I think we are moving through a crucial stage of transition between one age & another. We are faced with a huge opportunity for evolutionary advance. Something is trying to come through to us from the Cosmos, something that is asking for our attention & is offering us help.
Ann Baring: Dream of the Cosmos lecture
In those early weeks of lockdown on planet earth we were perhaps ourselves in shock, mirroring the trajectory of these tales. We longed maybe for things to get back to normal as soon as possible. But now we have grown accustomed to this 'new normal,' even though we may have encountered loss, illness & hardship & lives are unrecognisable from what they were before.
I remember the quotes from the Hobbit at the outset of Hold the Light - of Bilbo asking Gandalf if he could promise he would come back if he accepted the invitation to the adventure. And Gandalf famously replying that he could promise no such thing - and that even if Bilbo did ever come back - he wouldn’t be the same Hobbit who left.
When young boys were taken from their villages out into the forest in cultures where Rights of Passage Initiatory Rituals were honoured - they returned as men.
Something happened out there, away from the familiarity & safety of home, some major shift in consciousness was brought about, the kind alluded to maybe by Ann Baring at the start. We would not be missing the mark to say that we are experiencing a collective Rights of Passage Initiation right now. And therein lays the great potential.
It is interesting for a moment to play with the idea that our entire culture, in terms of its maturity is not dissimilar to that of an adolescent boy who somehow needs to be temporarily removed, to be taken out into the forest so to speak, by the wise old shaman of the tribe & put through his paces - in order to bring him to his senses as a potentially responsible grown up.
In myth, legend & fairy-tale there is always such a time, when the potential hero or heroine undergoes experiences which bring about similar shifts in consciousness.
There is a famous story about Jung delving into the depths of his dreams - of going through an ancient door in the floor and down a deep stairwell, only to find another door and another stair, and another door and another stair until finally he came to a place, a great living, pulsating store house of what we might call our common lore, a place of deep knowing shared by the whole of humanity – the place where all dreams come from ...to peoples from all over the earth and across all periods of time. Here all the wisdom of the ages resides, past, present and future - and is connected in its mystery to the entire creation.
When we too step through the floor, or have the ground pulled out from beneath our feet, we are brought into deeper contact with these aspects of consciousness, aspects that are seeking our attention, seeking integration. It may be incredibly disorienting, painful, terrifying in fact - & it may last a very long time - One Hundred Years maybe, before we find our feet - but like the boys who return from initiation in the forest, or like Bilbo from his adventure, we will never be the same again - if we manage to come through. We will be different & enriched in very significant ways. Yet it seems the way is through dying to our former selves in a deeply alchemical sense, of letting go of all of our ideas & constructs of who we once were. And from this there is no escape.
Mythologically this unsettling time corresponds to phase of the Dark Moon of Lunar Mythology, of the Night Sea Journey, the Three Days of Darkness after Christ’s crucifixion, when he descended into the underworld & harrowed hell.
Yet always such times – and this is the great promise - though they may seem interminable – always, always, always precede transformation - and in story, the finding of the symbolic treasure. The tales may yet have some way to run - the characters may not yet be fully out of the woods so to speak - and yet the pivotal point has been reached, the turning point, the beginning of the return journey! Hallelujah!
This is the path of heroines & heroes, the brave & the courageous who have gone before. The symbolism is akin to that of the initiatory rituals of the ancient mystery schools and of the Christian sacraments - immersion into water at Baptism, the shaving of hair upon taking holy orders – the sacrament of reconciliation at death's door - outward signs denoting spiritual evolution –- transitions from one phase of maturity to another. But always - it is what is happening on the inside – the inner reality that counts.
Over the next few weeks I want to pick up on the stories left purposefully undone in the first chapters of this series - stories like that of Inanna in the depths of Underworld, the Wounded Kings & Wasteland of The Grail Quest, Dante in his Inferno, Isis searching, searching for Osiris, Demeter for Persephone, the Sleeping Beauty & her court surrounded by its hedge of impenetrable thorn. All are stories that reveal the mechanics of initiation & transformation. I want to introduce new, additional, yet related symbols & tales too like The Fall of Eve, The Moon Boat, the rise of the Solar Myth, the forgotten Goddesses, the Divine Feminine, the Sacred Alchemical Wedding & Divine Child! Phew!
But for now, I would like to end with a dream I had before a particularly life changing transition of my own, a tragedy from which I eventually emerged & began to heal. The unconscious has a way of preparing the ground for us it seems - like the tales, providing a framework to hold on to - when
our world's fall apart - and our rational minds fail utterly to apprehend the significance of the moment.
Long ago I left my home. I heard a calling from deep within the ocean. I ran to the shoreline and waded into the sea. At first I felt the sand beneath my feet - but it soon disappeared, and I was carried along by strong currents far from the shore. And I looked back and saw my home – and the lights flickering at the window & I knew my husband and children were sleeping there – unaware that I had gone.
Then the currents began to swirl & I was pulled down, down, down. And I began changing, rapidly losing my form. And I knew I could never ever return. And I became is fish with shiny scales – but even this strange form soon began to change and I was nothing save a grain of sand - then even this dissolved and was one with the salty sea.
I do not know how long I remained this way, nor how long it had taken to become so. What I can say is that eventually I began to regain form – first as a grain of sand, then as fish with shiny scales as before – then a woman, naked and alone.
High above me there came a light & I pulled myself up toward it and eventually emerged from the ocean. In the distance I saw a boat of shining white light with an old, old woman, with long plaited hair sitting on board. And the boat as it drew near seemed as if it were the crescent moon and I believed it to be so. The old woman then reached out and hoisted me out of the water – and I knew she would take me home.
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