Part 6b: Resurrection - what remains after the stripping away…
At this final stage constituting resurrection, in the initiation rite/journey as alchemical process, I first had to come to terms with death in its most existential manifestation, that being one of an ego-death of sort. In addition to now having been stripped of my belongings, several times, until I was only left with a single suitcase, of my life partner, of my health which was compromised, of financial security, of my former lifestyle which I could embrace with like-minded community members, of access to holistic products, of my cell phone (my only connection to my past life), and of nearly my father as well, due to Covid, I was also reckoning with a loss of identity. For more on this in terms of how I was challenged to confront my colonial heritage, versus my ancestral, indigenous calling, in the context of Namibia’s history, please refer back to Part 6a. Resurrection, or the characteristically mythological ascend from the metaphorical Underworld, for me, was made possible by means of embracing three tenets: a) the confrontation with and inspiration from otherness through travelling; b) using the incorruptible beauty inherent in each moment as a tonic/alchemical elixir, and c) providing sacred context for all difficult descent moments/experiences.
a) The confrontation with and inspiration from otherness through travelling:
Central to this final piece around identity-rooted-in-lineage as well as the up-rootment from a lineage, was what I discovered “otherness” due my travels and my new-found nomadic life: the significance of the decision to “travel” widely, whether it be geographically, emotionally, intellectually, or spiritually, has, at its root, an epistemological basis. This sort of travelling is not just a mere visiting of a place or things, but it requires interaction with what one meets: to bring one’s beliefs and assumptions into possible question in the context of new landscapes, new cultures, new systems of ideas, values and customs. Only when one has cultivated a secure inner sovereignty through trials and teachings along the initiatory journey, will one have the strength to face difference, repeatedly, and not be overcome by confusion. Part and parcel in the experience of traveling, is the confrontation with and inspiration from otherness in the form of encountering people who are very different to us. A way in which we can let otherness be a form of inspiration for creativity, is through a practice of keeping oneself exposed to otherness in its many manifestations - differing cultures, differing personalities, differing ideas and value systems, differing landscapes and languages – and repeatedly letting go of one’s attachment to the familiar, the safe and the comfortable.
During my personal travels (while being in the National Game Reserve of Etosha), I observed this otherness even in an inter-species context, in the form of different archetypes presented within the animal kingdom and where these happened to mirror the universal archetypes we also embody as humans. Otherness was also witnessed in me having had encountered different Namibian tribes people, such as the Ovahimbas, Hereros, Nama Damara and Owambo, and learning about their traditional ways and customs, as well as ceremonial practices. I was astonished to discover so many parallels between these, and other earth-based cultures globally, and how closely for example, the Ovahimba’s rich spiritual practices mirrored that of South American shaman-facilitated sweat lodge ceremonies, which are very much centred around the sacred fire in vision quests as rites of passages, as well as in all ceremonies honouring the cycles of life, in both traditions. I speculate that these cross-cultural similarities in indigenous peoples, globally, who live exclusively in and from Nature, can be attributed to their universal reliance on the elementals for both survival and for sacred meaning in life.
Ironically, I resonate more with these indigenous cultures than with my own supposedly “Western” culture I was born into but am now divorced from, with the latter ways of living upheld by most white people I encountered on my travels. The more I interacted with different people, the more evident it became that humanity was and still is very much divided based on views and values: historically, it was the indigenous people versus the colonising Europeans; today it is "pro-vaxers" versus the "anti-vaxers"; Western allopathic medicine versus natural, plant-based medicine, the old world which is no longer sustainable versus the new world encompassing holistic self-sustainability and earth-honouring principles. What I further discovered during a systemic constellation session exploring these themes, (with a facilitator in Namibia), was the requirement of all these divisions to be bridged, as opposed to pointing fingers as to who is at fault or to blame. Instead of propagating the victim-perpetrator agenda, this bridging of worlds and cultures also relies on the land being considered and blessed and that we all live from a heart space.
