Per Aspera Ad Astra

Per Aspera Ad Astra

The dark and bright journey of this poet
has been an Odyssean adventure,
wrestling with the upward call of spirit
and downward pull of her soul,
while pursuing alphabetical alchemy
in both monstrous and divine worlds.
Where, upon the high seas of the soul,
a necessary home-leaving took place,
years before she encountered
the sparkling, living waters below,
lifting her up from the mud of creation
to the luminous stars above.

To walk this lone path of individuation
became the mission of her life,
as she sought courage to become herself,
a spiritual task in which she would learn
how to kindle light in darkness,
become a holy fool on life’s open road.
A crazy yet transcendent journey,
where the smell of death and wild sea
took her miles and miles
along shorelines of broken mirrors,
where she met many distorted versions
of herself along the way.

At each mirror she faced a different self
and wrote poems to each reflection,
rewriting any part of herself
that stood in the way of happiness,
as tides rushed in she died
and decomposed a thousand times.
This poet’s Calypsonian lover
brought great suffering to her life,
casting shadow over her bright heart,
she forgot her quest and lost her way
as ego pride and lust for glory
delayed her journey by several years.

Yet the pain broke her heart open in ways
she could not have otherwise known,
for she knew the gods came disguised
and without aegis-bearing Athena,
divine goddess of embodied wisdom,
this poet would have died long ago.
Epic knowledge that shielded her
beneath the goddess’ protective light,
one that kept her safe during her journey
in both simple and sublime words,
defying all the odds,
helping this poet to find her way home.

Thus, following endless years of difficulty
and battles that brought many scars,
she wrote of the darkness of Hades,
but chose not to live in shadow,
instead, she let the shining matter within
lift her pen and rise to the stars.
In doing so she learnt how to stoop low,
kneeling in supplication
for fear of becoming trapped on earth,
she explored the inner workings
of her psyche at the headland
where ego and archetype come together.

Until a wheel within a wheel,
sacred geometry of unity and wholeness,
moved in two directions at once
turning her conscious world inside out,
while this poet remembered
how to surrender to the greater light.
On her knees, humbled by such vision,
having no monsters left to fight,
she removed Athena’s breastplate
to bathe in the high seas of the soul,
where, with foam tipped fingers,
she wrote poems between land and sea.

Come, let us dive into this poet’s soul
while her ego is submerged in sleep,
where inside a dream she pushes through
this world and out into the next,
a poetic landscape inhabited by others
who sing of bringing down the light.
Let us watch her float upwards
with the Great Mother herself,
although she cannot see Her or herself,
she knows they are one body
that speaks to the other without speech,
a symphony of the soul of love.

As Heaven’s bodies whirl around her,
we witness Athena’s sacred owl
on her blindside seeking out Truth,
silent on the wing, afraid of nothing
as the dreaming poet awakens
in this new world she has entered.
A place where heaven and earth touch,
where the known and the unknown
are separated yet together,
where poets are granted mystic visions,
where we all belong to something
greater than ourselves.

Mirroring the flight of the soul,
the poet moves into the unus mundus,
transcending the illusion of separateness
with the song of eternity in her heart,
knowing what is good for spirit above
will be good for her soul below.
Nothing will hold her back now,
she has found the courage and wisdom
to rise above her Odyssean trials
and, while the great stars glisten, 
this poet’s life, per aspera ad astra,
makes bright her dark journey home.

 

Copyright © Deborah Gregory 2020
Image credit: Google Images – The Flammarion Engraving

30 thoughts on “Per Aspera Ad Astra

  1. I do like, ‘with foam tipped fingers/ she wrote poems between land and sea’.

    Not only is it a beautiful image, it echoes of my own ideas about where creativity happens. I love it when I identify with a piece of writing.

    1. Thank you so much Cath for your visit and beautiful gift of words! As a poet, I often find myself standing with one foot in each world and each word, somewhere between land and sea. Blessings always, Deborah.

  2. Deborah, this poem is brilliant. Absolutely epic. A few lines stopped me and bathed me in wonder.

    My favorite: your sudden and unexpected switch from past-tense storytelling to a present-tense invitation to enter your dream in the first sentence of the 7th stanza. For me it embodied and encapsulated a turning point between a long and painful earthly odyssey into a holy place of spiritual transformation, like the one you have undergone. Wheels within wheels. Depths within depths.

    Another in the 8th: “A place where heaven and earth touch…where we all belong to something other than ourselves.” So symbolic. I find that same place in the symbol of the mandorla, the almond-shaped overlap between two converging circles. I see it as a holy place of dream, symbol, imagination, relationships, creativity, and growing meaning and oneness. I believe this is the place from where I write, and in which I carry on dialogues with friends like you.

    And in the 9th I hear a sister soul traveler in “…transcending the illusion of separateness with the song of eternity in her heart.” What a beautiful and perfect line. And “…nothing will hold her back now.” Yes, and yes.

