Archive for March 21st, 2009
In my recent descent in to the underworld, I needed to use a guide. I knew that I didn’t have the tools or the skills to make this journey alone. On the right is a photo of my guide, a Mayan. With his gentle and caring lead, I was able to do what I haven’t been able to do in the past, attempt a physical descent. I have a fear of heights and shake on ladders. The first stage of my journey to the underworld was to descend a relatively flimsy ladder of sorts, one that would never be sold in a store. Yet, I took the risk and curiously felt a sense of safety where everywhere else I had always felt sensations of vertigo and nausea.
Into the depths I strode, carefully. Down further inclines where I had to hold a rope where otherwise I would have slipped over an edge to land on rocks below. Again, no vertigo, no fear. Strange.
I have followed a guide in the past through a number of other journeys through the underworld, a place of darkness of the spirit and soul. It was much the same as I was risking sanity not knowing if I would ever return to a normal outer world. Two guides became critical to my moving forward, N. who caught me as I stumbed at the age of 47, and K. who lead me through the underworld through my dreams, poetry and art when I was 49. One guide, N., was a man, the second guide, K., was a woman.
I have also been a guide for others over many decades. It is strange how one has the strength and wisdom to be a guide, yet finds an inner weakness and fear when it is time yet once again for another descent which leads yet again to another rebirth, another ascent. But of course, this is just as it should be when one is engaged in one’s personal hero myth.
In response to the call the hero undertakes a journey, usually a dangerous journey to an unknown region full of both promise and danger. Often the journey is a descent. Sometimes, as with Jonah, Aeneas, Christ, and Psyche, it is a descent into the depths — the sea, the underworld, or Hades itself. Always there is a perilous crossing. Sometimes the faintheartedness of the hero is balanced by the appearance of guardians or helpful animals that enable the hero to perform the superhuman task that cannot be accomplished unaided. These helpful forces are representatives of the psychic totality that supports the ego in its struggle. They bear witness to the fact that the essential function of the hero myth is the development of the individual’s true personality.
Ah! So that is what this journey to the underworld has been all about.