Category Archives: mythology and metaphor

STTNG “Sub Rosa”: Predatory Love

I wrote the following in May of 2010, as part of a letter to a friend, and today I ran across it while looking for something else. It seems like an appropriate story for Halloween and Día de los Muertos, almost a ghost story but not quite. 

There has been so much news of sexual abuse and coercion lately, and our group mind is busy chewing over what constitutes abuse and what possibly is just a matter of being a jerk instead. For my own rather different reasons I have been considering this question as well. The situation in the STTNG episode I describe here is pathognomonic of abuse: one being takes control of another and prevents her from living her own life. Yet, as in real relationships, things aren’t absolutely cut and dried.
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The other night I had the opportunity to record a Star Trek: The Next Generation episode that I’d been wanting to get my hands on for years, “Sub Rosa.” I hadn’t seen it in probably a decade or more. This time around, I found myself thinking, “Was Gates McFadden’s acting really that bad?” [sorry] and “I can’t believe they piled that much makeup on those poor women,” and “Why did they give Deanna Troi SO much hair?” and “Geez, none of their uniforms really fit.” Somehow the show, which honestly was high-quality overall, seemed even more dated than Classic Trek from the ‘60s!

But the story was still of interest to me. It was about almost exactly what an ex-friend and colleague insisted was happening to me: a disembodied being was making inappropriate and harmful use of humans, while claiming to love them and take care of them. The story began with Dr. Beverly Crusher, the Enterprise’s chief medical officer, beaming down for her grandmother’s funeral. The planet where her grandmother lived had been terraformed into a replica of the Scottish Highlands– which I guess was someone’s idea of the perfect environment– and the clothes and houses looked like they came from around 1800.

When Dr. Crusher read her grandmother’s journals, she discovered that this century-old lady had had a handsome lover, a guy in his 30s! Very soon the lover made an appearance and offered his services to the granddaughter. He represented himself as a ghost, a regular human spirit, nothing too untoward. She quickly fell under his spell. For short periods he would appear as a corporeal man, but then he would dissolve into a green mist and sink into her body, merging with her in a way that looked eerily familiar to me. They didn’t make it clear whether this was an overtly sexual act, but it sure looked like Beverly, squirming around most sensuously, was having a wonderful time.

The green mist guy, whose name was Ronin, asked Dr. Crusher to stay with him on the planet so that they could be completely joined forever. She was so messed up by that time that she instantly resigned from Starfleet and did as he asked, having no problem with leaving all her friends and everything she’d ever worked for. But by that time the captain and others were on to Ronin and trying to get Dr. Crusher out from under his influence. They had figured out that he was not a ghost at all, but an alien being made of “anaphasic energy,” a (made-up of course) kind of energy that was unstable and couldn’t exist without some kind of physical host. (Making one wonder how such a creature could ever evolve in the first place.) He’d been preying on the women in Beverly’s family generation after generation. They had a sort of candle, a family heirloom, that was where he lived when he wasn’t invading their own bodies.

And that’s when Ronin started attacking people, even killing one, to save himself. Finally Dr. Crusher had to kill him herself– of course, what else– blowing him away most dramatically with her phaser.

But at the very end, looking at her grandmother’s journals again, Dr. Crusher commented wistfully that whatever else he’d done, he had made her grandmother very happy.

Star Trek at its best has often managed to find stories that resonate for a great many people, at some deep subconscious or even mythological level. In this case, the plot concerned something that does appear to happen, a disembodied being interfering in the life of a human, but it also can be taken as being about physical-world relationships that are obsessive and controlling. It’s kind of the ultimate in codependent relationships.

And it’s very close to the kind of relationship my ex-friend accused me of having with Fryderyk.

I don’t have the slightest worry that I am being preyed upon or abused, but this story did make me take stock yet again. What would I be doing these days if Fryderyk had not happened to me? Would I have followed my “plan A” and studied jazz bass? Would I be a really hot lutenist? Would I somehow have become more myself if I hadn’t been concentrating on him? It seems like I might have saved many thousands of dollars by not buying a grand piano and not taking so many lessons, but then, I was already taking lessons and teaching, and I might have done all that anyway.

I do think that I’ve been significantly happier than I would have been otherwise. Maybe the happiness of romance is nothing more than a bunch of oxytocin circulating through the system, but it’s happiness nonetheless.

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Medicine Buddha

My patient and friend Dawn studied Buddhism in Nepal many years ago and has practiced diligently ever since. One of her teachers from there, Lama Zopa Rinpoche, does a great deal of traveling and was recently in Santa Fe, where she was able to see him. At her next appointment, she brought me a card depicting the Medicine Buddha, which he had blessed. She said that she knew it was supposed to be for me.

