There’s a line from an old set of books owned by my father and his father before him that goes like this, “And then did we, the seven, start from our seats in horror, and stand trembling, and shuddering, and aghast, for the tones in the voice of the shadow were not the tones of any one being, but of a multitude of beings, and, varying in their cadences from syllable to syllable fell duskly upon our ears in the well-remembered and familiar accents of many thousand departed friends.” It is from Shadow.– A Parable by Edgar Allen Poe.
I was struck by the image of the shadows of many “departed friends”. As I say goodbye to some contemporary friends I’m also reminded of the many who have passed before, family and comrades– people who contributed to and enriched my life in many significant ways. There’s hardly a day that goes by without a recollection of at least one of them being pulled from the Library of Memories.
This could also be read as a memorial for the over 316, 000 who have died from the Covid 19 virus pandemic in the United States and the over 1.7 million who have died worldwide and the shadows that each cast upon those who are still living.
What makes them shadows for me is that even though I’m grateful for the remembrances of those I’ve loved and of those who I do not know I don’t want to look too closely at the feelings of loss, best to give a rueful smile at their thought and return the book to its place than to turn the pages toward the grief that still lurks deep within. Best not to look at death too closely because in its blackness I can see myself reflected.
But as with all dark shadows they do not rest peacefully and conspire to darken my present, our present that robs us of hope for the future. The prospect of Death seems to steal one’s energy like one of the ‘Dementors” in the Harry Potter series. But it also, or at least it used to, give at least me impetus to live life as fully as possible while I could. That seemed much easier when I was young and the future seemed infinitely far away. But as close friends begin to leave and the daily climb of statistical graphs make so painfully obvious what was kept at a cosmic arms length is now lurking beyond the next corner.
This feeling is not new to me for I felt it before every morning as I shuffled through the dark to pick up my weapon and a few ammo boxes and climbed aboard the helicopter I was assigned to for that day. There was a heavy air of resignation that weighed on me then that I find returning to me now. But then the point for my life had narrowed to surviving the day so that I could reclaim a future. I was younger then, 22, with a prospect for an infinite future if I could survive the present but now with a very much more restricted future I find that I’m having trouble with all those pesky hidden shadows and that any point to it all is beginning to fade.
Clearly these shadows need to be invited to the party and a new dialog needs to happen. Today I begin to dust off the old tomes stuffed into the lower shelves of the library.
“Come Fairies, take me out of this dull world, for I would ride with you upon the wind and dance upon the mountains like a flame!”
–William Butler Yeats
“On my meditation walks I am often moved by the life going on about me– boys with hockey sticks battling in the streets at dusk, flocks of screeching Crows nesting in trees, the smile of the crescent moon with the brightly seductive Venus off her bow. And on a warm night there’s crickets and barking dogs, but on a cold and crisp one there’s nothing but silence and the sound of my own footsteps. Sometimes a breeze whips through the branches and rustles the leaves and I hear the raucous laughter of a dinner party just seen through the picture window of the house across the street.
And the world seems right.
But on other nights my mind is disturbed with its thoughts that whirl like a demented vortex and I hear nothing but my own voice. It’s a boring voice droning on and on about inane this’s and that’s and burying the peace of the night in rubble.
And nothing in the world seems right.
I long for the magic I’ve so often felt on so many earlier sojourns through the dark, but on this night it’s not to be. This is when I cry out to the dark denizens of the otherworld, “Come oh magic creatures of the imaginal and entertain me. Bring to me your mystery, your awe, your wonder, and your hidden treasure– make it better than it is.”
That night’s dreams brought me headstones and skulls, darkness and gray empty fields– a reflection of the mood carried back from the earlier journey. And then I ran across the poem by Yeats and I thought, ‘It’s not the fairies of the land he is calling to, but those of the inner soul who are entreated to crawl out from the rubbish and dance with me once again’. And I remember yet again that it is I, it is I who can summon the magic from within.
