by Adam Crosthwaite
“…for it is the doom of men that they forget.”1
When I was younger I would get lost in the world of science fiction. Through movies, novels and my favorite comic books; even the toys I played with as a child had come from the same stories I had read about. Just like the old tales of knights and dragons, ancient gods of the great mythologies, and other heroes who committed acts of valor in the name good, I would look to the stories of heroes for inspiration and guidance as I was taught to by my grade school teachers. As I grew older I played less and read more. The characters became more mystical as I moved toward more classical fairytale style of books rather than science fiction. Comic books remained, but volumes of Grimm’s Fairy Tales and other classic stories with their historical references had been added. Over time I realized a recurring theme among all the stories both old and new. I also saw as I was growing in understanding of the world around me that the same was happening in real life as well. Where is the light?
The art of storytelling has been an effective means of teaching for countless traditions over the ages. Unfortunately, this art is easily manipulated and even corrupted to serve the ideologies of any subversive group leading by ways of ignorance and intolerance in order to feed into fear as a means to their own ends. The effects of this practice become more apparent as the darker time of the year approaches and you can watch as people everywhere begin to seek out external comforts in an effort to cope with the encroaching darkness and cold of winter on an instinctual level.
This can be seen as people respond to the colder longer nights and shorter days by seeking comfort from some mysterious fear that seems to be closing in but never really arrives. I remember this topic of discussion with Rev. Strickler around this time of year since I first started out as one of his students. Every year I could recognize this response being around other people most of the time, but this year has been very different. I have been mostly alone; with my schedule and new living space I can go most weeks without contact with more than the six people I see at work, not accounting for cashiers or passing neighbors. This has made it much simpler for me to focus on my personal circle rather than trying to do so while drowning out distractions. That is until I found myself seeking the comfort and insulation from the darkness I had spent years learning and working toward understanding. I was subverted away from my path by the distraction of that ever lurking distraction waiting in the darkest corner of the mind, fear. What the fear is of is not the main question, forgetting that it will never go away, that it will be present in one form or another; there is the danger.
While as a student Qabalah I know good and well what is happening and should never have been tripped up so quietly, but what alchemical lesson is complete without the administration of a litmus test? As it turns out I found that my basic elements (emotional centers) are still a little too acidic or hot (overly sensitive). Bad puns aside I was sidelined by an emotional response left over from a major event in my past that I had not reviewed in my alchemical process since its passing. It took longer than I thought but after finding myself stuck, unaware of the darkness, I was surrounding myself by choosing to ignore the past; I realized that it was in forgetting that I slipped and failed. As a light was reflected from a seemingly distant point, the way was pointed for me to hear as I sat talking with Rev. Strickler one evening during one of my much anticipated visits to spend time talking with him and the rest of the group.
As I started to review my path after my last visit to the Temple, Rev. Strickler’s home where I look forward to meeting with him and everyone else when I can, I was not completely clear on what I was missing in my examination of the situation. I knew where some mistakes had been made, but I was not clear on how I had become entangled in this Gordian knot. Then one day I heard what was at the time the most ridiculous statement I had heard in a long time. A person at my work was attempting to break an awkward silence with a generic statement about the weather. Living in Arizona, this is not a subject that one talks about unless necessary.
It was getting cold outside as winter had arrived for most of the Northern Hemisphere with snow storms and freezing rains, but we had just broken out of the 90 degree range and were enjoying our 80 degree days as the rest of North America was icing over at the time. This person who walks by and looks out the window at midnight at the pitch black sky with no clouds in sight and says, “Man it sure looks cold out there.” My first response was to bite my tongue while thinking to myself, “What the hell did I just hear? It’s a freaking desert, how the hell does a desert look cold? Ever?” After my internal response quieted down I started to think about what a cold night would look like.
I remembered the snow frosted rooftops of my old neighborhood where I grew up in Denver. I could recall the watching the first snow as a blanket of silence that fell down on everything, masking the city white almost every night. Even the smell of the neighborhood changed; first from the dingy oily smog to a crisp neutral scent, followed moments later by the warmth of fresh pine slowly burning in fireplaces. Then suddenly it hit me, THE LIGHT! In the snow there was no such thing as darkness, not as long as there was even just a speck of light no matter how dim. Every snow coated surface reflected that same light sharing it, borrowing from the previous source, passing it on the next and so on, so that every source of light was magnified leaving no shadow save for those cast up to the sky, only to be drowned out by the moon and stars. Each point of light reflected outward as it was touched by the light before it, expressing the same light in a different angle of perception, just as each person is a point of light cast from the source sharing that same light with others, each reflecting to the best of their ability.
Where was the light? It was always there, all around. I had failed to maintain that piece of the reflection that was my angle of perception in the tapestry of the Great Work. The profound feeling of loss was the loss of time, time that could have been used in growing through knowledge and expanding awareness. I was looking for an exterior solution to a problem I had set into motion within an interior arena set up for this very purpose. Within my alchemical laboratory I had simply stopped looking with the light I was given use of and totally ignored an important aspect of my undeveloped self until it became enough of a problem to cause discomfort. To add insult to injury, I created a process to amplify the effects by a misuse of negative energy in form of saying no to engaging with the light of the alchemical process and working on bettering myself.
The best example of this process I can use is an addict. In most cases of addiction, there are tendencies to avoid pain; in some forms there are tendencies to engage in pain either similar to or another more destructive form that can cause harm. Either way the person is running from an experience no matter how much damage they may cause in the process. They will eventually look to whatever vice they chose as their escape as if it were a light switch that makes the dark disappear, only the light never shines, so the intensity of the vice is increased until a major event forces a change, or worse, death. While this is an extreme example of how this can unfold, it also is the clearest one for the moment.
The scary part is that anyone could easily fall into this pattern, not so much the addiction model, but a very close version of it. Couple that with the tendency for outside influences by those with less altruistic motives to attempt interference for their own ends; the world could appear rather frightening at times. It is because of this I understand the proclivity toward the stories of heroes that stood up against dark forces. They always seemed to be endowed with a gift or ability seemingly inhuman or impossible for so called normal people to achieve. They didn’t need to find the light; they had teachers who showed them how work with the light they had been given to reflect for others who may be receptive, forwarding the light on, illuminating the darkness by exposing the unknown thus making way for knowledge and growth.
There are countless stories out there about heroes and victories over the darkness, whatever form it may take. From great space battles to superhuman abilities, new stories are written every day but not just to entertain. If you look, the same process is in motion in every story being told; to overcome the darkness one does not look outward for an external source of salvation. The source of the salvation will make its self known when the hero (student/reflective vessel) is ready. The Timeless Wisdom of the Ancients is ever unfolding in as many forms as there are angles of perception from those capable of being as receptive as the heroes of yesterday, today and tomorrow. If it is a story of inspiration that is needed to get things started, I know of a good one with a little reindeer with low self-esteem and bright shiny nose.
Whether you find inspiration in the form of a story or a dialog with a teacher, remember to shine so the light you are given use of in this world can show another the way home in the dark.
May the inner light of the true Self, borrowed from the Source, be reflected not just in memory, but along the path you find yourself traveling.
- Merlin from the Movie: Excalibur (1981) Orion Pictures