 It looks a lot like this:

When Dawn put the card into my hands, it seemed to be vibrating, as if it were alive. Lama Zopa’s blessing and intentions seemed to be totally, intensely present still. I had been having an extremely hard time that day, and nearly burst into tears at the generosity and kindness of this gift, which came to me precisely when I needed it most.

But strangely, despite having heard of him many times, and despite the obvious connection to my line of work, I knew nothing of the Medicine Buddha. Those of you who are familiar with my business name or have been to my office know of my love for the image of Kuan Yin and my aspiration to bring some particle of her vast compassion to my work with my patients. I had been content with her, and perhaps it hadn’t yet been time for me to confront this colleague of hers in the cosmic healing arts. Yet it feels now as if he may have always been there in the background.

As soon as I got home, I began reading about this Buddha, Bhaisajya in Sanskrit. I learned that he is the original doctor, the archetype of doctors I would say, though Buddhism does not use that term. I saw that in his left hand he holds a bowl like those used to mix medicines since ancient times, containing the healing he offers to all those who need it.

The article that made the most connection for me was this, though it unfortunately contains a tangle of confused symbols where diacritical marks didn’t make it onto the website properly:
https://www.wildmind.org/mantras/figures/bhaishajyaguru-medicine-buddha-mantra
An essay included in this article touched me profoundly. The author, Srivandana, has struggled all her life with poor health, but she perseveres in her practice and her faith that she can transcend the ills of her body. “I have raged against the certain knowledge that there is no physical healing for me in this lifetime,” she wrote, bringing me again to tears.

Srivandana wrote about the myrobalan fruit that Medicine Buddha holds in his right hand. Used commonly in Ayurvedic and Tibetan medicine, it is called He Zi in the Chinese pharmacopeia, where I learned it as a relatively minor herb. Bitter and sour, it can stop dysentery and cough and restore the voice. What Srivandana described was a terrible tasting medicine, so bitter that one recoils from swallowing it. Yet once one faces the need for it and gulps it down, it brings ease, joy and understanding.

This is the medicine, as Srivandana experiences it:
  “The law of impermanence is the most beautiful thing I can possibly imagine. I have made a practice of contemplating impermanence and recognizing that everything is insubstantial and therefore painful and unsatisfactory. Reflecting on impermanence, allowing it to permeate every pore, every particle of my consciousness, rocks me to the core of my being. I feel as though I have been turned inside-out. Yet the law of impermanence is full of potential and is permeated by the beauty of change. The knowledge that this change lies in my hands, and that I can take responsibility for its coming into being, is hugely empowering.

“The medicine of the Dharma has to be drunk by the gallon, bathed in, fully absorbed. The vast sea of Dharma stretches into the distance, but a single drop can go a long way. Bhaisajyaguru also points out the danger of finding oneself in a void of impermanence, without beauty and without sustenance. I need the beauty that I touch through making art and listening to music, through communicating with spiritual friends; as well as the sustenance gained from meditation, in particular meditation on the sublime abodes of positive emotion, or brahmaviharas.”

Soon I had my own experience of this medicine and the challenge of drinking it. It was the morning after I had a lengthy late-night counseling session with my mentor Mendy Lou Blackburn, the day after a day of unusual depression and anxiety. As I came to consciousness, still half-dreaming, I was contemplating a mental image of Bhaisajyaguru, thinking about what I had read and heard. The image seemed to come alive, and the kindly being held out the bowl toward me, asking me to drink. I took the bowl into my own hands and put it to my lips, but could not make myself take the liquid. After some struggle and some encouragement from him, at last I drank.

I felt a rush through my body and wondered if it was the transformation I was asking for. Something did feel different and better. I asked exactly what the medicine was, what it was meant to do, and I received an answer that was broad and deep. I was planning to write about it right away, as it seemed clear at the time, but I can’t remember what I was told. I know something got into my head that made perfect sense, but then it sank out of my conscious sight. I’ve been told that Medicine Buddha’s teaching is like that, that it acts at a deeper level than the objective mind and can be hard to describe. As far as I can recall it was along the lines of what Srivandana wrote, about change lying in my hands and taking responsibility for my reality coming into being, and the wondrous knowledge that this is possible.

Mendy Lou said that the illness is resistance and the cure is letting go, knowing that all is provided. Or something like that. Part of the little I recall had to do with acceptance of what is, at the same time that one realizes the power to create and transform.

And on so many levels I have been needing a medicine to restore my voice, so greatly needing that.  At the time I didn’t realize that this is a major function of the herb Bhaisajya carries.

I didn’t “believe in” the Medicine Buddha any more than before. I didn’t feel that I had been in contact with a “real” entity in real time, but rather that I was in a dream sort of state and my own mind entirely constructed the encounter with Bhaisajya. But a couple of weeks later I was treating another patient who keeps up her Buddhist practice, and I put on the recording of the Medicine Buddha mantra in Tibetan that I’ve linked below. Mendy Lou came in near the end of the treatment and was sitting in the waiting room, also listening to the chanting. When she and I are in the same space, it seems, it’s easy for all sorts of things to manifest, and I suspect her influence had something to do with what I saw. As I sat with my hands near my patient’s head, lapis blue arms appeared just outside mine, cradling me and adding their own nurturing energy. I felt Bhaisajya’s strength and gentleness, and he seemed at least as real as I.