“There I stood at the edge of a cliff high above a dark and forbidding abyss. The earth beneath my feet began to shake and as I peered over the edge I could just make out something huge crawling out of the blackness. In terror I tried to step back fearing that I would lose my footing and fall into the blackness and the cavernous maw of the creature below. And then I awoke.”
Yep, a good old-fashioned nightmare had gripped me and shook me to the bone, rattling my soul until I awoke to save myself.
Apparently a lot of us have these dreamtime ‘cliff hangers’ that grab our attention from time to time, but what’s the message?
Lets look at the images for some clues. The cliff could be about being on the edge of an understanding, a solution, or an “ah ha” awareness. Perhaps it’s a critical point in life where you can’t afford to make any errors i.e. lose your footing. Falling itself in this case could be about failure or at least the fear of it.
We have expectations for ourselves and others have expectations for us as well. This can put the pressure on us to succeed or at least not to fail. There’s also the fear of not being who you are by trying to measure up to some standard /goal that’s not your own. This is the stuff neuroses are made of. Stuffing these fears as a way of dealing with the pressures can eventually create the kind of nightmare I shared above.
How you got to the top of the cliff could speak to your ambitions and drive the risks you took or are taking. At the edge in this case might indicate that you are at your limit. If you were to stand tall against the fears it might suggest that you need to stand up to your fears.
Looking down into any abyss can be like staring into the unknown. This in itself can create great anxiety and the dream reflects that. This dream may also reflect an obstacle to your ambitions but can also suggest that you may be afraid of “taking the plunge or the leap of faith” into the unknown that often needs to happen in order to succeed at something.
But the abyss or void can also represent the depths of your unconscious mind and your uncertainty of what lies below. This unknown can also represent change, or the need for change stalking you. Clearly something is stalking this dreamer and it may very well be a shadow creature, a part of their rejected self that they have pushed down into their subconscious, but that is crawling menacingly out of its hiding place and forcing the dreamer to confront and deal with it directly. These shadows can also represent one raw ambition that needs to be confronted and tamed.
There is of course danger afoot, perhaps decisions are to be made, risks to be taken, barriers to be overcome, but in confronting these perhaps there is wisdom down there as well.
In short, even the scariest dreams come to us with our health and well being in mind and shouldn’t be rejected out of hand.
Beginning in January of 2017 I began a series of stories and articles about real magic. This article is a continuation of that series all of which are leading up to the publication of the book “Psyche’s Dream: A Dragon’s Tale”.
Webster’s Dictionary defines magic in this way:
1a: the use of means (as charms or spells) believed to have supernatural power over natural forces
1b: magic rites or incantations
2a: an extraordinary power or influence seemingly from a supernatural source
3: the art of producing illusions by sleight of hand
In all three definitions we’re talking about manipulation. Real magic on the other hand isn’t about manipulation. It’s about getting yourself out of the way to allow the magic that is there to manifest. Though that’s also a form of manipulation, but only of the self.
Because what you see is only a projection of your inner thoughts, anxieties, emotions, memories, and beliefs the real world isn’t available to you. But when you get yourself out of the way your vision of the world shifts. Every religion teaches this, every enlightened teacher has embraced it.
Magic can only happen in the real world, not in “your” creation, but in “the” creation. Spell casting is about trying to change what is. Stop casting spells on the creation and it will flow for you much better. But first you need to be open to “what is” and the first step in that is to acknowledge it isn’t what you think it is.
“If one has done ones best to steer the chariot, and one then notices that a greater other is actually steering it, then magical operation takes place.”
– CG Jung, Lieber Novus
Another step is to watch where you’re stepping e.g. step too far into what’s good also means moving too far into what’s bad–super good creates super bad. Good requires that there be a bad and vice versa. You need to learn how to keep them together rather than to separate them. You need to learn to balance.
“He who knows the darkest error knows what light is.”
