Archive for category Myth
Persephone in innocent wonder, once beheld a flower of exquisite beauty and scent. In delight she reach for it and was plunged into a world she never expected. The simple act of desire brought division between inner and outer, night and dark, and seasons of being.
If you follow a desire, it will lead you into unexplored regions with unexpected situations. Life and its meaning is not what we think it is when we initially start our journey. The very fabric of life is desire. Desire is the basis of creation, the fiery spark from which life comes into being. When desire ceases to exist we are dying. This applies not only to ourselves as individuals but also to the macrocosm. However conversely, the lack of desire also indicates the end of a cycle and leads to an intermediate phase, a time of gestation for a new phase in which the particular desire is transformed into a higher desire.
Desire manifests as a hunger.
Desire is born in the heart and as I discussed in the “broken heart” we have to experience a broken heart many times before we get to our true heart. The same applies to desire as each layer of encrustation will have within it the embryo of the next layer. What we initially think is our true desire is actually a divine trick that will lead us to our true desire. Our true desire lies in the realm of the unknowable, that which is beyond our present boundary of imagination. That which we cannot imagine we cannot venture towards.
When we begin to explore a desire born in our hearts we actually have no idea as to where it will eventually lead us. Yet, if we are faint hearted in this extraordinary journey called life, we will never get to know who we really are and what our true purpose in the biome of life is. Our lives will lack meaning.
It is however, a journey fraught with very real life-threatening dangers and we might indeed not complete our journey in one life time. Yet, to not follow a desire will most certainly also lead to your death for the very essence of survival lies in desire.
When you lose all desire you will not have the will to survive and without the will to survive which is born out of a desire to explore life in order to fulfil your purpose you are like a body without an immume system. When a human being feels they have no purpose they lose their will to live as we see so much in the world today. In the ecosystem of nature every living creature knows their purpose and so will fight for life to their last breath. Even in so-called primitive cultures the will for survival is much stronger than it is in the sophisticated environment of the developed world because fewer and fewer people can see a place for themselves in the society.
Even inappropriate desires, or desires for hurting even for killing another, mask a deeper desire. Those desires are severely distorted desires of true desires. Although we may choose not to act upon certain desires we still have to look at them to see where they spring from. Here I must mention another aspect linked with desire, for desire itself will remain only in potential unless it is linked with the will to act upon it. Always we have the freewill to act upon a desire or not. We may not have control over what desires arises within us but we do have control whether we act upon it. This in itself is the basis of free will which in turn is linked to the principle of uncertainty. Free will is only possible if there is a principle of uncertainty. If everything is predestined and absolutely certain we will not have freewill for all that freewill actually is, is the right to make choices.
If we choose to act upon a desire we will set in motion a series of causes and affects that will guide us to our true destiny. This is where the principle of karma comes into effect, in that each move we make will set off a chain of reaction that will lead to outcomes which are in effect beyond the horizon of both our vision and imagination.
Destiny is the interplay of both the principle of certainty and uncertainty. The how, when and where is uncertain because it involves our free will but the ultimate outcome is certain. It is like a master chess player playing against a novice. The outcome is certain; the master player will ultimately win, but exactly how the master player will win is uncertain; no one can predict what the moves of the novice will be.
Desire is indeed the golden thread that leads to the center of the labyrinth of who we are; the core self, the heart of our being. Desire is the impulse to manifest the intangible, to actualize and realize that which exist only in potential. This we find expressed in both mythical lore and metaphysical teachings.
Nox and Erebus, entwined rises out of chaos, on the edge of utter chaos. Nox is the unconscious form of nature (creation) and Erebus, the latent divine potency. From their first cosmic and elemental embrace, Eros was born. It is Eros 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. It is Eros who awakens the ego to its true nature.
In the Kabbalah, will or desire (Ratzon/Keter) is the first expression of Ain Sof in the creative act, for in order to create and sustain creation, God must will or desire to create and sustain creation. The will or desire is the underlying foundation for all the proceeding levels of existence; the initiating principle of creation. It is an emanation of the bornless spirit of God, which although made distinct in the lower levels of existence, is completely inseparable from the infinite or the eternal. In essence, the first emanation of God’s presence and power is the will or desire to create, which precedes creation itself, and that will or desire is what is called Logos and Sophia – the word (the pattern that connects) and wisdom of God.
The richness, the mystery, almost a sense of adventure is what initially attract us to a particular domain of interest. This sparking of interest is instinctive, intuitive. – rich with possibility, endless nuances “chaos of delight” Charles Darwin – Beagle DIARIES
As above so below. If act on a desire we set in motion the creation of future events. If we truly want to find what connects us to the rest of creation and beyond, the past and the future and the eternal, then we must follow the golden thread of desire. In isolation our lives have no meaning. The force that binds us is indeed also the force that liberates us and is the divine spark within us. When our lives have meaning, they become part of a larger structure. Meaning links the individual to the universal. A lack of meaning means that parts of information does not link up with the matrix of the whole of your consciousness, or with the greater world beyond you.
Without desire life looses its meaning, for we no longer have the pattern that connects us with the whole.
I stared to write this blog with the desire to explore the meaning of life and it has indeed led me to the unexpected. When you follow a desire it will also lead you to a place where you will meet an obstacle that will make it seemingly impossible to proceed, and it will feel as if you have indeed lost the desire itself because the obstacle appears just too great. However, if you look into the depths of yourself you will find that the desire did not actually die, that in fact the yearning for that which initiated the desire has become even greater. Now however, it is time for that desire to enter a time of transformation and out of the dry spell will be born something much greater than you could have imagined.
Following a desire is like entering a romantic relationship. Thomas H. Green describes in his book “When the Well Runs Dry” that there are three basic stages of interior growth which correspond to the stages of growth in any romantic relationship. These stages I found to be true in my own spiritual life. The spiritual life is after all an intimate relationship we forge with the Divine and intimate relationship is born out of an initial desire. As with falling in love we strongly feel that destiny has led us to that particular chance meeting; like finding a needle in a haystack. Perhaps even the analogy of using a magnet to find the needle will not be inappropriate, the magnet of course being our personal resonance.
Once we have fallen in love, the three stages will kick in and we must decide whether we want to take it further. The first stage is getting to know the beloved; getting to know that which you desire.
To proceed in a relationship we must first purify our hearts and souls of all that blocks love, thus sacrifice those feelings and emotions that are not of a loving nature. If we decide to proceed with the relationship we will then spend perhaps several years to get to know the beloved before we can move from falling in love to being in love. At this stage in a romantic relationship, we will feel that the passionate feeling have disappeared and we might feel that there is something wrong with the relationship, perhaps we might even feel that we made the wrong choice and end the relationship in search for a better one, or perhaps even abandoning the quest completely having lost faith altogether. This is when the relationships have reached the second part or as Thomas Green calls it; “From Loving to Truly Loving.”
He explains that the love we felt in the beginning, may be but a pale shadow of the genuine love which we discover in the drought, in the dark night” of both a relationship and in our spiritual relationship with the divine. It was good to move from the head to the heart, but now we must learn by experience that “heart” is an ambivalent word; it involves our emotions, but it also involves our will … love which is strongly emotional is essentially self-seeking, concerned with its own pleasure and delight. It is this kind of ‘love’ which makes for intense courtships and short marriages, since the well of emotion will surely run dry.
