This is my final insight from Ireland: My dream was precognitive. The first night of the conference I was shown themes and symbols that would reappear many times throughout the week. So much so that at our final dinner, Diana Rubin, trip organizer for the New York Center for Jungian Studies, led a conga line through the room in which we danced to the beat of “E-`LEC-tric-`BLUE…`POS-sum-`EX-cre-ment!” Monika laughingly said, “You’re going to write about this in your blog, aren’t you? It was the theme of the whole conference!”
We had come because we’ve found direction in Jungian psychology. We want to pierce the veils of self-delusion. We want to know where our greening has been stunted by the spirit of the times. We want to end our obsession with logic and objectivity; thwart our conformity to conventional wisdom and collective values. We understand that the spirit of our time is the critical masculine and the spirit of the depths is the creative feminine, and we see the most profound and obvious truth Nature has to teach: that life would not exist without an egalitarian partnership between both. We respect the non-rational (not “irrational”) and emotional feminine within and seek ways to integrate her into our waking lives.
Like Jung, we do this by accessing our creative imagination. Creative imagination is a third world between spirit and matter, a holy place where all divides are healed. Ireland is one of the few countries in the Western world that takes this human faculty seriously. Consider her fascination with leprechauns, rainbows, pots of gold, lucky four-leafed clovers and fairies. Consider Celtic mythology in which Euisneach is the navel of the physical world and the third-world home of the goddess Eriu. Consider that Eriu is a symbol of Ireland and the divine feminine, the central uniting force of life. With her, in the subtle body just beneath the surface of things, live all the kings who have chosen to embrace her instead of killing her.
The Irish respect the spirit in all things and the mysteries of everyday existence. Poet John O’Donohue says it best in these lines from Benedictus: A Book of Blessings, which Noirin read to us on Wednesday: “Awaken to the mystery of being here and enter the quiet immensity of your own presence. Be consoled in the secret symmetry of your soul. Respond to the call of your own gift and have the courage to follow it. When you have the experience, don’t miss the meaning. Allow your divine nature and divine appetite to become one.”
Ireland teaches that opening to mystery is what it means to be human and that each stone inviting our attention on the path through the enchanted forest is a gift of meaning. Because I find meaning beyond rational reason, measurable time, and visible space, Queen Maeve’s birthday gift to me was a dream that shattered these illusions with foreshadows of things to come. Why credit her with this gift? Because my creative imagination compels me to notice that the dream came when I was sleeping in Knocknarea Room, named after the hill site of her tomb.
On Friday a few of us walked to Labby Rock, a megalithic tomb behind Cromleach Lodge. Yes, we can lose our way in the enchanted forest, just as I led four others astray on the way back to the lodge. Sometimes we’ll stumble, err, feel angry or afraid. But if our hearts and minds are open to all that we are, we will be met by the magic of Maeve, The Intoxicated One, whose world is as close as our dreams and creative imagination.
My deepest thanks to all who have accompanied me on this inner adventure, especially you who brought the gifts of your comments. Perhaps you’ve noticed your influence in these posts. You’ve helped more than you can know.
Insights from Ireland: Getting the Human Thing Down May 24, 2013
I love the humanness of the dream I’ve been sharing. It’s so “lower chakra” with its symbolism of a possum and its excrement. Why do I love that? Andi sent me this quote in which Catholic priest Richard Rohr explains: “History has revealed too many people who have tried to be spiritual before they have learned how to be human! It is a major problem. Maybe this is why Jesus came to model humanity for us—much more than divinity….Get the ordinary human thing down, and you will have all the spirituality that you can handle.”
Kundalini yoga and Jung say the same thing. The colors of the rainbow represent the entire spectrum of human experience, from the infra-red of instinct and emotion to the ultraviolet of spiritual transcendence. We can devote our lives to spiritual strivings in the heady, upper chakra realms, but if we ignore our earthy roots we’ll still be plagued by issues related to self-esteem, security, physical identity, survival, fear, power, sex, pleasure, anxiety and relationships.
Ideally, the first half of life is for getting the human thing down, but life is rarely ideal. My parents were ill-suited to each other and when I was born my hard-working mother’s emotional health was precarious. Mom had just learned of my father’s infidelity and her mother-in-law blamed her for his moral lapse. Only now do the puzzle pieces, vague hints about family secrets, fall into place. Deeply sensitive and intuitive from birth, I absorbed the crisis-laden atmosphere into which I was born. I see it now. My mother’s deep pain. The profound anxiety of a little girl who did not receive the nurturing she needed and assumed the fault was hers. The shameful secret I have borne since childhood:
I am unlovable.
Seeing this belief at the root of my personality is the biggest insight of all. So this is why I’ve always been so hard on myself! Guided by the high-minded spirituality of my family, I responded to my unworthiness with self-consciousness, perfectionism and self-blame. I hid my anxiety beneath a smooth persona of stoic calm and poise. I tried to kill strong emotions. I played dead. X, the shadow animus in my dream who also has a deep mother wound, wants me to maintain this persona. Acting reasonable, calm and cool can be a survival strategy for an insecure child who fears the emotional abandonment of its mother.