In this particular session, there was a representative for myself, for Africa, a sangoma, the bridge, and “the white men”: the most revelatory moment was when “the white men” admitted to the wrongs of the past in relation to the disregard of indigenous people and their land, culture and religion via colonialism, slavery and apartheid, and imparted the plea to NOT have to, now in current times, adopt the ways of the traditional indigenous peoples, but instead, to also be acknowledged for who they are and the sadness they carry. Each representative part of the constellation had a valid truth to share and requests made, so as to exist in harmony with each other and with the earth, which reminded me of the Botho/ubuntu philosophy - one as old as humanity itself and which exists across centuries and cultures.
It is the universal and ethical belief that calls on individuals to come together and to be more community-based and hence to look out for each other. Ubuntu is the realisation that a person cannot be an island and it is in group relationships that one discovers one's full personality: umuntu ngumuntu ngabantu/motho ke motho ka batho (because the self exists only in relationships with others; there are as many sides to the self as there are relationships). In contrast to individualism which is the hallmark of the capitalist approach, in “Ubuntu: an ethic for a new South Africa.” Shutte explains this concept as “Each individual is related to the community, not as part to the whole, but as a person related to themselves. Each member of the community sees the community as themselves, as one with them in character and identity. Each individual sees every other member as another self.” My sense of identity was rediscovered in terms of this global tribe with ancient roots to which I belong, as a woman in a woman’s body, with associated woman’s wisdom, power and sensibilities coursing through my veins and nadis (energy channals), in relation to the earth and the sky, and my global tribe’s members of all races, cultures and traditions….
b) Beauty: using the incorruptible beauty inherent in each moment as a tonic/alchemical elixir
The elixir of life, also known as elixir of immortality and sometimes equated with the term “philosopher's stone”, is a potion that supposedly grants the drinker eternal life and/or eternal youth. The philosophers' stone was the central symbol of the mystical terminology of alchemy, symbolizing the epitome of refinement, enlightenment, and heavenly bliss. Rather than perceiving of the stone as an actual white or red stone (as described in exoteric-based alchemical texts, where the stone exists in these two varieties with purposes of making silver or gold, respectively), esoteric hermetic alchemists may reject work on exoteric substances, and instead direct their search for the philosopher's stone inward, where the transmutation mediated by the stone is also interpreted as a psychological process.
Similarly, in mythology, ambrosia is described as conferring longevity or immortality upon whoever consumed it and it is very closely related to the gods' other form of sustenance, that being nectar. The two terms may originally have been used interchangeably, although in Homer's poems, nectar is represented as a drink and ambrosia as the food of the gods: through the ingestion of ambrosia, Hera "cleansed all defilement from her lovely flesh", and Athena prepared Penelope in her sleep, so that when she appeared for the final time before her suitors, the effects of years had been stripped away, and they were inflamed with passion at the sight of her.
Relevant to us on the initiatory journey ending at resurrection, before the cycle starts all over again with descend/dying, necessitates the consumption of ambrosia in acquiring the ability to witness all of life through the lens of beauty, from the heart space, thus granting the soul its immortal and exalted status. By this drinking in of beauty inherent to each moment, as the life sustaining ambrosia, we become transformed from mortal being to God/Goddess, untouched by circumstances or situations. We need to ask then what this kind of beauty entails when it is perceived through the heart alone. What moves the heart is beauty, and such beauty does not entail the superficial evaluation ascribed to people, things and events, but rather a beauty which is perceived and ascribed value through the eyes of a child. In “The myth of analysis: Three essays in archetypal psychology”, James Hillman posits the following: “This beauty is neither transcendent to the manifest or hiddenly immanent within but rather, refers to appearances as they are given. Beauty is thus the very sensibility of the cosmos, that it has textures, tones, tastes, that it is attractive.”