Perhaps for all of us, the biggest challenge we face in life is finding who we really are; distilling our essence. When you know your true desire, you will know your unique essence. When you know your unique essence, you will operate from a point of integrity, it is simply no longer possible not to. I am not talking about thinking about who you are, but to know who you are, thus to have gnosis of yourself. This is akin to the difference between Theology and Theosophy. Theology means “thinking about god” and Theosophy means “God’s wisdom.” Yet, in both cases we are trying to fathom the unfathomable. In regard to Theology we are trying to reason who are, and in regard to Theosophy we are trying to experience who we are.
Through life’s experiences combined with knowledge, we begin to gain a perspective into who we are, yet, we will reach a stage when we find ourselves in a state of confusion, as one experiences in the Dark Night of the Soul, and you have to admit that who you thought you were, you not really are. What we thought we desired is not truly what we desire.
Going within, we must go deeper still, into the depths of being, the heights of being, passing beyond to enter into the inmost part of the soul, that holy sanctuary of the unique essence .
Rudolf Steiner likened destiny to a hunger: “The human being, when he is born, hungers to do what he does, and he does not give up until he satisfies this hunger.” When we feel a physical hunger, it dominates our choices. When we long for the fulfilment of sexual desire, an appeasement of hunger, there can be no denial of our orientation. Real spiritual desire is a raw as these. We are born with a hunger of some kind that needs fulfilment. It is this hunger that steers our destiny.
One could then see destiny as comprising out of three elements; will, word and becoming or internal desire, expression of that desire, impression of that desire on the external world. “Oftentimes in denying yourself pleasure you do but store the desire in the recesses of your being Who knows but that which seems omitted today Waits for tomorrow? Even your body knows its heritage and Its rightful need and will not be deceived. And your body is the harp of your soul And it is yours to bring forth sweet Music from it Or confused sounds – Kahlil Gibran
The hunger becomes the ‘intent’ because it directs the awareness (the focus) as well as the activity. Focus brings into awareness what you choose to experience. This automatically makes your awareness selective, to fulfil the intent. It is only when we understand the underlying laws of cause and effect that we can achieve any kind of freedom. In the world we live, we are constantly reminded that ignorance of the law does not free you from the penalties you have to pay for breaking it. So logic would have it that the more knowledgeable we are of the laws, the more freedom you will have. The laws of transformation, that demand that we do indeed grow, govern us all. Whether we do it consciously or unconsciously The degree of our freedom depends on the level of our consciousness.
When we blame the external for our challenges,’ just fate, bad luck’, we put ourselves at the mercy of the external, in the hands of fate. If, however, we except responsibility for all that happen to us, we can become the masters of our fate. Freedom comes from inside of us, from the seeking of self-mastery through self-knowledge.
“Self-evolution converts fate into freedom… From a spiritual mind’s eye, history is far from being a random interplay of individuals, societies, and events. Deep below its chaotic surface runs a subterranean river of evolving, ever transforming consciousness, It is this rhythmic, flowing stream which carries humanity from egoless primitivity through cultural complexes towards higher stages of individuality. Thus the sovereign self dips itself time and time again into this river of becoming, continually cleansing the past and adding to its treasure of experience and planetary participation… The I is incontrovertibly committed to its own progress and the world’s evolution – … Time and time again we are free to attract and grasp experience as we ascend the ladder of being and convert potential into actual, imperfection into perfection… Human biography is the transformation of experience into psychological and spiritual growth… Our corporeal body is the magnificent instrument by which soul and spirit express the themes of our destiny. Could Rudolf Nureyev dance in the body of George Bernard Shaw, or Sarah Bernhardt speak through the larynx of Madam Curie? Destiny… is the process whereby we gradually fill eternity and make it personal. Moment by moment, we select for action some of the possibilities swarming out of the future…” William Bryant – The Veiled Pulse Of Time (Life Cycles & Destiny)
Whatever our personal interpretation of fate and destiny, one thing we can be sure of, that in the present lies our freedom to shape our destiny. The patterns of our past will shape our destiny if we allow it. In the present we have the opportunity to change our ideas and therefore the effects of the past; and to change the future by changing our current patterns.
What secret thoughts
threads my dream?
Soft flowing moonlight river
flowing from an unknown distant past
Thoughts leaping like salmon
A haunting desire
calling me back
to the spawning pool
of my ancient source
where time again arises
a dream of a perfect future.
Swim salmon of my dreams
Let your desire and skill
knowledge of the reverse current
that flows secretly
beneath the surface current
take you safely to the place
of your distant birth
dreams of the beloved
daring you to defy
all the dangers
that awaits along
the arduous journey
When you reach
that sacred pool
leap high and catch
the nut of secret wisdom
and awake to new wonder
by the banks of that sacred river.
Within the gentle glow of Lady Dawn
arms raised in salutation
Solemnly I made my Vow
A hunger burns inside me
I desire to know,
Spirit of truth
shine your light
illuminate my ignorance
I desire it with all of my
The Lady of Sorrow
Stood before me
Infinitely dark radiant eyes
I see your fervor abate somewhat at the sight of me
Are you not glad to see me?
My Lady, with respect, even brave men’s hearts quiver at the sight of thee.
Did you not ask to see the light of truth?
Am I not the sister of joy?
Where joy is, there I am too.
Can one exist without the other?
To know the Bliss of Between
You must know both the depth of joy
and the depth of sorrow
Do you know the meaning of your Vow?
She asked tenderly
The hunger burns
She held out to me
a flower of such exquisite beauty
the like of which never I did see
A yearning stirs
the depths of it’s scent
to inhale the intoxicating fragrance
The Lady ‘s dark hem touched my heart
and I shivered
Dare you inhale
Konx om Pax
Beware who dares
A cold fever seized me
Hot and cold sweeps
in and out
each battling for possession
in feverish dreams
of joy and sorrow
The Medusa wandering
in lonely eons of exile
as each heart turned to stone
who dared to look
In her sorrow and anger
she did not see him coming
A flash of light and sword
A moment’s chilling glimpse
of her own monstrous face
before the dark stillness
I awoke in the arms of my Beloved.
He caressed my brow with infinite tenderness
Love is the light of truth
He said simply,
Once upon a primordial night
he who by a stroke of hoof
revealed the source of inspiration
the sweet waters of Hippocrene
Pegasus knows the way
to the secret door
which Medusa guards
with fearful mask
Life often, present us with surprising twist and turns. Throughout the world you will find reference in Mythology to the Trickster. The Trickster has had a loads of fun with me, just when I become complacent, even smug in what I thought was personal achievements, the Trickster arrives, and forces me to laugh at myself, reduce me to humbleness. Although my laughter has been in bitterness at the time, it has always stopped me dead in my tracks, and shown me a perspective I would not have considered at the time.
Among the Sioux tribes, a select few members of the tribe volunteers to be-come a Heyhoka. It means one who has an obligation to do things differently from everyone else in order to break all patterns of habitual behaviour.
