Thursday, March 27, 2008

Preface to my book "The Pearl Within"

Recently I had a dream and I take dreams seriously. I saw a young orphan girl, dressed in rags, standing alone. A woman approached showing contempt for the orphan, and then spat at her. As I awoke, I suddenly realized that I was this girl’s guardian. I heard her voice asking, "Who will speak for me?"

How do I speak for an orphan?

I can imagine being treated with contempt, receiving no respect, and having no parents or support of any kind. I am tender, innocent, and yet shunned, even attacked. I remember a quote from an inscription on a stone: "I am an orphan, alone…In woods and mountains I roam, but I am hidden in the innermost soul of man." (Jung, Memories, Dreams, Reflections, p. 227)

There have been times when I have felt that alone, wondering how I would survive in this universe, feeling a solitary place deep inside, unknown and unrecognized by those around me, and probably unwelcome.

I remember one such time, on a strange journey to Maui in 1989. My life was in chaos, my marriage of 17 years was ending, and one day I suddenly felt I was being urged to go to Maui, a place I’d never been or really even thought about. This meant a trip of 6000 miles at a time when I could not afford it. Why?

No matter how much I reasoned, the urge was insistent. Just go. So I made the trip, and on my first night on the Hawaiian island, as I was setting up my tent at dusk in a remote area, I spotted a dark young man watching me from behind a tree. He was the only other person there. He finally walked toward me, and when I said hello as he approached, he ignored me and walked right past, into the woods.

Initially I had felt scared being in a strange and alien environment with no plan or purpose. A traumatic childhood camping experience made camping feel very unsafe. But now I faced an apparent new threat. Who was this young man, and why was he acting so strangely, and worse…what did he want with me? I wondered where he had gone, and then I noticed him watching me from behind another tree.
I panicked, and once my tent was set up, I raced back to my car and drove off leaving him and the tent. The feeling was one of overwhelming aloneness, with nowhere to turn and no one to help me.

I felt like an orphan.

I sat on a cliff overlooking the sun going down. I had never been anywhere like this, and I’m sure there were many romantic couples enjoying the sunset on Maui that night. But I was so scared and alone. Where could I go? What could I do? I could feel that young man waiting back by my tent in the darkness. I was prepared to spend my ten days on Maui inside that car. I had not felt such fear since I was a child. I cried and pleaded, "Why am I here? I don’t even know why I’ve come here, and what am I going to do?"

But there was an answer, perhaps from the same inner place that first led me to un-dertake such a puzzling journey, and I unexpectedly found myself saying "I don’t know why I’ve come 6000 miles to be here all alone, and this man may be waiting at my camp-site to murder me. If I have come this far without even knowing why, in order to be killed, then let me do it well."

I felt a powerful calmness inside me, replacing the panic, and I drove back to the darkened empty parking lot. As I hiked to my tent, I thought I would probably not sleep that night, but in fact I went right to sleep and did not wake till morning.

It is in hanging out in such empty and rocky places of the soul that the orphan can be found. Sitting at the bedside of a dying loved one, faced with the inevitability of their leaving and all the jumbled feelings of fear, anger, grief, sadness and confusion, if we pause and listen, accepting what is, we may be surprised to find ourselves in a deeper place within. Perhaps this is the mythical and spiritual underworld.

Quiet, solitary, and fragile, the voice of the orphan soul within each of us can be heard. Sometimes it sounds like silence. Something had responded to my plea, calmed my panic, and filled me with the willingness to accept my fate. Was that me or someone else in me?

I suspect there may be many others in this world who have had similar inner experiences, though we tend not to speak of them. Since our modern science and our more "factual" worldview came on the scene and made belief in God or any higher Powers a much more challenging proposition, we have all in some sense become more like orphans without that hidden Support. We are certainly less secure than our ancestors. We can still choose to believe as they did, but somehow it feels like we are further out on the precipice.

And the contempt and the spitting—what of that?

At the same time that we experience a greater estrangement from our universe, we appear to have become more skeptical, less trusting of faith. Innocence is now mocked as naïve, and someone who believes in a hidden Intelligence should "know better," or at least have a good reason.

This certainly does not apply to all of us, but it does seem to describe the ambience of our postmodern world.
Is innocence under attack? Children are deprived of their naiveté at an earlier age by parents and mass media. We say we must do so to protect them because their purity of heart makes them vulnerable to exploitation. Even the phrase "purity of heart" will evoke cynical smirks and discomfort in some.

It is very likely that the same attitude —held even by ourselves—prevails toward our own guilelessness, those places within each of us which are unknowing and open, curious and vulnerable. Did we get to where we are because the world turned harsher, making defense and protection more necessary, or has the world become more dangerous because we have stopped valuing innocence and protecting its right to exist?

Who is this orphan? Perhaps she reflects for us the abandoned and lost state of our own soul—the interior ambiguous world of dream, fantasy and imagination—which no longer fits into the objective literal universe of technology and concrete facts.