    Congratulations on accomplishing your magnum opus: making your life a work of art.

    Love and blessings,

    Jeanie

    1. Wow! Thank you so much Jeanie for your truly epic comment! Oh, I deeply admire your intuitive nature, as I was secretly hoping someone would explore my switching of tenses, and in doing so, you’ve gifted me such a generous and deeply moving understanding of my own inner process! Wow! I have nothing but deep gratitude for this action, a thousand blessings on you my dear friend!

      I do remember trying to write about this numinous dream last month but for the life of me I couldn’t find any words at all until last week, when in four days, this entire poem flowed out of my pen. It was an incredible week of writing! I still can’t explain it well.

      Oh, when you write about the “mandorla” I feel like jumping up and running over to my beloved book shelves and pulling out your amazing book, “Healing the Sacred Divide” … for you have been one of my teachers for nearly five years now. I’m sure there are others who write from this place but again you gift me rich words to help me along the way.

      Well, I shall be bathing in the glow of your beautiful and kind-hearted reply for days to come my dear soul-sister. Thank you so much for referencing all the parts you enjoyed, means so much to me as a poet! Warm winter blessings, Deborah.

    1. Thank you so much Cath for your lovely reply and a warm welcome to my poetry and Jungian thought website. Warm winter blessings, Deborah.

  3. Superb. This is a full and beautifully put together poem. It is exquisite, full of detail but not overwhelming. What a gift you are Deborah!

    1. Aww, thank you so much Picasso for making the trip over to my little poetry blog! Are you still writing in the other place? Your beautiful, transcendent words have set me up the for day. A thousand blessings on you Dear Poet! Warm winter blessings, Deborah.

  4. At last – a new poem by you and for me an opportunity to comment Deborah. Thank you for this glowing work that reached the heights and the depths of your ongoing journey in seeming effortless words while conveying the struggles endured, thereby finding a new world within the known. I truly felt my blood vessels expanding – and as I type this I hear the roar of the crowd from the Wanderer’s Stadium a few kms up the road from where I’m currently staying. England playing SA in a one day cricket match which invariably brings to my mind the metaphor of the bat striking the ball thrown at it, and that ball soaring – up and away into the bright blue sky scoring a six. I see your pen on paper, like a sword soaring – or swording/wording – Thank you dear Deborah, this is truly magnificent xx

    1. Oh, I do love your “sword soaring – or swording/wording” encouraging wordplay! Thank you so much Susan for the sweet, sharp gift of your word-smith-ery on my first poem of the year and for the inspiration you offered last weekend which inspired me to fetch my pen from its dark, winter drawer. Although I’m not a cricket fan, I hope the match was/is entertaining and ends up with a good result.

      Last night I watched “Troy” (2004) the director’s cut which is over 3 hours long and I was transported back to Ancient Greece, Achilles and the fall of Troy. Next week I’m going to set aside another three hours to watch “The Odyssey” (1997). Both films have their flaws yet as I’m feeling such a powerful connection to these stories at the moment, I’m already looking forward to it. May the wandering continue!

      Please know that your kind-hearted and generous reply today has thrown my soul up high! Thank you. Warm winter blessings, Deborah.

  5. Hi, my dear lovely friend, it is nice to see you working again and what a powerful poem as it’s truly a great lesson for me. As Dr Jung says;
    “Who looks outside, dreams; Who looks inside, awakes.”
    Your words are always ambition and encourage my thoughts and soul. Thank you.

    PS: I have finally overcome the first step for getting more teeth in my mouth 😉 but still another worry comes along as I try to get a visa for the US to meet my brother in law and his children. I tell you; it is not so easy for a man who was born in Iran!
    Have a wonderful weekend and much appreciated. >3

    1. Thank you so much Aladin for the kindness of your encouraging words. I love that quote by Carl Jung and share it with all who will listen! I think it also communicates well the illusion of separation that the ego would have us believe. And on that note I do hope all goes to plan with your visa application. It seems unfair that you waited long enough for the opportunity to flee Iran, so I’m really hoping that you get your visa to visit your family soon. Lastly, I’m so pleased to hear that your brave dental journey is continuing to unfold. Whatever you’re up to this weekend, have a fabulous one! Warm winter blessing, Deborah.

  6. Your words are powerful as they are beautiful. Thank you for sharing them Deborah.

    The whole poem was pretty impressive with its dark and bright treasury of tales. I agree those modern day Odyssey themed spin offs are brilliant, especially Circe by Madeline Miller. I will be sharing your poem far and wide..