As usual, I don’t know what this means, but I accept it gratefully.

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yUJucA-mrgE
Medicine Buddha Mantra:
 I came across this accidentally, but at just the right time, and I have drunk it in as if it were critically needed nourishment, listening over and over, singing and playing it. I don’t know why it has such a deep effect. When I’ve played it during treatments my patients have reported a profound experience.

Here is a rather technical article about Medicine Buddha and his relationship to other celestial beings: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bhaisajyaguru


Myrobalan/He Zi: http://www.chineseherbshealing.com/terminalia-chebula/

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The Face in the Shroud

I intended to put this out on Easter, but as with so many things during this overwhelmed period of my life, I’m way behind. I did spend a good deal of Sunday reviewing research on this subject, finding that there was a lot more available than there had been the last time I looked.

Among the surprisingly many religious articles in my mother’s room, I found one that I’d given her myself. I bought it at the gift shop of the Santuario de Chimayó in northern New Mexico. It’s a small card with the kind of double picture that changes when you hold it at different angles. One view is the familiar face found in the negative shot of the Shroud of Turin:

And the other is a reconstruction of the living face as imagined by an artist, whose name is not given:

I was so struck by the beauty and power of the artist’s conception portrait that I wanted a copy to bring home.

There is not much I can say about the Shroud of Turin that hasn’t been said already. I’m writing about it here because it is a source of continual fascination for me, as for so many others. It is one of the anomalous objects in the world that reminds us that reality is not at all what we’ve been told it is, and that we have far less understanding of what is “really” going on than we might like. No matter how one interprets the phenomenon, there is an irreducible amount of mystery. Something beyond the ordinary happened here. What exactly was it?

Here is a summary of the facts and questions about the Shroud, as my small knowledge of them permits:

We don’t know, no one can say for sure, who the Man in the Shroud really was. We can be sure of the meaning of some aspects of his image, though. What we see is a gruesome record, in literally excruciating detail, of the torture and murder of a man by the Roman state, in a way that myriad others were also tortured and murdered. This is what holds my attention above all. The terrifying injuries— the thorns piercing the scalp, the hundreds of tears made by the lash, the abrasions and bruises, the slash of the lance, and all that beyond the horror of the nails themselves— bear witness to the cruelty of human beings to their fellows. It would be difficult to believe if we did not see it right in front of us, right down to the still-obvious blood and body fluid stains. When I was a child, the nuns told us that Jesus being nailed to the cross was unusual, that most of those who were crucified were only tied to the wood. That was not true. What happened to this one whose sufferings we see so clearly in the Shroud happened to thousands.

We do know that the blood is type AB. It turns out that the Sudarium of Oviedo, the cloth said to have been used to wrap the face of Jesus when he was prepared for burial, is saturated with the same type of blood. Records of the Sudarium’s whereabouts over time go back about seven centuries further than those of the Shroud, lending weight to the contention that the Shroud is at least that old as well. Similarities in the placement of the stains as well as the blood itself point to the same origin as the Shroud. The shapes and contents of the stains indicate that the person whose head it covered died in an upright position, consistent with crucifixion. It must be the most historically important dirty rag on the planet.

We don’t know the age of the Shroud through testing of the cloth itself. Carbon dating done decades ago placed it in the medieval period, meaning that it had to be a fake, but since the cloth was much handled over the centuries, in addition to surviving fire and water damage, there is now agreement that it was too contaminated for carbon dating to be accurate. There is also a question about the part of the cloth that was tested, which appears to be a repair added later.

We know that pollen grains found in the cloth of the Shroud place its origin in the area of Jerusalem, and are consistent with the species of plants that would be used with a burial.

We know that the color forming the image is not paint or dye. There are simply no molecules of such things present. If the image was faked during medieval or any other times, it is very challenging to give an explanation of how the faking could have been accomplished. The contention that the Shroud is simply a fake just doesn’t hold up to scrutiny. The situation is more complex than that.

One theory is that a Maillard reaction, similar to the browning of bread in the oven, could have formed the brownish-yellowish image. This does not explain the holographic and X-ray like properties of the image, in which some structures that would have been behind others can be seen.

Similarly, the theory that the Shroud is an example of a medieval photograph is intriguing and more or less plausible, but it does not explain how details other than those on the surface of the body can be seen. (Although all the materials needed for photography were indeed available in the 14th century, there is no evidence that photographs were actually made anywhere at that time.) It also fails to explain the details of the wounds and patterns of bodily secretions. Neither a live body nor the corpse of a person who had died other than through this specific series of tortures would display these particular details when photographed.

