There is a common perception and belief within what I call the ‘awakening community’, that we are collectively in a transition from one world-reality to another. It is often expressed as a collective shift in consciousness, an occurrence that seems more and more inevitable as global challenges intensify. In order for this to happen, there must within the collective family of humanity, appear individuals and sub-communities who are willing to step over the threshold of commonly held beliefs about who we are, what we should value, how we should live and what is true; to step out of the bubble of conventional life in order to do what is not readily welcomed in our society; to question ourselves, our motivations and our reality. When as individuals we find ourselves moved to step out of that non-questioning bubble, we effectively begin a journey of awakening. Many people on the planet today have begun to awaken, and in doing so are stepping out of the ‘mother state’ paddling pool approach to life and taking more self-responsibility, while others are surfing the waves right out there on the edge of what is known. No matter our position, we are all celebrated participants in what is today being heralded as “The Great Turning” best described in a tangible sense as a shift from an all consuming economic industrial society to a life-sustaining one. This shift also represents a change in the vibration of human consciousness as we learn to operate in ever more inclusive, cooperative and loving ways.
Sky & Earth, Sun & Moon
There is a fundamental duality evident in the reality we find ourselves in, which has long been reflected in ancient culture, symbolised by Sky and Earth or Sun and Moon. From the East we know this as Yin and Yang, and in the West we call this Anima and Animus. This dance of opposites is the unending conversation between the masculine and feminine that is always striving for resolution. This dialogue or primal dance of union is an endlessly changing, ecstatic, intensely creative, archetypal process, which produces the necessary raw energy and directional intent for the evolution of consciousness in all its many forms within Creation. This type of ‘resolution’ is not concerned with producing an ‘answer’ to a ‘question’ or resolving a conflict per se. Rather, the dance of Yin and Yang seeks stability, as a consistent movement toward realization or evolution.
This conversation between the masculine and feminine (yin and yang) is present within everything and everyone regardless of gender or sex; all of us whether we are of male or female sex have within us both masculine and feminine energy. The Western culture is predominantly a Solar or Sky culture; we favour a more masculine approach to life, which is outward and extrovert, materialistic, assertive and values the achievements of logic and intellect. We are predominantly goal oriented, competitive, and individualistic.
When anyone from a western ‘sky’ culture takes that life-changing step over the threshold of awakening, they do so in a go-get outward and individualistic manner; essentially our first steps are almost always to go looking for answers outside of ourselves.
We always begin our quest for answers because something in our lives stops ‘working’ for us; in some of us this starts early in life as an abstract dissatisfaction, a sense of longing and emptiness, that eventuates in a bold deviation from the ‘planned’ route that was impressed upon us along the road to adulthood, while in others it can happen later in life, when we realise that what we are living isn’t satisfying anymore, or perhaps the rug of normal life is pulled from under our feet when we are diagnosed with a severe illness. Regardless of how we get there, after a period of not really questioning reality very much, we find ourselves beginning to in earnest.
So off we go looking for the answers to our problems wherever we hope to find them. A metaphor is helpful here: in many cases we travel to the next big town, and arrive at a market teaming with hawkers all displaying their colourful and alluring wares, each one offering the answers we think we seek. In short a large and lucrative industry has arisen in response to the phenomenon we call awakening, loosely termed the ‘New Age’ which provides a challenging obstacle course, with fewer answers than it promises.
Because we are sky driven, much like Icarus, we feel compelled to fly toward the Sun, and so we reach for the answers that are most comfortable to our western perspective, which I observe loosely as ascension oriented; we want to go up, to get high, feel great, find illumination and conquer the problems we feel we have, with teachings that offer idealistic answers, hope, power and personal growth or achievement.
We may not realise that we are doing this, but much like Icarus, eventually, one day, our botched together wings melt and we plummet into the sea and the realm of the much maligned feminine.
