The Vinegar Tasters

The Vinegar Tasters

Stephen Karcher asks us to imagine an ancient Chinese scroll painting in his introduction to Ta Chuan: The Great Treatise (2000). Here’s what he says,

Three men are shown grouped around a large open cask where vinegar is fermented. They have each dipped a finger into the cask, drawn it out and tasted the vinegar. Each of the men has a different expression on his face.
However, these are no ordinary people. We know from their features and the way they are dressed that they are the three great figures of Chinese spiritual life, Kung-fu-tz’u or Confucius, the Buddha and Lao-tz’u. They represent the three Teachings of Ways of Chinese spiritual life. So we know, too, that this is no ordinary vinegar. It is life itself, everyday life, the dust of the world, the Red Chamber Dream.
Confucius stands on the right of the picture. He finds the vinegar sour and scowls in distaste. The Confucian Way is based on the ideal of an ancient Golden Age from which we have sadly fallen. Everything must be perfectly ordered through proper ritual, belief and social relations to try to re-create that lost past. The present moment is sour indeed. Can we ever hope to attain the moral grandeur of the ancient rulers and sages?
The Buddha stands in the middle. He tastes the vinegar and finds it bitter. His face is full of repugnance. For Buddha, this life is illusion and sadness. It can bring only suffering. He stands for a place that is completely beyond time and change—Nirvana, where the winds of desire are stilled.
On the left stands Lao-tz’u. He is the legendary writer of a series of Teachings on the beauty and mystery of the Tao or Way. Lao-tz’u smiles. He finds the vinegar sweet. His smile is the smile of the valley spirit, mingling with the dust and becoming one with the continual change of things. He mocks Confucius’ concern for propriety and he waves away the Buddha’s ostentatious suffering. The moment now is all we need. The power of the Way is endless. Stop thinking about it! Find the uncarved block, the face you had before your mother was born. Life, as it is, is sweet. (pp. 10-11)

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St. Niklaus, the Reformed Berserker

When I mentioned to my friend that Saint Nick’s was going to be celebrated on the 6th of December, he said “Niklaus, the Swiss saint?” “No, Nicholas, the Bishop of Myra, the one who evolved into Santa Claus. They are different.” And wow, what a difference! I could see where the confusion had arisen. We had been talking a few months back about the only Swiss saint, the one Carl Jung felt could be the patron saint of psychology.

Niklaus of Flue was born on March 21, 1417 about a thousand years after Nickolas of Myra. Unlike the Greek saint, who was orphaned at a young age and grew up in the monastery, Niklaus was a soldier, who rose to the rank of captain, and a judge, who married and fathered ten children. Perhaps as a result of seeing all the political corruption and violence, Niklaus fell into a depression at age 45. (PTSD perhaps?) It took him five years to convince his wife that he needed to become a mendicant monk. But several spiritual events turned him around at the Swiss border. “With the help of friends and relatives he built a hermit’s cell about two hundred and fifty yards from his house in a deep, shadowy ravine. There he spent the rest of his life. He took no food apart from the sacred host. He had many visionary experiences and gradually acquired such renown as a religious healer and adviser that there were often as many as six hundred people to be found waiting in the neighborhood of his cell for an opportunity to speak to him.” (pp.37-38) So said Marie-Louise von Franz in Archetypal Dimensions of the Psyche (1999).
His most astonishing feat was resolving a dispute between the cantons which could have led to war in 1487. He sent a message to the Congress of Stans, urging them to keep the peace, to accept the two new urban cantons but without expanding their territory too much, and to settle the conflict by means of a treaty. This they did and prevented Austria and France from getting involved in a military/political solution, which von Franz said kept Switzerland intact. Niklaus’ reputation was very strong. The people were in awe of him. That of course, brings a psychologist to wonder what is behind his powerful effect upon people. Von Franz, being an amazing dream interpreter and psychoanalyst, suggests we take a look at
“a significant vision the saint had, which was as follows:Wotan as traveler
It seemed to Brother Klaus that a man who looked like a pilgrim was coming toward him. He held a staff in his hands, had on a hat with the brim turned back in the manner of a wayfarer, and wore a cloak. Klaus knew within himself that this man came from the east or from far away. Although the pilgrim did not say so, Klaus knew he came from “where the sun rises in summertime.” He stood in front of Klaus singing the word “Hallelujah!” When he began to sing, his voice echoed, and everything between heaven and earth seemed to support his voice. And Klaus heard “three perfect words that stood out from the rest, coming out of one origin,” which then closed up again like something on a spring. When Klaus heard these three perfect words, none of which touched either of the others, they nonetheless struck him as being a single word. When the pilgrim had finished his song, he asked Klaus for alms. Brother Klaus suddenly had a penny in his hand and dropped it into the pilgrim’s hat. “And the man [Brother Klaus?] had never realized that it was a thing so worth of veneration to receive a gift in one’s hat.”
Klaus asked where the wayfarer came from and who he was, and the traveler said only, “I come from there,” and was unwilling to say anything further. Klaus stood in front of him and looked at him. Then the pilgrim transformed. He now no longer wore a hat and cloak, but rather a blue-gray vest. He was a fine, handsome-looking man, and Klaus looked at him with joy and longing. Christ the King 1The brownish color of his face gave him a noble look, his eyes were black like a magnet, and his limbs of extraordinary beauty. Although he was clothed, Klaus could see his limbs. As Klaus was looking at him so raptly, the wayfarer also looked back at him. In this moment, great miracles occurred: Mount Pilatus collapsed to the ground and was completely flat; the earth opened up; Klaus thought he could see the sins of the whole world. A huge throng of people appeared to him, and behind them appeared the truth, but all the people had turned their backs on it. In their hearts, Klaus saw a great sickness, a tumor as big as two fists. This sickness was egotism, by which people were so seduced that they were unable to bear the sight of the man (of truth), “no more than people can stand fire.” In great confusion, fear, and shame, they ran hither and thither, and finally fled; “but the truth remained there.”
Then the countenance of the wayfarer transformed “like a veronica,” and Klaus had a great longing to see more of him. He saw him again as before, but his clothing had changed, and he stood before him in a bearskin with coat and pants. The fur was spangled with golden color, but Klaus saw clearly that it was a bearskin. The bearskin was very becoming to the pilgrim, and Klaus recognized his extraordinary beauty. As he stood before the wayfarer, so noble in the bearskin, Klaus saw that the figure wished to bid him farewell. Klaus asked him, “Where do you want to go?” and he replied, “I want to go up country” and would say no more. As he departed, Klaus stared after him and saw that the bearskin shone on him as when someone moves a brightly polished sword back and forth and the reflection of it is seen on the walls. Wotan staffAnd Klaus thought that this was something whose meaning would remain hidden from him. When the wayfarer had gone maybe four steps, he turned around, took off his hat, and bowed to Klaus. Then Klaus realized that the wayfarer bore him such love that he was quite stricken and had to confess that he was not deserving of this great love. Then he saw that this love was in the wayfarer. And he saw that his spirit, his face, his eyes, his whole body was full of this elevated love (Minne), like a vessel that is filled to the brim with honey. Then he could no longer see the wayfarer, but he was so fulfilled that he no longer desired anything from him. It seemed to him that the wayfarer had revealed to him “everything that was between heaven and earth.”

