This is the final installment of our series on Road Maps to Awareness.
As a part of Gavin’s initiation in England many years ago, the Coven of Boskednad assigned him to walk around the coast of the Duchy of Cornwall. He is not a conspicuously athletic person. All this occurred before the days of cellphones and other electronic gizmos. At that time the track was far less polished and civilized than it is today, and was essentially free of direction signs. He was forbidden to read newspapers, nor was he supposed to go to any restaurant or café along the way; instead for provisions he was supposed to go only to grocery stores. He had to camp out–using only such equipment as he could pack with him. In other words, he was expected to undergo the absolute minimum of exposure to any distracting contact with the temporal world.
The walk took him a little over a week. On each day he met different people who asked him a variety of questions and then left him. It was a typical journey of a mythical hero, designed to allow solitary contemplation of the questions that he was asked, in most cases to contemplate each question for 24 hours as he labored along the rough track following the cliffs.
Various groups call such an experience by various names. We like the name that FireHeart uses for spiritual journeys of this type: The Mysteries. Among paths to Enlightment, it is one of only a few that takes a group to set up and run so that you can travel it. You travel it as an individual, as you traveled the other paths; though this one is not entirely free-form but a preset path, usually through a wood or another mysterious landscape. Along the way you will meet various archetypal guides at what are called Stations. Stations can be compared to the Lights of the Sephiroth, or to the gods and goddesses in Tantra, or to the tarot cards. You can think of them as milestones that prompt epiphanies along your path to awareness. Each Station houses an Archetypal guide. In The Mysteries, as in Gavin’s initiation, a path is set for the candidate with a specific end point. However, it is the individual interactions with their guides and archtypes which determines what they receive from the quest.
The group sponsoring and organizing the candidate’s journey assigns members to serve as archetypes. In this context archetypes are comparable to stereotypes or the essence of a concept. They appear everywhere, particularly in such diverse places as folklore and literature, and in prehistoric cave artwork. The Native American Vision Quest is another such initiation utilizing fasting and solitude come into contact with spiritual guides.
In our opinion, the longer such an assignment is stretched out, the better. There needs to be plenty of time between encountering one Station and the next; and the more complex the route, the better. In case there are more than one candidate, participants must be forbidden to talk to each other along the way. They must talk only to the various archetypes that inhabit the Stations.
Carl Jung suggested the essence of universal forms that could be used to channel emotions which would result in stereotypical patterns of behavior. One modern example of the use of archetypes is in the original Star Wars series–a typical hero’s journey. Representations of archetypes are limitless. Familiar to almost everyone are the Goddess, the Mother, the God, the Ruler, the Lover, the Hero, the Sage, the Sibyl, the Trickster, the Mentor, the Innocent.
Let us look for a moment at some guidelines concerning archetypes.
1. If you like, you can turn to the tarot or to various pantheons to find your archetypes; or you can simply invent them out of the whole cloth, from your memory, from imagination, or from personal experience.
2. The archetypes for any initiatory walk should have a continuity. In other words, if you are thinking of a Celtic path, each archetype should fit somehow into a Celtic theme. Base them on a Celtic pantheon, and be careful that the questions asked by each one are framed in Celtic terminology.
3. There should be quite startling differences among the archetypes, and it is quite permissible to have gates so that there can be parallel archetypes for different genders. As an example of Stations, somewhere along the way the Mirror comes into play. One very powerful greeting archetype we have seen was the Sibyl seated behind an imperfectly silvered mirror. You could vaguely see her but could also see yourself.
4. In some pathways, it is important for anyone who shows up well dressed and made up to surrender their jewelry, particularly any closed rings; that they lay aside their fancy clothes, and thoroughly wash off any cosmetics as a preliminary to following the Path. All binding garments, all fragile garments, and all clothes constructed from parts of dead animals should also be left behind, before or at the first Gate. Yes, candidates can wear simple robes; but they must be stripped of all status symbols and all masking disguising cosmetics. You may recall how Inanna was stripped of all her symbols and clothing as she descended into the Underworld to visit her sister Erishkegal. It is critical that one is first removed from mundane space with its requirements, distractions and energy drain and is kept apart from it for the duration of the initiation.
Labyrinths and Mazes
Two very ancient methods of arranging a pathway through various epiphanies to Awareness are the Labyrinth and its sister the Maze. Depictions of the Cretan Labyrinth occur throughout the ancient world; it is permanently set in stone in the floor of Chartres Cathedral. A most interesting vertical labyrinth is carved into a pathway ascending Glastonbury Tor.
As you go through any Labyrinth, at each turn you pause for a moment and contemplate a different level of awareness and reorient yourself. Eventually (in most case after seven layers) you arrive at the center.
It is noticeable that the original shepherd’s crook design represents the center of the Labyrinth, with an opening so that you can attain the center. The Christian church, though, made the open center into the chi rho with its closed center. In their new theology the only way to gain awareness is to accept their Jesus paradigm.
The Maze with its many dead ends is another way of thinking about awareness. Many of your life’s paths end up in dead ends. Accept them as an opportunity for more exploration, and realize that no knowledge is wasted. Even Death itself, which some people think of as the ultimate dead end, is only a stop on the way to the Center. Yvonne has come to regard the milestone we call “death” as a graduation.
Be prepared for the unexpected.
Whatever you do, realize that some people will be dramatically affected by such a journey as this. Compressing the journey from a week down to a few hours emphatically raises the stress that some people go through. You need to have someone accessible who is educated in formal psychological counseling. If the counselors haven’t undergone Initiation of this type themselves, at least they must be sympathetic and well briefed beforehand. It is also advisable to have an exit strategy for those who are unable to complete the initiation. This is especially important in the case of multiple initiates, otherwise the failure of one could result in the remainder being unable to complete their personal journey.
Here endeth the journey toward Epiphany, with our gratitude for comments and additions from FireHeart.
We are always interested in any personal experiences that you are willing to share with us. Give us feedback on these ideas.