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Saturday, December 8, 2018

Counseling in the Mythic Forest of Rold



In the mythic woods of Rold Forest, far away from the artificial Matrix of the modern world, I offer philosophical counseling to people who are in a process of awakening from the Matrix; people who can become members of the resistance, people who can become Matrix Hackers. 



Rold Forest is also called “The Seven-league Forest of Fairy Tales”. Denmark’s largest original forest naturally has a comprehensive wildlife. Rold Forest’s 8,000 hectares encompass so many different habitat and forest types that a very large number of forest, bog and meadow animals are found here. Spread around in the forest you can find 6000 years old grave mounds, so the place is filled with history and legends going back to Norse mythology.

Enchantment is central in Tolkien´s works, and he is a frame of reference during the counseling. Rold Forest is precisely the kind of Northern European forest which inspired Tolkien´s creation of The Old Forest, Lothlorien, Fangorn, and Mirkwood. We will encounter ancient beech trees creating a magical trolls’ wood of gnarled trees, a hiding place for the robbers from Rold, springs rising up from the ground everywhere, a burial place from prehistoric Denmark with 50 large grave mounds, the Mines of Thingbæk, the most beautiful heathery hills in Denmark, and maybe we´ll meet the witch, Dannie Druehyld. And at the same time we will enter deeper into our own minds.

Counseling in the mythic forest of Rold is about the spiritual practice in itself, a journey which I describe as mythos-logos-mythos. You start out in the mythic life, or magical thinking, are using philosophy as a navigator (logos, discrimination), and return to the mythic life, transformed by an otherworldly enchantment.

This journey is a Hero´s Journey. In narratology and comparative mythology, the monomyth, or the hero's journey, is the common template of a broad category of tales that involve a hero who goes on an adventure, and in a decisive crisis wins a victory, and then comes home changed or transformed.

The hero myth pattern studies were popularized by Joseph Campbell, who was influenced by Carl Jung's view of myth. Campbell describes 17 stages of the monomyth. Not all monomyths necessarily contain all 17 stages explicitly; some myths may focus on only one of the stages, while others may deal with the stages in a somewhat different order. The 17 stages may be organized in a number of ways, including division into three "acts" or sections:

1)  Departure (also Separation),

2)  Initiation (sometimes subdivided into IIA. Descent and IIB. Initiation) and

3)  Return.

In the departure part of the narrative, the hero or protagonist lives in the ordinary world and receives a call to go on an adventure. The hero is reluctant to follow the call, but is helped by a mentor figure.

The initiation section begins with the hero then traversing the threshold to the unknown or "special world", where he faces tasks or trials, either alone or with the assistance of helpers.

The hero eventually reaches "the innermost cave" or the central crisis of his adventure, where he must undergo "the ordeal" where he overcomes the main obstacle or enemy, undergoing "apotheosis" and gaining his reward (a treasure or "elixir").

The hero must then return to the ordinary world with his reward. He may be pursued by the guardians of the special world, or he may be reluctant to return, and may be rescued or forced to return by intervention from the outside.

In the return section, the hero again traverses the threshold between the worlds, returning to the ordinary world with the treasure or elixir he gained, which he may now use for the benefit of his fellow man. The hero himself is transformed by the adventure and gains wisdom or spiritual power over both worlds.


It is easy to see that Tolkien´s The Lord of the Rings fits very well into this model. Counseling in this I combine shamanism, philosophy and storytelling. As the Nigerian poet and novelist, Ben Okri, writes in his little book Birds of Heaven:

Philosophy is most powerful when it resolves into story. But story is amplified in power by the presence of philosophy.

And:

The African mind is essentially abstract, and their story-telling is essentially philosophical.

Okri says that in Africa everything is a story, everything is a repository of stories:

Spiders, the wind, a leaf, a tree, the moon, silence, a glance, a mysterious old man, an owl at midnight, a sign, a white stone on a branch, a single yellow bird of omen, an inexplicable death, an unprompted laughter, an egg by the river, are all impregnated with stories. In Africa things are stories, they store stories, and they yield stories at the right moment of dreaming, when we are open to the secret side of objects and moods.