Chris the king 2
“Many hours were necessary for the interpretation of this great vision. Here I [Dr. von Franz] can go into a few of its essential aspects. This pilgrim is clearly and image for what Jung called the Self (as opposed to the ego). That is, it is Klaus’s eternal inner spiritual core, something like the “inner Christ” that is described in the writings of the mystics. But although the pilgrim sings the biblical “Hallelujah” (God be praised), his clothes characterize him more as Wotan, the Germanic god of war, of truth, of ecstasy, and of shamanic wisdom. In accordance with a number of myths, Wotan dressed in a gray-blue cloak and a broad-brimmed hat. With his flaming eyes, he looked like a nobleman. Other myths recount that he could continuously change his form. For this reason, he was also called Svipall, “the changeable,” or Grimmir, “the masked one,” and Tveggi, “the twofold.” In Klaus’s vision he comes from the direction of the sunrise, that symbolic location from which arise new enlightenments and revelations of the collective unconscious. This frame of reference is also reflected in expressions like “an idea dawned on me.”
In the further course of the vision, the wayfarer appears behind the backs of people as truth personified. Wotan also had the epithet Sannr, “true.” He is supposed to have had second sight, and according to some sagas, he could open up all the mountains and see and “take what was inside” (Snorri Sturluson). In Christianity, the Holy Ghost is the spirit of truth, but here it curiously fused with the ancient Germanic god of love (Minne) and spiritual devotion. This pilgrim gives Klaus the feeling that he knows what Jung called the “absolute knowledge” of the unconscious, which characterizes many experiences of the Self.
Yet he also confers on Klaus something more, that is, the feeling of boundless love, described as the brimming vessel, overflowing with honey. The honey motif recalls a verse in the Brhadaranyaka Upanishad, which says: “This Self is honey for all beings. For this Self all beings are honey. And that which in this Self is that atman—that is, that purusha purushuthat arises out of light energy, out of the deathless—is that very primordial Atman, Deathlessness, Brahman. It is the universe. And verily is the Self the lord of all beings, the king of all beings. And just as all the spokes are held in the axle and the rim of a wheel, so all beings and all these selves (of the earth, of the water, etc.) are held in the Self.” In India, madhu (honey) symbolizes the contact of all beings in the universe with the Self, the anthropos (purusha); that means as Max Muller has explained, an objective, complete, and mutual interdependence or connectedness of all things—which is what Jung called “objective knowledge” as opposed to subjective love, which is full of projections and ego-oriented wishes.
The most striking and most unorthodox motif in this vision of Brother Klaus, however, is that of the bearskin worn by the pilgrim. This detail once again points to Wotan, who among his other epithets, as the god of the berserkers is also called Hrammi, “bear paw.” In the Old Testament, the bear represents the dark side of Yahweh, and among the northern shamans, the bear is the most common of the “helping spirits” or allies. In most of the countries of northern Europe the bear was formerly regarded as so sacred that it was spoken of only as “father,” “sacred man,” “sacred woman,” “wise father,” “goldfoot,” and so on.
For the ancient Germans, wearing a bearskin meant one was a berisekr, a berserker. The ability to become a berserker was a parapsychological gift that was hereditary in certain Germanic warrior families. It manifested as a divine ecstasy, a kind of sacred wrath. It was said of such men that they fell in a swoon to the ground as though they were dead, and at this point their soul left their body in the form of a bear. berserlerThen it went raging into battle, slaying all foes, sometimes, however, also its own people by accident. The basic state of mind in this “going berserk” was called grimr, which amounts to something like “fury” or “rage.” Going berserk was also called hamfong, that is, changing one’s skin or form as well as one’s shadow or protecting spirit. In sum it can be said that the bear aspect of the holy pilgrim in Klaus’s vision represents the dangerous and uncanny animal shadow of the Self.” (pp.39-42)
Von Franz goes on to quote Jung in regard to Brother Klaus’s vision, noting that the Divine often presents itself in dreams and visions in its theriomorphic forms. These numinous properties reach up into the heights and also down into the depths. The inner Christ appears in two forms, the pilgrim, and also as a bear. Golden BearThe golden luster of the fur alludes to the alchemical “new sun” or new knowledge. Jung continues:

“The meaning of the vision could be this. Brother Klaus recognizes himself in his spiritual pilgrimhood and in his instinctive (bearlike, i.e., hermitlike) subhumanness as Christ. . . . The brutal coldness of feeling that the saint requires to separate himself from woman and child, and friendship is found in the subhuman animal kingdom. Thus the saint casts an animal shadow. . . . He who is capable of bearing the highest and the lowest together is hallowed, holy, whole. The vision is telling him that the spiritual pilgrim and the berserker are both Christ, and this paves the way in him for forgiveness of the greatest sin, which is sainthood.” Later in his life Niklaus had a vision of God’s wrath that horrified him, “for this wrath applied to he who had betrayed his dearest ones and ordinary people for the sake of God.” (Letters, p. 449f.)

Von Franz concludes her analysis with this paragraph.  “The Christ-berserker in Brother Klaus’s vision thus unites irreconcilable opposites, that is, subhuman savagery and Christian spirituality, the frenzy of war and Christian agape, the love of humanity. Only because Klaus could make room for this figure within himself was he capable of reconciling these opposites in the outer world, of convincing his compatriots to adopt a peaceful solution rather than letting themselves be carried away into a civil war.” (p. 43)

And that is probably why Saint Niklaus should be the patron saint of psychology. He was able to hold the opposites within himself. This is a tall order, but one which we must all strive to attain, if we are to become whole.Masculine and Feminine

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Athena’s new school

White Mercedes 81It was cold last night, and when my car was hard to start, I remembered my mechanic’s warning. The 1981 Mercedes diesel motor needed a valve adjustment, if it were going to start in the cold temperatures. So I called my artist friend out in Canyon Country to see if he wanted to have lunch before I dropped off my car. My timing was excellent. Neville had just awakened at noon after spending the night with a friend. I took the tired artist to brunch and then to coffee at Starbucks. We had a great time talking about the paintings he had done and my newly written blogs. By the time we finished catching up, he was ready to go back to work and I could drop off my car.

Walking to catch the bus in Santa Clarita is exhausting. The bus stops are very far apart; I guess because the area is made for driving cars. I had to walk a quarter of a mile from my mechanic’s shop, which is across the Sierra Highway from the College of the Canyons east campus, to the closest bus stop. As I sat there wondering how long I was going to have to wait, a young man rode up behind me on his bicycle. “Does your arrival mean we don’t have long to wait?” I asked him. There were just the two of us at the stop. He showed me how to access the information by texting to the bus information number. Instantaneously it replied ETA: 2, which he said meant 2 minutes. In that short amount of time, I asked him if he were a college student and what his interests were. I got lots of great information and a big surprise, he had studied philosophy at Humboldt State University. He was interested in my son John’s first love, marine biology. As we talked the bus arrived and I gave him my card.

After putting his bicycle on the bus, my new friend sat across the aisle from me and we continued our conversation. We had so many common interests that I told him more and more about Ojai, the Theosophical Institute, Charles Leadbeater, reincarnation, ethics, Native American heritage hiding in our genes, and eventually invited him to have coffee with me tomorrow. “I was going to say that”, he said. “Perhaps we could meet at Starbucks or Athena’s”, I suggested. He had never been to the Greek Restaurant on Soledad Canyon Road, so I told him about their great gyros and souvlakia sandwiches, “almost as cheap as McDonald’s and much better” I said. As we reached the Terminal building, I got on my next bus home and he said he would call or text me tomorrow. He had class in the morning, but was free in the afternoon.