The story of Icarus has much to teach us here, as it describes in part the western approach to the feminine and its cost. As the story goes Icarus and his father Daedalus were trying to escape the labyrinth of the Minotaur, a bull headed ‘monster’, which the hero Theseus had slain. Daedalus builds for himself and his son some wings through which they can escape the labyrinth, warning his son not to fly too close to the sun, nor too close to the sea, because too much heat from the sun or moisture from the sea would damage his wings. Icarus being young and impetuous is compelled ever higher, his wings melt and he plummets down into the sea and dies.
The bull as the symbol of Taurus represents the feminine and the inner relationship with oneself. In the story the feminine mystery is seen as a monster, something to be feared and conquered, and the labyrinth a symbol of the inner journey, of self-realisation and healing. Rather than take the meandering path through the labyrinth via the integration of the feminine, Icarus and his father take to the air, the realm of the masculine, and Icarus because of his youth is compelled to fly higher and higher until he falls uncontrollably into the sea, another symbol for the feminine and also the unconscious.
I take this to mean that if we avoid the inner root work, and pursue awakening too much from the masculine side, eventually we will overdo it, and cause ourselves to submerge in the unconscious. Falling into the sea like Icarus does, might mean that we start to drown in our own shadow material, getting lost in our own projections or in a state of overwhelm, which is not a comfortable place, or it might represent a loss of consciousness altogether; a lack of self awareness about our motives and goals that may be driven by unconscious ‘complexes’ and not at all by a true desire to awaken and liberate.
We need to strike a careful balance, and the metaphor of a tree is helpful to convey this. A tree has a trunk, roots and branches; all of us have an ego represented by the trunk, an ‘I am’ perception, which ideally bridges between the solar realm of the masculine conscious part represented by the branches, and the lunar realm of the feminine unconscious aspect of the psyche represented by the roots. If we focus solely on ascension based ideas, processes and teachings, we will fail to develop sufficient roots and our tree will easily blow over in the first storm, and if we focus solely on our innerworld and the descent into the underworld mysteries, we fail to accomplish much in the world, and will feel unrealised, creatively frustrated and unfulfilled.
If we take the metaphor of the tree to the cultural level, the ‘forests’ of our society are largely populated by tall slender trees, with a few branches just at the very top; our cultural forests of today resemble forestry plantations rather than wild noble forests teaming with diversity and elegant slow growing trees. We can see our cultural solar inclinations in other ways too; in our striving to control, to rise above others to be acknowledged as individuals, and in the intense drive many of us have to reach the lofty heights of personal achievement. Yet more than at any other time we all suffer to some extent from a loss of community, belonging and connection, which is the result of neglected root development.
In western society we tend to fear the feminine, for it deals largely with the unseen, and when we undertake root work we often appear to be failing in social terms because none of the inner work is measurable. Very few of us in a social environment that denigrates the feminine will choose to do root work until we are forced to, often in the form of intense soul searching catalysed by a crisis of one kind or another.
So for those of us who choose to be part of the Great Turning, it behooves us to realise that root work is essential. Awakening is characterised by a conscious searching and seeking for an answer to a question we are often not entirely clear about; we just know that there is something more, something missing.
In that search, most of us will look initially to something outside of ourselves for that answer. There is no error in this for it is the beginning of a process that starts from where we are, and it is helpful to understand our cultural predilection toward the sky and the masculine mode. When we start we are of course most often lacking in feminine development, and that lack is characterised by a drive for perfection. This hidden drive is why many people attempt a spiritual life as a means to come closer to an enlightened state, because from a solar male perspective that makes a lot of sense. Yet when we undertake root development, which must take us into quiet, reflective, non-ambitious contemplative states, where unprocessed emotional material, often painful, is allowed to reach the surface, we creatively transform our perspective; we discover innate belonging and connection not only with the human community but with life itself; we learn to accept the truth of who we are for its own sake, realising that although we may not meet the ideal of perfection as we see it, we are good enough as we are. Slowly layer-by-layer we come to terms with the psycho-emotional reality of our childhood story, and learn to accept that our metaphorical tree didn’t always get enough light, water or nutrient for a supposed ‘perfect’ growth, but realise that that apparent failure shapes us with purpose to become who we were meant to be.