“Sometimes the Heyhoka’s actions are very humorous, because this is part of the technique for shattering a person’s perceptions of, and participation in, the everyday routines of life. To break through the habitual enables one to take some distance from oneself – to see things a little bit more objectively, and thereby on a higher level.” – Epes Brown – Biographer of Black Elk (Himself a Heyhoka)
One of the chief causes of psychological aging is habituation. Psychologist Dr. Robert Kastenbaum has the theory that as we grow older we develop a gradual decrease of response to persistent stimulation – habituation – ‘a mental reducing valve’. “It is a reduction of our consciousness as well as our senses, a process in which ordinary stimuli of life, the simple pleasures and small joys, lose their flavour over time by sheer repetition.”
“Habituation is assuming without understanding, judging without weighing, reacting from bias rather than evident fact. It is a reduction of our awareness rather than an expansion of our consciousness.” Harry Moody
So the world becomes stale and stagnates under limited perception and ages. Here is where the Heyhoka, the trickster comes in., to turn your world upside down, so that you can see a with fresh eyes, and grow. It is a vital part of Longevity. All Centanariums have one thing in common, open minds and a positive out look on life.
In story of Demeter and Persephone (Kore) Arnobius relates: “ Baubo… received Ceres, wearied with complicated evils, as her guest, and endeavoured to soothe her sorrows … she entreated her to pay attention to the refreshment of her body, and placed before her (kykeon) to assuage the vehemence of her thirst…” Being unable to divert Demeter, Baubo then uncovered her vagina: “ upon which the goddess fixed her eyes, and was delighted with the novel method of mitigating anguish of sorrow; and afterwards became cheerful through laughter …” Demetra George
Like Heyhoka, Baubo uses the gift of humour to lift the spirits, giving Demeter the reminder of renewal and regeneration. In the same way The trickster comes to show us that there is always more to learn in life, deeper to go. We can become complacent in our sorrow, in our achievements, or in our cynicism.
My favourite interpretation of the ultimate meaning behind the Tarot card The Magus comes from The Fool or the Trickster;
There was once a magician of great standing and reverence, who called his apprentice, who had completed his apprenticeship.
“My son, you are now schooled in the High Art. I welcome you into our fellowship.”
The apprentice glowed with pride.
“You now think you know everything and have learn t all you can … But you will know, in time, that you had to learn everything to know that it is all of no use. The Divine joke is that many years of magical training are finally discovered to be quite irrelevant. But this truth is only gained by experience, and not through discussion or mere play of words.
Heyhoka, gives us the opportunity to again experience the world anew, “With windows of perception cleansed.”
In our everyday lives, it is focused attention that helps us from becoming habitual. The Kahunas use a form of meditation or rather contemplation called Nalu, to strengthen awareness. The word means “to form waves.” The essence of the technique is a gentle, effortless resting of attention and awareness. You just look, listen and feel, with an attitude of positive expectation … without judgment while maintaining your focus on a subject. With this technique new insights can received on ordinary experiences of living.
“Be aware, be free, be focused, be here, be loved, be strong, be healed.”
Cathy posted an interesting article; The Witch-Hunts are Not Over
This made me wonder …
The word witch is derived from the Anglo-Saxon word wicca (masculine – wizard) and wicce (feminine – witch). The Middle English word Wicche refers to both sexes. These were probably reduced from Old High German words – witega, witiga, and witga – seer, allied to witan, to know. The word wikken – to make evil, lead to the word wicked, which in turn was also derived from the Anglo-Saxon word wicca.
The etymology of the words witch and wicked reveals so much to me. Firstly it gives a clue to the origins of the “bad press” of witches. Somewhere down the line the word wicca became synonymous with causing evil. Once simply an indication of “knowing”. I would venture to say – one who knows. And ‘one who knows’ has power. Wicca is of course a western form of shamanism. Forms of Shamanism are found the world over. However, through the usual tactics of politics (whatever changes) the invading imperialistic religions, made Shamanism synonymous with evil. Devil’s worship etc. I find the following extract most insightful as to the more gentle methods of persuasion used by missionaries in converting indigenous people from the Old Faith to the Christianity.
“Had they not often told me that their own people were able to do such things until a few years ago, when they abjured their familiar spirits on learning from the missionary of the existence of heaven and hell, and of the fact that no one can attain salvation who employs spirits to do his bidding? It was too bad that salvation and the practice of magic were incompatible; not that such trivial things as the recovery of lost articles were of moment, but in the cure of sickness and the control of weather prayers seemed so much less efficient than the old charms. Still of course, they did not really regret the loss of the old knowledge and power, for did they not have the inestimable prospect of salvation, which had been denied their forefathers through the unfortunate lateness of the coming of the missionaries? It was more the short sightedness to regret having renounced the miraculous ability to cure disease, for God knows best when we should die, and to him who prays faithfully and never works on a Sunday, death is but the entrance to a happier life.” “My Life with the Eskimos” – Vilhjalmur Stefansson
As you will find among any group of human beings there are always some that will abuse their power and give an opportunity for the rest to be labelled bad and mad as well. In Africa there is a saying: “Born a witch, die a witch.” These words are not taken lightly, for here people still get killed for being condemned as a witch. In Africa the word witch has a negative connotation, “Someone who uses so called supernatural energies to cause harm.” In this regard I can tell you stories that will make your hair rise. Believe it or not, it does not matter; there are many that believe it so strongly that they will take the life of another because of it. There is a deep fear for the power of “witches
If you call a sangoma or injanga a witchdoctor, they would be most offended.” “We are healers not out to cause harm.” ” A shaman is a healer of relationships: between mind and body, between people, between people and circumstances, between humans and Nature, and between matter and spirit.” Serge Kahili King Here in Africa, shamans call themselves traditional healers.
Most Africans still prefers to see their traditional healers first before consulting a western trained medical specialist. But as in any profession there are many charlatans. To root out this a strong association of traditional healers has been formed. Now it is possible to get Medical aid cover for using accredited traditional healers. In recent years a lot of attention has been given to the herbal cures used for centuries by traditional healers. Even matters such as copy right has surfaced with an ancient San remedy for times of hunger; Hoodii, was found to be the ideal slimming aid.
As with most ancient religions there is an esoteric (inner) and exoteric (outer) side of the same belief. The esoteric essence of shamanism can best be reduced to the following: To work in the forge of your own heart in order to create a life of passion and purpose, based on beauty and dignity; one must work with the air of your mind, the water of your heart, the earth of your instinct and the fire of your spiritual passion. When mental discipline are applied to the life energies, transformation can occur. (At the basis of most ritual are the four elements.)
who I am
what I am
What is worse
the not knowing
or the knowing
for the knowing brings me
to a terrible choice
Did you forget too
did you not see my longing
the music of the eternal sea
reached my soul
did you not see the waning light in my eyes
the very light that attracted you
reflection of the wildness of my soul
were you content
are you content
just to keep me by your side
and tend the fires of your hearth
Was it a dream
was there a time in another skin
that I was free
to ride the waves
to join the laughter of the waves
and dive deep into
the unknown depths
when the mournful song
from the sea did not threaten
to overwhelm me
with forgotten feelings
a fierce hunger
for something unattainable
I thought it was but
an idle dream
Now that I know
I must choose
how terrible the choice
When I first heard the ancient tale of the Selchie spouse, powerful images filled my consciousness, and I wondered about Selchie Choices. The sea of course represents the unconsciousness in mythological and dream symbology. How appropriate the story of the Selchie for choices we sometimes encounter upon our path.