When I got home I began to write about my experiences in my journal. An entry yesterday morning caught my eye. There I had written down a dream.

school tieI’m talking to a student about matriculating at our High School, when a guy in an orange and purple striped shirt rides up behind me. He doesn’t say anything, so I stop talking to the new student and turn around. He is an older student, blond and attractive. He says, “Could we talk tomorrow?” “What?  Do you want to come to school on Saturday?” I ask. He’s embarrassed, but I tell him, “See me later and I’ll give you my card. You can call me to talk tomorrow or we can discuss a place to meet.” “OK” he says, and I turn around to continue my conversation with the new student. We are discussing how people act out their emotional problems in school and I was wondering how the student might feel about that happening.

That’s when the synchronicity struck me. This guy had ridden up behind me at the bus stop. He resembled the man in the dream and his enthusiastic, friendly nature was exactly the same as the dream guy. When images come up behind the dreamer, it usually means there is something welling up from the unconscious which is going to manifest. That part of me which has been teaching young people for fifty years has been off line lately. I have been focusing on one or two people at a time, very intimate discussions, like the one I had had earlier in the day.

AthenaWhat rose up in my awareness was an old, long standing dream, that at some time in my life I could just show up in the market place like Socrates and talk philosophy with anyone who wanted to talk with me. Perhaps Athena’s Restaurant is as close to the marketplace of Athens as one can get in Santa Clarita, California. Hermes must be guiding us there. His Mercurial color in Alchemy is orange. He brings our dreams and this young college student was wearing the royal purple striped with orange.  The children of Hermes is the original name of this site; Hermiades is a Greek word.  Perhaps the cyclist is one of Hermes’ sons, an old student who wants to continue the relationship started in a previous lifetime perhaps?  The dream setting suggests an on-going special school for young people, which can be extended by invitation. That sounds exactly what Athena would do, use Hermes to deliver an invitation via the dream world.  Is the Goddess of Wisdom and Strategy starting a new school at Athena’s restaurant?  If so I definitely want to be on the staff.

little owl

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Kari Woodenskirt, the growth of the feminine spirit

There is a Norwegian variant of the Cinderella fairy tale where the heroine wears a wooden skirt. Kari is a princess who escapes from her vicious stepmother by going to be with the cattle in the meadow. There she makes friends with a blue bull who talks to her in human speech. Out of his ear a magic cloth could be drawn which provided rich dishes of food on which Kari nourished herself. Kari, bull, and foodWhen the Queen discovers Kari’s secret and decides to have the bull slaughtered, the princess decides to escape on the bull’s back. These two enter three forests with leaves of copper, silver, and gold respectively. Although warned not to touch the leaves, Kari does so and the bull must fight with trolls. He defeats the three, six, and nine headed trolls with great difficulty. When they come to the border of another kingdom the bull makes a request.
Kari and bull“In the royal castle you must put on a wooden skirt and live in the pigsty and always say that you are Kari Woodenskirt and you have work there. But now you must cut off my head, pull off my hide, and roll up in it the two leaves and the golden apple and lay it at the foot of the cliff wall here. Against that wall leans a stick. Whenever you want something from me, rap on the wall with it.”
Kari does as the bull requests, and goes to the pigsty in the castle, where the cook gives her work. The prince treats her badly when she brings wash water to his bed chamber. She clatters in her wooden skirt and the prince pours the water over her head. She then goes to the cliff wall and knocks on it with the stick. A man comes out and she asks for a dress so that she can go to church. Kari Wooden dressHe gives her a dress as radiant as the copper forest and a horse with a saddle to ride. The story continues with the prince falling in love with the mysterious and beautiful young woman, who appears in silver and gold on subsequent meetings. When asked where she came from, she responds with “From Washwater Land”, and she recites a magical verse:
Light before me
Behind me, darkness,
That the prince may not see
Whither I ride.
She leaves behind a golden shoe stuck in the tar on the last time she vanishes. With this shoe the prince finds his princess is actually Kari Woodenskirt.Kari on horseback
Marie-Louise von Franz explains this tale in a chapter on self-affirmation in Archetypal Dimensions of the Psyche (1997).  This is an illustrative fairy tale.  It shows us how the feminine principle develops the ability to affirm itself.  Von Franz says,
“The initial situation shows us a king who is absent, entangled in war, and at home it is his evil second wife who rules. This corresponds psychologically to a situation of the collective consciousness in which the masculine principle, spirit, is exhausting itself in a conflict situation while the feminine principle of eros, the principle of the culture of heart and feeling, has degenerated and is now only concerned about prestige and power. The masculine and feminine natures are separated and not in a state of relationship. Kari, the daughter, symbolizes a possibility of renewal of the feminine nature, which must find a way to prevail in the face of these difficulties. To begin with, she escapes in a typical feminine fashion—disappears into the realm of Mother Nature, to beasts of the field, that is, the realm of unconscious fantasy. There she meets a blue bull who provides her with nourishment and help.
The bull, in most religions and myths, is a symbol of the spirit of the earth, a chthonic fertility power of great violence, wild affectivity, and strength. For the woman, he embodies a kind of dark, passionate, realistic, affect-laden conviction, the roots of which are religious in nature—something like an unconscious, nature-related divine image and still undifferentiated instinctive spirituality. (Blue is the color of the spirit.) From this animus figure, Kari draws her strength and spiritual nourishment, but at the same time it also cuts her off from all contact with her fellow human beings. The bull carries her further away from the perilous source of perverted outlook (the queen), and they go through forests whose trees bear metal leaves. From a mythological point of view, such a thing happens only in paradise; thus one can only conclude that Kari has been transported to the realm of primordial fantasy pre-existing the most ancient times, into the center of the collective unconscious, to a realm of innocence, nature, and nearness to God. But as Eve once tasted of the apple, she too, in a forbidden way, picks leaves from the metal trees and lays a sin on herself that forces her to leave paradise. The germinating ego consciousness of her personality egotistically wants a piece of life for itself. Here we have a bit of self-affirmation, this time not vis-à-vis other people, but vis-à-vis the unconscious. It is as though she were saying, “True, when I flee to the realm of fantasy all conflicts are resolved; but I do also want to live myself and have something real in my hands.” Three times, her unintentional theft brings about a savage mortal conflict between a troll and the bull. In Nordic mythology, trolls represent the chaotic, unformed primal unconscious, which here turns against the bull, who embodies a higher, goal-directed spirituality. The chaos of untamed affects and emotions breaks loose, but it can be overcome by the strength of the blue bull. The trolls’ many heads signify the undirected dissociative force of the emotions. And with this, the paradisaical state of the dream is over—Kari must go back to the human world, and at this threshold of her own salvation, she has to sacrifice that which is of greatest value to her, the bull. It occurs again and again in many fairy tales that a helpful animal demands to be sacrificed in this way by the hero or heroine. This points to a deep-seated psychological mystery.
The ultimate religious attitude toward life and the most profound urge in human nature, which Jung called the impulse toward individuation, that is, self-realization, is initially simply an unconscious instinct, an irrational “can’t-help-it.” This profound and wholesome instinct in a human being often saves him or her in the face of all perils. It is a kind of human genuineness or sincerity that cannot be twisted out of shape. But in the long run, that is not enough. A person must by nature also know why he or she is doing something. He must—and this is apparently a destiny imposed on him by nature—become conscious and comprehend the meaning of this “dark urge.” Therefore he must only sacrifice this instinct in its animal form, and it is the instinct itself that demands its own sacrifice. This is a tragic and frightful moment in the life of every human being. The “dark night of the soul” takes over, and he is now abandoned by everything, even the helpful voices and vital supportive forces within him. But Kari pluckily heeds the bull’s demands and performs the ritual killing. She buries four parts of the bull, and this indicates the significance of the sacrifice; for in nearly all myths and religions of man, four signifies the making conscious of a content, and through this endeavor to recognize the “bull” in its deeper nature, she discovers that hidden within him was the spirit of a man, who now manifests and from then on remains her invisible helper and advisor. This masculine spirit is the animus of the woman, mentioned earlier, which now, however, no longer manifests purely as affect, impulse, and vital force, but has become human, can express itself in words and deeds on a human level.
But in her return to the human world, Kari at first finds herself in an extremely humiliating position. She becomes a Cinderella at the court of a kingdom in which a young, still unmarried prince is the ruler. This prince is a figure representing the renewal of the collective-consciousness principle, a new spiritual and philosophical attitude, which in contrast to the king at the beginning of the tale is not caught up in war. In other words, it offers a new possibility for life which leaves the old conflicts behind. However, the masculine and feminine are not yet harmoniously unified. The two principles are separated from one another—Kari goes crashing about in a wooden dress, and the prince behaves in a coarse and uncourtly fashion.
Kari Wooden dressKari’s wooden skirt symbolizes a “wooden” and unfeminine way of manifesting an awkward and contrary manner that makes her erotically unapproachable. This is a gesture of self-protection by which she is protecting her own inner process of maturation from premature contact.
The prince’s uncourtly coarseness can be interpreted in two ways. The prince can be looked at as an animus figure within the woman, and in this case it would mean that when a woman makes an effort to develop the masculine side of herself, she inevitably passes through a temporary phase in which she behaves arrogantly and unskillfully by way of compensation for her otherwise yielding feminine nature. (History shows this, for example, in the behavior of the first feminists before the First World War.) But one can also look at the prince as the woman’s outer male partner, and in that case, his behavior clearly shows how willfully the man reacts, and even must react, when the woman relates to him in such a “wooden” and contrary fashion. His manhood reacts with a corresponding affect, and that is probably basically for the best, because he forces Kari to develop herself further.
Kari on horsebackFrom the invisible spiritual advisor, the bull-spirit-man, she now receives the beautiful dresses in which she appears in church, that is, very literally, her psychic beauty and higher consciousness begin to shine through, and the prince begins by moments to glimpse her true higher nature behind her contrariness. In true feminine fashion, however, she compels him to find her rather than pushing herself on him. Indeed, judging by the verse she speaks, she remains turned only toward the inner light of her own growth to consciousness, fleeing before the darkness of unconsciousness and the animus affects, until the prince finds her true nature. Through this she reaches her due position of queen, that is, of an individuated, fully developed woman. She gives the prince to understand in a few biting and haughty remarks how discourteously he has behaved, but she takes no revenge, for where real love and genuine relationship of feeling prevails, no further competitive self-affirmation is necessary. One can reach an understanding in a human and completely ordinary fashion through words or often just little innuendoes. Humor, that single divine quality of humanity, as Schopenhauer once called it, is the bridge of genuinely human and friendly “self-affirmation” between partners. (pp. 160-165)”