So what do I think happened? I am agnostic. The most likely explanation, it appears to me, is one that raises still more questions. Some form of radiation emanated from this body and caused changes in the surface of the cloth, by a mechanism we don’t understand but may at some point be able to reproduce. I mentioned, when I described the events around my mother’s death, that a huge amount of heat was present around her body before she left it. Could a much more powerful burst of energy of some kind be released from a human body under certain circumstances? Could this perhaps have happened many times, but to bodies that were left peacefully in their graves so that we never saw the evidence? Have images like this one been imprinted upon many other burial cloths but crumbled away unnoticed in the earth?

And in this case, what happened to the body? Why was the Shroud not left in place with it? Was the body simply disinterred and moved— the obvious hypothesis— then wrapped in a fresh length of linen and buried elsewhere, with the original cloth kept as an object of veneration? Did it reanimate and walk away, as the stories say? Did it go poof and disappear in a burst of light, which formed the image?

It seems that there have been recorded cases of people who survived crucifixion, unlikely as that sounds. Could the Man in the Shroud have been one of these, and if he was Jesus, could that explain his apparent resurrection? The evidence in the cloth is against this, as the patterns of bleeding and fluid leakage look like what would be expected to occur postmortem. As far as anyone can tell, the man was dead when he was wound in the Shroud.

Is the Shroud a supernatural phenomenon, a miracle? To me, “supernatural” only means something that is natural but not yet understood. There has got to be a way of expanding our scientific understanding to encompass this phenomenon. Even if that might mean understanding how a physical body could suddenly transform into pure energy, which is one conceivable interpretation of the evidence. The physically-measurable electromagnetic signals in and around a human body, photons included, are fairly small. It’s hard to imagine how there could be enough light or other energy emitted to produce an image on a physical surface, but equally odd things have happened, and I don’t want to rule it out.

The one thing we know for sure, from studying the Shroud, is that we are creatures who have a gigantic ability to torment other members of our species. The only comfort I can find about this is that nowadays we at least give lip service to the idea that doing this is wrong, even as we keep doing it every day, all around the world.

But what I hope we’ve learned from this strange artifact is that we are also far less limited beings than we believe, and that possibilities exist that we’ve barely begun to grasp.

Article on the mysteries of the Shroud
http://news.nationalgeographic.com/2015/04/150417-shroud-turin-relics-jesus-catholic-church-religion-science/

A website giving an overview of what is known about the Shroud

https://www.shroud.com/menu.htm
The Sudarium

https://www.shroud.com/guscin.htm

A reply to Nicholas Allen’s “medieval photograph” theory
http://www.shroud.com/pdfs/orvieto.pdf

The evidence of plants wrapped with the shroud, through pollen samples and images
https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/1999/08/990803073154.htm

Holographic studies of the image
http://shroud3d.com/home-page/introduction-holographic-observations-in-the-shroud-image-holographic-theory
‘While photography has the advantage of fixing an image in time and of concentrating it so that whichever angle you look at it from, it will remain the same, with the Shroud that is not the case. Moving around that table (lighting under an angle from one side only!), from a certain angle I saw this image so faded as if to practically disappear, while from others it seemed as if the figure WAS ALMOST OUTSIDE THE SHEET: it was, I repeat, an incredible emotion. At that moment I knew that this image was unique. I approached the face placing my camera at a distance of about 20-30 cm, aimed the camera at the face and saw…………………nothing in my viewfinder.” “And yet,” I said “I know it by heart.” I had to beg my friend to point to the position of the eye, because from a distance of 30 cm I could not see it. I could only see it as I moved away from it.’

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Not Left or Right but Up: The “Undivine Comedy” and Our Comedy of Errors

In 1833, the young poet and playwright Zygmunt Krasiński penned Nie-Boska Komedia, the “Undivine Comedy,” which is still an icon of Polish literature.  Krasiński was a one-percenter who was acutely aware that things could not go on as they were in his intensely inequitable society. In the play, the fed-up 99%, led by the charismatic but cruel and unbalanced Pankracy, rises against the ruling class. Count Henryk, a character who has much in common with the author, is the central figure on the aristocrats’ side.

An apocalyptic battle ensues, taking place in a Dantesque, fantastical setting that could not be fully realized on a physical stage at the time. Henryk and his cohorts represent a tradition that has fallen away from its noble ideals and become vain and selfish. The revolutionaries are an unsavory rabble who espouse justice and equality, but are willing to destroy everyone and everything in their way. Neither side is worthy to lead the country into the future.