Choices once seemed so simple to make; so easy to decide what is right and wrong. However, when you know the full implication of where your choice will lead it is no wonder that the Sybil are often described as with “unsmiling lips”. To see beyond the horizon; to see the unfolding patterns throughout time, can be a heavy burden. Each way you turn involve risk and potential loss, and you know that someone will get hurt, and yet you know you must make a choice, for even if you do not make a choice, a choice will be forced upon you and you will not be able to live an authentic life any longer. If up to that point you have lived an authentic life, all your gains will be lost, and the fall will be hard. If you do not choose you will no longer really be alive. Yet, whatever choice you make, you must make it with the full knowledge of giving up a part of yourself. Anyone who consciously strives to live an authentic life will encounter it.
In Jung’s “Memories, Dreams, Reflection”, the last chapter, “Retrospect,” I see a reflection of the Selchie Dilemma.
“ Knowledge of processes in the background early shaped my relationship to the world. Basically, that relationship was the same in my childhood as it is this day. As a child I felt myself to be alone, and I am still, because I know things and must hint at things which others apparently know nothing of, and for the most part do not want to know. Loneliness does not come from having no people about one, but from being unable to communicate the things that seem important to oneself, or from holding certain views which others find inadmissible. The loneliness began with the experiences of my early dreams, and reached its climax at the time I was working on the unconsciousness. If a man knows more than others, he becomes lonely. But loneliness is not necessarily inimical to companionship, for no one is more sensitive to companionship than the lonely man, and companionship, thrives only when each individual remembers his individuality and does not identify himself with others…
“But if a man faced with a conflict of duties undertakes to deal with them absolutely on his own responsibility, and before a judge who sits in judgment on him day and night, he may well find himself in an isolated position. There is now an authentic secret in his life which cannot be discussed – if only because he is involved in an endless inner trial in which he is his own counsel and ruthless examiner, and no secular or spiritual judge can restore his easy sleep. If he were nor already sick to death of the decisions of such judges, he would never have found himself in a conflict. For such a conflict always presupposes a higher sense of responsibility. It is this very quality which keeps its possessor from accepting the decision of a collectivity. In his case the court is transposed to the inner world where the verdict is pronounced behind closed doors.
The man, therefore, who, driven by his daimon, steps beyond the limits of the intermediary stage, truly enters the “untrodden, untreadable regions,” where there are no charted ways and no shelter spreads a protecting roof over his head. ”
The Selchie’s choice represents for me that very aspect, of the ‘daimom’ Jung spoke of, which represents for me personally the passion of my life. Without the driving force of my passion my life looses its meaning and like the Selchie I will slowly close down all my faculties, in order to bear the pain of ignoring the call of my soul. This is why I love Mythos as an expression; it can express multiple layers of perspective at the same time. A single symbol has multiple layers of meaning, from the most mundane, to the most profound of what we can grasp, at a given time.
It is the ‘daimon’ within those of us who strive to live an authentic life that eventually leads us to find our skins, and bring us to soul choices; which we cannot deny.
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? From whence this ribbon of cloth? I hold it to my face and fill my breath with its essence. I dive into a crystal clear pool, as if diving into the radiating source of light, so pure. 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 peace. Slowly I float back to the surface. I open my eyes; the warm breeze cooling the water drops on my skin.
Whenever I think of the descent , Innana’s descent comes to mind. As it is said, to know one’s self, first you have to know what you are not. In other words, if you remove one by one what you take for granted what makes you , you, what actually will be the last vestige, that identifies you as yourself? What identifies you as human? As I discussed elsewhere, the ego is what we think we are, what we name and form we cling to in order to establish an identity of who we are. You may recall that “ego” simply means “I,” so in order to dissolve the ego to find the true self mystics, and sages speaks of we have to remove one by one that which we think we are.
If we could for example not think who are, what will we be? It is has been shown that in the cases of children raised by animals prior to their learning to speak, they never become human in the sense of developing an identity, self-awareness, language, a sense of time, and all the subtle equipment that we accept as being human. They lack any feeling of personal identity, and they feel connected with other animals and nature. You might say they are like Adam or Eve, feeling at-one with nature.
Tony Crisp gives an example in his article Animal Children of a Russian boy christened, Djuma – the Wolf Boy. At seven, it was too late for Djuma to develop into a human.
Professor Rufat Kazirbayev said doctors had battled to re-educate him to act like a normal human being – but failed. They are now giving up the fight. Professor Kazirbayev said that, “His mind is with the wolves. He will howl at the moon for the rest of his life”.
The special thing he lacked was other humans talking to him so he also could learn speech. So language is perhaps something like a piece of computer software our brain uses to gain identity – usually around the name we have been given – and to know time and separateness. This is no doubt why baptism or a social naming ceremony is such an important thing in some societies. Genetic material does not make us human. Genetic material does not lead us toward self-awareness. Genetic material does not spontaneously give us language skills. These are all gifts of our environment. They arise in us out of our relationship with other people.
What the life of Djuma teaches us is that being human, being aware of oneself as a unique person, isn’t simply something that happens by itself as we grow. Djuma is still a wolf even though he has what we think is a human body and brain. Some of the things people like Djuma lack that you and I take for granted are a sense of time – meaning we are aware of a past and future; a certainty that we are a person with a name.
For the full article;
This also illustrates why the the descent can be so frightening for us, for if we loose our identity, all that we believe that makes us human, what are we then? Yet, in order for us to evolve, to become more than human, we must consciously descent. I came across a wonderful article by John Elder, illuminating the the descent of Innana.
The Descent of Inanna is familiar to the many contemporary [men and] women who have undertaken to journey into their own underworlds and have lived to tell the tale. That descent is a requirement of sovereignty, by which I mean the owning of one’s own self and life. (Worth, 1996, p. 38)
As the myth begins, Inanna, the Queen of Heaven and Earth has already established a relationship with Enki, the God of Wisdom and Waters. He has gifted her with the fourteen me, or blessings of power, which she readily accepts.
Inanna opened her ear to the moaning of her sister Ereshkigal, Queen of the Underworld and abandoned her realm of heaven and earth, even her temples, to descend into the “great below”. “With the me in her possession, she prepared herself:”placing her crown upon her head, beads of lapis lazuli around her neck, sparkling stones fastened to her breasta gold ring around her wrist, and a royal robe upon her body. She bound a breastplate about her chest and took a lapis measuring rod and line in her hand. Then she set out for the kur, the netherworld, with her faithful servant, Ninshubur. When she arrived at the outer gates of the kur she commanded Ninshubur to wait for three days, and if she had not returned, to call upon the elder Gods for help.
