Halloween is the perfect spell for exploring evil visitations and how we unconsciously invite more fear-provoking ghouls into our everyday lives without really knowing or understanding why. In this seasonal blog post I shall be bringing to light the fate of the magician, otherwise known as the witch, healer, or shaman, for the alchemist has many names. To begin with I’ll briefly explore the terms ‘alchemy’ and ‘fate’ before delving into one of Jung’s richest passages that I’ve ever had the good fortune to stumble across.
Alchemy is an ancient tradition shrouded in deep mystery and silence. Its mystics and followers mainly sought to turn lead into gold, a quest that captured the hearts and imagination of many people for thousands of years. Within the context of this article I will be using the word ‘alchemy’ as a metaphor for transformation as a human being, a kind of transcendence from base metal into spiritual gold by becoming your own best self, using your passions, talents, and experiences to greatest effect in order to reach your highest potential.
Fate is defined as forces outside of our control that make things happen. An example of this is when you miss your train and meet the woman who turns out to be your future wife, while standing on the platform waiting for the next InterCity. So as you can see, fate is generally considered to be the development of events outside somebody’s control, regarded as predestined by some kind of supernatural, mystical influence. Like movements written in the stars or dependent on the will of the Goddess alone, fate seemingly awaits us all.
The Fate of the Alchemist
But what if fate wasn’t true? What if the magic and mayhem of our lives were simply us creating our own reality, minute by minute. What then? This is where the alchemist steps in, as last week whilst reading Jean Raffa, one of my favourite writers/bloggers of Jungian Psychology, I came across one of Jung’s quotes that quite literally stopped me in my tracks for the entire day. It went like this: ‘The psychological rule says that when an inner situation is not made conscious, it happens outside, as fate. That is to say, when the individual remains undivided and does not become conscious of his inner opposite, the world must perforce act out the conflict and be torn into opposing halves.’
The unearthing of this quote has been profound as it feels like the greatest statement I’ve ever read about the truth of the Soul. It implies that what happens on the inside, always, always affects what happens on the outside. Oh sure I can see a few heads shaking right now and you wouldn’t be the first to tell me I’m a dreamer, yet, in the lyrics of John Lennon, ‘I’m not the only one.’ For I believe there’s a connotation to the word alchemy that evokes a certain kind of dreamer, someone who is tirelessly trying to change the ordinary into something extraordinary by means of mystery and magic.
The implications of this revelation being truthful are vast for humankind, because it asks the big questions, such as; is evil really out there or does it lay within? If so, what kind of crazy projections are we unconsciously sending out? If true we need to stop and check our internal conflicts before we unleash them onto the world. We must learn to integrate what is consciously felt and explore our personal shadow. For when shadows are cast ‘outside’ and the ‘good’ masks are pulled on, we split off from our disowned parts, allowing them to fall deeper into the shadow. We tell ourselves something like, “I’m a good person living in an evil world. I must separate from the evil inside of myself and put it out there” – this psychological process is called ‘projection’. Followed through we end up believing, “It’s them that’s evil, not me. I mean look at those terrorists, I’m not like them!” Yet if we pause and ask, “In what ways do we ‘terrorise’ ourselves?” we sooner or later recognise that we are all saints-sinners and everything in-between.
Now for some, it’s not people they consider evil but food, or sex, others still may be repelled by poverty. Essentially whatever we reject in ourselves falls into our shadow side, which quite naturally builds. Joseph Campbell writes “We must be willing to let go of the life we planned so as to have the life that is waiting for us.” And this was true for me when after many years of marriage I decided I was so desperately unhappy, suicide became a real option such was the difficulty of ‘coming out of my closet’ as a gay woman back in the 90’s. My true sexual orientation was unacceptable yet everywhere I went, my shadow constantly sought out what my persona refused and frequently introduced me to yet another gay woman.
Journey of Love
Yesterday gave me the perfect opportunity to explore this rule while walking in my local park, where I encountered two large dogs well known by breed for their fierceness. Instead of my usual fearful attitude of moving as far away as possible, I meditated on ‘honouring’ my own fierceness. In other words I held in mind the wild fierce energy that lies in my shadow and thus, instead of being afraid of my shadow outside of me in the form of the dogs, I embraced it knowing that it exists within. As I passed, I swear those dogs smiled at me! Naturally, I wouldn’t recommend going up to any wild animal or dangerous situation to test this theory – this was just my way of beginning to look at my externalized shadow.
It helped me to better understand that the fate of the alchemist is to learn how to ‘hold the tension of the opposites’ to hold both positive and negative influences. Jung believed that anyone who attempted to do this significantly added to world peace. For to not only understand but face our inner demons prevents us from setting them loose into the world, where those evil visitations and ghouls always demand centre stage. Halloween, a time for dressing up and getting in touch with our inner demons, seems the perfect time to remind us, again in the words of Lennon, to “Imagine all the people living life in peace” by maintaining the tension of the opposites.
Lastly I’d like to give a nod to the doctor of the Soul himself, Jung, who I believe was a gift to the world! Since our second meeting I have to confess I’ve been absolutely spellbound. Was it fate? Well, I mostly like to think that I met him on my journey walking towards the Self. Similar to Samhain, this feels like a whole new cycle about to begin where hopefully my words have lit a fire against the winter’s dark so I can rejoice in the alchemist’s shadow that will soon come-a-knocking! A Blessed and Happy Samhain to all.
NB. For those interested, the life-size metal sculpture by Phillip Jackson in the image is holding a golden mask. I do not know its official title, yet for me she is affectionately known as ‘The Alchemist’ and is truly awe-inspiring to behold. When I first met her, I sat for a while in the sculpture garden, soaking up her ancient mystery and magic.
Copyright © Deborah Gregory 2015