At the start of the conference the strain of playing dead was wearing me down. Dream Mother wanted me to know I’ve grown strong enough to deal with my lower chakra realities. So she let the possum out from her hiding place and she let my dream ego have the temper tantrum I was never secure enough to have as a child: “I’m not cleaning up this shit!” I yelled with no trace of a perfectionist persona in sight.
The alchemical detail of electric blue possum excrement suggests spiritual transformation. Am I getting the human thing down? The dream said I knew cleaning up after the possum was my responsibility and I would deal with it. Dream Mother was right. I’m cooking my inner contents in a sturdy golden vessel of writing and dreamwork. And now I have a new shadow to learn to love.
Hi, Little Possum. Welcome to my conscious world. Your mother may not have been able to carry you, but I can. You won’t need to play dead any more.
About the picture: On Monday’s hike I found a stick that looked half-dragon, half-snake. Meaningful symbols are keys to hidden chambers of the unconscious. Dragon represents difficulties that must be overcome before an important goal can be reached; snake is a symbol of transformation. I brought my stick to Maeve’s Tomb on Tuesday to leave as an offering on her special hazel bush. When Fred found a swatch of red (root chakra and Maeve’s color) cloth, I tied it to the dragon-snake’s back with dental floss. The red scarf tied to the trunk below is Monika’s.
Insights From Ireland: Less Mud, More Poop! May 7, 2013
We spent the week of our conference in County Sligo. This mostly rural area in northwest Ireland was a favorite spot for William Butler Yeats who lived there as a child and returned often for rest, rejuvenation, and inspiration. Our hotel overlooked beautiful Lough Arrow whose islands inspired his much-loved poem, “The Lake Isle of Innisfree.”
On Monday, Jungian analysts Tom Elsner and Monika Wikman talked about the symbolism of alchemy which influenced Yeats and Jung. Tuesday morning’s topic was the symbols of Celtic folklore in Yeats’ poems. We were joined by Noirin Ni Riain, a gifted Irish singer and story teller. Her haunting songs and legends, sometimes voiced in her beautiful brogue and sometimes in Gaelic, brought a deeply spiritual Irish magic to our day and week.
The presentations were supplemented with visits to sacred sites. Some are featured in Celtic mythology; others are megalithic tombs from the early Neolithic period. Of special importance to me was Tuesday’s mid-day hike to the summit of Knocknarea (pronounced knock-na-`ray), a 1,073 foot high limestone hill west of Sligo. At the top is a large cairn about 180 feet wide and 33 feet high that probably dates to around 3000 BCE. This impressive monument is known as Maeve’s tomb.
This visit was special to me because Tuesday was my 70th birthday. And because Fred and I had been given the Knocknarea Room at Cromleach Lodge. And because in Celtic mythology, Maeve was the Queen of the fairies and the archetype of the Sacred Feminine, the focus of this blog and my books.
The climb up Knocknarea was less steep than the previous day’s and even had a rocky, mud-free trail. Along the way I showed Monika the small stone I had found to lay on Maeve’s cairn. Smooth and flat, the front side was white and the back was a shiny black. Light and dark, conscious self and unconscious shadow: the integration of opposites, the goal of inner alchemy. I also told her about a dream featuring possum poop that I’d had Sunday night after our arrival. First possum poop. Then on Monday’s hike, sheep poop. What next? You’ll see.
Halfway up the trail my cell phone rang. To my delight it was my daughter, son-in-law, and granddaughters who sang Happy Birthday to me from Florida where it was only 7:30 in the morning! I don’t think I’ll ever manage to take the miracle of cell phones for granted!
Most of us made it to the top this time. Through fog, wind, and misty rain our guide told us about the site. Then, in honor of Queen Maeve, and with a nod to my birthday, Noirin led us in a ritual of celebration and respect for the Sacred Feminine who is our guide through our unconscious depths via creative imagination. In closing, we added our stones to Maeve’s cairn along with our prayers and resolutions about our soul-making work. High on my list was to understand why the symbolism of excrement had appeared in a dream I shared at the Jungian conference where I first met Monika six months ago, and then again on the first night of this one.
An especially lovely birthday gift awaited me back at the parking lot. There, three beautiful horses, one a dapple gray like my beloved horse Shadow, were tied to a fence awaiting their riders from the nearby stable. While I visited with the gray, Fred told Monika about Shadow. When she looked over at us she started to laugh. At first I didn’t understand why, but then she said, “Shadow Behind the Shit House,” and then I got it. The gray horse was tied directly behind a blue porta-potty.
So now it was people poop! We laughed about this for the rest of the conference. With our understanding of the symbolic meaning alchemy attaches to excrement, I was beginning to realize that something significant was going on. Next time I’ll tell you how Tom and Monika’s talks provided more insights about what it was.