“Wherever the creative power of desire is, there springs the soil’s own seed. But do not forget to wait.”
– C.G. Jung, The Red Book
If you are not a winter person, Winter requires patience in addition to bracing oneself against the cold and the extended time of darkness.
Some folks welcome the solstice because once the shortest day and longest night have come and gone, they feel like they can begin the happy countdown to Spring. Others–and I am one of them–believe Winter and darkness are part of the natural progression of everything throughout nature. Seeds require Winter, a time of waiting and preparing before flowering and fruiting are even possible.
Humans are like that, too, I think, though I’ll admit that being a Winter person becomes more difficult with age. One discards short sleeved shirts sooner, starts wearing heavier jackets, and copes less well with the cold.
Mentally, more than physically, I still welcome a time of patience, of waiting for ideas to germinate, and noting the temporal and spiritual components of ancient Yule celebrations.
As more and more of us become further separated from farms and their harvest cycles, it’s not easy to maintain ones place in the annual cycle of things. This is a pity, I think, for our mental and spiritual development has so much in common with the natural world’s “great wheel of the year” throughout the seasons.
However you see Winter and the solstice, best wishes and seasons greetings.
“Myths are public dreams, dreams are private myths.” – Joseph Campbell
A new book by Dennis Patrick Slattery, a long-time researcher, teacher and author of mythology, depth and archetypal psychology, will help those interested in their own journeys and personal myths take a few more steps down the path.
New from Fisher King Press, Riting Myth, Mythic Writing: Plotting Your Personal Story uses 80 writing meditations to draw readers directly into the process rather than presenting facts and ideas in a lecture-style format. Those of us who write full time already know the power the writing itself has on the author during every writing moment. The book is the next best thing to a workshop in a sacred place with an experienced facilitator and other students of like mind.
In his introduction to the book, Michael Conforti writes, “Imagine sitting in an Irish pub, drinking ale and listening to the bard weave stories about so many different things, or perhaps captivated by the glow of an outdoor fire while listening to an elder telling stories about history, traditions, and ways to navigate the different life portals that each and every one of us will have to enter at some time. And then—there are stories about destiny, that illusive, mercurial something that catches hold of us at the beginning of life and never seems to want to let go. La forza di destino!! These are the experiences one has in knowing and working with Dr. Dennis Slattery. Whether sharing a pizza and beer or having the luxury of attending one of his lectures or classes, one is privileged to experience an authentic ‘elder’ who, in the tradition of all those wise ones who came before him, has the gift of bringing the world of myth and imagination to life and showing us that indeed these are as real as anything we can touch and hold in our hands.”
Seth Mullins has followed his mythic quest novel “Song of an Untamed Land” (2005) with “Song of the Twice Born – Book I: The Mirror of Sirrus.” Set in a mythical land reminiscent of America’s wild west during the age of discovery, this first installment of an epic fantasy trilogy tells the individual stories of a small group of characters who live in a veritable oasis of calm in a world of warring peoples.
This ambitious novel shows what happens to individuals living within perilous times when they are confronted with the more perilous truths about themselves. A dwarf named Sirrus has introduced a magic mirror into the temporary serenity of Aspen Meadows. When an individual gazes into the mirror, s/he sees an unflinchingly accurate portrayal of his or her bedrock truths and goals. In as much as truths are quite startling, if not potentially debilitating, Sirrus provides commentary and spiritual advice.
Since Sirrus’ advice to Eden, Galya, Marek, Brieran, Ejol, Jin and Enofor (whom we met in “Song of and Untamed Land”) is often more blunt than comforting, he asks each of them to spend time contemplating the revelations by recording his or her spiritual experiences in a journal. Like any journal, each entry records the spiritual and psychological truths unearthed via the mirror within the context of memories and day-today life and struggles. Each character must not only come to terms with past triumphs and losses, but with the seeming inevitability of death or capture when either the Assymyan or Churan army overruns their sanctuary.
