%When through intense aggression
I wander in samsara (confusion)
On the luminous light path
Of mirror-like wisdom%
From Tibetan Inspiration-Prayer for Deliverance
from the Dangerous Pathway of the Bardo
by Chongyam Trungpa
Wrath may be the most socially acceptable and visible of the Deadly Sins in our culture as it is now encapsulated in the military-industrial complex that threatens to destroy our entire planet. The unavoidable deadly ramifications of Western civilization becomes much clearer when it is understood that the cultural mandate to win at all costs in all venues, whether personal, commercial, or political, is rooted in the rulership of Amon, the Biblical Demon Lord of War and Wrath.
One of the most precise and evocative explanations of the battle for environmental survival we now face is simply that we are faced with a fundamental conflict between biophilia and necrophilia, between those who love life and those who love death. Rather than join the symphony of voices bemoaning our situation, continuing to point our fingers anywhere except at ourselves, genuine change requires we look at how to direct our own Wrath consciously and appropriately. Looking for resolutions to those opposing forces requires a broader worldview that just them and us.
In the shamanistic world
a culture includes within it
the ability to transcend itself.
This is what initiation into the underworld is all about.
The hero goes down into the place where the ancestors live,
in one sense to free himself from their grip
and in another to renew the connection.
In modern terms
the underworld could be described
as the sum total of
(and even all biological)
The genes (ancestors) condition the descendants.
They give guidance
(what we would now call biological survival mechanisms),
but at the same time they limit innovation
through relentless conditioning.
They create the bounded structure that allows for individual existence,
but which every individual has a desire to transcend.
The Guardian is the ancestors.
A healthy society that can nurture many generations of humans has need of both conservatives, those who wish to maintain the status quo, and liberals, those who are driven to innovate. In our times, the field that studies such paradoxes is the newly emerging science of chaos. Although contemporary scientists are quite sure that their ability to illuminate this field is entirely due to the computer, my argument is that the human traits we dismiss so cavalierly as primitive, superstitious, and/or imaginary, that at best are given a spot in the ‘soft’ science of psychology ,are in fact the very same traits that allowed our human mind to grasp the complex non-linear, synchronistic principles of chaos long before the invention of the modern computer. What is far too often cast aside as empty religious ritual are actually long-standing spiritual technologies, practices that have been honed over millennia to allow practitioners to not only grasp such principles, to actively influence how they affect our human lives.
Spiritual vision is merely an extension
of something that is with us all the time-
In our ignorance
we think of this faculty as
of little worth.”
The Guardian calls us to the Threshold between worlds and meets us there, challenging each of us to our battle of survival battle, as much out of the genetic lineage’s need for survival as through any individualistic visionary drive of our own. In chaos theory, the threshold corresponds to the accumulation point, the point where an orderly progression apparently explodes into overwhelming chaos. It only appears chaotic because we persist in looking at it from our original pin-hole viewpoint. If we look at it from a more universal point of view, (in chaos theory called ”an orbital diagram’) we see that it is not only incredibly orderly, each part contains windows with instructive examples for how the whole is organized and progresses.
Even though the Biblical metaphor of Jacob’s household being in chaos because he cannot keep peace between his wife and his concubines is bound to raise the hackles of every reactionary feminist and a large percentage of men to boot it is appropriate for this particular initiatory journey. The idea of wives and concubines is widespread enough cross-culturally to suggest that men do tend to organize their desires this way. If we are talking about how men figure out how to put their own inner realms into order, then:
• Wives as personifications of order, the conservative desire for predictable structures and property that can contain and sustain life, and
• Concubines as personifications of chaos, the liberal desire to inspire new life, new ideas, and generally open the doors to new possibilities
make sense. Wild impulsive ecstatic romantic visionary sex is great, but the babies that result need to be kept warm, dry, safe, educated, entertained, and fed if they are to survive. Men who cannot weave their opposing urges into a life sustaining order remain irresponsible boys incapable of actually fathering any children they may happen to donate sperm for, or they risk becoming rigid and impotent tyrants equally incapable of inspiring anything new and life-giving.
