alchemy : entering the unconscious and the alchemical journey
A book excerpt from the spiritandflesh.com religion and spirituality online library.
I was in the pit of lions, and there was no denying it nor was there escape. The only thing to do was to forget everything else, take up arms, and learn to survive down there, inside myself; learn to sit deathly quiet and listen as the mongrels roamed about, and then learn to leap out and bludgeon them before they could attack or fight. I had to enter the eternal night of the self with my senses heightened and guns blazing. The creatures and bugbears were waiting for their game, and to avoid their cunning I had to go after them and meet them in their own lair. I had to become a hunter, then a cave man, then a Neanderthal, a Homo erectus, Homo habilus, a prosimian, a dog, then a bear, and then the lion itself. I had to go all the way back, back into the dark and unknown, back to where it all began, if I was to make it through the dungeon of the underself.
I am certain that the Bardos[i] which we encounter during life are as weird and fantastic as those after death.
As the ground-water tide within suddenly surged up, breaking the surface, and the rigid life of pattern and habit began to sink and dissolve below the surface, I had to learn to breathe with another set of lungs, and to look out through another set of eyes, beneath this thick, primordial soup waiting to engulf and ensnare me. To survive the descent I had to learn to stand and face the darkness, and to become not only the hunter, but the prey as well. I had to forget the eagle nature of my highest self, and become a common gull, an ignoble scavenger, if I was to survive the dereliction of the soul, and the chaos of the night. I had to become low, and stay low, so as not to be shot out of the sky, skinned, stuffed, stuck upon a wall, and forgotten.
There are caverns and caves of lost and unknown universes within us. There are inexplicable domains, unheard of beasts, incomprehensible, infinite labyrinths, and armies of bandits, forces, and fiends. To dive within yourself with reckless abandon is to enter a netherworld divorced of logic, rules, succor, and comfort.
The chthonic realm took me in, spun me around, twisted itself about, contorted and confused me, spat me back out and hauled me back again; it let me think that I knew where I was, who I was, and what I was, and then it inverted everything, converted everything, crammed the cosmos through a meat grinder, changed the pattern and the context, distorted the form, brought me to peace in its prison, and when I thought it was all over and I had escaped, it exposed the endless chains and walls around me, laughing at me, torturing me, feeding upon me, and making me wish I had never looked in, nor entered, nor awoken in the inescapable, phantasmagoric, underworld within.
And yet it was there I had to go to conquer the anarchic forces which possessed and controlled me from below. It was into this abyss of fantasy and non-meaning which I had to plunge without hope or promise of a way back. And I could neither grieve nor petition, but had to stay down there and fight until all of the dragons had fled or been slain. And that, it seemed, was a greater task than building a hundred pyramids with a butter knife, or flying to the moon on a kite.
The distance became infinite before I knew what was happening. I was swept down the river and out to sea without saying goodbye, nor taking care of my things, nor grabbing onto a life preserver. At first I swam against the unbeatable current, then capitulatively treaded water for a brief period until I was utterly exhausted, and that was when I was forced into the survival position- head down in the depths as long as I could bear it, and then up for a quick breath and a peak around at the unrelenting ocean, all the while being taken farther out, and losing all hope of ever being found, and my head would have to go down again, holding my breath under the surface of life until I would almost explode, then up for a second and back down before I sank, trying desperately to live beyond my ability to live.
I existed for a great duration like a gypsy of the mind; within the infinite, boundlessness of being did I wander aimlessly from one inhospitable region to the next, never finding my home without nor within me. For the limitless Self is a strange, atopic land, at times indifferent to our changing whereabouts.
I sought myself so far within that I held no sincere hope of ever returning.
Like a camel did I drink insatiably of life before leaving, but I went too far; on the desert journey of becoming I had consumed a vast portion of my rations in order to get away, but I could see no welcoming oasis. I ran blindly, without direction, and charged recklessly into lostness.
Nothing, nothing, nothing, so much of nothing. To walk and walk, down the empty streets inside oneself, past empty houses, amongst empty people, while nothing matters except to keep walking, because to stop means to succumb to the madness, futility, boredom, fear, weakness, or shame.
I became accustomed to the loss of everything, to dying in life, as they say, and to having no function, no responsibility, no place, nor role in life. This was the loam upon which the seed of my spirit had sprouted and taken root. There was no turning back, I had already come to that dreadful conclusion. I was outside of life, a foreigner to all that is.
I had come fully undone; whatever had mattered no longer mattered. It was a time when I was allowed neither God nor the world; a time when I was on the outside completely, and a place from which it seemed I could not get back.