Shamanistic/philosophical counseling is about healing your soul or "soul retrieval". Soul retrieval is again about re-finding your own philosophy, which always has been there. How does this happen?

Philosophy and storytelling belong together. They can work like the two lenses of a pair of binoculars. Philosophy argues abstractly. Storytelling argues too – it persuades, it changes the listener – but concretely. Philosophy says truth, storytelling shows truth.

Human thought is both concrete (particular) and abstract (universal) at the same time. You could also say that the thought has an Inner Side and an Outer Side. All things have an Inner Side and an Outer Side. It is connected to the three states which the Wholeness can be in: sleep, dream and awake. The Outer Side of things is the side most people experience. When you only see the Outer Side of things the Wholeness is sleeping, or the things are sleeping. The Inner Side is the side of enchantment. When you see the Inner Side of things, then the Wholeness is dreaming, and therefore the things are dreaming. This is the source of enchantment. Eventually the Wholeness, and therefore the things, can be completely awake (the spiritual practice where you are going beyond all images and ideas).
     
We cannot think of abstract universals like “man” without imagining some concrete, particular example of a man.


Authors like Karen Blixen, Tolkien and Ben Okri see the universals in man and life. They see the Inner Side of man and life. Whenever we think of an abstract universal, we have to use a particular concrete image. But the converse is also true: whenever we recognize a concrete particular as intelligible and meaningful, we use an abstract universal to classify it, to categorize it, to define it: we see or imagine the Bedouin as a man, not an ape.
    
When you look through binoculars, you look through both lenses at once. Because human thought is binocular, abstract philosophy and concrete storytelling naturally reinforce each other´s vision. Philosophy makes storytelling clear, storytelling makes philosophy real. Philosophy shows essences, storytelling shows existence. Philosophy shows meaning, storytelling shows life.

The great masters within the wisdom traditions have always communicated this teaching via philosophical counseling. Because the great masters asked philosophical questions - that is: not in an intellectual way as in the academical philosophy, and not in the sense of repeating a mantra - no, they asked philosophical questions in a meditative-existential way, as the wordless silence within a strong existential wonder. As Plato said, then philosophy starts with wonder. You probably know the wonder you can feel when you look at the stars, or when you are confronted with all the suffering in the world. This wonder fills you with a silence in which all thoughts, explanations and interpretations in a moment wither away. It is in this silence you ask the great philosophical questions, open inwards and outwards, listening and observing, without words, without evaluations.

The wordless silence within the existential wonder is the same as asking philosophical questions in a meditative-existential way. And it is this philosophical questioning which can be the beginning of a deep inquiry into Man and reality - a lifelong philosophical voyage of discovery towards the Source of Life: the Good, the True and the Beautiful.   

Okri says in Birds of Heaven:

Yes, the highest things are beyond words.

That is probably why all art aspires to the condition of wordlessness. When literature works on you, it does so in silence, in your dreams, in your wordless moments. Good words enter you and become moods, become the quite fabric of your being. Like music, like painting, literature too wants to transcend its primary condition and become something higher. Art wants to move into silence, into the emotional and spiritual conditions of the world. Statues become melodies, melodies become yearnings, yearnings become actions.

When things fall into words they usually descend. Words have an earthly gravity. But the best things in us are those that escape the gravity of our deaths. Art wants to pass into life, to lift it; art wants to enchant, to transform, to make life more meaningful or bearable in its own small and mysterious way. The greatest art was probably born from a profound and terrible silence – a silence out of which the deepest enigmas of our lives cry: Why are we here? What is the point of it all? How can we know peace and live in joy? Why be born in order to die? Why this difficult oneway journey between the two mysteries?

Out of our wonder and agony of being come the cries and questions and the endless stream of words with which to order human life and quieten the human heart in the midst of our living and our distress.

Karen Blixen saw the human nature in the image of an artist, and she saw it as her job to help people find this image within themselves. A tool to do this is witchcraft, and finding this image was the source of healing. Blixen´s mysticism is founded in nature, and in the creative powers of nature. And since man is a part of this nature, she sees human nature in the image of an artist.