In everything I’ve discussed so far the Soul plays a central role in the redefining of ones self as a magical being. We are all trapped in the cocoon of the mind, the ego-self. It is here that we wander aimlessly through the cold landscapes of the material world–separated from the divine. We are only partially ourselves when all we see is mind. Finding and nourishing our soul again can make us more whole.
Because I love playing with archetypal images I’ll end this with the Magician of the tarot, the real wielder of the magic so to speak. According to Wikipedia it is the Magician [that] “guides The Fool through the first step out of the cave of childhood into the sunlight of consciousness, just as Hermes guides Persephone out of the Underworld every year (see picture at left).”
It has been said that all created things are the expression of the interrelationship between God and humans. In my mind The Magician represents the wholeness of this relationship. He, or she, (because the Magician has both female and male aspects) represents the dissolution of the separate personality and the reintegration of its opposites. When we resolve our dualities (see #8 in last weeks Blog posting “The 12 laws of Magic”) we become whole again. Psychologically, the Magician represents this resolution and magic happens when our wholeness expresses itself, if only temporarily.
From a psychological perspective let me pose an example: when a woman comes to terms with her inner male she will be able to express her opinions more critically by penetrating more deeply into their origins. When a male comes to terms with his feminine he will be able to express his compassion more readily by accepting the nurturing aspect of his core self.
She may be able to deal more effectively with any unresolved issues with her father, or any other male figure that may have helped her to develop her attitudes about males in general and more specifically about those masculine aspects within herself. He may be able to deal more effectively with any unresolved issues with his mother or any other female figure that has helped to form his attitudes about those feminine aspects within himself.
Each sex is imprinted with culturally mediated material about gender. This material until dealt with at its origin in the individual psyche will negatively affect, or limit, or determine an individual’s relationship with the opposite sex and/or globally with all people.
So it may be imperative that we begin the work of integrating our gender opposites if only to make life easier on ourselves and with those around us.
Males and females are more than anatomically different, they are psychologically different, and it is these differences that when allowed to remain in conflict within us that keep us separated within ourselves and thus becomes the main impediment to the experience and wielding of magic.
“Magic is dangerous since what accords with unreason confuses, allures and provokes; and I am always its first victim.”
In my experience magic can happen when I am willing to allow it to happen in the way it wants to happen and not in my way. It establishes the when and the how, not I. When I allow, or to put it another way, when I get myself out of the way, the universe will work its magic. The power of wielding magic is to not wield it at all.
Now I feel compelled to try and make myself clear at this point regarding some of the things I’ve been talking about such as “ego”, the “shadow”, “gender opposition”, “Self”, “spirit”, and “magic”. First of all these are not things that have any reality in that they are words that symbolize something without form, they are only concepts. You can’t find the ego anywhere in the body for it is an affect of the body, its name and definition is but a construct to help one get a handle on the affect. And “Self”” is but a concept for something contextual. And “spirit” is a name for the ephemeral motivator of life.
All these words are just metaphors and have no real substance. All are unknown in their true nature and most likely unknowable. They are ultimately imaginary. But something imagines them, don’t you think? It is that “imagining” (as verb, noun, adverb and adjective) that I refer to with all the linguistic metaphors of the philosopher, psychologist, and scientist. It would be a mistake to reify them i.e. to give them substance for to do so would only limit them through some mental objectification–it’s why I don’t bother to describe God. And to limit something is as we have seen to limit its magic.
“There is an Indian fable of three beings who drank from a river: one was a god, and he drank ambrosia; one was a man, and he drank water; and one was a demon, and he drank filth. What you get is a function of your own consciousness.”
–Joseph Campbell, Myths of Light,”The Jiva’s Journey,” p. 46
Of what do psychologists and philosophers speak when they invoke the word “Consciousness?”
At a fundamental psychological level some define it as “awareness” or more specifically, ”Self Awareness” that is further defined as knowledge gained through personal perception, the recognition of something felt—that is ‘sensed.’