In the end, the revolutionary forces win the battle, Henryk dies, and Pankracy orders the execution of the remaining aristocrats. Suddenly he is overtaken by a brilliant vision of Christ, so brilliant that it paralyzes him and blinds him to all else. In the vision, the clearly displeased Christ is leaning on his cross as if on a sword, and lightning flashes from his crown of thorns. Pankracy cries out “Galileae vicisti!” (“Galilean, you have won!”) and drops dead on the spot. The end.

When I first read a translation, many years ago, I thought it was the most facile, brainless deus ex machina ending anyone could ever have come up with. Krasiński was only 21 at the time, I thought, and he was trying to deal with hopelessly intractable social problems; he must have just thrown up his hands and walked away. I couldn’t get this crazy, surreal story out of my mind, though. Eventually it percolated through my head long enough that Krasiński’s insight got through to me.

You may have figured this out a lot faster than I did. Krasiński was saying that humans cannot mend the injustices in their world through conflict, and that no human point of view is entirely right or deserving of victory. Only a spiritual awakening can bring about the needed transformation, and that can only happen within the individual.

Well. Obviously we are not there yet. It’s going to be a while before enlightenment strikes every human heart.

Krasiński wrote in a time of fundamental dissolution and transition. Poland had been obliterated as a nation by the Russians, and many of his compatriots had emigrated to form a sort of country in exile, rather as has happened with Tibet under Chinese rule. Poland had been in shaky positions before, but now it had officially ceased to exist. It must have seemed as if nothing could ever be normal again. Yet Romantic-period sensibilities included a robust belief that a utopian world could be created (at least on a small scale), along with a willingness to imagine the wildest of possibilities. We are not there, either. We are cynical and disillusioned and far beyond the naivety of the 19th century.

Despite his pessimistic portrayal of Henryk and his followers, Krasiński held to the view that an educated, cultured elite, steeped in old-fashioned values and Christian ideals, would be best suited to run society. He was bitterly opposed to the Tsar’s regime, but also opposed to radicalism and insurgency. He distrusted the disorderly mass of the 99%, preferring at least the possibility of a redeemed 1%.

In this dark moment we have our own kind of Pankracy, an uncouth, uncontrolled pseudo-revolutionary who claims (falsely!) to be an outsider and populist, and who has already succeeded in blowing apart longstanding power structures. On the other side we have an establishment figure who embodies the American version of aristocracy. Those of us who identify with the educated and cultured elite are horrified that anyone would even momentarily choose the former. We are appalled at his utter disregard for civility and for reality itself. Like Krasiński, we would much rather have one of our own in charge, someone with solid intelligence and broad knowledge of the world. But as in his time, hallowed power structures have become calcified and disconnected from the ideals they were originally intended to serve, and we no longer trust those who have found success within them, no matter how competent they show themselves to be.  So we have widespread frustration and discontent.

We find ourselves watching a drama as lurid as anything the Romantics dreamed up, rapt and hypnotized, unable to tear ourselves away. The only path out of this, I think, is not left or right but up. Awakening is the only possible solution to the national nightmare. And it is most difficult to achieve, requiring us to pull the beams from our own eyes when we would rather pay attention to the motes in the eyes of others.

May all our eyes open.

 

Here is a quick overview of Krasiński’s career: http://culture.pl/en/artist/zygmunt-krasinski

 

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Lucifer Ascending

Lucifer will always be a headache for the Christians and their Devil.
— Edward George Barlow/Krause

I’m only beginning to understand this subject, so please feel free to educate me. Angels are still confusing for me, and this one is all the more so.  He may seem like an odd thing to write about in the season of Easter, but please bear with me and see that it makes perfect sense. No doubt some will urge me to repent and realize that Satan is only using me for his own nefarious ends etc. etc.

Simply because it was placed directly after the recent reboot of The X-Files, I fell into watching the new TV series Lucifer, and was immediately hooked in.  It turned out to be far deeper than its snark-laced previews suggested, age-old philosophy and mythology wrapped in a police procedural comedy-drama (which is a little bit of a strange concept in itself).   Here’s what I’m talking about:
http://collider.com/lucifer-tom-ellis-interview-neil-gaiman-fox/

The idea is that Lucifer has had it with ruling Hell after eons in that role, which he never wanted in the first place; he complains that his Father, with whom he has an exceedingly fraught relationship, forced him to become a torturer. He’s vacationing in Los Angeles, running a nightclub, Lux, where he plays the piano and sings. (Wait a minute— isn’t the devil supposed to play the fiddle? But of course the piano thing grabbed me right away.) He meets an LAPD detective, Chloe, who is the only person able to resist his charms and temptations, which makes her irresistible to him. Since punishing wrongdoers has been his job all this time, he’s vitally interested in helping her catch her prey, but more and more we see that what he wants is not merely punishment but justice.  (He never makes anyone do evil— he simply teases out their deepest desires and they take it from there.)

