actualize our ideal images, perhaps not yet, but it is important to have a glimmer into the farthest outreaches of our potentialities .… an awakening to a greater reality.
In East the term bodhissattva describes the being who has achieved enlightenment through having fulfilled and completed his or her karma. However rather than remaining in the clear light, this person chooses to continue incarnating in this dualistic dimension for the purpose of benefiting others. The bodhisattva’s life is motivated by the desire to relieve suffering and guide others towards healing and liberation. Our dark phase energies can point to our communities to emulate the bodhisattva ideal. On the level where the Law of Grace, or oneness is operative, the burdens of pain and suffering are not karmic retribution but rather additional responsibility we have voluntarily taken on in order to help others. – Demetra George
Always we have a choice. Shall we let our aversions, our demons shape our future, or shall we let our possibilities, our angels shape our future?
I see the moon reflecting on the mirror surface of the pool. A ribbon of cloth floats towards me. What bigger piece is it from? I feel its texture with my fingertips, run it across my face to feel what it stirs in my soul. Who was the weaver of the cloth? Who spun the thread, where did the raw material feel the first ray of light, to bear forth that, which in the hands of the master spinner and weaver becomes the myth of its origin? Where from this ribbon of cloth? I hold it too my face and fill my breath with its essence. I dive into the dark depths of the pool, as if I am diving into the radiating source of light. In this source of light I feel myself purified the deeper I swim. I swim until I feel there is no more need, for I will never reach the end, I allow myself just to drift, wrapped in bliss. Slowly I float back to the surface. I open my eyes; the warm breeze cooling the water drops on my skin.
“To reach and grasp, and to suffer the release of the grasp, and then to reach some more, past the known frontiers of body, mind, heart and soul”.
Drifting in the Dark Sea
Formless potency of the Primordial Night
Chaos envelops me
and I surrender
In this night
a dream arose
Images rising from
the dark depths
of my soul
and stirs fathomless
What image will you choose
to represent those desires stirring
in the womb of the night
What will be the colours
of your wings?
What do your voice cry out for
in the night?
so that together we may
weave a bright new dream
Let us play for a while longer
in the starry night skies
of our imagination
before we give birth to a new dawn.