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The Spiral Dance


The painting below is by my friend Neville Bridgeford.  It is in part conscious and in part an unconscious expression of the artist’s experience leading up to his thirty-first birthday. It was created after a spiritual emergency triggered by the painter’s growing awareness of repressed shadow qualities in his psyche. He suffers from post-traumatic stress syndrome principally created by war-time stress serving in the US Army. He was slowly becoming conscious of how previous childhood abusive situations had laid the foundation for his adult victimization. The polarity of the abuser/victim dynamic was expressed in his violent outbursts of self harm, where he became the abuser as well as the victim. When self medication with drugs and alcohol led to hospitalization, he began to face his life’s history. He was becoming more conscious by climbing out of denial. That’s when I met him. He was brimming over with hurt, rage, hate, and self-pity blaming his father, mother, school, culture, and the military for destroying his hope for a happy life.

After a brief and unhappy marriage, failed attempts to learn a trade after serving in Afghanistan, the fate of many servicemen began to emerge in Neville’s life. He couldn’t concentrate. Unusual sounds, especially that of helicopters flying overhead, would distract him and disorient him for almost a whole day. The gnawing pain could be numbed with a trip to the bar where he could have a few drinks and dance, perhaps pick up a one night stand and wake up in his room wondering what he had done the night before. His hearing was damaged by gunfire, so he was accused of not listening to directions at work or called “stupid” by his co-workers who didn’t realize he was reading their lips. He was too proud to admit he didn’t hear the directions and too afraid he would be fired if he did. His disability was piling up until he attempted suicide. Then the Army acknowledged his inability to function. His artistic ability has never been impaired however. His photographic eye is amazing and his chiefly self-taught painting style is provocative. He reads profusely and his reading shows up in the painting.IMG_3012(1)

Neville’s ancestry is English and Cherokee. He had never studied his Native American heritage until I taught him the Cherokee dance of life, and gave him some books by Cherokee elders to read. He then found the Medicine Wheel teachings of the northern tribes. The snake and snow goose are symbols for him (Scorpio) and me (Capricorn) as the “moons” in which we were born. These are conscious depictions of our relatedness and the tipi is our mutual heritage. He is “standing” in front of his new awareness of his Tsalagi heritage, symbolized by the tipi of the plains peoples. He was also reading Seven Arrows at the time, so the two barren “sundance trees” could be viewed as originating in response to that reading. He claims he doesn’t know why he put those trees there. My classical Greek and Latin scholar, whom we call the Raven, felt the symbols came right out of the collective unconscious. They were for Pythagoras symbolic of the main choice in life, the paths of virtuousness or viciousness. They symbolize the duality of male/female, good/bad, light/dark. The abyss in the background has its bleak edges and is overlooked by a moon wearing the infinity symbol as glasses. The tipi is dark inside, unexplored territory perhaps.

When I asked about the spirals on the tipi skin, Neville had no conscious reason for painting them. “It just felt right to put them there,” was all he had to say about it. If it is safe to assume the tipi skin is symbolic of the ancestral protection of our heritage, the individual spirals would be individual lives danced on the connectedness of tradition. This ties in with Carl Jung’s insight about the goal of human development which he called the individuation process. Jung’s student and colleague Marie-Louise von Franz characterized it (1997) as  “A process of developing consciousness, which, continually broadening its frame of reference, works toward the conscious realization and active fulfillment of an original fundamental wholeness. This appears already as potential wholeness in early childhood in the form of symbols in dreams and fantasies which manifest again and again in periods of transformation such as puberty, the midlife period, and in times of crisis. . . What we seem to be dealing with here is a goal-seeking process in the psyche that is to a great extent independent of external conditions.” (Archetypal Dimensions of the Psyche, pp. 133 & 134)spiral galaxy
Jung characterized the process of individuation as initially unconscious. He said in Psychology and Alchemy “we can hardly escape the feeling that the unconscious process moves spiral-wise round a centre, gradually getting closer, while the characteristics of the centre grow more and more distinct.” He also describes it as something like a magnet in the center which acts “on the disparate materials and processes of the unconscious and gradually captures them as in a crystal lattice. For this reason the centre is (in other cases) often pictured as a spider in its web, especially when the conscious attitude is still dominated by fear of unconscious processes. (p.217)” That’s how I see the spirals on the tipi skin. They are representing individuals spiraling around their destiny.Ariadne's spider transformation

Jung concludes his chapter on the Symbolism of the Mandala with these words. “All life is bound to individual carriers who realize it, and it is simply inconceivable without them. But every carrier is charged with an individual destiny and destination, and the realization of these alone makes sense of life. (p.222)”

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Philo means Love

I did a radio show back in 1999 on dreams and their meaning. Those callers whose questions could not be answered got a call back. One was a young man in his early twenties, who wanted to know the meaning of the name of the California town in which he lived. “What does Philo mean?” he asked. He had heard the hour-long radio interview and knew that I had a background in language and mythology. “That’s easy. “Philo” is Greek. It means love, literally “I love”, like in philosophy, the love (philo) of wisdom (Sophia).” His interest and attitude seemed characteristic of the cannabis growers of Mendocino County at the time. This guy was going to be interesting. He didn’t disappoint my expectations. Redwood forestHis next question was about an LSD trip he took with his best friend in the redwood forest, a place noted for its cool, dark shadows and fresh water streams where ferns and fragrant flowers abound.