This consumption of ambrosia then is an ongoing practice, and it is particularly difficult to apply when faced with hardship and loss which is so readily part and parcel on the initiation journey. It is in the worst case scenarios, whether real or perceived - when we lose all our earthly possessions, or our loved ones, or where we have a near death experience ourselves - that we get offered, in a silver chalice, the alchemical elixir granting everlasting life. It is for us in the taking and the sipping. In coming face to face with death, one realises both one’s vulnerability as well as one’s immortality and God/Goddess-like nature. In a practical sense and in my own personal heroine’s’ journey I have written about in these six blogs, I have drunk from this cup in the face of a natural disaster by means of engaging all of my senses in a sacred bath ritual. By paradoxically and simultaneously perceiving both devastation as well as so much beauty, in the moment, I got to partake in the weaving of the threads of fate and freewill, which always existed and which will continue to exist for ever more.
In order to notice and drink in the beauty available in each moment, one needs to develop spaciousness of silence, which nurtures new sensitivities, with new levels of perception drawing on more than just the ears and the eyes. According to James Hillman, the ancients in Greece, Persia and Palestine knew that the heart is the organ for “seeing and listening into” people, things and events and what moves the heart is beauty. This is a type of beauty which breathes forth from every part of creation when is it perceived through the eyes of a child’s heart. By approaching life with child-like innocence and awe, we see the Divine revealing itself and we form an aesthetic relationship with the Divine, which requires being present to what is, moment-to-moment.
Using this approach, we get to create a tonic of delight for ourselves, no matter the circumstances. This medicine making process involves engaging our five senses as well as our child-like heart, in for example, experiencing the sensations of the sun on our skin. It does not entail a zoning out or an attempt to escape from whatever we are experiencing. On the contrary it involves being fully present to what is and an opening up to receiving the goodness in the moment, thereby increasing our capacity to experience pleasure/delight, now, as well as in all other experiences to come. Because each one of us has experienced complex trauma during childhood, some more than others, since a young age we have had limited reference to what pleasure and delight is and instead we know psycho-emotional pain very well. Trauma occurs each and every time we feel we have no choice in a situation, or a matter, and childhood may have been rife with these experiences. The antidote to trauma then is to recognise that we DO have a choice in every moment, by being able to tonify, regardless of circumstances.
The more we choose beauty, by for example sipping on a cup of tea, mindfully, using all of our senses and appreciating where the tea leaves originate from, instead of gulping it down unconsciously, the more we are able to fill our metaphorical cups and increase our capacity to experience please. As Parzival’s quest for the Holy Grail teaches us, that to drink from the grail cup is to love life. We love life by bridging all seeming polar opposites and worlds, and by marrying the inner feminine and masculine principles, the soul with the spirit and from that union, beauty and pleasure is born: Psyche (representing the soul/anima) withstood very difficult challenges so as to be re-united with her husband, Eros (representing spirit/animus), after which she consumed the ambrosia and was exalted from mortal woman to goddess stature. Together they had a daughter, called Voluptas (Roman) or Hedone (Greek) which means goddess of sensual pleasure, bliss, or delight….
c) Providing sacred context for all difficult descent moments/experiences
In the words of my beloved teacher Jumana Sophia, founder of Her Mystery School: “This that is happening inside of you, in relation to the world, is not happening in isolation from the sacred, Natural law. When the unknown becomes THIS present and undeniable, when all that you cannot control becomes THIS obvious, when death becomes THIS present and close, in the face of life, sacred context around that is what is going to bring you into companionship with the Eternal which abides, your soul.”
When I was stripped of everything which I loved and cared for, I gained so much more: the abiding presence, which is underneath of all difficult circumstances. Through prayer, connection to others, books, teachings, art, dance, divination, synchronicity and spiritual practice, I was held close to what is incorruptible in the face of all the hardship. Because I gave sacred context to everything in my life which died, in Namibia I passed the initiatory tests and regained so much more, from my new sense of identity in relation to my land of birth, to me having been introduced to new, like-minded folk and local holistic products, to my health having been regained and to me slowly but surely starting to expand my business and income capacity by having obtained my Namibian passport, so as to maintain a bridge between South Africa and Namibia in what I have to offer and whom I can collaborate with.
In the proximity of death, life shines even brighter. Now, regardless of circumstance, and because we have been galvanised on a soul level, we can recognise the beauty in every moment, and when we find Her, we proclaim Her – we let Creation know when she delights us!