In the above quote from Joseph Campbell there seems to be another layer implied e.g. something residing between what is perceived and what is processed. In short, something is acting upon the information coming into the individual that affects the processing of it—a filter if you will. We all have these filters–they are our judgments, expectations, beliefs, philosophies, experiences and memories. These things affect our level of consciousness, our level of alertness to reality if you will. So the quote seems to speak to the type of filter, or the clarity of the filter, being employed.
At a deeper, and more spiritual, or philosophical, level consciousness has been defined as the “Knower” or the “Observer”–something that observes itself, the ground-state of our being. It is, some say, what you experience when you have quieted the mind from its incessant chatter. Others say it is what the chatter is being directed toward e.g. what is listening when you talk to yourself.
At first glance this consciousness, this knower, appears to be located somewhere alongside our mind, the mind that is the ego-thing that’s doing all the chattering. But is it alongside, or even local for that matter? How do we explain the phenomena of distance viewing, or distant communication as when you’re thinking of cousin Harry whom you’ve not heard from in ages and the phone rings? Coincidence or synchronicity?
There’s a great deal of research that’s been done (some funded through DARPA, the federal department of all things spooky that can be used militarily) looking into the reality of distant viewing and finding it to be real under certain conditions. Some people can instantly ‘see’ things that are happening miles away (The Russians just love this stuff!).
Some physicists (e.g. Fred Allan Wolfe, David Hawkins, and Gary Zukav) have played around with the ground-state, or ‘universal field’, idea of consciousness as well as the concept of remote connectedness that is implied by remote viewing and have made some tentative conclusions that consciousness is independent of the sentient creatures it seems to inhabit–so much so that it exists eternally, or at least since the Big Bang. Perhaps we are no more than receivers for signals from outside ourselves, like a radio, cellphone, or TV.
It seems that to the degree to which a person can cleanse their perception filters and thus get a clearer perception of reality this also affects their ability to connect with this level of consciousness. It may even be this consciousness that makes it possible to see things beyond ones temporal location.
I’ve been rereading Diane Kennedy Pike’s book “Life as a waking dream” (Riverhead Books, 1997) and thought I’d tackle the concept in a little different way. I decided to look at critical events in my life lately and treat them as dream material and using the dream interpreting book “Morpheus Speaks” (iUniverse, 2019) as a guide to their possible meanings.
Incompetence: I tend to become really upset with what I perceive to be incompetence in anything such as with a person or government or the law, teaching or in the building of something, etc. This probably reflects some of my own worries about my own competence and lack of forgiveness toward myself whenever I deem I’ve been less than competent in some action. Why? Because I hate to be wrong! I mean, being wrong is wrong! I see it as a failing, a less than ideal quality and something broken and God forbid, unfixable. So, I deny the experience, demean it, reject it, and put it down (for purposes of word economics use this last sentence in all the rest of my symbolic meanings).
Injustice: This is another upsetting experience within my everyday waking dream symbols. It is probably connected to incompetence because at one level to be incompetent is unjust or just wrong (are we seeing a theme yet?).
Accused, attacked (especially wrongly): When I or someone I identify with is being wrongfully accused I get upset. Sometimes this may be reflecting my own guilt about something or my doubts about myself. To cover up a wrongdoing e.g., such as a doubt about what you are doing and acting as though you know what you are doing is wrong. Recently I’ve had some doubts about my competence in some action and some project that I’ve taken on and acted as though I knew what I was doing when I wasn’t sure that I did and then the waking world presented me with an unrelated and false accusation that I had to deal with. It was only when I didn’t make it personal such as taking it as a personal wrongdoing that I was able to overcome and solve the issue to everyone’s satisfaction.
Fakery: Pretending to be something you’re not. I do this sometimes to make myself seem better than I am. Of course, I only do this when I feel as though I am not very good. I see this a lot in politics and politicians these days.
Lying: I lie to hide my actions and I do this to not look bad or to look good or to look better than I am. I don’t like the fact that I on occasion do this and find that I rail at those who do it publicly and rail in proportion to my rejection of my own lies.
