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Painting by Christian Shloe

A meaningful katabasis into the cave of initiation and secret knowledge is for the restoration of the whole person. The dead become an imaginal presence, “the growing understood as descent in the world, becoming useful to it and contributing to form, requires that it descend into the world that is under the world. To be an ancestor, a benefactor, a conservative and a mentor you must have knowledge of the shadows, being trained “from the dead” (from past things, which have become invisible and however continue to vivify our life with their influence). The “Dead” return as ancestors, especially in moments of crisis, when we feel lost. Then the dead “yes”, offering a deeper knowledge and support. Having already fallen, they know the chasms…

They are the gravity force of the psyche.” — James Hillman

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One should always have an eye and an ear open towards the opposite, the other thing. That does not mean to be spineless, it doesn’t mean just to sit there. It means to act according to one’s conscious conviction, but still always having the humility to keep the door open and be proved wrong. That would be an attitude of consciousness in living connection with the other, dark side. The unjust sun is that attitude that knows exactly what is what, a rigid attitude that blocks contact with the unconscious — in any case consciousness, always tends to be one-sided and sure of itself, and that does harm to the mystery of life.
Marie Louise Von Franz

What you don’t know can exert a big influence on your life, it can even kill you. We remain aware in such a limited way partly because there is so much we don’t want to admit or recognize. We prefer to hide from ourselves. We create mystery on top of the quotidian mystery we inhabit, and then we turn away to focus on our routine lives while the grand mystery swirls around us.

What we don’t see is much greater than what we do see. Cultures that devoted time to listen to the cosmos lived off what they learned. They penetrated the mystery to some extent. The befriended it, you could say. We haven’t done that. We are in a losing battle with the mystery. We want to control it, subdue it. We lack a sense of awe or even basic respect for our earthly abode. We feel above it, outside it, superior to it somehow.

Our simpleminded religious stories lock us into a literal mindset. We can’t escape our tiny vision.

We ourselves are mysterious. We are part and parcel of the grand mystery. We come, we live a life that attempts something that introduces us to failure as well as occasional successes. And then we disappear. We become a story, a memory. Some residue of life’s lessons lodge in the soul, we hope, so that subsequent incarnations grow in understanding and love.

I’m at the age when a number of people I have known and loved have already cycled off this mortal coil. I can say without fear of contradiction that I’m no longer in the planning stages of my life. I now can look back over eight decades, making connections and seeing meanings and trends of my unique path.

Everybody’s life is a mystery, in a sense. It’s practically impossible to look at another person and see their hidden mission in life. We have a hard enough time trying to see our own reason for being. I do believe there is a reason, but we’re not permitted to see it until we’ve covered a lot of ground. In the beginning we’re just guessing and trying not to screw up too badly. Later on we’ll identify our mistakes and risky tendencies and learn to be more careful. We all know people whose youthful foolishness was fatal. A large part of learning to live on earth is in dealing with our accidents and misjudgments.

Respecting and even loving the mystery is hardly thought of in our part of the world. We fear it, but it’s interesting to listen to older peoples describe their relationship with the mysterious unknown, the respect and affection that characterizes their relationship with it.

Written by

I occasionally write fiction and also about creativity, loving, language learning and travel. I’m a longtime painter and reader.

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