In his book Defending Middle-Earth – Tolkien: Myth and Modernity, the philosopher Patrick Curry quotes Sean Kane:

Myths are not stories about the gods in the abstract; they are about ‘something mysterious’, intelligent, invisible and whole (page 136).

Curry says that something always come back to nature. Thus, ‘The proper subject of myth is the ideas and emotions of the earth.’ That includes people, of course, as one kind of living thing among many. But it is certainly not restricted to humanity.
     
Tolkien´s work is precisely a mythos. On page 151 Curry writes that the only books he can think of that seem comparable to The Lord of the Rings, are other examples of mythic fiction. Those that spring to his mind are Herman Melville´s Moby Dick, Mikhail Bulgakov´s The Master and Margarita, Alain-Fournier´s Le Grand Meaulness, Russell Hoban´s Riddley Walker, and [of course], Karen Blixen´s Out of Africa.

Philosophical counseling is in this way an attempt of creating a mythic language in which we can talk about the abstract, as for example philosophical questions such as: Who am I? Where do the thoughts come from? What is consciousness and where does it come from? Is there a meaning of life? How does man preserve peace of mind and balance in all the relationships of life? How do we learn to appreciate the true goods and flout all transient and vain goals? Is the destiny of Man part of a larger plan?
     

The mythic language can concretize the abstract, or the universal. The need of being able to talk concretely about the abstract and universal is as old as mankind itself. And myths are precisely tales that gives abstract topics a visible form. They make an invisible universe visible, at least to the “inner eye”. In many cultures myths have probably been the only language in which they have been able to talk about the great questions of life.

The images of time are both personal, collective and universal, and therefore they are found both in us and around us in the movement of nature. They are energy-formations, and therefore also a kind of matter. Nethermost lie the universal images, the Great Vision or Dreamtime: “The Words of God”. Words were to Tolkien the most beautiful things in the world. The most beautiful thing human eyes have ever seen is called “the Word of God”.

The universal images work in synchronism with the Now, and therefore with the Wholeness. They seek to put together, to synthesize, to heal. In that way they constitute a common human consensus. We can all agree about them.

But in the consciousness´ identification with thinking and time, the Ego is created. And the Ego uses the negationpower of time to make resistance. The resistance consists in problematizing life itself by comparing with earlier and hoping, desiring or fearing something else. And in this evaluation-process the Ego splits up the universal images. It identifies ifself with one pole in a pair of opposites, for which reason the polar partner is expelled. In this dividing process the collective and personal images arise, and herewith all the disagreements: it is here The Black Speech of Mordor origins.

Consequently the universal language, and the movement of time, reflect themselves in your thinking, but because of the Ego´s evaluations the images are divided in words and analysis; what you could call thinking in opposites (subject as divided from object, good as divided from evil, love as divided from hate, perfect as divided from fiasco) - words and sentences which work in sequences in past and future, extremes, or analyses.

In other words: the Ego, in its identification with opposites, tends to debate, to work against other people, and seeks to demonstrate their flaws.

In accordance with Plotin then The One in its eternal and continual radiation, first of all manifests ifself as thought, which in it´s individualized form shows ifself in the Soul, which again find it´s way to the body, the lowest and the most random expression of being.

The power of words is based on the fact that real things are found in words. Words are not merely things among a world of things, things with one additional feature, the ability to point to other things. No, words are the encompassing frame of the world of things. Things constitute a “world” only by the creative word of the author, who names them.

And therefore, since the things are encompassed by words, our wonder at the things is encompassed by our wonder over the words.

In her article Stories are Medicine: "healing tales" in myth, folklore, and mythic arts, the folklorist Terri Windling writes:

“There has long been a mythic link between storytelling and the healing arts -- so much so that in some ancient societies storytellers and healers were one and the same. Stories are valued in many indigenous cultures not only for their entertainment value but also as a means to pass on cultural teachings -- including practices intended to prevent imbalance and illness (both physical and mental), and to help overcome ordeals of disease, calamity, or trauma. In some shamanic traditions, magical tales are told in a ritual manner to facilitate specific acts of healing.”