But if I pursued what the world considered impossible, if I desired what the world proclaimed could not be had, if I required what mankind could not offer, and demanded that which no one could give, it was because I knew one thing, and it was that I had to go for it with everything I had.
I had to take my failures, doubts, and discouragements, and either cut them loose or carry them on my back up the hill.
To walk away was easy. But where then to go? God knows? Just away. I had left no marking by which to find my way back, for I was never returning. I had to forge ahead without thought of right or wrong. If it was God's need to strike me dead for some unavoidable error, so be it. That was God's need. I had to move forward. The further I went, the further I had to go. I had to look ahead without any memory or regret.
I saw clearly then that the point of no return is the starting point; if you can go back ...you have not yet begun.
It was one of those events which went on for so long that I forgot to think that it may ever come to an end; I forgot the possibility that something or someone might come along to scoop me up and take me to shore- and so I came to live only in the reality of the survival mode, forgetting that peace may exist because I forgot that I was not at peace, forgetting that suffering may be lessened because I forgot that I was suffering, and the days and nights came and went without a change because this, I thought, was what life is, and this was all it is, and so I looked for no land ahead, did not wave at passing boats, nor did I think to beg for relief from God, because there was only myself and the endless deep which held me until I was beyond holding, and from which I came up for a breath only to quickly return to the depths.
At these times I beheld consciousness in the grip of the hallucination which invented it. I fought like a Titan wrestling with his own powerless shadow. I drank up an ocean, and pissed out a world. The planets swarmed to knock me down. The winds howled to defeat me. The moon cast thunder down upon me. The sun went dark. But I kept on going, moving on, or something, to somewhere. I was walking through the Self. I was going. Didn't know where. No one came with me. Still I kept going. On and on I say. I kept going on, on and on. Lonely as the wind, strong as the tree which withstands it. I kept going and going, on.
It seemed as if from the outset I was set adrift and my whole life was a journey back home, a home which did not exist because ...I was supposed to be adrift. And it was this alienship to all being which was in fact my true birthright, my inheritance, my blessed freedom from all that dies. And the momentous movements out and away were the caustic baths of purification, the baptisms by fire, the parched and deserted lands the spirit is left to eternally roam.
I had to go on ...because I could only go on; because once you have gone a certain distance, even if it be digression (or perhaps especially if it be digression) you cannot return from such remoteness, you cannot find your way back, ever; you have scurried about in the labyrinth's dark expanse an irreconcilable distance. Once you are away, you just keep going.
While everyone else had been carving out a niche for themselves in this life, I was filling mine in. While everyone else sought to be found, I inherently sought lostness; and by this I inexorably betrayed the continuity of the manifest, and fell in amongst the chaotic, foreign beyond. The sun set, the moon rose, and the night became my homeland.
I became a refugee from being- I came to exist on the periphery of everything ...that is.
It was a fine, horrid enterprise that branched and widened, flooding out into my dreams.
In the vestiges of that engulfing miasma, dizzy in the peaceless calm, I flailed against life in a merriment of fears, and shivered around the lost fire.
I sang though I was mute, jumped though I was lame, and loved though my heart was hard as Hades'.
Cold in the stupor of reason, life bled listlessly from my soul.
Hardened in the chaos, I listened without hearing, touched without feeling, and changed without becoming myself.
Softened in the realm between victory and defeat, the Great Play consumed the player, but all that remained was the spent, broken shells of yesterday's home.
And yet exiled from the continuum, I performed intangible duties, healed secret ills, and reckoned with imperfect eyes.
Oh yes, here and there I grasped and held onto things, to thoughts, and to lies. Later or soon I was forced to let go.
When predicament ensconced the days, oblivion forsook them.
Resignation became my fountain and my thirst, while misery tangled about in the lyre.
Fear crept in through the fissures of my nothingness. Sadness purged it out. A hollow conduit of incompleteness was all that remained. Through this the Source oozed rapture and healing into my unclosable wounds.
It was never enough. The distance itself was damnation. I was alone, absolutely alone, and only the pit of my troubled guts had the honest strength left to grieve it. There you have it.
Still it was all a miracle, of that there is no dispute.
How I saw it is all that can be said, not what it was I saw.
Aglow and wandering, free of context and meaning, writhing unkempt in the dark, terminal madness of becoming, it was the decadent insomnia of consciousness that held me gripped and staring. I was an unclosable Eye, casting about hither and yon, hunting frantically for a mirror to find itself within. To look, to see, to comprehend.
New Eden, old crime.
(excerpted from In and Of: memoirs of a mystic journey, by Jack Haas)