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Painting by Edward Robert Hughes

“When thinking of the anima as the soul guide, we are apt to think of Beatrice leading Dante up to Paradise, but we should not forget that he experienced that only after he had gone through Hell. Normally, the anima does not take a man by the hand and lead him right up to Paradise; she puts him first into a hot cauldron where he is nicely roasted for a while.”

― Marie-Louise von Franz

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“It is part of the mystery of life on earth that the human soul can awaken, grow greater, and reveal inner gifts when everything turns dark and seems about to fall apart. Soul does not fear a downturn or seek to avoid a period of darkness. Soul carries a deeper wisdom and darker knowledge born of descent and loss and renewal. Soul would have us go where we fear to go in order to learn who we are intended to be.”

-- Michael Meade

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When I was sixteen I was awakened by reading a simple Zen koan, “the wild geese do not intend to cast their reflection, the water has no mind to receive their image.” This saying opened a door I did not even know existed, and instead of the grey world of my boarding school, I found myself in a place of color and light and laughter, sunlight sparkling off the water in the river.

— Llewelyn Vaughan-Lee

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…people are filtered out (of the educational system) for OBEDIENCE…the only people who make it through are willing to do it no matter how stupid it is because they want to go to the next step… YOU CAN’T HAVE PROGRESS THIS WAY.

— Noam Chomsky

Yes, we do find ourselves well roasted by life. I’ve jumped out of the frying pan into the fire on more than one occasion. I’ve received a long series of tutorials from life on what not to do initiated mostly by my inability to imagine how regimented I’m expected to be.

My cluelessness served me well, though, because I wasn’t going to starve while I figured out how to be creative. There was discouragement but there was unexpected help too.

We have enough faults, neuroses and ignorance to provide our own challenges in life. We don’t need a social system that frustrates our every attempt to be ourselves, but that’s what we have. The result is most people get lost.

Our culture leads us in the wrong direction. It leads us away from ourselves if we listen to it. I remember fraught times when I couldn’t find my path, when the way forward was uncertain or blocked. We are presented with a question of survival. “Sure, you can do what you really love, except you’ll starve and nobody will care.”

That picture of the “real world” is meant to convince you that you better behave, but things are a little more unpredictable than that. Serendipity is real. Surprises are generously provided by the gods of destiny. How you think and feel are always creating the world you meet every day. You are more powerful than you realize.

We don’t realize when we’re young that the culture we live in is intentionally organized to kill our originality. We’re offered few options to find and live out our original selves. The problem we’re taught to solve is one of physical survival. Joy and deeper meaning don’t come into it. Once you see this, you can’t unsee it.

I was bequeathed this issue because both my parents aspired to be creative. Watching how that played out against the cultural backdrop and how many internal and external diversions there were began my lifelong education in what it takes to live your own life.

It’s not simple or easy. As children we can’t appreciate the forces arrayed against that project. Our educational system wants to turn out obedient workers, not eccentric creatives. It cares not that you would suffer from being separated from yourself.

You will get lost. You will make mistakes. You will learn so-called hard lessons. But if you’re living your own life, you have built your life on a rock

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