“Knowing your own darkness is the best method for dealing with the darknesses of other people.” C G Jung
Dr Jung certainly knew how to get to the heart of the matter succinctly. Dealing with the contents of the shadowed recesses of our soul can be a terrifying experience. Much like facing Ammut in the Hall of Judgment, we pray desperately our hearts won’t condemn us to nothingness in the end. The Heart, seat of the Soul and home to the Light that is inextinguishable. Yet we often ignore the safety of its harbour and succumb to the storms of rational and irrational fears. There may be valid reasons why this is so. The words of a certain ancient Egyptian deity come to mind at this juncture of my story. I think back to our recent encounter in An Old Dog Can teach You New Tricks. He was straight to the point and reminded me ‘don’t feed the fear, don’t fear what’s within’. Wise words. Many grapple with the beasts that lurk within themselves and are unable to face. This is an entity composed of aspects that are either unpalatable or unacceptable to us. They’re disowned and hated. We feed it with our fearful and unloving thoughts. This composite creature, much like Ammut, waits patiently for the right opportunity to devour our hearts and soul bit by bit. Dr Frankenstein’s creation (and not monster) elicits my sympathy more than the person who created him. Not that I’m espousing self-hatred!
Facing our creation is an initiation. The journey begins from a place of uncertainty; you’re filled with all manner of doubts and plain scared. Why scared you may ask. It’s the thought that a decision’s been made regarding x, y or z finally and the ensuing change that’ll come with it. Whether we’re ready to face a transformed version of ourselves is debatable. There’s always uncertainty regarding our responses to the process. Did such thoughts go through the minds of all those chosen as ‘sacrifices’ as they progressed through the labyrinth towards the Minotaur. Intriguing isn’t it? My numerous journeys towards the centre of the labyrinth have always left me changed and forced to take off yet another mask. There was no choice in the matter, it had to be done. Well, it seems my feet have lead me to the labyrinth rather than the Hall of Judgment. So be it. What of this very ancient location? Perhaps a cave system originally; leading to an inner chamber containing something that instigated terror. Or are we made to think that there’s something ominous at its centre? We will most certainly meet the Guardian of the Threshold. On this issue J E Cirlot remarks in A Dictionary of Symbols:
“From the psychological point of view, guardians symbolize the forces gathered on the threshold of transition between different stages of evolution and spiritual progress or regression. The ‘guardian of the threshold’ must be overcome before Man can enter into the mastery of a higher realm”.
Such an endeavour isn’t always appropriate for everyone due to quite valid reasons. Under those circumstances appropriate professional help may need to be sought. Delving into the psyche, especially the Collective Unconscious, can be a difficult experience for the unprepared. Not that I’m a specialist by any means! I’m going a little off track now (winds back the safety rope). Where was I? Preparing to meet the darkness at the centre of the labyrinth. What instigated my decision to confront my darkness? Almost makes it sound like I’m meeting a friend. I am in a sense. It’s been knocking on the doors of my mind quite robustly with little success. Until now. You have to be warned it can be quite manipulative, full of guile and promise. Our friend, who appears to be working against us on those occasions, sets almost insurmountable tests. As I’ve stated many times, we cannot appreciate the Light without its counterpart, the Dark. For the Cosmos to be balanced both have to be present, the same for us. ‘As Above, So Below’.
The masks I’ve discarded along the way have been in place for many years and haven’t been easy to relinquish. There’s no sense of sadness associated with the decision. They’re aspects of ‘me’ that I’ve held on to with a vice-like grip. Even so they need to be accorded respect and given up to the Universe. We don’t need to discard all our masks, some are integral to our sense of Self. Once again I refer to J E Cirlot, who alludes to the mystical, luminous properties of the mask:
“…metamorphoses must be hidden from view—and hence the need for the mask. Secrecy tends towards transfiguration: it helps what-one-is to become what-one-would-like-to-be; and this is what constitutes its magic character”.
The mask and our darkness are intertwined. From childhood into adulthood both have been alchemically transforming the essence within. We’ve shaped the creature of clay and given it the breath of life. In one stroke we’ve bestowed it with hope and condemned it to a state of purgatory. How can our creation not resent us? What can we offer it but compassion, understanding and reintegration. Easy to say but can be difficult to achieve. It must be done if we’re to hold back from descending into the Abyss. The Void is our destination. As for my darkness, it looks hopeful as I do.
A last thought from Dr Jung:
“The most terrifying thing is to accept oneself completely.”