When Inanna challenged the gatekeeper to gain entry into the kur, he consulted with Ereshkigal, telling her that a giant and powerful goddess, arrayed in splendor and with signs of authority, was waiting to enter Her realm. Ereshkigal became upset, then told the gatekeeper to open each gate of the underworld a mere crack, and to remove Inanna’s royal garments on her way through.
As Inanna passed through the first gate he removed her crown. At the second gate he removed her lapis beads; at the third, her sparkling stones; at the fourth, her breastplate; at the fifth, her gold ring; a the sixth, her lapis measuring rod; and at the seventh and final gate, her royal robe. Naked and disarmed, Inanna entered the throne room of her sister. Immediately, she was surrounded by the judges of the underworld, who ruled against her.
Then Ereshkigal fastened on Inanna the eye of death.
She spoke against her the word of wrath.
She uttered against her the cry of guilt.
She struck her.(Wolkstein & Kramer, p. 60)
Inanna was turned into a corpse,
A piece of rotting meat,
And was hung from a hook on the wall.
After three days, Ninshubur went to Enlil, God of Air, who refused to help, for the Underworld was not in His domain. Ninshubur went to Nanna, God of the Moon, who also refused to help, for he had no jurisdiction over the Underworld. Finally, Ninshubur went to Enki, God of Wisdom and Water, who originally blessed Inanna with the me of descent into and ascent from the kur. Enki was grieved and troubled. From under his fingernails he took dirt and created two creatures, neither male nor female, and gave them the food and water of life to carry to Inanna.
These creatures snuck into the kur like flies, slipping through the cracks in the gates. They entered the throne room and found Ereshkigal lying naked and unkempt, moaning “Oh! Oh! My inside!”.
Following Enki’s instructions, they also moaned “Oh! Oh! Your inside!”.
Again she moaned “Ohhh! Oh! My outside!”
To which the creatures replied “Ohhh! Oh! Your outside!”
She continued to moan out her agony and they continued to name her pains back to her. Finally, she stopped moaning and blessed the creatures, offering them any gift they desired. They asked for Inanna’s corpse, and revived her with the food and water of life. Inanna then arose and ascended to the upper world.
At the beginning of the myth, Inanna has been prefigured to descend into the underworld. It has already been named as her destiny by Enki. Inanna, as Queen of Heaven and Earth, represents the ego, the conscious ruler of the known psyche. And yet, it has been foreordained that she must experience the depths, that the underworld awaits her. A periodic lowering of the mood is a natural part of human existence. Life is full of cycles, and human affect is not immune from them. The healthy course is for people to experience a lowering of mood, a turning inward, a contacting of unconscious depths, and then to return to “normal” functioning. A depressed person, however, has lost the ability to return, and feels trapped in his own personal kur.
The prophesied result of Inanna’s journey through the netherworld is that she will gain Truth and the Art of Lovemaking. In one translation, Inanna is frequently referred to as “the pure Inanna” (Henderson & Oakes). In her purity, she is a child of light, lacking the experience of darkness. She has no Truth, only naiveté. Without the knowledge of their own unconscious depths, a person cannot be an intimate lover. Real love, empowering intimacy, can exist only between people who have each experienced their own depths and discovered that in the depths, they each partake of the same material. This experience makes a true sharing possible. Thus, descent is a prerequisite to mastering the “Art of Lovemaking”.
The descent begins when Inanna hears the moans of her sister, Ereshkigal, the Queen of the Underworld. The conscious mind hears something stirring, something related but rejected, consigned to the darkness. Ereshkigal is the shadow consciousness, that repository of everything rejected by the ego. But the shadow is more than just a collection of ego jetsam–it also includes “the insufficiently developed functions and the contents of the personal unconscious” (Jung, 1953, p. 66, note 5). The “pure” ego must be reunited with the undiscovered and rejected psychic contents in order for integration to occur. Enthralled, the ego must descend, must harken unto the cries, abandoning everything in this quest, risking all.
The descent is not made naked, however. The ego insists on defending itself with all its conscious powers. Inanna dons a crown, representing intellectual functioning, the power of “being in her head”. She places a circle of beads around her neck. The circle is a symbol of eternity and of the womb–she claims the power of eternal creativity. She fastens sparkling gems to her chest, pretty, “nice”, positive feelings to protect her from the underworld. She places a gold ring around her wrist, a symbol of her power to act. She takes her lapis measuring rod in her hand, her critical ability to judge. She armors herself with a breastplate for protection, and covers herself with a royal robe. The armor is whatever psychic defenses and walls a person casts up to protect themselves from others. The royal robes make a nice analogy with the persona, the ability to look good for others.
Thus arrayed, she set out for the depths.
The meeting with oneself is, at first, the meeting with one’s own shadow. The shadow is a tight passage, a narrow door, whose painful constriction no one is spared who goes down to the deep well. (Jung, 1969, p. 21)
At first, Inanna cannot gain admission to the underworld. When the gatekeeper finally allows her to enter, he narrows the gates so that she must abandon all that she had depended upon for her safe journey into the underworld. At each gate she can barely squeeze through, it is almost as if she is repeating a birth process. Seven times she passes through a gate and seven times she abandons an implement of her power.
In descending into the depths, the weapons of consciousness become impediments. The work of descent cannot be done by the well fortified, but only by the vulnerable, by the helpless and disempowered. At the first gate, she must leave her intellectualizing behind. At the second gate, she must quit relying on her cleverness and creativity. At the third gate, her niceness must be surrendered. At the fourth gate, her armor; at the fifth, her ability to do; at the sixth, her critical judgement; and at the final gate, her persona is stripped away from her. She enters the underworld naked and helpless as the day she was born.
In this vulnerable state, she faces her sister, her shadow self. Unprotected in the depths, she finds herself judged and crucified, left putrifying hanging from the wall. This is the depths of depression. Self judgement and despair, everything turns to shit. Alone and in the darkness, Inanna decomposes. The depressed person is often left with a sense of hopelessness, feeling as if nothing they can do will alleviate their misery. They can only hang around in their own private hell and rot.
All is not lost, however, for Inanna’s faithful servant seeks help. In depression, the person does not cease functioning. The client’s mood is lowered, but they still live, still remaining conscious. Ninshubur, Inanna’s servant, is that remaining consciousness, the part of the client who is willing to seek help, to take some action, no matter how small, to solve the problem. Ninshubur first goes to the Sun God, but gets no help. Power and enlightenment are not what will rescue the descended consciousness. Then, Ninshubur goes to the Moon God, and gets no help. Neither mystery nor emotion, nor even the personal unconscious can solve the situation. Finally, Ninshubur goes to Enki, God of Wisdom and the Waters.
Enki is troubled, but he has a solution. He scrapes the dirt from under his fingernails and creates from it two genderless beings to solve the problem. The solution to depression lies not in great intellectual power, nor in great emotional power. It comes from Wisdom, which encompasses all of the psychological functions. Enki takes action–and he is a God of action; note the dirt under his fingernails. He is also the God who predicted, who arranged for this situation. Wisdom accepts the descent into darkness, knows that as unpleasant as it may be, it is necessary for completion of growth.
