It’s a chancy thing, deciding when to post and when to wait. At the risk of posting too soon after my last post, I decided to go ahead because this post is so closely related to the previous one that I didn’t want to risk having you forget what I’d written about before. If that’s a problem, forgive me, please.
I said in my last post that when we pass the last gate to the underworld or, to say it another way, are relieved of all that egoistic stuff we thought defined us, our dark night of the soul can show us we weren’t who we thought we were. But if we are not who we thought we were then who are we? Ah, that question is the crux. We’re ready for the real discoveries to begin.
Who am I?
This question begins the conscious dropping of our defenses and the opening to a new level of awareness. With our egoic resistances at the ramparts it’s like being encased in a hard shell that not only keeps out those myriad things we all fear but it also keeps us from growing any larger. The shell cramps not only our style but our growth. Once those oppositions are out of the way and the shell is shattered or dissolved we’re open to an influx of new values and ideas, new ways of thinking, of living. We’re able to undergo expansion in many directions.
This shell-less vulnerability is exceedingly alarming for those who are strongly attached to the ego’s restricted view of itself but at the same time it provides a sense of freedom that’s exhilarating. Maybe we’re flying instead of falling.
What if the shadow-dragons we fear so much, the same dragons and beasts that in myths and fairy tales are actually princes and princesses waiting to be released from their enchantment, what if these dragons are nothing more than parts of ourselves that want only to be seen and loved for who they are? What if everything that we fear and hate, even that which seems to be outside of us, is actually only a part of us wanting to be loved? What will happen if we release that dragon?
Love, both that which we desire to give and that which we yearn to receive, is hidden deep in the core, in the heart of our pain, grief and loss. The heart must be broken in order to release it. To release something doesn’t mean to get rid of it, though, as the phrase is so often used, but to open up what limits it and thus allow ourselves to feel it. To release it is to free it. Then we become large enough to contain love without restriction.
What allows us to potentially make this fearsome yet thrilling expansion?
Partly it’s as Anaïs Nin writes, “…the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom,” and partly it’s Wisdom, our innate wisdom, our Soul’s wisdom, which has orchestrated this descent into the underworld. Wisdom knows when the time is right.
Here we can begin to understand the symbolism of Enki’s little nonhuman creatures from his kingdom of Waters and Wisdom that will provide us with food and drink. When we’re no longer willing to suffer the pain of restriction but we don’t yet know what it takes to bloom, Wisdom provides us with the courage to brave the depths of the unconscious and it helps revive us when we (egos) have been hung on a hook. Water symbolizes the unconscious, an uncontrolled and fluid world of uncertainty, a condition the untransformed ego finds terrifying in the extreme.
It’s also the world of incredible creativity where we needn’t learn to think outside the box because there is no box. In this free flowing world of ambiguity the ego must surrender its false and rigid claim to identity and invulnerability or go mad, be shattered, in its efforts trying to maintain it. That’s why a guide or skilled support person(s), or at least information, can be so important. They can help us to remain grounded even as we step out into thin air.
We can depend on the faithful servant, the remaining part of our ego consciousness from the upper world, to get assistance even when all seems lost. This is when many of us go to physicians or religious teachers, to counselors or therapy or support groups, or perhaps to a wise friend. Remember that not all descents are exceptionally dramatic or intense so varying levels of support are fitting. Even with these diverse sorts of assistance, though, we still must make the Journey alone. As the old gospel song says, “You got to walk that lonesome valley by yourself.”
We must find the ability and the courage to “go with the flow” of our watery unconscious until we’re able to simply accept what is, and eventually come back, now a healed, or at least a healing, and whole being of both light and dark. As with Inanna, we’re no longer completely separated from our dark sister. Now we understand her and our connection better and thus have better understanding of ourselves.
The Journey has only partially commenced, though, when the ego is fully stripped of all the tools with which it tries to control life, when it finally says, “I can’t do this anymore,” when it acknowledges that it’s done all it can – and it’s not enough. It’s quite necessary for the ego to be strong enough to surrender its illusions about itself, to not know and to be OK with that even if it’s uncomfortable.
The ego is destined from birth to be the sturdy intersection that can withstand the dynamic interplay between the light and dark energies, the interface between the spiritual world, which is in our mysterious unconscious, and the conscious external physical world in which we live day by day. I see the ego/self in a subordinate partnership with the Self, acting as a sort of translator between the unconscious and conscious worlds. It’s the put-upon middle manager who must absorb stresses from both below and above, mediating between the demands of both the executives and the labor force in order to get the job done.
Interestingly, I had a many-times recurrent dream (the only recurring dream I’ve ever had) that described this very situation but, as a beginner in interpretation, I didn’t understand it right away. Actually, I didn’t understand it until just as I wrote that previous paragraph.
In this dream I’m a member of a guerrilla group though it’s never clear whom we’re fighting. Indeed, we never do any overt fighting. We’re always just coming back from a foray or preparing and planning to go out on one. In this dream I’m always the second in command to a charismatic and powerful leader. Strangely, in our dim, dark world I never get a clear picture of him even though we work very closely together. He comes up with concepts and aims and it’s my job to implement them with and through our troops. The leader and I have an exceptionally unique and intimate relationship. Its strength is surprising.
I’m also surprised to see that, even though I’m initially uncertain about my ability, I’m actually very good at my job. I’m able to motivate and persuade our followers in whatever way is required. As I revisit this dream now, I realize that the “I” that I am in this dream represents my ego who took orders from my commander, my Higher or Authentic Self, and got things done through the “troops” who represented various aspects of my conscious self that interacted with the “real world.” I (ego) mediated between the “executive” and the “labor force.”
Perhaps the similarity between my earlier dream and the Inanna myth has become apparent now, while my guerrilla dreams were telling me what would follow. It’s as if some part of myself was telling me what to expect as I set out, all unknowing, upon my Journey. I would be stripped of all I thought made me who I was, which did pretty much happen in my “real” life. I had to relinquish nearly all those things I’d worked so hard to build up, to develop, to gather together so as to be safe and secure.
But, as Helen Keller said, “Security is mostly a superstition. It does not exist in nature… .”
So, in the one dream it’s apparent that I’m leaving the area of collective sleep and mirage, (the “public building”) and entering what appears to be a public park but which turns into a personal terror. Even though I may have some uncertainty at the beginning, I’m confident. Once embarked, though, I’m not able to turn back. I can only continue onward even though it may be more difficult and unnerving than I’d bargained for. Alice, a wise friend puts it thus: it’s like you’re popcorn; once you’ve popped, you can’t unpop. You are forever changed, from a hard shelled restricted state to a much softer state.
In other words, once you begin to birth your Authentic Self, once you begin the Journey, no matter with what slight consciousness, once you’ve burst the hard protective popcorn (egoic) shell, you can’t stop the process and you can’t reverse it. My Inanna-dream message only took me to the point of ego identity divestiture; it didn’t tell me what to expect next. Maybe it was at this point that I declared, “I can’t do this anymore!” Or maybe that’s because not even my dream-maker could say what would be next. Who could be sure what my ego would do? Would it survive?
Then again, if I’d been able to interpret my guerrilla dreams more accurately, maybe I wouldn’t have been so confused.
And still yet again, what kind of an adventure would it be if the outcome were a foregone conclusion?