Archive for the ‘underworld’ tag
I am sitting on my balcony in a little beach resort in MoalBoal, Philippines. The word resort is a loose term for this small set of accommodations along Big Sand beach. I had visions of an isolated set of cottages along a mostly deserted beach, an expectation that faded quickly with the first look at the site and then taking a short walk along the beach. Needless to say I was both disappointed and angry when I realised what the reality of this place was. In a way, I was almost expecting to be let down. I spent the night before flying out in Shanghai at the airport hotel that is located between the two terminals. My room number at the hotel – 6661. My first thought, the 666 was the sign of the devil. Of course, I immediately took that to mean that my unconscious was about to bust out of its container and make life miserable for me, leaving a trail of wreckage which I would then have to clean up.
It was at this point that I realised that I was hearing echoes of my own stuff, my own shadows rather than receiving messages in code from the devil. It all comes down to a point of view such as in this photograph. I took this photo because of the colour and because I saw the ripples in the water and the bubbles of air. The shell under the water appears to be distorted as if some crazed artist was trying to capture one of his nightmares, trying to capture the devil’s world. The underwater world is a different world when seen from above the water, a crazed out of tilt world. But, it really isn’t what it appears like. Going beneath the surface, safely beneath the surface, one sees that the tilt disappears as do the distortions.
The key is to make sure one goes under the water safely knowing that one is a creature that belongs on the other side of the water’s surface.
This photo was taken on the evening of the Lantern Festival, the last event of the Spring Festival in China. Since the event is tied to the full moon, that date shifts every year. That evening, I watched as many sent off paper lanterns into the sky from the Buddhist temple that stood at the side of the park in which I was standing to take this photo. The lanterns were like small hotair ballons which were powered by a flame in a small box which made the lantern glow in the dark night sky. Each lantern is sent to the heavens with a prayer written within. The year before this photo, I stood on the edge of the South China Sea and sent a lantern free into the night sky.
I guess I could say that this sending of a prayer into the night during a full moon is symbolic. For me, the moon is representative of anima, that distant feminine aspect that is found within the deep and dark underworld of unconsciousness, in shadow country. I choose to enter into this region of shadows, ghosts and relics in hope of finding hope and meaning. I know that there is something deeper within, something deeper without that is waiting to be born, to be reborn in consciousness.
Something in us knows much more than the ego does, and in time the ego may learn to enlarge its frame to include this other wisdom. This is how one benefits from the compensatory power of the unconscious as it seeks to enlarge the narrow frame of consciousness. (James Hollis, On This Journey We Call Life, 2003, p. 54)
A simple photo today, one taken yesterday morning from my backyard deck. Like the previous photo, this one is about the contrast between light and dark. Here, the shadow world is active. As I looked at the scene, I was struck how much vitality was given to the object, Trollius x cultorum, or “Golden Queen.” Those flowers in full sunlight appeared to be faded, almost washed out with the light. Those in deep shade where also less distinct. But those at the edges of shadow and light were the most vibrant. Nature has so much to teach us.
This makes me thing of how we become more ourselves, fuller beings when we work to bring aspects of the shadow into our consciousness. Being stuck in a sense of self that is fully persona leaves us washed out, energyless and feeling empty. Being stuck in the underworld of inner spaces where ego is almost non-existent is akin to being the living dead. It is only when one dares to experience some of the depths of self, to dare heroic journeys of self discovery that one is able to emerge a more vital being. It is then that one becomes “gold,” not that much different than the Golden Queen flower that thrives best in the partly sunny, partly shady spaces.
Recently I managed to visit the two largest Mayan cave structures in the Yucatan, Calcehtok and Loltun. This photo was from Loltun. I had walked through the caves (grutas) to a depth of forty-five metres. In this photo, I am not too deep, yet deep enough to appreciate a ray of sunlight coming through an opening on the surface.
In the caves of Calcehtok, I wandered through a more primitive set of caves, more authentic for the primitiveness. my guide through this underword only spoke Spanish, a language I have just begun to learn. Yet, as he talked, I sensed a deeper understanding that mere words should have given me. When we were in the depths of the caves, in a huge dome-shaped room in which an alter stood, an ancient alter that wasn’t shaped by human hands. Around the perimeter of the huge room, small niches held offerings. Then, the guide asked me for my light and told me we would experience darkness and have a chance to meditate. The darkness was total. The only sound was an occasional drip. Fear was absent. Peace was present.
The journey would not have been possible without a guide. And, this teaches me about the need for a guide in my descents into the underworld of my inner world.
Las grutas de Tzabnah at the edges of a Mexican village called Tecoh in the Yucatan. Grutas are caves, dark places under the surface. In these places one would be well advised to travel with a guide. In the photo that I took displayed above, I used what little natural light I could find, light that filtered through one of the natural openings to the surface above. As I travelled about in this cave, I was limited in how far I could wander as I entered without a source of light or without a guide. My only light was the laser beam from the camera that would flash before I depressed the shutter button completely. Even with this light source, it was a risky business. I walked with one hand above and in front of my head as there were many outcrops of rock hidden in the darkness. Stepping forward was tentative not knowing what would be encountered. In many ways, this is the journey one takes into the under/innerworld of one’s ‘self’.
Often with the advent of midlife, one is forced to come to terms with the realisation that life must be more than what one has encountered. There must be a deeper aspect, something that gives meaning. It can’t all be about the stuff we collect or the status or sense of presence we craft in our collective encounters. One feels an emptiness, a darkness, a cavern. For those willing and able to risk the unknown, it is the time to find a guide in order to make the descent become about discovery rather than of self-destruction. It is too easy to get lost in the underworld.