When the beings the Enki created arrive in the underworld, they do not confront Ereshkigal in a power struggle for Inanna. Instead, they listen to her moans. They hear her pain and they name it back to her. This is the action of Wisdom. Depression begins to heal when the hidden pain is named and honored. This continues until Ereshkigal feels relief. She offers the creatures anything they desire, and they request Inanna’s corpse. They revive it, and she returns to be Queen of Heaven and Earth. No longer is she pure delightful lightness, for she now knows pain and darkness. She has experienced them for herself. The Wisdom which originally orchestrated this descent into the underworld has also arranged her return. After she made the passage through the narrow doors, Inanna encountered uncertainties for which she had no preparation. All her tools had been stripped from her. But Enki, the power of Wisdom and the ability to “go with the flow”, brought her through.
But one must learn to know oneself in order to know who one is. For what comes after the door is, surprisingly enough, a boundless expanse full of unprecedented uncertainty . . . it is the world of water. (Jung, 1969, p. 21)
The story of Innana’s descent is especially relevant to our times, where we stand to face loosing one by one, all that we took for granted, that makes us civilized, that makes us human. One by one, we may have to give up our sparkling crown, jewels, amour forged in our naiveté, so that we may find what true faith and hope is. Faith and hope born out of wisdom, so that when again we don our crown, jewels and armour, we do so with full understanding of what they are, only then will they truly represent our sovereignty.
“The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn.”
Also See Dark Nights of the Soul
The Myth of Lilith
I find it very interesting that Lilith evokes so much emotional response in people. In my experience when something evokes an emotional response in me, it touches an area within myself that needs to come to my awareness. If I have a negative emotional response to something then it means for me that a sore point in myself have been touched, an area in my shadow has been activated. It touches an area of boundary within ourselves.
Until recently I have been unaware that Lilith played such an important role in the Feminist movement, myself looking at Archetypes rather from a Jungian point of view, or from the perspective of the Mythogem as Stephen Larsen calls it in his book “The Mythic Imagination”.
“Mythogems – the ‘bricks’ of which mythologies are built. These elements, being of the stuff of psyche, are far from inert building materials, rather, like RNA and DNA, they structure the living processes in which they participate. And herein lies the urgency to our conscious rapprochement with the mythic world. If they are not monitored, myths can seize on behavior, as well as consciousness itself, in inadvertentent or compulsive ways. If we wish to avoid ‘being made fools of by our illusions,’ there is no substitute for becoming conscious of them …Stereotypes may well grow out of archetypes. We all have an intuitive idea of how stereotypes work: a fixed set of unexamined inner images and values substitutes for an ongoing open-ended experience of reality.”
In looking at myth we are looking at the shadow history of mankind. The undercurrent that really shaped our history. When looking at history from a logical perspective how often did the facts really motivate the initiation of a war? What really inspired Alexander the Great on his conquests against all odds? Most recently we have an only too clear example of the Iraq war. My father very wisely said to me that there are two things one should never get into an argument with others; politics and religion. Often when you come up against minds that are so set that not even the best logical reasoning will change there minds, you know myths are at work. It does not matter whether you are an Atheist, religious or spiritual, we all have myths we base our lives on. Myths do not rely on logical facts for their existence, nor does it limit their sphere of influence in our lives. It is only when we acknowledge their existence and bring them from the shadow lands of our unconsciousness into the light of our consciousness that we can see the real meaning of their existence.
Look at the story of the Holy Grail. If you track its history you will see it suddenly appeared in our Mythic Imagination during the time period of the individual awakening. (See my post on Evolution of Romantic Love.)
Whether the myriad of stories about the Grail are true or not does not matter, if you go to the core of the stories what remains? The image of The Grail itself. Why has the image of the grail so suddenly appeared to have gripped the imagination of millions. It is not the controversy, though the controversy is the mechanism that aids the spread of awareness of the image. What concept awakens in our consciousness when we see the grail cup? First layer – Intrigue, Hidden Mysteries, Power. What intrigue? What lies hidden? What are the secret plots, the hidden mysteries, the secret powers, but a reflection of the inner search for the Holy Grail of who we really are. Hidden amongst the intrigues are our highest potential. As many says the search for the self is like finding you way through a maze. Unraveling the intrigues of our conditioning. Says Joseph Campbell – The Power of Myth ;
“The theme of the Grail Romance is that the land, the country, the whole territory of concern has been laid waste. It is called a wasteland. And what is the nature of the wasteland? It is a land where everybody is living an inauthentic life, doing as other people do, doing as you’re told, with no courage for your own life. That is the wasteland … The Grail becomes the – what can we call it? – That which is attained and realized by people who have lived their own lives. The Grail represents the fulfillment of the highest spiritual potentialities of the human consciousness.”
Perhaps we should say that when the student is ready the Myth will be there, ready to yield its secrets. In looking at the history of a particular myth, it is as if looking at the channels in subconsciousness being prepared for a conscious awakening, for another step in our evolution of consciousness.
Looking at the history of Lilith, it appears to be just as controversial as the emotions her Archetypal Image evokes. Some believing that she is a feminist invention.
“Rabbi Jacob Neusner, a professor at South Florida State University. If you actually go and read all of the literature on Lilith in all Jewish literature, you still won’t get the Lilith story that feminists espouse. When questioned on the myth of Lilith being the first feminist, he remarks, “That’s no myth. That’s just a story somebody made up yesterday.”
“Lilith was just a classic example of what happens when imaginative bias creeps into the historical method and composes itself into a curious form of exegetic mythopoesis that defies all laws of common sense and history.”
The Real Story Behind Lilith
1. Of or relating to the making of myths.
2. Serving to create or engender myths; productive in mythmaking
From Greek mthopoios, composer of fiction, from mthopoiein, to relate a story : mthos, story + poiein, to make; see kwei-2 in Indo-European
So I smile to myself, but is that not exactly what any myth is? Is one myth more worthy to be a myth than another? Are the classical myths with a scholarly approved record not a story someone made up yesterday, are not all myths mythopoesis? If you track the record of all well known myths they are composites of earlier myths, adapted through changing cultures. Where did the original myth, the uber/primal myth from which all others were derived spring from?
Alexander Marshack, a professor of Paleolithic Archaeology at Harvard University’s Peabody Museum, writes in his book “The Roots of Civilization”
“The discussions is intended, instead, to show how one usually ‘sees’ what one is prepared to ‘see’, either by experience or training or by current concepts in the culture of the time. This problem of how one ‘sees’ in a cultural context is, in fact, one that research in ‘artificial intelligence’ has not yet been able to adequately address. There is no better instance of the problem of how one sees than the persistent and changing efforts by an army of authors to interpret the complex and variable iconography and imagery of the Ice Age, the images that authors have for so long presumed to be the primitive ‘beginnings’ of human art. Since we do not have the accompanying mythology or the antecedents of these traditions we are endlessly free to create mythologies and ‘origins’ of our own…
World mythology, in fact, offers a voluminous documentation of incessant and miraculous transformations that occur as part of the narrative equations that are integral to that form of story-telling. Folk tales are often structured with a persistent use of the concepts of change and transformation. Levi-Strauss spent a large portion of his life documenting the diverse ways in which myths and the characters in myths transform, not on the basis of transformations seen in trance, but on the basis of the transformations that are inherent and possible in the equationing, narrative, and mythic ‘story’ mode. Transformations, in fact, are documented in the mythic literature of all the world’s religions. These transformations are not derived from trance, but from the creative and mythic process itself. One reason, of course, is that periodicity, change, transformation, and the unexpected, are universally recognized aspects of both nature and culture, and changes even occur in individual personality. As a result they are processes that are endlessly elaborated, explained and altered in myth. These mythic modes are as variable and creative as any of the transformations or narratives that are seen or lived through in trance.