Imagination is the source of life
And life is the source of health.
It is from active use of the imagination
That we derive our enjoyment of life
And if this is missing
we are not fully alive or healthy.
Jacob manages to put his affairs in order when he wrestles a blessing out of the Guardian at the Ford of Jabbok. This guardian is both divine and human, both Elohim and anashim. The crossing it guards is exactly this boundary between dreams and manifestation. Where Greek myths and Biblical tales coincide is also at this epic battle of the Ford. The Pleiadian Sister Taygete is the Golden Hind, the last of Hercules’ penances for murdering his wife and children. He caused their deaths while in a drunken fugue state where he did not recognize them nor did he even remember killing them when he came too.
Hercules chases Taygete for over a year and is only able capture her when he is willing to step out of his known realms and meet up with her while she is crossing the river Ladon. Like Jacob’s ford, this river marks the border of the mystical magical Hyperborean realms that lie in the West beyond the setting sun. His tasks are complete when he is capable of being cognizant in both realms, he is only able to bind and care the Golden Hind for her, instead of killing her when he can knowingly stand in the border between worlds. If we are honest, most of us are tempted to belittle the hero, to look down on his violent destruction of all he loves and created, but once we are willing to look within, we realize that we are all guilty of destroying the creations of our imagination every time we refuse to acknowledge and care for our dreams.
It is deeply crazy making for those capable of seeing into the visionary realms to deceive themselves as to their own transience, to distance themselves from their inmost needs for relationships, and to deny their debt to their ancestral lineage. For regardless of our opinions of their worthiness (or lack thereof), the fact remains that without our parents none of us would be here. If we would succeed in reconciling the needs of the present with imperatives of the ancestors, it is vital to keep in mind that:
“Only by the impeccability of our efforts
could this faculty
While our inheritance, genetic and otherwise, gives us a supporting structure and survival guidelines, it is up to us to adapt them to our present circumstances. The emerging field of epi-genetics studies how various aspects of our DNA are expressed, moderated, and/or suppressed by environmental influences. From the genetic point of view, mindlessly repeating old patterns of behavior and failing to adapt to changing circumstances is a deadly and foolish laziness, but changing the information embedded in our ancestral psyche and our DNA is an uphill battle that can feel utterly fruitless to the individual.
The Deadly Sin, the grave mistake here, is a Wrath that feeds on a fundamental spiritual delusion that our true nature, our lineage, and/or our motives can somehow be disguised, or that we can be sheltered from the repercussions of our behavior. When the ego, the small individual self, is cut loose from its moorings, its fear of annihilation is boundless and self-regenerating and there are no limits to the depravities which it can conceive of in the name of self-defense. The fury with which such self-recognition and atonement is resisted can be extreme. There are far too many people who would rather kill, and more than a few who would rather die, than admit to their failings and errors, than to confess to their sins and deal with the repercussions .
Perhaps Parzival’s story has endured because of our common human and ever more urgent need to learn how to transmute demonic Wrath into the Courage to make the desperately needed changes in human society. From Parzival’s example we at least know that it takes the willingness to wade into the rushing waters of the unknown, to trust ourselves to an unfamiliar steed, and to endure long enough to be welcomed home and introduced to the source of our dreams once more. Most important is that if we would best the Demon Amon and turn our rages into courage, we must begin by refraining from violence against ourselves especially when our inner battles appear as inconclusive as Parzival’s.
In the process of throwing his opponent from his horse, Parzival has to abandon his own mount or get washed away downstream. Even though he does ride away on the surviving Castilian, a Grail Horse that can help him along the way, his encounter at the ford still leaves him lost and aimless in a trackless forest. Even meeting up with his mentor does not make his way clear. Trevrizent warns him that he is alone in fighting his way to the Grail Castle, and must make his own path as he know of no history of success in that endeavor through battle. It is here, at this stage, once Parzival realizes he needs to recognize and atone for his sins, for his mistakes, especially his cousin’s murder and his mother’s death, that Wolfram leaves Parzival to his inner labors.
all quotes in italics are thanks to Matthew Wood and from his book ‘Seven Herbs, Seven Teachers’