Well, that’s enough for now. The theme seems pretty obvious to me right now in that all of these fall within my biggest bogeyman that of being “WRONG” or “Less than” which shows up as incompetence, injustice, fakery, or lying. Needless to say, that these days I’m spending a lot of time railing at virtually everything that I see on TV or read in the newspaper or the newsfeeds I get on-line.
Ultimately what I’m seeing and railing against are my own shadows i.e., what I deem the darker parts of myself.
The outside world is but a mirror to my own inner self. Calling these reflections out for what they are and who is responsible for them and for who needs to deal with them is probably the next step in this process of working with the waking dream. I cannot change the outside world but when I take responsibility for the inside world change can happen.
“Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding of ourselves”.
I love a good meditation! And by ‘good’ I mean where I let go of any expectation thus freeing the soul to come out and play. Down deep in the caves of my being there is only mystery– nothing to figure out, no problems to solve, no worries to chew on. I love it when I can just hand myself over to the dream and the presence of the spirit. The more I can let go of the ego as the here and now definition of myself the more I can align with my soul’s larger being.
Such was the gift handed me one spring day at a coffee shop at the corner of yesterday and tomorrow when these words gilt my caffein charged musings– a waking dream meditation.
Below is an excerpt from a story about a young man whose life was opened up to him in a very mysterious way. This part of the story speaks of an aspect of all of us that seems very dark but can have the most enlightening affect if one knows how to work with it.
“There is an ancient invocation that goes ‘As it is above, so it is below, as within, so without’” he said as he once again patted the green book next to him. “This is more a reminder than an invocation really because it tells us that we can find out what is inside by looking closely at the outside. This is because we are always projecting ourselves onto the outside world. For example, if we want to see our shadow, look to see what or whom disturbs us, or what we reject. This is easier to do if you can place yourself somewhere between the two worlds of the conscious and unconscious that are both reflections of the one world.
It is like a tree that has its roots in the underworld and its branches in the heavens. To do this you must accept that you do not know what you do not know. You do this by not letting what you think you know get in the way of what there is to know. This will place you between the known and unknown, the conscious and unconscious and allow you to be open to discovery.
Shadows can be your fears, disgust, rejections, feelings of abandonment, prejudices, judgments, repressions of memories, biases, negative thoughts and all your personal madness that can then be projected onto others that you meet or onto objects and events. You can see yourself, see your shadows, madness, and level of enlightenment through what you see in others. Even the goodness in others can point to that unconscious aspect in yourself. What is inside is inextricably connected to what is outside in a very profound way. When not separated from the rest of reality you become all of it, what is labeled good and what is labeled bad. The turbulent winds out there in the world that buffet you are the winds generated from within you.”
Every person and every event in the world speaks to us if we have the ears to listen. Everything is a guide into our deeper and most essential self if we are willing to take the journey.
A sad and very dark dream filled my sleeping space not too many nights ago. When I awoke I jotted down the essence of its feeling, the images having become but wisps in the light of day.
Water, symbolic of my emotional state. When I just stuff my unhappiness under the rug or down deep into my hidden psyche because I feel helpless to it the unconscious will only let me get away with it for just so long then it bursts forth in an unsettling dream, demanding to be heard.
The dream (often my dreams read like a poem):
There’s a Sadness like dead matter floating down through the water deep
I’m enveloped by panic and struggling to regain the surface
Thrashing about but only treading
Until the weight of it all drags me under
I can only distract for acceptance is not yet here
When will I know? Will happiness ever return or
Is all I’m doing is just giving in? Trying to let go brings depression
Is letting go just giving up?
I wonder if there’s a bottom?
Maybe it’s like a black hole, never ending
Until you’re crushed beyond recognition.
Or will I just sit at the bottom and be eaten up by the darkness?
How did I fall off the boat?
Was I pushed, did I jump?
Was I careless or too awkward?
When did I realize that I was never going to get home?