It may be of interest that, as an aspect of the human, these mythic modes occur as well in the theories and models created by ethnographers and anthropologists. There is another aspect of the problem. The person in trance usually ‘sees’ the mythic images of his own culture, not of someone else’s culture, and while in trance the person will make the mythic voyage prescribed by the culture, not the mythic voyage offered by someone else’s culture. The trancer will often also transcribe or translate the visions seen in trance into words, idioms, and images that are part of the the traditional imagery and mythology of that culture.
How and why did the manufacture of image and symbol begin? It began, it now seems, like language itself began, to mark and refer to the relevant, the meaningful and the recognized – and often also to the unexplained and unexplainable – to those processes, objects and relations that were recognized in the increasingly complex phenomenological and cultural realms of human observation. This thought and insight, acquired early in the research, began a second inquiry – into the evolution and function of the human brain, and into the role of vision and imaging in the referencing capacity of language, since language, after all, is merely a mode of refering to the categories and processes or equations of the visible or envisionable world. And it began, as well, an inquiry into the different and changing worlds of ‘realities’ that eye and brain ‘see’ and the different and changing worlds that the brain can create and has created. … Again, and repeatedly, one ‘sees’ and does not ‘see’ what one is prepared both to ‘see’ and to not ‘see’.”
Myth, symbol and ritual are intimately linked and is an essential part of being human. Ritual is an enactment of the myth and symbol contains the essence of the myth. It is really not possible for us to interpret ancient myth in a “correct way” unless we can actually place ourselves in the the mindset of those particular people, at that time and place, We can but imagine how it felt, how other people think, but we cannot know the totality for we do not know the shadow at work at that particular time. Yet in essence the human nature seems to have changed little over time. There were always individuals who were far in at advance in consciousness to there contemporaries – in ancient past the shamans, and those who lived simply an exoteric life. The more advanced human being is not the more “civilized” being but the more aware being. One who does not just live a reactionary life but consciously strives to dispel unconscious myths in their, but rather engage in a the creative process of mythmaking fully aware where they originate, for it seems as if we cannot live without myth, it is part of our emotional well-being, or perhaps not yet. There are some that say that it will be like looking the Medusa straight in the eye. “Frontal Medusa experience as expounded on by Trees Depoorter in his work “ Madam Morte.”
“The first Medusa experience I will discuss is the frontal one, experienced by all creatures who have tried to catch a direct glimpse of ‘Medusa’ – resulting in actual ‘Medusation’. A Medusa experience in fact always implies a confrontation. It means that one affronts oneself with something dreadful, something of which the sight/gaze is extremely threatening. The starting point is anxiety. (Ultimately, it does not make any difference whether or not this is actually a kind of “castration anxiety”, as Freud has explicitly claimed – what matters here is the sequence inaugurated by this dread.) In a frontal confrontation with Medusa, or more generally, with radical otherness, i.e., the completely unexpected, unknown, unwanted or incomprehensible, the “terror” of that moment can be understood in two ways. On the one hand, it can be content-related, as the instant of seeing something frightening, of witnessing horror; on the other hand, in a formal way, there is an experience of fright, the act of being frightened (being “scared to death”). A sudden “halt” occurs, a standstill, a paralysis of the self (petrifaction), a punctuation of temporal experience (or at least a sharpening of the victim’s awareness of the now). This overwhelming oppression causes an immediate modification (the condition before the confrontation can in no way be compared to the state following it). A frontal Medusa experience is, in fact, a metaphor for dis-continuity and as such, it fits with Jean Clair’s transhistorical paradigm of representations of Medusa in times of malaise and restlessness, times in which – as we have seen – the aspect of Medusa’s terribleness is emphasised.
Frontality is fatal. It puts an end to the continuous steady flow of life – hero or no hero. Frontality means a breaking point, a caesura, an exceptional condition in which normal rules and regularities no longer hold (as in: one does not “normally” turn into stone in the twinkling of an eye, just like that). What ensues this critical instant of fright(ening), is a return to a normalised predicament (i.e. a state of being/staying petrified), although this “normal condition” is totally incomparable with the “normality” preceding the Medusa moment. From a formal perspective, the frontal Medusa experience can be characterised by “suddenness”. If something is abrupt or sudden, it means it can not be fitted into the usual schemes, into our Lebenswelt or expectations (even in spite of the preceding fear, for a Medusian sight/gaze is so horrible that it exceeds any fearful representation). Suddenness is an indication of the/an other, a sign of that which hinders integration – much like a literal medusation would affect your integrity (that is, the integrity of your bodily ‘normalcy’, of your living and moving self).
In a collection of essays (Plötzlichkeit), Karl Heinz Bohrer uses the notion of “suddenness” as a heuristic device. In discussing a number of “Plötzlichkeit-Denker” like Nietzsche, Kierkegaard, Heidegger, Scheler, Schmitt, Benjamin, Bohrer tries to relate the category (of experience) and (temporal) modality of suddenness to the aesthetic. Since suddenness does not presume a metaphysical notion of substance, but should rather be understood as a transcendental category of perception, and since the aesthetic is linked to suddenness, beauty – according to Bohrer – no longer has to yield under the pressure of legitimacy. In some ways reminiscent of Clair’s observations about different attitudes towards the theme of Medusa, Bohrer states that in the course of history different stances towards ‘the sudden’ can be identified. For example, where Clair recognises a growing attention for Medusa bound up with the theme of Narcissus and a general malaise and disorientation of the self, at the turn of the twentieth century, Bohrer too spots a “Krise des Kontinuitätsgedankens und der nicht mehr als sebstverständlich genommenen Realität.” as well as a dramatising of ‘suddenness’. Very briefly, I would like to go into Bohrer’s discussion of Kierkegaard’s observations on this subject. Within the theological context of Kierkegaard’s thought, suddenness becomes demonised. In Der Begriff Angst, Kierkegaard writes “das Dämonische ist das Plötzliche”. Suddenness, for him, is essentially a characteristic of the appearance of Satan, of Mephistopheles. Therefore, the experience of the sudden/satanic can most successfully be conveyed to a spectator in mimic rather than a verbal way. Nothing can be as “grauenvoll” (dreadful) as silence. The mimic act can express suddenness, but that doesn’t imply that the mimic is to be identified with the sudden as such:
In dieser Hinsicht hat Ballettmeister Bournonville grosses Verdienst durch die Darstellung, die er selbst von Mephistopheles gibt. Der Horror, der einen ergreift, wie Mephistopheles durchs Fenster hineinspringt und in der Stellung des Sprunges stehen bleibt! (Kierkegaard in Bohrer: 48)
For Kierkegaard, the characteristic effect of being “struck” by a “sudden fright” is dumbfoundedness, which is in fact nothing else than another version of “saisissement”, the paralysis or petrifaction mentioned above in the context of a frontal Medusa experience.