    1. Oh, thank you so much Bookworm for your truly wonderful review! I’m delighted that you enjoyed my first poem of the year (and decade I’ve just realised!). Yes, I adored Madeline Miller’s novel “Circe” and her previous one “Song of Achilles”. At the moment I’m reading, “House of Names” by Colm Toibin recommended by Margaret Atwood herself whose “The Penelopiad” I loved! Hmm, so perhaps a poetical, Odyssean adventure was long overdue! Warm winter blessings, Deborah.

  7. Wonderfully written Deborah! I can relate with your journey. Here’s a few lines To The Muses by Proclus that seem to resonate with your poem:

    And how once more their kindred stars to gain,
    And ancient seats in truth’s immortal plain,
    From whence they wand’ring fell, thro’ mad desire
    Of matter’s regions and allotments dire.

    1. Thank you so much Jason for your truly wonderful reply! I love the lines you include and can relate to them well. Proclus certainly knew a thing or two about poetry didn’t he! A quick search reveals that “according to Proclus, allegorical poetry may unite us with the divine because it consists of symbola. These symbola channel the divine energy that lifts us up towards the divine.” There is much food for thought in those two sentences alone! Warm winter blessings, Deborah.

      1. There is a long line of poets who recognize the essential nature of symbola. Some say it was especially kindled with Heraclitus: “Yet without obscurity or needless explanation the true prophet signifies.” For me this is the essence of poetry. A thousand years could pass and yet the ‘word’ continues to imbue meaning and significance. Thank you for keeping the fire burning brightly…

        1. Jason, you’re a wonderful fount of metaphysical wisdom! I love your mention of Heraclitus and keeping the fire burning brightly … received with deep gratitude. Its amazing how twenty six little letters can keep us writers and poets occupied for an entire lifetime, hmm, perhaps several.

  8. Dearest Wisdom Woman and Friend,

    I live near a small city called Ithaca, and the Odyssey is often called up in personal stories of how so many I love arrived here to meet the teacher who taught us Jung in a smoke-filled bookstore downtown. Along with Jung came astrology, meditation, Greek philosophy, and so much more. Because of this teacher, the Dalai Lama came to Ithaca, too–a few times and built his monastic center in the US here.

    Blessed as I’ve been, the teachers and teaching began with a masculine bent–and that grated against my heart as much as I loved the teachers. You’ve made the hero/heroine’s journey into wholeness Lunar. You remind me and assure me that the journey is mine to take and cherish as a woman in my own unique way.

    I know you have suffered to find your place within and without. I doubt there’s a path to Wholeness that doesn’t hurt, but you make the journey enticing and meaningful. Thank you for sharing your wisdom and your poetic heart.

    I’ll end by saying that this poem brings me to essential ideas in my life, read and re-read in a book by John Tarrant, ‘The Light Inside the Dark,’ (a psychotherapist and a Zen Master) with his eloquent and moving descriptions (including poetry) of our need for both Spirit and Soul. I’m astounded, Deborah. I’ll need to read this many times. With love from my home near Ithaca, New York.

    1. Dearest Wisdom Woman, Teacher and Friend,

      That we’ve met on life’s open road and wander, like holy fools, its snaking path home together during these years, means the world to me! Thank you so much for your love, encouragement and friendship on this journey we call life. Here, you write in beauty, grace and eloquence with your soulful, poetic pen!

      Re: Ithaca, you couldn’t make it up Elaine! For in ancient Greece, it’s was where the hero, Odysseus lived and now today, thousands of miles away, on the other side of the world, it’s where one of my beloved heroines live! I wonder if you too feel a devotion and affinity towards the Goddess Athena?

      It’s wonderful to hear of how Ithaca’s rich centre has provided you with Greek mythology, psychology, philosophy, astrology and so much more. What an astonishing place to have chosen to live and then, for that place in time to become a centre for the Dalia Lama and for you to have met him, and for Vic, to have worked with him there.

      Thank you for truly “seeing me” and deeply understanding my Odyssean journey. A dark and bright journey which at times has both terrified and elated me! As a Goddess loving, lamp-holding guide you too have led me back to the Feminine with your goddess articles with deep knowledge and insights.

      Oh, I haven’t heard of the book you mention but I shall be onto Amazon UK in a flash and will order it today! I can’t wait! Thank you so much Elaine for the gift of these generous, kind-hearted words, I shall hold them close to my heart! Warm winter blessings, Deborah.

  9. Wow Deborah – this is wonderful! Such a beautiful way to describe your ongoing journey of individuation…I love the fact you use the words “Odyssean adventure” to describe it, that is the perfect comparison as it is indeed a journey of many ups and downs, highs and lows and hopefully much learning for us all. In fact there is so much of the myths in your words Calypso, Athena…Zeus’s shield Aegis and even Athena’s wise owl – you have woven them into a fabulous poetic tale that has no end.