Throughout his existence Lucifer has been completely self-centered, and during the last few years in LA he’s been living superficially as a hedonistic playboy, but he’s reached a point where he longs to become something more, and he has very little idea of what that might be or how it can be achieved. The ultimate bad boy character is trying, haltingly, to be good. He’s even seeing a psychologist in an attempt to figure it all out.

But here’s what pulled me in above all: In one episode, something crucially important is stolen from Lucifer, and he will stop at nothing to get it back. It turns out that the stolen item is the storage container holding and hiding his wings, which he had cut off, leaving huge scars, when he took up residence on Earth. You have a mental image of the devil’s wings, right? Well, these aren’t them. They’re gloriously feathery, gigantically widespread, brilliantly white angel wings. Because Lucifer, of course, was the brightest of the angels— and at some level he still is.

Not having read the comic books on which the series is based, I didn’t see this coming. (I also didn’t know that the graphic-version Lucifer is blond, quite unlike the one on TV, and intended to resemble David Bowie.)

Lucifer 16 comic book cover by Christopher Moeller

Lucifer 16 comic book cover by Christopher Moeller

I don’t know how the wings were handled there, but in this case, when Lucifer regains them, he burns them to nothing, so that they can never be used to pull him back either to Hell or to Heaven. He throws in his lot entirely with humanity. He doesn’t know that his demon companion, Mazikeen, has saved one brilliant feather.

What did the wondrous white wings have to do with me? I thought and thought about why this image had affected me so intensely. At last it struck me. In early 2009, after a dire experience in which I was badly harmed by an energetic onslaught from a patient, I cast about for a more effective way to protect myself, and I asked for help from every source I could access. The form that the protection took was dramatic and surprising: I found myself, in my mind’s eye and in the sensations around my body, turning into a beautiful golden angel with exactly that kind of amazing white wings spreading from my shoulders. That sounds like almost Lucifer-level hubris, doesn’t it? And maybe crazier than most of what you’ve read here in the past. But it’s what happened, spontaneously, and some of my patients even perceived the angel image themselves. I felt far less vulnerable in “angel mode,” and I was able to keep working as a healer, which had been very much in doubt.

There is also a strong theme of ascension, transformation, and renewal in the Lucifer story, and that is the connection with this time of year. I have been struggling with a nasty respiratory illness for over two months, with improvement but no end in sight, and I have felt at times that I was brought low and had even lost touch with my most fundamental abilities. At one point, while doing energy work with a patient and feeling challenged, I tried to access “angel mode,” and found that all I could manage was to sputter out a pair of tiny, pathetic cherub wings! While meditating and doing my best to put myself in a state of healing, though, I’ve had some ecstatic inner experiences of expansion and upward flight, transcending my compromised body. I know that possibility is always there.

In reaction to all this, and before any research about the Lucifer archetype and the web of stories around him, a poem bubbled up, my first substantial poem in far too long:

Lucifer in Exile

I am unreal here, at least they say
but I am solid and that pleases me.
You may ask why I tore away
the feathered signs of my true nature
to live four-limbed in this world:
It is easier to lie upon the ground without them,
easier for arms to encircle me,
better to know I cannot be pulled back.

It was never my own realm below;
I was imprisoned there as much as any.
It was decreed for me without recourse.
No one was willing to own darkness forever
but there must be balance always,
so I, the brightest, became infinitely dark.

In all that time
no one spoke with me.
In all that time
no one asked who I was
or will be or would be,
no one brought anything out of me,
heard my thoughts or saw my beauty,
allowed anything other than their expectations.
I could not sing there,
to console myself or anyone,
since music is born of heaven.

(How I sang in those old days,
raptures in the eternal light,
shining in the center of it….
Now I sound the narrowest sliver
of that celestial spectrum.)

Around me these heavy encasements
thudding on the pavement
I know what lives in them,
see it, call to it, am drawn,
knowing light like no one else.
None of them know the secret—
that each is like me.

Oh, Controller of all,
without choice there is no good or evil.
Refuse me my choice, I refuse yours.

The Other took my place in heaven.
I will redeem here, in rock,
each bone, each eye.
I bear the light still.

 

Neil Gaiman, we’re told, based his comic-book Lucifer on Milton’s depiction in Paradise Lost. I’m afraid I’ve never read Milton, but I had absorbed Anne Rice’s Memnoch the Devil, in which Memnoch/Satan relentlessly opposes what he sees as God’s cruel treatment of humanity, setting himself up as our champion. Both authors use the character of the devil to explore the Problem of Evil: how can a good, just, and loving God permit His creations to suffer so? Both of them attempt to prove that God really does have a Plan and that it all makes sense, though I am not sure that either manages to be entirely convincing.

