Light in the night (Castelldefels) (Photo credit: jcarlosn)
It was a disembodied voice, heard in the gap between sleeping and waking, that brought me into the Wheel of Initiation. Sounds like something unmissable, but actually capturing dreams and listening to the pointers of truth emerging from our subconcious requires a bit of engagement and discipline. Sometimes we just don’t feel like doing it! I know I don’t. Being in a deep, wonderful sleep, or about to go into a deep wonderful sleep, it can be tempting to not write down the dream when it wakes you, or scrawl down the word that is repeating incesantly. The night I heard the disembodied voice repeating the word that would lead me to Julie Tallard Johnson‘s work over and over again was one of those nights when I REALLY wanted to just sleep. It had been a long day, full of the demands of children, family, home, work and it had been crappy weather to boot. I was SO ready for a good sleep. But this word, repeating, would not go away. So I turned on the light, scrawled it in my bedside notebook, and promptly went into that much needed deep and refreshing sleep. The next day, I checked out the word and the journey began that brought me to the Wheel of Initiation and this very page I am writing now!
Something to be said for keeping a bedside notebook for these night time scrawlings! And also something to be said for just getting them out, however. I have been known to write dreams in the dark too, allowing the pen to just let whatever has come to have some space in the gap of wakefulness. It is always a bit of a thrill and occasionally a surprise to read it back in the morning.
So when I had another repeating word appear in the gap between sleep and awake the other day, I paid attention, scrawling it down with the promise to check it the next morning.
The word was Prometheus.
I knew Prometheus was a figure from Greek mythology, but couldn’t quite remember which one. I had it mixed up with Icarus as I googled the next day. But this was not a dead end of confusion. Icarus is destroyed by flying to close to the sun. And Prometheus is punished by the Gods for stealing fire and giving it to humans. Now what was this dream voice trying to communicate to me? There is something here about too much light, and reflecting on where I was at around the time this dream voice appeared, I was trying very hard to be positive and good, a light-filled person. You know. Spiritual and glowing and saintly. Super committed to my practice. Wanting very badly to progress. Be the most spectacular initiate ever. A wonderful human being. And in the process I was running myself ragged, trying to be all things at all times. To my family, myself, my practice, my work, community, circle. And feeling bad and guilty when I wanted to ‘switch off’. This was resistance trying to get me!
There is absolutely nothing wrong with striving to be these things. But in the process of trying so hard to reach the Light, there is a danger of suppressing the darkness that is also nourishing. Too much emphasis on being positive, light and good, and we can get burned.
The Tao Te Ching speaks a lot about darkness:
Freed from desire, you can see the hidden mystery
By having desire, you can only see what is visibly real.
Yet mystery and reality emerge from the same source.
This source is called darkness.
Darkness born from darkness.
The beginning of all understanding.
Jeanette Winterson has written about the beauty and power inherent to surrendering to darkness at times when it is necessary. Her descriptions of retreating in response to the coming of winter darkness ignite a warm glow in the heart, reminding me of the subtle interplay and dance of darkness and light, and also of the many faces of light. Not always bright, manifesting light can be as much about the low glow of a winter fire, wrapped in the blanket of darkness. When my daughter expresses her fear of the dark at bedtime, I try to describe it in these terms. To think of the dark as a cosy blanket, that we wrap around ourselves to help us get to sleep (she doesn’t always buy it!).
In denying our shadow; our darkness, what do we suppress in ourselves? The feminist writer Audrey Lorde would describe what we suppress in our desire to be too-good/light as The Erotic. This is an erotic far removed from nullifying porno-culture. It is, in Lorde’s words, “…a measure between the beginning of our sense of self and the chaos of our strongest feelings. It is an internal sense of satisfaction to which, once we have experienced it, we know we can aspire.“
Again, I come to this confusion about the nature of light and dark. The danger of making an equivalence between moral value and the qualities of light and dark. This confusion is a way in which what Steven Pressfield describes as ‘Resistance’ finds a subtle way in. Resistance operating in one of its most successful disguises, making over-work and an insane striving, into the illusion of our true work. In Audrey Lorde’s words:
This internal requirement toward excellence which we learn from the erotic must not be misconstrued as demanding the impossible from ourselves nor from others. Such a demand incapacitates everyone in the process. For the erotic is not a question only of what we do; it is a question of how acutely and fully we can feel in the doing…. The aim of each thing which we do is to make our lives and the lives of our children richer and more possible. Within the celebration of the erotic in all our endeavors, my work becomes a longed for bed which I enter gratefully and from which I rise up empowered.
Beware the myth of Prometheus, where the bringing of fire is equated with punishment. Lighting the inner fire requires only a love for the darkness that surrounds it, and an appreciation of the dance between the two.