    I love the Greek myths, the Iliad and the Odyssey and have read them in so many different versions thanks to the recent abundance of retellings such as Circe and Song of Achilles (Madeleine Miller), The Silence of the Girls (Pat Barker) and the recent translation of the Odyssey by Emily Wilson. It is serendipity for me that you have used the myths in your latest work as right now I am reading Mythos by Stephen Fry – a retelling of all of the Greek myths in a way that bears the hallmarks of his humour – I highly recommend it as a light yet extremely enjoyable way to read the myths chronologically!

    And what a wonderful world of oneness you describe in the poets dream – to bring that to life is a lifes (or a souls!) work that I for one strive to connect to, yet so often small things can draw me away. Your poem has acted as a reminder of this and is such a positive place to end this chapter of your journey, per aspera ad astra – from hardship to the stars. I also find that each time I re-read it I find something new to like about it – it is inspiring and an epic piece of work that feels like there could be a second part to it in the future??

    I shall leave it there now, may your journey be bright and your star continues to shine Deborah as does this poem! Blessings, Sophia

    1. Wow, where to start?! Firstly with deep thanks for the truly beautiful review you’ve gifted me Sophia! The Odyssey, in all its ancient and modern re-imaginings is such a divinely, inspiring tale. Well, you may have guessed it already but the aegis-bearing Athena, her sacred owl and Calypso (all thanks to Madeline Miller for bringing her story to life!) are some of my favourite characters … most especially the Goddess Athena, beloved hero/ine of the Odyssey herself! Thank you, I’ll check out the other novels you mention although I’ve read (devoured!) both of Miller’s. Hmm, I haven’t read any by Stephen Fry yet but feel greatly encouraged to do so after your glowing feedback.

      “Individuation” and “The Odyssey” go hand-in-hand don’t they! And so when I discovered “The Flammarion Engraving”, the whole poem seemed to pull itself together and the urge to write became irresistible! I kept thinking of “Penelope” and how she wove her tapestry by day and unravelled it by night and in many ways this is what happened to this poem too, as by day I wrote and by night new dreams came and verses unravelled themselves so that in the morning I had to start all over again. I do realise this poem could’ve been so much longer but (thankfully!) nine verses felt right.

      There is no end! How can there be?! Another part? Yes, maybe. Yes, possibly! Re: Oneness, everywhere I turned this week, in pure synchronicity, Oneness was present. I can highly recommend Jean Raffa’s latest post if you haven’t read it … another holy fool like myself on life’s open road! https://jeanraffa.wordpress.com/2020/02/04/sacred-laws-of-psyche-the-connection-between-duality-and-oneness/

      The title “Per aspera ad astra” seems to sum up my life so well! There is so much more to say but I’ll leave it there for tonight and let you enjoy the poem without giving too much away. Hopefully you haven’t nodded off! Warm winter blessings, Deborah.

      1. Oneness – ahh yes it is everywhere, I think sometimes it can be missed when we lose ourselves in life’s dramas but gentle reminders such as your poem help to inspire us to get back on our journey with more belief… and I will look at Jean Raffa’s post, thank you Deborah, more inspiration awaits I’m sure!!

        1. Thank you Sophia for the beauty and wisdom of your reply. Yes, it’s so easy to lose ourselves in the dramas … and perhaps this is necessary too?! Enjoy Jean’s article.

  10. Deborah, in movement and stillness you’ve destroyed the ego’s master plan to convince us that separation is real. I’ll need to read this again and again and again because at the moment I’m too stunned to comment apart from offering you these few paltry words. I’ll come back when my heart composes itself. All the best, Anna.

    1. Such high praise! Thank you so much Anna for the rich gift of your generous (not paltry!) words. Oh, I love your phrase “in movement and stillness” for the tension of the opposites have journeyed with me throughout my “Odyssean” life and I can’t see them disappearing now! I agree, the ego’s master plan is to have us all believing “the illusion of separation”. Even as poet, I’m still re-reading this poem because each day it seems to gift me another unexpected insight. Hope that doesn’t sound too weird?! Warm winter blessings, Deborah.

  11. TRULY EPIC!!!
    This poet’s heart is bursting with joy after reading your long odyssey themed poem!! Your difficult journey as a poet is profoundly relatable, especially those calypsonian lovers!
    Bless you Deborah and thank you for all you do to ensure the poet’s life is delved into just as much as their words. HF

    1. Wow! I love it that you love this Henry! Thank you so much for your generous and kind-hearted response to what turns out to be my first poem of the year. At the weekend a dear friend inspired me to unwrap my hibernating pen and all I can say is this … what an incredibly, rich writing week its been! Being a poet yourself, you’ll know all about that! Ha-ha! Yes those hypnotic Calypsonian lovers indeed! Warm winter blessings, Deborah.

    1. Oh, thank you so much Dawn for your heart-felt reply and for retweeting in the land of the little blue bird! I’m so pleased that you enjoyed it … it’s been an epic week of writing! Warm winter blessings, Deborah.

Comments are closed.