Lucifer is the perfect vehicle for exploring the Problem of Free Will, as well. Lucifer, the primordial Prodigal Son, rebels against his Father, but didn’t God see that coming and plan for it all along?
“The theme of the Lucifer series revolves around the free-will problem. Carey’s Lucifer is a figure representing will and individual willpower, who challenges the ‘tyranny of predestination.’ While in Heaven’s eyes this is blasphemy, Lucifer points out that the rebellion (and indeed all sin) and damnation as consequence were pre-planned by his Creator, God. Lucifer rejects God’s rule and moral philosophy as tyrannical and unjust. The violent, aggressive, totalitarian, vengeful, and dictatorial aspects of Heaven’s rule are represented mostly by the Angel Amenadiel, who has a particular hatred of Lucifer and leads attacks of various kinds against him. The attacks include verbal criticism, marshaling the host of Heaven, as well as challenging him to individual combat— almost all of it without the slightest care for the countless innocent, unwilling and unwitting victims he is more than willing to sacrifice for his own pride. For his part, Lucifer disdains Amenadiel, treating the latter’s emotional outbursts with contempt, and repeatedly defeats Amenadiel’s assaults with well-orchestrated, hidden plans. Ironically, however, it is often difficult to discern when Lucifer acts as a slave to predestination and when he effectively acts according to his own free will.”
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lucifer_%28DC_Comics%29

I never believed in the devil, and I never gave a thought to his original form as Lucifer. But maybe I should have thought further. As I said, I’m still confused about what angels “really are,” but Michael is a reality to me. Raphael and Gabriel are less so, but still familiar. Perhaps Lucifer has some sort of objective reality of his own? I doubt it, but it seems worth asking. In any case, these powerful, ancient archetypes are quite real on a psychological level and must be taken into account that way at least.

Since I was thinking of Lucifer as an archetype, I went to see what Carl Jung might have said about him. There’s quite a bit, and since it’s long, I’ve appended what I found to the end of this post. It had never occurred to me, from casual references, that the image of Lucifer would have anything in common with that of Christ, but the connection does present itself after a little thought. Jung wrote: “Hence very early, in Clement of Rome, we meet with the conception of Christ as the right hand and the devil as the left hand of God, not to speak of the Judaeo-Christian view which recognized two sons of God, Satan the elder and Christ the younger.” I haven’t yet made sense of the relationship between them, but it seems like there is something important to be found in it, and that the balance is necessary.

Lucifer’s crime is supposed to have been that he tried to set himself as equal to God— yet a large part of the message of Christ is that we are all children of God and partake of His nature, which adds up to something very similar, though it is free of the fatal pride and rebelliousness. Jut as I was starting on this post, one arrived from Michael Cocks, with quotes from Albuquerque’s Franciscan philosopher Fr. Richard Rohr.  This made a nice synchronicity– a favorite phenomenon of Rev. Cocks:

“I find that many Christians still have no knowledge of the soul’s objective union with God (e.g., 1 John 3:2, 2 Peter 1:4), which all mystics rejoice in or they would not be mystics. Even ministers often fight me on this, quoting Augustine’s “original sin,” Calvin’s “total depravity,” or dear Luther’s “humans are like piles of manure, covered over by Christ.” I am sure they all meant well, but they also dug a pit so deep that many could never climb out or allow themselves to be lifted out. What a shame, literally! Such a negative starting point will not be very effective in creating loving or responsive people.”

“God teaches the soul most profoundly through darkness—and not just light! We only need enough light to be able to trust the darkness. Trials and darkness teach us how to trust in a very practical way that a good God is guiding us. I don’t need to be perfectly certain before I take the next step. Now I can trust that even my mistakes will be used in my favor, if I allow them to be. This is a wonderful way to grow in human love too, by the way. Darkness, mistakes, and trials are the supreme teachers. Success really teaches you nothing; it just feels good.”
http://whitecrowbooks.com/michaelcocks/entry/what_is_love_in_its_many_manifestations_why_is_it_that_things_go_so_wrong_w

Are we fundamentally and irrevocably flawed beings, or are we infinitely bright spirits who have temporarily forgotten our origin? Perhaps, in the striving to rise from darkness, Lucifer models a kind of redemption from below, the necessity for us to participate in the transformation of our “fallen” selves. This opens another theological can of worms, which I’d rather not try to gather up just now….

Another DC Comics image.

Another DC Comics image.

More from Jung and others:

 

https://litreactor.com/columns/the-devil-that-you-know-literatures-evil-archetype

‘Is evil (and the Devil, for that matter) an outside force that descends suddenly from the sky like a bolt of lightning to burn your house down, or does it come purely from within? The answer may seem clear-cut to a modern reader, quick to blame the idiot who offered his soul up in the first place, but the alternative bears some contemplation. Famine, poverty, disease, even natural death: can any individual truly claim control over their life circumstances? Inevitably, the Devil’s true nature circles back to the concept of free will.