Shamanic healing and storytelling are to move yourself backwards through the whole structure of language, which is created by the outgoing movement of time. Shamanic healing and storytelling are therefore to remember the outgoing movement´s negation, namely the backmovement of time, the memory of the universal vision and the universal images. This was also something Plato made clear.

The purpose of life for the individual therefore is to move in this direction: from the low to the high, from the random body and all it´s lust to The One and all it´s light. Life is seen as a pilgrimage, or a shamanic journey.

When language is made transparent in presence it works from the universal images, and therefore synthesizing and healing. This is precisely how the Elvish languages function.

There is an old myth of an original language. It is in Plato (the “Cratylus”) and the Bible (the story of the Tower of Babel, answered by Pentecost). If this is true, it explains why every proper name of Tolkien´s seems exactly right. (This is a power even many of his critics marvel at.) When we read them we are remembering (Plato´s anamnesis); our cognition is a recognition. Our “word detector” buzzes when we meet the Right Word, the Platonic Idea.


The most powerful and magical language is music. The reason for this is that music is the original language. Music is the language of creation. In The Silmarillion, God and His angels sings the world into being: “In the beginning, Eru, the One, who in Elvish tongue is named Iluvatar, made the Ainur of his thought; and they made a great music before him. In this music the World was begun” (Silmarillion, p. 25).

It is not that the music was in the world but that the world was in the music. Many Indigenous Australians refer to the Creation time as "The Dreaming". The Dreamtime laid down the patterns of life for the Aboriginal people. Creation is believed to be the work of culture heroes who traveled across a formless land, creating sacred sites and significant places of interest through their singing. By singing the world into existence, the Ancestors had been poets in the original sense of poesis, meaning 'creation'In this way, "songlines" were established, some of which could travel right across Australia, through as many as six to ten different language groupings. A songline, also called dreaming track, is one of the paths across the land (or sometimes the sky) which mark the route followed by localised "creator-beings" during the Dreaming. The paths of the songlines are recorded in traditional songs, stories, dance, and painting.

This mythology reminds in an astonishing way about “the music of the spheres,” in which everything is, the “Song of Songs” that includes all songs. All matter, space, time, and history are in this primal language, and if we know it we are able to heal.

Plato knew the power of music. In the Republic it is the first step in education in the good society and the first step in corruption in the bad one. Nothing is more powerful to the good society, to education, to human happiness in this world.

Music is not ornamented poetry, and poetry is not ornamented prose. Poetry is fallen music, and prose is fallen poetry. Prose is not the original language, it is poetry made practical. Even poetry is not the original language; it is music made speakable, it is the words of music separated from their music. In the beginning was music.

Okri says:

The story-telling quality in Mozart´s music. How certain bars, certain notes in the Piano Concerto 27 hint at a story that goes something like this: “One day, when I was happy, a nightingale flew past my window, and the love of my life left me for another.”

Music and stories: the notes that haunt us because they have become the moods of our joys and our sweet sadnesses forever.

"A people are as healthy and confident as the stories they tell themselves," he says. "Sick storytellers can make nations sick. Without stories we would go mad. Life would lose it’s moorings or orientation. Even in silence we are living our stories."

Stories are central to the healing practices of the traditional Gaelic culture of Scotland -- of which the leading characteristics, writes Noragh Jones (in Power of Raven, Wisdom of Serpent: Celtic Women's Spirituality), "are an instinctive ability to gather healing plants from their own locality when they are sick; a heritage of herbal remedies handed on from mother to daughter which have been tried and tested in everyday situations -- part of the informal education of the household; a sense that illness is some kind of imbalance in the individual, and so mind and body and spirit must be treated as a whole; and a conviction that healing is a spiritual resource as well as a physical process." 

In the foreword to the book Caitlín Matthews writes:

It is a shock to realize just how much the reality of urban isolation has now become a yardstick for “normal” existence over much of the globe. Separatism from our neighbor, our family, our earth and its living beings – whether furred, feathered, finned or leafed – is almost complete. We are all in danger of becoming forever separated from the deep, spiritual connection that sustained our foremothers and forefathers.