“So we were smoking a couple of splifs (huge Rasta type marijuana cigarettes) while the acid was coming on. It was really laid back and comfortable, until my buddy and I went skinny dipping in the cool water. When I got out and was lying on my back, looking up through the canopy at all the beauty, he got out of the water and slid over beside me. He was looking at me in a really strange way. It was curious at first and then became increasingly more sensual, sexual actually. He wanted to make it with me. He was erect and was pushing himself against me. I told him, “hey man, we’re just friends, right? I don’t want you doing that to me, OK?” And he stopped. Ever since then I have been wondering how that could happen. Have you got any ideas?”

So I asked him some questions. “Could you describe your body type? Do you have a lot of body hair? A beard, perhaps?” Pan with pipesYes, he was an athlete with a lot of body hair and a full beard. Not too surprising for a mountain man growing weed in Elk. “What astrological sign are you?” He was a Capricorn, a goat (like me). “Did you know that elk are the indigenous symbols for sexuality?” “No man,” he responded, “but I have seen them around here a lot.” “OK, I said, “here’s what I think happened. When you took the medicine, you opened up the dimension to the spirit world, what we call the archetypal realm of the Collective Unconscious. All of the energy matrices of the planet dwell there, inside of us. You invited them to interact with you and your friend by taking LSD. The wooded glen is the domain of Hermes’ son Pan, who is normally depicted as a horned god with goat-like feet. He is the prototype for the later image of the Christian Devil. He plays his flute, the Pan pipe, which evokes the magic and beauty of the forest. His loneliness is epic and he drowns it in sexual play with everyone who comes into the forest, whether they are magical, like nymphs and satyrs, or humans.

Pan and Daphnis

Pan and Daphnis

He, like his sexual initiator father Hermes, is a bi-sexual god. He likes boys just as much, if not more than, as he likes girls. Virgins are attracted by beauty and their curiosity. Remember Persephone, who wandered away from her friends and stooped to pick up a narcissus? That’s when Hades, the unseen god of the Underworld, snatched her up and carried her down into his domain, where he raped her and made her his Queen.”

He was silently listening as I continued. “When the archetypes are evoked or “constellated”, they emerge like patterns in the starry sky. The possibility of seeing a shape in the night sky is a metaphor for how the gods and goddesses emerge, or merge with our ordinary consciousness. We don’t need to take medicines to have these experiences, but LSD would surely put you guys on the fast track to being “possessed” by them. Since you say that you resemble a hairy satyr or possibly Pan, it isn’t too surprising that your buddy wanted to merge with your energy. Of course he sounds like he was rather literal and didn’t understand how metaphor works. You guys were being used by the gods to have a little fun. Hermes is a Trickster god, much like Coyote in the Native American tradition. The Trickster was having fun watching the humans interact. You guys were entertaining a divine audience and didn’t even know you were on stage.”
When I finished he said, “Thanks. That makes a lot of sense. I think I understand things better now.”

That’s when I asked him the question which had been gnawing on me like a coyote. “You have shared some very intimate and vulnerable information with me on the phone. I am a relative stranger. How did you know that you could trust me?” “Oh, that’s easy,” he said, “I can tell you have a pure heart. You love unconditionally. I can see your heart when we talk on the phone.” “Really?” I replied. “That’s amazing. I have never met anyone like you before. Could we get together sometime? There’s a sweat lodge around my birthday. Would you like to go? We could have a Capricorn celebration and go Greek dancing in Petaluma after the sweat.” His answer was clear and direct. “Yes, I’m down. Pick me up here in Elk. I’ll email you the directions. Sounds fun.” We went together and later that night it snowed on the drive home. Preston was catching snowflakes the size of half-dollars with his tongue. “I’ve never seen snow before. This is great. Thanks for the birthday adventure.” By the time I got him home, the once a year snow covered the entire mountain from the shore of the Pacific to the top of the ridge. It was indeed a memorable time, especially putting chains on my car before sunrise and following the snow plow up the road from Fort Bragg to Willits. I was exhausted when I arrived home. What an amazing adventure with a new friend, and all because of Philo, which means Love.


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The Dangers of the Inflated Masculine

Balloons are inflated with hot air which, being lighter than the surrounding air, cause the balloon to rise. hot air balloonThe hot air can be kept that way as long as the source of heat can be controlled. In this way man can fly through the sky like a bird. The classic case of inflation is Icaros, whose father made him wings to escape their bondage on the island of Crete. The master craftsman father warned his son not to fly too high because the feathers were secured with bees’ wax. The adolescent youth was so charmed by his power that he disobeyed his father and, getting too high and close to the heat of the sun, lost his feathers and plunged into the sea. What goes up also comes down.



What is important is how we control the flight. James Wyly wrote about the inflated masculine psyche in 1989. He was interested in the psychological aspects of this phenomenon, how the quest for power and limitless competition leads to violence, to inflation and its likely disastrous consequences. He focused on the oldest metaphor of masculine inflation, the swollen, erect penis, called the phallos by the ancient Greeks (phallus in Latin), as “the physiological instrument of male creativity.” (The Phallic Quest: Priapus and Masculine Inflation, p. 11) Since Wyly was concerned about the destructive effects of too much inflation and how the unconscious creates balance, he looks to the oldest texts regarding the problem.

Dionysos classical

Dionysos classical



Priapus is a latecomer in the Greek pantheon. He wasn’t recognized as a god until the time of Phillip of Macedonia and his son Alexander. Wyly assumes there is a psychic reason for this. If you look at the images of Dionysos, god of wine and ecstasy, you will note an interesting change took place. The oldest representations of Dionysos show him as a mature man, bearded and well developed physically. Probably about the time of Socrates and the height of Athenian culture, Dionysos is seen as a beardless youth with long flowing locks of hair. The god is depicted in his adolescent form, beautiful and alluring as the wine he represents. What this means from a religious and psychological point of view is that the divine image was splitting into two distinct forms.

As an infant Dionysos was hidden from the Great Mother Hera’s wrath (Zeus had an affair with a human) by Hermes. But there is more to this story. When Semele is pregnant with the heavenly father’s child, she is met by an old woman who suggests all men inflate their credentials.Intrauterine fetus If her lover is really Zeus, then ask him to show himself as he really is in all his glory. Hera (as old woman) is the source of this advice, and like the wicked witch of Snow White and the Seven Dwarves, gets the innocent beauty to bite on the poisoned “apple”. Zeus can’t talk her out of her wish, so he hides behind a cloud as he discloses his true identity. The power of the sky god’s lightning flash kills Semele. The power of the divine masculine destroys the feminine. Zeus does a caesarian section saving the fetus, cuts open his own thigh and places his unborn son inside of himself. He thus carries his son to term and entrusts the child to another of his sons, the wily Hermes. The hiding place could be seen as a compensation for all this masculine energy of his birth father.