Mullins paints landscapes, cultures, peoples and spirituality on a wide canvas that may remind readers of such classics as Stephen R. Donaldson’s “The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant” and J. R. R. Tolkien’s “Lord of the Rings.” The epic scope of this story is made human and vibrant by the very personal journal entries of each character. In less capable hands, “Song of the Twice Born” might have become a collection of indirectly related character studies or short stories. Instead, the character’s points of view link together well into a very real and readable transcendent adventure.
“A labyrinth, of course, is a scrambled mandala, in which you don’t know where you are. That’s the way the world is for people who don’t have a mythology. It’s a labyrinth. They are battling their way through as if no one had ever been there before.” – Joseph Campbell, Pathways to Bliss
My clinical depression is a scrambled mandala.
The formerly clear road has twisted itself into a labyrinth. The air has become more dense than water. I can’t breathe, nor do I want to.
I once believed I was either too smart or too stupid to become clinically depressed. My journey (way, pilgrimage, path) appeared so clear to me that the next step was always apparent whether it came to me out of logic or intuition. Where I was going didn’t matter, for I was en route. Perhaps these was a certain arrogance to such certainty in spite of the fact that—Kabbalistically speaking—certainty is what each of us requires to manifest our highest dreams.
But logically, we’re easily addicted to trends, small, but negative ripples in the force, so to speak, that when they follow upon one another cause us to doubt our certainties, our passions, and even the road itself. Experience has taught me, though, that when the mandala becomes scrambled, it only becomes more scrambled if I fight it. And, depression itself is the same in this respect. What one resists, persists, we are told. When I fight those moments when the air has become more dense than water, I find myself sinking deeper into the ocean of hopelessness where the pressure and the darkness are greater.
The more scrambled the mandala becomes, the more difficult it is to find Ariadne’s linen thread that will lead me away from the dreaded Minotaur to the light-hearted safety of the world outside the labyrinth. When depression is deep, I have neither the willpower nor the energy to search for that thread, much less build wings like Daedalus, the labyrinth’s designer, and fly out of the maze of twisted roads.
Getting Above the Fray
I like the title of Kris Jackson’s 2009 novel about the Civil War era balloonist Thaddeus Lowe, “Above the Fray.” It was so apt, for it described exactly the service Professor Lowe was offering Union commanders. He showed them what they couldn’t see on the ground from what—in my perspective—might also be called the labyrinth of the battlefield.
Like both Lowe and Daedalus, there are times when I want to rise above the fray and get my bearings. Lowe was an advocate of tethered balloons, and shortly after reading Kris Jackson’s novel, I had an opportunity for a brief ride in a tethered balloon. How light the air was and how fine the view of the fields and woodlands below. What might have appeared scrambled from within, now was clear, even orderly.
Like Daedalus, I am the creator of my own labyrinth and—on days when the air is denser than water—my own scrambled mandala. I have been there many times because, I suppose, it meets a need I do not consciously know. I’m lost into the clutches of deep lunar mysteries and the dark worlds of the underworld that my subconscious mind has led me to experience. Truth be told, I’m embarrassed to be there, to have to admit that my apparent certainty about the clear road ahead as led me into the forest primeval where I wander blindly as though there is no road at all.
Once my shame passes, I see that there is much of value here in the scrambled mandala I have built and the hopelessly dense air I have placed with its clutches. I know better than to fight it. Fighting it makes me too heavy to fly above the fray and too sleepy to see Ariadne’s thread.
I have escaped from my labyrinths many times. Though there should be a fair amount of certainty in that, I never remember it while I’m staring into the Minotaur’s eyes. My goal is the goal I gave protagonist Robert Adams in my novel “The Sun Singer,” and that is to survive the journey and to return to the known world with something of value for myself and others.
The scrambled mandalas are my nightmares, the places where the road has become twisted, the places where I think I’m awake even though I’m asleep. But when I wake and see the morning sunlight, and it’s “whew, that’s over,” and for now I’m not depressed and I see my reasons again for wanting to be on the journey I have chosen to take.
Copyright (c) 2010 by Malcolm R. Campbell, author of “The Sun Singer,” a mandala masquerading as a novel.