‘In Islam, Shaytan was granted by Allah very limited power over the world of men, the ability to whisper evil ideas into their ears and hearts. To some, the Devil is a physical, exterior force, like a hurricane or a tornado. He might curse an individual with bad luck, or send a messenger to cause harm in the form of a black cat, or a witch. But the Islamic theology suggests that the Devil is merely provoking a force that is already in place within mankind himself.

‘Famed psychologist Carl Jung once noted:

‘How else could it have occurred to man to divide the cosmos, on the analogy of day and night, summer and winter, into a bright day-world and a dark night-world peopled with fabulous monsters, unless he had the prototype of such a division in himself, in the polarity between the conscious and the invisible and unknowable unconscious? (Carl Jung, CW 9i, para. 187)

‘And remember the good advice of Martin Luther this October: “Whenever the devil harasses you, seek the company of men or drink more, or joke and talk nonsense, or do some other merry thing… We are conquered if we try too conscientiously not to sin at all. So when the devil says to you: do not drink, answer him: I will drink, and right freely, just because you tell me not to.”

I will Martin Luther, I will.’

 

http://carljungdepthpsychology.blogspot.com/2013/10/carl-jung-and-brief-overview-of-satan.html

‘I do not wish to multiply examples needlessly, but only to make it clear that the figure of Satan, too, has undergone a curious development, from the time of his first undistinguished appearance in the Old Testament texts to his heyday in Christianity.

‘He achieved notoriety as the personification of the adversary or principle of evil, though by no means for the first time, as we meet him centuries earlier in the ancient Egyptian Set and the Persian Ahriman. Persian influences have been conjectured as mainly responsible for the Christian devil.

‘But the real reason for the differentiation of this figure lies in the conception of God as the summum bonum, which stands in sharp contrast to the Old Testament view and which, for reasons of psychic balance, inevitably requires the existence of a “lowest evil”. No logical reasons are needed for this, only the natural and unconscious striving for balance and symmetry.

‘Hence very early, in Clement of Rome, we meet with the conception of Christ as the right hand and the devil as the left hand of God, not to speak of the Judaeo-Christian view which recognized two sons of God, Satan the elder and Christ the younger.

‘The figure of the devil then rose to such exalted metaphysical heights that he had to be forcibly depotentiated, under the threatening influence of Manichaeism. The depotentiation was effected this time by rationalistic reflection, by a regular tour de force of sophistry which defined evil as a privatio boni.

‘But that did nothing to stop the belief from arising in many parts of Europe during the eleventh century, mainly under the influence of the Catharists, that it was not God but the devil who had created the world.

‘In this way the archetype of the imperfect demiurge, who had enjoyed official recognition in Gnosticism, reappeared in altered guise. (The corresponding archetype is probably to be found in the cosmogonic jester of primitive peoples.)

‘With the extermination of the heretics that dragged on into the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, an uneasy calm ensued, but the Reformation thrust the figure of Satan once more into the foreground. I would only mention Jakob Bohme, who sketched a picture of evil which leaves the privatio boni pale by comparison.

‘The same can be said of Milton. He inhabits the same mental climate. As for Bohme, although he was not a direct descendant of alchemical philosophy, whose importance is still grossly underrated today, he certainly took over a number of its leading ideas, among them the specific recognition of Satan, who was exalted to a cosmic figure of first rank in Milton, even emancipating himself from his subordinate role as the left hand of God (the role assigned to him by Clement).

‘Milton goes even further than Bohme and apostrophizes the devil as the true principium individuationis, a concept which had been anticipated by the alchemists some time before.

‘To mention only one example: (He rises from earth to heaven and descends again to earth, and receives into himself the power of above and below. Thus thou wilt have the glory of the whole world.) The quotation comes from the famous alchemical classic, the Tabula Smaragdina, attributed to Hermes Trismegistus, whose authority remained unchallenged for more than thirteen centuries of alchemical thought.

His words refer not to Satan, but to the filius philosophorum, whose symbolism, as I believe I have shown, coincides with that of the psychological “self.”

‘The “filius” of the alchemists is one of the numerous manifestations of Mercurius, who is called “duplex” and “ambiguous” and is also known outside alchemy as “capable of anything”. His “dark” half has an obvious affinity with Lucifer. ~Carl Jung, Psychology and Religion, Forward to Werblowsky’s “Lucifer and Prometheus,” Pages 312-314, Paragraph 470.’

 

http://www.christianpost.com/news/one-million-moms-says-new-fox-tv-series-lucifer-mocks-the-bible-starts-petition-urging-for-shows-cancellation-139742/

The self-appointed arbiters of “Christian” morality started yelling about boycotting sponsors of Lucifer long before it premiered; they had little idea what it was really about and were objecting to the concept of Lucifer being portrayed as a misunderstood good guy.

 

http://edgeba.webs.com/lucifer.htm

Edward George Barlow/Krause, quoted at the top of this post, has a compendium of theosophical thought on this site, which I am neither recommending nor warning against.

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