In the third chapter of Méduse, Jean Clair has interpreted the heroic tale of Perseus’ triumph over Medusa as follows: one should never attack ‘the Other’, chaos, … in a frontal way. He calls this “the lesson of culture”. Medusa’s decapitation by Perseus is seen as an image of the structuring of knowledge and of a process of identification: in taking away the head of the Other, we gain our own reason. The detour of the “figurative” enables us to make “the dreadful and frightening” more concrete and to detach ourselves from it. As for Clair, this is the ultimate goal of every education: “Se rendre invisible à l’autre pour en supporter la présence en nous, ce serait là la finalité de toute éducation.” Those who are most adept at this activity of ‘exorcising’ are called “heroes”, or – more contemporary – “artists”. In other words, culture consists of becoming a “master of fear”, just like Perseus used to be. According to Clair, triumph over Medusa entails the founding of a new order, a new regularity. He stresses the remarkable fact that Athena finally appropriates the symbol of Medusa, as well as the fact that she, the incarnation of the most “typical” aspects of human nature (thought and struggle) hides herself behind the face of otherness, behind that which petrifies, blinds or maddens….
Probably there are no such things as purely unmediated/immediate experiences, just as much as representations can never be completely indirect, for every reflection in a mirror / representation / mediation is “experienced” as well. (there is absolutely no convincing argument to hold the ‘original’ object of reflection as ontologically superior to the image itself, quite the contrary). Nevertheless, the two Medusa experiences discussed in this paper can be meaningful or interesting – as limit cases: “ideal” without a doubt, but enlightening and instructive too, since this mythical ‘thought experiment’ indeed enables us to make some distinctions. Thanks to the metaphorical strength of the Medusa story we are allowed to sketch a meaningful duality, without being forced to conclude to a radical dualism.
So, one could roughly state that in an indirect Medusa confrontation, the other is never really seen or experienced (either out of a healthy distrust or out of a sensible caution – always beforehand), although it always really ‘is’ present ‘as’ representation. That way, one can never be ‘seized’ or ‘struck’ unexpectedly by paralysing experiences. Moreover, the very possibility of an experience of the uncanny is undermined, since no disturbing confusions of the familiar and the unfamiliar are likely to occur (inasmuch as the unknown is caught in mirror projections or bags). Not a being seized by, but a seizing of Medusa. Reasoning, very much like ‘suspicion’, seems to bring along the same neutralising effect concerning the experience of the uncanny.
“Ein jeder Engel ist schrecklich” – Rilkes assertion indeed seems to hold within the reckless realm of immediate experiences, yet in the looking glass world of mediating and mediated representations, in an important way, it does not. “
To experience the “other” we still need an intermediatory means, for full or total experience might very well cause madness or death in us. This is also reflected in the old Tibetan story of the frog who lived all his life in a dark deep well. One day the frog decided to go and see what is outside the well … and his brain exploded. We need prepared channels of preparation in understanding the other. Our myth prepares us if we do not just unconsciously enact the ritual.
The importance of a myth is not in how it arrived but that it did arrive. Myths reflects the unconscious transformational processes in our culture and the evolution of our consciousness. However the world we find ourselves in at present is no longer influenced by a linear line of culture only. Most of us comes from a very mixed bloodline, as have been found in recent genetic analysis. So it is not surprising that our myths should also become hybridized. Then again all myth are hybridized versions of even more ancient myth. If you look at the myths of ancient Egypt you will find many versions of the same myth. Take Anubis. Many say that he is even more ancient than Osiris, but in later myths he becomes the son of Osiris, the shadow brother of Horus. Myth are closely linked to our dream process where logic have no meaning, yet it reflects our present state of being. How you interpret dreams is a very personal relationship with the symbols that appears in your dreams, it is a creative transformative process in itself. The symbol evokes an emotional response in you. It is said that in the Eleusinian Mysteries, after long preparations in the final ceremony a single ear of corn was held up and the sight of that symbol had a profound affect on the initiates, a sudden breakthrough in understanding, bringing a paradigm shift.
Current myth reflects current psyche. Myth arises spontaneously from our psyche and it seems to have done so since our beginnings.
“Opposing to the autonomic, fatherly and fighting God, an image has been dreamt of a most beautiful woman, goddess of lust and magic, and possessor of power words which submit and force the very power of God. Amongst the many exiles from Heaven (their name is legio), she’s the one which, most persistently, has passed through the darkness, getting near to human ear (and bed); and, though hidden or censored, her memory remains in our mythical heritage.” – Alejandro Arturo González Terriza
Using my mythical imagination, I do not have to stretch it far to say that with the global process of individuation well underway, it is not just feminist that feels rebellious against the “autonomic, fatherly and fighting Gods” of this world. There is a restless rebellious feeling awakening in most of the humanity that wants to think for themselves, decide for themselves, make their own mistakes, rather than be subjected to the mistakes of the “fatherly , fighting gods”. ( Look at the recent elections in America and “say no more …” ) We yearn for renewal of the land, and feel that the old institutions have grown old and stagnant. Drained of vital energy.
Lilith is for me just one of the aspects of the Dark Goddess. There is another aspect that strikes me. Just like humanity has become scattered and separate and speaks with different tongue, as in the story of the Tower of Babel so have we come to see aspects of the gods as separate. Not only are gods and godesses seen as separate (masculine/feminine) but also aspects of the goddess as separate. The 3 aspects of the goddess; virgin, mother, and hag/temptress are viewed separately. You can embody one but not the other. I will of course say the same will apply to the masculine equivalent.
I think the reason why Lilith was so embraced by the Feminist movement was because the myth represent a missing aspect of our womanhood. A part of us that had been exiled to the wastelands of our shadow. A part of us that was considered bad and evil. The angry vengeful Lilith comes to wreak havoc in our lives, not because she is evil but because she who had once been part of us are cast out in exile. As long as we believe that a part of us is bad we will be filled with guilty feelings, think of ourselves as lesser in some way, and we will act defensively in case we are found out. Evil is not perpetrated by self-confident, psychologically whole people, but by wounded, insecure people. Lilith in her wrathful aspect represents that exiled part of us that threatens to expose us as bad, or overwhelm us with “the devil made me do it “feelings”.
There is a very interesting British TV series called “Dr Who”. I heard some teenagers discussing which of the series they found the most scary, most declared it was “Impossible World” where the Devil was found chained in a black hole. Some of the kids said their parents would not let them watch it. This I find interesting. That which we simply cannot comprehend scares us most, the other, chaos. For evil is seen as chaos, beyond our control because we cannot comprehend it.
If I have to look for an Archetype in common perception that most represents what the whole woman would be like, I will look to Isis. Isis seems to represent what women were meant to be, before the separation occurred for whatever reason.