This orphan is also a symbol of a necessary stage of growing up and into the individual each of us truly is:
…the experience referred to by the image of the orphan is a part of individuation [becoming the person you truly and really are]. The experience of being abandoned, of losing the support of all parental figures and sources of external security—these all belong to the image of the orphan. It’s a necessary experience, because you cannot discover the inner source of security upon which your existence rests until you have been deprived of all external supports. (Edinger, Mysterium Lectures, p. 34)

And if the orphan is something that is "hidden in the innermost soul of man [and woman]," then how are we to find it, and why should we want to?

I have chosen to offer my best effort to give her a voice, and in doing so, to try to find answers to these questions. I have found that sometimes her voice (or maybe it’s just mine) is tinged with anger at the way things are. Please forgive the harshness.

…and you tell me over and over and over and over again my friend,
ah, you don't believe we're on the eve of destruction.
(McGuire, Barry. "Eve of Destruction", lyrics)

Our other task is to bring ourselves to face the situation we are in. By abandoning and rejecting the value of our soul—our interior and its messages—we have been cut off from our intrinsic guidance. This loss of such a vital and traditional source of correction for our excess and errors is putting us in an increasingly precarious position.

There are signs in several growing trends that we are headed in an alarming direction. Whether we look at increasing anxiety, depression, and gastrointestinal distress in individuals; declining standards in education, social behavior and institutions, and loss of respect for life and each other; deteriorating quality of air, water, nutritional content of food, and destruction of the environment; spreading of weapons of mass destruction into the hands of fanatical individuals and groups seeking to "make a statement;" increasing violence, in particular at younger and younger ages; mushrooming numbers of prescriptions for behavior-altering drugs, especially for the young—there are plenty of signs that we are reaching a critical moment.

After the crisis of nuclear proliferation of the 1980’s, when we thought humanity had to choose between a path of survival or else self-destruction, we find ourselves still facing that choice. It was not the weapons, it was us. Giving up the weapons has only confronted us with the human motives that created all those weapons in the first place. Why are we doing what we do? What hope is to be found in continuing along the path we are following?

We are like a man in the midst of a heart attack, gasping for air, brought to his knees by the pain, all the while insisting that he is fine and there is no need to go to the hospital.

A man crippled and in denial, and an innocent orphan being rejected while having much to offer—perhaps we have something precious to learn from these images. What does the man need to do if he is to have a chance of surviving? What do we need to do if we are to recognize the orphan and hear her voice? What is she able to feel that perhaps we have lost touch with?

I think that it will take a fundamental moment of remorse—and this is absolutely essential to the death-rebirth experience—a long moment of remorse, a sustained weeping and grief. It will be a grief of the masculine for the feminine; of men for women; of adults for what has happened to children; of the West for what has happened to every other part of the world; of Judeo-Christianity for pagans and indigenous peoples; of Christians for Jews; of whites for people of color; of the wealthy for the poor; of human beings for animals and all other forms of life. It will take a fundamental metanoia, a self-overcoming, a radical sacrifice to make this transition.
(Tarnas, "The Great Initiation")

The orphan wants to be heard now inside of each of us. We need to listen, to turn back toward the empty and innocent place which we have abandoned. It is my hope that if articulated at the right moment, the Mystery which the orphan represents can reach us through our numbing, denial and escapism, and awaken us once again to the realization of who and what each of us really is, beneath the roles we play.

Will you join me? Take a chance? Throughout this book you will see a stop sign at points where we recommend that you stop, put down the book, and take the time to reflect upon and write about the questions being raised. Ask yourself the questions, and listen.

Some who read this book will see it as dark and depressing. Yet it is an expression of hope. For years our situation has haunted me, and led me to struggle with despair, anger and pessimism. In truth, I feel little hope and believe we must prepare for the coming times with great concern. Yet there is some part of me that will not be extinguished and will not give up. I have no radiant vision to share of our joyous deliverance. Instead, I feel this writing is a cry which I must let out before I leave this earth rather than taking it with me into the silent Unknown. May it make some small difference in the lives of those who hear it, though how, I cannot picture.

This book is not a recipe for self-realization. The encounter with one’s True Nature is not under one’s control, nor is it usually a very pleasant experience. The angelic choirs, if there be any, come much later. This book is more a lifeline, to be clutched when there seems nothing to hold onto. Few people will read these ideas and choose to pursue them voluntarily. You will be called, and the price of refusing the call is often death itself, spiritually if not literally. When that time comes, may this writing serve to preserve you and help you to consent to the necessity (fate) presented to you by the Mystery That lives in your own soul.

We must stop what we are doing.


We must honestly face our desperate situation and admit our confusion and lack of direction. And then like the many wise people who have somehow been inspired by new direction and guidance from a sacred Source, we must listen.

Well, it's a long, long time
From May to December
But the days grow short,
When you reach September.
And the autumn weather
Turns the leaves to flame
And I haven't got time
For the waiting game.
And the days dwindle down
To a precious few . . .
September, November . . .
And these few precious days
I spend with you.
These precious days
I spend with you.
(Kurt Weill, "September Song", lyrics)

Be still and listen.