Where would Hera not look for a boy child? Hermes gives the child to a King and Queen to raise with their daughters.Dionysos modern This proves to be the perfect hiding place, in a group of girls. Dionysos is raised as a girl, dressed as a girl, and likes to hang out with girls. When he finally “comes out” of the harem as a man, he is vulnerable to Hera’s revenge and she causes him to wander until she finally kills him like a bunch of grapes, smashed to pieces. But you can’t kill a divine being so easily and Dionysos comes back to life. He is the paradigm of the dying and rising god. Dionysos was called the “thrice born” because he was born of woman, of the divine father, and of himself. It is no wonder Christianity caught on with the Hellenes is it?

Wyly is concerned with the destructive aspects of masculine inflation and Priapus is the image of the split off part of the creative masculine. Priapus can easily be recognized by his enormous penis. He was the product of a one night stand according to the story. His father Dionysos impregnated the lusty and beautiful goddess Aphrodite, who abandoned the child. Neglected by his mother Priapus tries to take the missing mothering into himself by attempting to rape Hestia the goddess of the hearth.

Hestia, Virgin Goddess of the Hearth

Hestia, Virgin Goddess of the Hearth

His plan is thwarted by the braying of an ass, which awakens the divine court. There is a connection between the enormous phallos of the god and that of the ass, which shows up in Pausanius’ book The Golden Ass. Lucius, the hero who is trying to arrogate magical powers to himself by seducing the servant of a powerful witch, uses the wrong potion and turns into an ass. The betrayed feminine refuses to return him to his human form and the book is an account of his humiliating adventures as an animal. His consciousness is human, he understands the humans’ speech and learns what it is like to be treated like an object. In this way he experiences the effects of the abusive and destructive masculine forces in the ancient world. His creative masculine is split off and he cannot become whole until he gives up hope entirely. isis-maatThat is when he dreams of the Great Mother Isis, who tells him what to do. When he is transformed back into human form, Lucius devotes his life to the Great Mother’s service, becomes a wealthy lawyer in Rome, and shows us how all the suffering can eventually become a gift.

But Wyly doesn’t start with the hopeful story of Lucius. He starts with the story of Encolpius in Petronius’ tale the Satyricon. Encolpius is a handsome young student who is proud of his penis and his ability to use it. Priapus enters the story with his pruning knife and makes Encolpius impotent, thus humiliating Encolpius. Federico Fellini did a marvelous modern film of this story. It shows the agonizing search for potency in the company of others. Giton the slave/lover of Encolpius is the beautiful youth, who looks like an effeminate Dionysos, and is just as fickle.

Giton and Encolpius

Giton and Encolpius

Priapus does not restore what he takes away. After a long and arduous parody of Odysseus’ Odyssey, Encolpius (“the crotch”) is blessed with his phallic power again. The god Hermes is the source of this gift and since there is no evolution in the character’s personality, there isn’t much hope for Encolpius. Priapus will probably show up again with his pruning knife. When the masculine is inflated instead of balanced, disaster is around the corner. The proper attitude toward the vegetative god Priapus would be to offer him some of the produce of the fields, to sacrifice to him. This is the proper way to do things, to cut yourself down to human size and be humble. In the Satyricon the excesses of masculine power are demonstrated in all their various (perverted) forms. Sartyricon 69Everything that can go wrong does. It is an illustrative tale. When we think we are in control, the unconscious really is.

Psychologically speaking there is a basic flaw in human consciousness which developed in Greek civilization about the time philosophy emerged in our psyches. The masculine split into two parts symbolized by Dionysos and Priapus. This split is unhealthy and the unconscious strives to reintegrate the parts into a whole. Wyly put it this way,

“This separation is the result of a union between the feminine (Aprodite, Cybele, Agdistis) and an adolescent or effeminate masculine (Dionysus, Adonis, Attis)



which cannot bring fully developed phallic power into their relationship. This particular masculine-feminine union, then, castrates; that is, it suppresses phallos. Phallos then takes on an autonomous life of its own as the complex symbolized by Priapus with his enormous penis. If Priapus is a god who takes form when attention is focused on a relatively non-phallic masculine, then he is a compensatory phenomenon; and, as he is both divine and an exaggeration, he carries his own countercompensation, the knife that can prune the tree back to healthy size. Thus there is a balance inherent in the figure of Priapus.” (p. 31)



Carl Jung talked about the emerging ego as a slow awareness of oneself as separate from the cosmic soup into which we are born. That divine otherness, the origin of human consciousness, is usually seen as the matrix, the divine feminine, the Great Mother who carries us through all the stages of evolution until we emerge as a infant. Our human mothers are an extension of this divine mothering, which because of its “otherness”, its difference from our conscious awareness, Jung labeled the unconscious. Literally it is that of which we are not conscious, that which cannot be known in its essential nature. Kant used the expression “the thing in itself” which gives us empirical sensory data by which we can deduce its characteristics, but it is theoretically impossible to “get inside it” to understand it in the way we understand ourselves. This Divine Mother (matrix comes from the Latin mater) is ultimately unknowable, except as it affects us. The otherness is distinguished from humanness by calling it divine. The gods and goddess are the Unconscious, the Matrix out of which life emerges.

There is a universal quality to the images of the Unconscious which Jung tried to capture with his use of the term Collective Unconscious. All of the archetypal forms of energy matrices, the gods and goddesses, reside in the Collective Psyche of the Cosmos. This accounts for the fact that there is cross-cultural imagining of forces in dreams, visions, and art across the planet.mandala squaring the circle It is possible for an Irish immigrant to the United States to have dreams of indigenous native mythology and legends from North America, Africa, or Asia. There is an inter-connective psychic tissue, invisible yet recognizable in the dreams of people on this big, blue marble. If we follow Jung’s thinking, the ego is emerging from this Unconscious psychic stuff. As we become aware of ourselves as separate from mother and father, from the family, and locale, another unconscious process is happening. There are invisible threads connected to us, threads which come from the divine Source, which Jung called the Self.

Medicine Wheel

Medicine Wheel

In the process of becoming aware of ourselves as individuals, there is a kind of inflation happening. Some of the qualities of the Divine Source are annexed to the ego consciousness. This especially happens when we undergo Jungian analysis, when the collective unconscious is being allowed to have its way with us. The danger is inflation, that we will identify with the power flowing from the unconscious and, like Icarus, get too high. When that happens the Self (the divine symbolized by the sun) melts our wings and we fall back into the unconscious. This is another way of saying that we could easily suffer a psychotic break. That is the dissolution of the ego into the unconscious, the sea of the Great Mother.

Individuation can thus be a risky road to travel. All the myths and legends tell us about this process. They provide us with road maps of possible routes and consequences. That is why Jung stressed the importance of studying comparative religion and mythology. If you want to survive the spiritual journey of individuation, you will need a guide and/or guide books. Wyly is focused on the problems created when we assimilate qualities to ourselves, to our conscious egos, which belong to the divine, to the Self. A compensating lowering takes place, orchestrated by the Unconscious, until we attain the proper relationship to the divine. This is symbolized by the golden mean, the path between the extremes. For an inflated man this could mean a moral defeat, humiliation, or loosening his tight values for a more open orientation. The compensation will depend on the individual, but the common characteristic will be of balancing consciousness with the unconscious, so that there is a harmonious cooperation of the ego and the unconscious. That is the great Opus or Work of the alchemists. It is the ultimate goal of civilization. But that is not what we see in the contemporary world around us.

