Wednesday, March 7, 2012

via regia, the royal road into the unconscious

For those who begin the journey of the Via Regia, the royal road into the unconscious, whether it be through dream work, psychotherapy or even art and writing, they quickly realize how frequently they undergo a variety of experiences, from impatience for the work to prove fruitful to awe when it does in ways no one could imagine, from excitement to fear, from growing awareness to losing oneself in the dark.
 Working with both realities - the dream and the real world in tandem, can be difficult, but the see-saw must be occupied, even if not fully maintained at an equal level. The dangers are there, as anyone who has worked in the field of psychology of psychiatry can see, when the journey into the unconscious world is  undertaken by a traveler unarmed with enough reality tools to stay sane.  Reality can fade into the background in a sort of gray haze, or even worse, the lack of staying in touch with it,m lead one so deep into the coils of the unconscious, they get lost, as in the cases of psychosis and schizophrenia.
I'm undergoing such a journey right now through dream work. It's a journey I've done before, and although I've attempted other journeys which prove fruitful in revealing aspects of the unconscious, such as poetry, writing, art and active imagination, dream work tends to be the more powerful and therefore the more dangerous.  I tend to want to sleep a lot, spend time writing out and analysing my dreams.  I become a hermit and as one friend used to say, "distracted."
This time, I'm finding that my dreams are even warning me about detaching too much from reality.  Luckily, I work with individuals who have traumatic brain injuries and therefore need me fully present and very grounded in the real world at all times during my work.  So this helps a great deal, providing me the talisman to stay real and work on my dreams more on the weekends. 
However, I also believe in physical talismans.  They've been used by people who delve into the unconscious for ages, right up into the way the modern mind thinks, such as Dom Cobb who spins a top in the movie, Inception as he enters other people's dreams. It's the only way he can tell whether he's in reality or the dream world.
I've always been one to carry something in my pocket. When I was about 10 or 11yrears old,  I swiped a square inch piece of sparkling mosaic tile from the construction site of a Greek church right behind my grandmother's house.  I carried that tile in my pocket for years and in my mind it had magical properties, even though I often felt guilty for taking it.  Over the years, I've carried stones (when I hiked a lot), pieces of metal I found at the side of a road, (when I made art assemblages in my studio in a rough part of the city) and now  pieces of sea glass form my favorite childhood home area.
The sea glass represents the soul to me.  I like sea glass because it is brittle like the various fragments of ourselves when they've broken away from the whole.  The brown ones from ale and beer bottles symbolize the prima materia - the course aspect of our soul before we have worked with it.  The everyday soul, the beer bottle of common man and earthy life.
The green ones, from coke bottles have a little more vitality. Like Venus, the color represents healing and love, energy and renewal.
The red is dedicated to our passion, our obsessions and loves, desires and the drive to seek love and experience in the world.
And the more rare blue, represents the airy state of the intellect, when we study and educate ourselves to make our lives broader and richer.
Purple  is one of the rarest. This one enters into the spiritual realm, the role of transformation and awareness-seeking in our lives. And how odd,  the gold and yellows representing the Solar force and the whites or clear, representing the Luna force,  you rarely  find washed up by the sea onto the shore, even though clear is the most the most prevalent on land.
All of these together represent the rainbow, the peacock colors of the hermaphrodite, the joining of all and opposites into one whole.  I love seeing my pieces of sea glass displayed all together in a jar on my mantelpiece, representing man's constant magical, sacred and ultimately divine search for the self in all it's varied and colorful aspects.
Like most people, I also wear certain gemstones in rings or pendants for this purpose.  
 But I like how the sea glass starts off man made, like we are as individuals when we construct our persona to protect the vulnerability of our true self.  However once the glass is tossed or lost in the ocean, it undergoes a series of natural refining processes. It breaks apart, fragments, as we do into archetypes in the subconscious, and as the glass is tossed about in the depths of the ocean  (the subconscious) the pieces become smooth-edged and frosted by the abrasive action of sea salt, stones and sand. They are transformed from sharp pieces of brittle glass which can hurt us, into stones which are beautiful and soothing to the touch. When they're tossed up on shore, they're ready to be exposed to the conscious mind.
Plus sea glass is rare and hard to find and takes a contemplative attitude as we bend our heads and walk along the shore line, sometimes for hours, waiting for that one flash of colored light in the corner of our eye and there below us is a piece of sea glass easily identifiable among the browns, grays and blacks of the seaside stones and sand.
So now, in addition to my two rings, I carry two pieces of sea glass, since we often forget about the rings on our fingers and their meaning.  But when I tuck my hand into a pocket and find the pieces resting there, I am reminded of its meaning and purpose, which keeps me aware and awake.
So for now, I'll carry a piece of brown sea glass to stay in touch with the earth, and a piece of green sea glass for love and healing and renewal.  I've recently replaced the red garnet ring I wear, feeling that I'm pretty much in touch with my passion for things in my life and have replaced the amethyst ring, which stands for spiritual growth and transformation and which is even more potent for me as a February Pisces, since it was a gift of my birthstone - a reminder of my true complete selves, not just my limited persona.

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