The experience of withdrawing projections and rebalancing in the truth can be an immensely painful one. It is essential to the project of becoming more whole that we accomplish this task however, that we allow ourselves to see what is really the truth in our life in all its disappointment and with all its disillusionment. This difficult encounter opens up the world to us as it really is, the face of the true other.
The image here from the alchemical emblem set ‘Splendor Solis’ speaks to this truth. The Splendor Solis is a series of images from the sixteenth century, designed to depict the stages and operations of the alchemical process. They are a fabulous series of allegorical plates, each one yields rich contemplative possibility. Here is a link to the wikipedia page about them in case you are interested. The image on this post is the last image of the series, it shows the sun, sad and full of compassion, rising over an ordinary and rather limited world. I used to be disheartened by this image – after all the labours of the alchemical opus one would hope for….well…..gold! Gold is what is promised surely, lead in to gold. But the Splendor Solis shows us this image instead. When you see the truth, what do you you really see? Rabia, the sufi saint also names this when she says ‘I carry a torch in one hand and a bucket of water in the other. With these I will set fire to heaven and put out the flames of hell, so that the voyagers to god will rip the veils and see the real goal’. Melanie Klein, the twentieth century psychologist called it the depressive position.
This blessing by John O’Donohue speaks to this experience. He reminds us that the savage feeling of being torn by the shock of the betrayal can be the opening in to which the seed of new knowledge can be planted.
Sometimes there in an invisible raven
that will fly low to pierce the shell of trust
When it has been brought near to ground.
When he strikes, he breaks the faith of years
That had built quietly through the seasons
In the rhythm of tried and tested experience.
With one strike the shelter is down,
And the black yolk of truth turned false
Would poison the garden of memory.
Now the heart’s dream turns to requiem,
Offering itself a poultice of tears.
To cleanse from loss what can not be lost.
Through all the raw and awkward days
Dignity will hold the heart to grace
Lest it squander its dream on a ghost.
Often torn ground is ideal for seed
That can root disappointment deep enough
To yield a harvest that can not wither:
A deeper light to anoint the eyes,
Passion that opens wings in the heart,
A subtle radiance of countenance,
The soul ready for its true other.