CenturianWhat we see now is inflation of the masculine in every possible way. Power, control, subjugation of the indigenous, women, children, the “others” is rampant. All of life is treated as an object by the inflated masculine. Petronius illustrated that in his portrayal of the Roman Empire. Civilization which holds up the Roman political system as ideal is going to suffer the fate of Rome. RomeThe culture is just a reflection of individual consciousness. It is the collective expression of all the individuals in the culture. People who are inflated, men and women alike, create their power complexes within the culture. Desire to control resources, whether they are natural or human, leads to further inflation of those in power positions and to the governments which do their bidding. That was the situation in ancient Rome, just as it is the European Union, the United States, China, or Russia. Everywhere we see the inflated masculine and the split-off masculine symbolized by Priapus, he who would rape the earth and its women before castrating its men. The ancient stories show us how this destructive masculine developed and what little hope there is for rescue from its clutches before it destroys the planet.

We have to allow the influence of the divine to compensate for our arrogance. We have to accept the humiliation and impotence which results from our inflation and trust patiently that rescue will come. In the stories of Encolpius and Lucius help comes after long suffering humiliation creates the proper attitude of respect for our helplessness and dependence on divine grace. This shows up in two forms, the divine Trickster and the Great Mother. Hermes is like the Native American Trickster figures of Coyote, Raven, and Rabbit. We can learn a lot from studying these animals. They know how to use their intelligence for their advantage. They are survivors. They are tricky, sexually and materially, but they fit into the world as inter-related individuals. They know their place in the web of life.



Hermes is divine, an agent of the Collective Unconscious, the guide of souls and the messenger of the gods. His messages arrive from the divine realms in dreams and visions. The deity is helping his creatures by sending them advice. If they listen and implement the messages, things improve. That was Hermes’ gift to Encolpius. He restored his potency as a man. Similarly the Great Goddess of Egypt Isis can restore potency. But again the process of humbling oneself first is necessary. If we don’t do it consciously, we are forced to do it unconsciously (Lucius unconsciously turned himself into an ass). We are forced to see ourselves as pigs or asses, lower than human in the way we behave. When we finally experience what it is like to lose our human consciousness, we know how important it is to preserve it. Only with the proper respect for the divine otherness of the cosmos can humanity be restored to balance.

LuciusThat is the story of Lucius, who promises never to become inflated again. His religious practice guarantees his service of the divine mother, his respect for the matrix out of which we all emerged. That is the only sustainable way for humanity to survive. It was true two thousand years ago and it is true today. The question is, can we humble ourselves before Creator and receive balance? That is the teaching of Priapus and Dionysos, respect for the divine and lowering ourselves, humbling ourselves in the service of others, in the service of unconditional love.

Masculine and Feminine

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Coyote, Keeper of the Southern Door

medicine wheel

The Medicine Wheel suggests, by its very structure, a relativistic approach to human experience. There are four directions, an inner circle and an outer one. Things appear differently depending upon your position, where you are on the wheel of life.

Boulet CoyoteIn the south, usually the place of trust and innocence, childhood and playfulness, there is a rather primitive way of seeing. Children have a narrow view of the world. Our mother and (perhaps) our father are the first objects to be experienced. Nourishment, love, affection, warmth, and having one’s needs met are in the south.
The womb, from which we emerge at birth, is symbolic of the psychic soup in which infants and young children swim. Intrauterine fetusThere are no boundaries between the experience and the experiencer. The child feels things. As he or she grows, so does touch, hearing and sight. Awareness of oneself as separate from the family and the environment comes slowly and at different times for different children. At first there is perception. As we interact with family members, we begin to understand things differently. The infant’s self-centered way of experiencing the world is entirely appropriate for that stage of life. When her needs are met and she grows up in the family, she realizes that not everything is hers.
This becomes a fact when her mommy becomes pregnant and the new sibling arrives. There isn’t as much time for the first born child. She is expected to change her behavior. When she rips her toy out of the grasping hand of her brother, he cries, just as she did. Then she cries and much to her surprise, she is told that her taking back of her beloved object from the usurping baby brother was not OK. This reality check is painful. Not everything in her world is still hers in the way it was. Her mommy is still hers, but she has to share her mommy with the new baby brother. She may like the usurper sometimes. He’s cute and obviously valuable, her parents think so anyway, but he’s also a bother. He frustrates her getting her needs met immediately which she was enjoying before he arrived. Sometimes she acts out her jealousy and the baby has an accident, maybe when mom and dad aren’t looking. The bump on the head occurred when he “fell” she tells mommy. She doesn’t talk about how she tripped him. This is where the extended family can also be a bother. Sometimes the aunt or the grandmother saw what happened. Then come the blame, the guilt, and being held responsible for her actions. Still she is a very primitive being, tightly embedded in the spirit world, and hence emergence from the psychic soup is not always welcome.
When my 4 year-old grand-daughter talked to the space in front of her, my son would ask her what she was doing. “Talking to the lady with the feathers” was her reply. “She wants us to cedar off the lodge.” The adults couldn’t see what she was “seeing”, but the vision came in a feminine form and with specific instructions. Her papa did as she wished, he validated her vision. She was just beginning to separate herself from the psychic realm of the mother and all the ancestors. Tsalagi feminineShe could speak and communicate with her family and would soon be going out into the world and preschool. Validating her vision would prove to be a problematic choice on her papa’s part, when she discovered her “people” were invisible to everybody and that her teacher wasn’t willing to do her bidding like her papa and mama were. The school experience wasn’t user friendly for someone with shamanic abilities. Here enters Coyote, the spirit keeper of the South. She understands the problem and is happy to be of service.
Looking at things from the Coyote’s perspective, life is a fun, curious experience filled with spontaneous bursts of dance, joy, and tears. The primitive animal side of the human is clearly evident. She is jealous and cruel, as well as loving and affectionate. Survival is important to a developing organism of any kind and children will steal, lie, and pretend in order to survive. We notice this in the best of homes, with the most loving and responsible of caregivers. In a problematic household where alcohol and other interesting substances alter the moods and behavior of the parents and caregivers, the child learns quickly when it is safe and when it is not. She becomes hyper-vigilant anticipating danger when it first appears. Her eyes and ears are trained on the first signs of violence and abuse, so she can run away and hide. Seeing her as one of Coyote’s students will help us understand her environment and her response to it. Both the healthy child and the abused child stand in the South with the Coyote. In a way they express the dual aspects of each of the directions. Coyote is the Trickster and her tricks can be lessons to help us grow. They can also be disasters. It all depends on what we need to learn and how we approach life.

When we are going through the Coyote phase of human development, Coyote jumps on your back to teach you a lesson. My Chumash friend, the Roadrunner, used to share that saying and end it with, “three years ago Michael Melville jumped on my back and he still hasn’t gotten off. I guess I haven’t learned my lesson yet.” When we play the role of the Coyote, we remind our brothers and sisters that it is important to remain trusting, curious, playful, and innocently open to life. When we get out of balance, Coyote comes along and jumps on our backs. If we are lucky, we fall to earth and become grounded. When we get up again, we appreciate the vision of “seeing up close” having had our nose to the ground, which changed our perspective. That is the Trickster’s gift, a reorientation and reminder that we need to have the childlike openness to life, if we are to walk in balance on our mother the Earth. Sometimes we aren’t so lucky and the lesson is painful, but the result is the same. We see things differently from the way we did, before the Paw of Destiny knocked us to the ground. There is always a positive and a negative side to Coyote’s interventions. Hopefully you’ll be lucky when she hits you running and you’ll learn your lesson well. Welcome to the medicine of the South.

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Ganymede, the Hellenes’ Eagle Dancer

ErosIn order to understand the story of Zeus and Ganymede, we have to set the stage. Before the gods and goddesses of the ancient Greeks, there was a process which started with Chaos. Next was Gaia the Earth Goddess, then Tartaros in the pit of the earth, and finally Eros. Who is Eros? Eros is, according to Hesiod, “love, handsomest among all the immortals, who breaks the limbs’ strength, who in all gods, in all human beings overpowers the intelligence in the breast, and all their shrewd planning .” Eros tends to destabilize things and brings us close to Chaos.

After the early period when heaven and earth were separated by Time. Zeus emerges victorious. He is the symbol of order and structure. His wife Hera is the jealous protector of marriage. She is a feminine ordering principle and the complementary opposite of our heavenly father god Zeus. Zeus and HeraAll the deities love and fear Eros. He can make them do the craziest things. His beauty enchants, breaks the will, destroys reason. Eros compels his victims with lusty desire and entraps them. The sudden change in his victims is symbolized by the tools of his trade, the bow and arrow. Falling in love is transforming, wounding, like being penetrated by a magic arrow. One is never the same after falling in love. And this can happen to the best of us, especially Zeus.

nude male shepherdThat happened in ancient times when tribal chiefs had herds of sheep. One such chief sent his son out to protect the sheep from predatory wolves. This strong young man was extraordinary, in many ways much like Eros himself. He was an amazingly attractive young man and his name, Ganymede, sort of states the obvious. He was well developed, what we would call “a stud”, someone who would make beautiful children. Ganymede means “beautiful genitals”. I guess we would have to say he was “well hung” and a perfect specimen of the male form in humans.

The Hellenes, as the ancient Greeks referred to themselves, had a rather primitive equation which appears in Plato’s dialogues. (Beauty = the Good) was the equation. This idea existed before people became more discerning and added ethics to the definition of the Good.

The beautiful, lonely shepherd must have been laying out in the hot sun playing his pipe when Zeus noticed him. If beauty equals the good, then here was its manifestation in human form. Eros must have unsheathed and shot one of his arrows, because Zeus was overcome with desire for the youth. The stories vary on how Zeus seduced Ganymede, but his animal familiar, the eagle, played a central role. Ganymede and eagleFirst you have to get close to the young man in a form he can relate to. Deities are energy matrices, what we call archetypes in the 21st century. They have to take on some shape, some form, in order for humans to see them. An eagle is a rather scary predator. It has sharp talons and beak, which are used to kill lambs. The potential enemy of his herd has to appear friendly to the shepherd or the youth must be very naive. Perhaps there is another amorous arrow in this story, one which penetrates Ganymede. Golden EagleIn any case there is a fascination for the youth, a curiosity which wounds, when he gets close to the eagle, who surprises him. Having won his victim’s trust, the eagle plunges his talons into the youth and carries him upward into the heavens.

This image would frighten many a civilized European of today. The indigenous plains tribes of Turtle Island (North America) still pierce the chests of Sun Dancers, who willingly tie themselves to the Tree of Life. Sun DancerSome of these dancers are eagle dancers and the symbolism of the eagle, which soars high in the sky, is the messenger who carries the people’s prayers to Creator/Great Mystery. The Mandan tribes would hoist the pierced dancers to the top of the structure, as the men swang from leather thongs attached to their chests. Chief Seattle’s tribe did the same thing, before the Europeans stopped the practice in the 19th century. The image of being transported into another dimension by pain and suffering is that of Ganymede. Like the eagle dancer who bleeds and hangs completely dependent upon the divine powers, the beautiful youth is transformed.

In Olympos, the home of the divine beings, Zeus honors the beautiful and the brave human. He takes him to his bed and makes love to him. GanymedeHe gives him a job where Zeus can show him off, both his beauty and his charm. He pours ambrosia, the elixir of immortality, for all the divine beings. Being a just god, Zeus compensates Ganymede’s parents for stealing their son. The constant presence of her husband’s lover annoys Hera, his wife, and she threatens to destroy the beautiful human. Zeus, refusing to part with his prize, transforms Ganymede into a constellation of stars, which is now called Aquarius, the Water Pourer. AquariusThis action by the divine father puts the story on the front page of the celestial court’s newspaper. As long as we look up at the starry night and wonder about the camp fires of the star nations, our Hellenistic brothers and sisters can tell us the ancient story of Zeus and Ganymede, a time when warriors and their lovers began to transform human consciousness. We are living in the culture which they created, one of war, abuse of human freedom, piracy, slavery, and destruction of Gaia, Mother Earth.

There is hope in this story, because the 2000 year Age of Aquarius is dawning, and that means love, harmony, trust, peace, and understanding are possible. We just have to change direction and become children of Aquarius instead of Aries, the god of war.

Zeus and Ganymede

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The Caput Aureum and the Medicine Lake

The end product of the alchemical process is the caput aureum, or golden head. Golden HeadThis stage of consciousness is also “round, it is the wholeness, and it is transparent stone. Which consciousness is like this, inflexible, hard, detached, immortal, and can no longer be changed? ” asked Carl Jung of his students in a 1938/39 seminar on Children’s Dreams. The answer is individuated consciousness.

Speaking metaphorically the alchemists used language in strange ways to describe inner states of consciousness obtained by their experimental craft. Often they did not distinguish between the outer reality, which we have come to call “chemistry”, and the inner reality, the phenomenology or psychology of the imaginal realm. Because of this ambiguity of language, they are often taken literally and their metaphoric words discarded as nonsense. Eastern religious philosophy used similar terms to describe human states of consciousness.

Jung explained these metaphors. When one has become “individuated” there is an integration of the ego (the conscious personality) with the unconscious. The basic ancient patterns of humanness are distinguished from ordinary awareness. Plato called these matrices (patterns from mother nature) “archetypes”. The Romantics called these the spiritual forms or divine patterns. They are the “totally other” part of human nature, the gods and goddesses of ancient times. Once humans become aware of these powerful forces and understand their functioning, it is possible to make relations with them and this results in an enlargement of personality. This ancient human process of spiritual evolution was given a new name by Jung. He called it “individuation”. The individual ego becomes aware of the infinitely more powerful realm of spirit and changes its attitude from manipulation of the environment, “my will be done”, to service, “Thy will be done.” Service to the Divine, to the Self (as the Hindus call Atman), is the mark of individuated consciousness.

Such a state of consciousness “is detached and no longer touched by the earth. This is consciousness attained in Buddhistic yoga, it rests,” said Jung, “completely detached, between heaven and earth. In The Secret of the Golden Flower you will find the idea of detached consciousness, which is like the moon, eternally untouched, and which will no longer change. We could compare this state with a firm conviction or, even better, with a final psychic state that can no longer be changed. One simply has become like that. This is the effect of the individuation process, and it occurs when the flow has reached the valley, when the potential has been spent. Then a lake comes into being, which is still and mirrors only the sky. Apart from that, it does nothing. And there are also fish in it. (p. 223)”

This state of accomplished oneness with the universe is depicted in the wise old man, the long life person of Tibet, who stands beside the water of life at one with the animals and plants. Long Life PersonThe flow of a lifetime’s awareness becomes still water, what the Native Americans call the Medicine Lake, where the whole world is reflected.  When you have become the water of the medicine, you are one with the fountain of life, the magic of the individuation process.  This stage can be reflected in your dreams.

zebra fish

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