This book particular traces the contributions of women in helping maintain that connection. It is commonly held that women are natural repositories of lore, custom and belief, an understanding that was sustainable in a culture where women kept the hearth. But is it so today? Swept into the maelstrom of a daily wage-earning existence, where family life and quality time are relegated to a few moments before bedtime, women lose the space in their lives for prayerful reflection and traditional recollection. But it is not too late for women today to resume their power as hearth-keepers who keep the memories strong, who uphold the integrity of love and truth, who keep bright the songs and stories which inspire.

Due to the evolutionistic ideology that started with the scientific breakthrough from approximately 1550 onwards, we have been imprinted a linear view of history as an never ending movement towards becoming, progress, development, renewal, revolution. This has resulted in a top-heavy focus in the head, instead of the body. When speaking of chakras it has led to a bottle-neck of energy in our throats, that hinders the energy in descending to the lower chakras, hereunder the Earth chakra, and through this to mother Earth. The Heaven chakra is masculine, while the Earth chakra is feminine. Mother Earth is the place of a circular view of time and history, a place of fantasy and storytelling. This feminine aspect has been lost in the top-heavy technological science fiction race towards the future.


Herbalists and hedge-witches of the British Isles once used stories not only as a means to preserve information about the medicinal properties of plants, but also as a means of communicating with the spirits of the plants themselves.

"There is a plant for everything in the world; all you have to do is find it," an old herb-woman in the Louisiana Bayou told folklorist Ruth Bass in 1920s. And there's a folk story attached to nearly every plant -- as volumes of folklore and herb lore from all around the world can attest. The history of modern medicine is rooted in the history of folk medicine, entwined with myths, folk tales, fairy tales, and the homespun magics of countryside healers.

In a number of Native American traditions, the word "medicine" does not refer to the pills or tonics we take to cure an illness but to anything that has spiritual power, and that helps to keep us "walking in beauty."

Terri Windling writes:

Words can be strong medicine. Stories can touch our hearts and souls; they can point the way to healing and transformation. Our own lives are stories that we write from day to day; they are journeys through the dark of the fairy tale woods. The tales of previous travellers through the woods are passed down to us in the poetic, symbolic language of folklore and myth; where we step, someone has stepped before, and their stories can help light the way.

In "The Joys of Storytelling 1" (A Way of Being Free), Okri writes:

"The earliest storytellers were magi, seers, bards, griots, shamans. They were, it would seem, as old as time, and as terrifying to gaze upon as the mysteries with which they wrestled. They wrestled with mysteries and transformed them into myths which coded the world and helped the community to live through one more darkness, with eyes wide open and hearts set alight.

"The storyteller's art changed through the ages. From battling dread in word and incantations before their people did in reality, they became the repositories of the people's wisdom and follies. Often, conscripted by kings, they became the memory of a people's origins, and carried with them the long line of ancestries and lineages. Most important of all, they were the living libraries, the keepers of legends and lore. They knew the causes and mutations of things, the herbs, trees, plants, cures for diseases, causes for wars, causes of victory, the ways in which victory often precipitates defeat, or defeat victory, the lineages of gods, the rites humans have to perform to the gods. They knew of follies and restitutions, were advocates of new and old ways of being, were custodians of culture, recorders of change."

Rold Forest has become a gathering place for the resistance. The members come from all over the world. These keepers of stories are Philosophical Globetrotters, Life Artists and Idlers. Each year we gather here in a campsite, deep in the forest. In front of a campfire we share our stories of the brave old world. 

All this is a part of the hacking code which the resistance sends into the Matrix, so that someone, in a graffiti code written in a narrow alley, in a glimpse in a shopping window, in a plant breaking the asphalt, in a flickering neon light on a rainy night, suddenly, in a moment of wondering memory, might see a sign from a forgotten, enchanted world.


Related:


The hacking code:

Categories (blog archive): 

My Poems (ongoing category)

The Artist as Shaman (finished category)

My Life as a Vagabond (finished category)

The Matrix Conspiracy (finished category)  

Philosophy and Shamanism (finished category)

Meditation as an Art of Life (finished category)

Philosophy as a Spiritual Practice (finished category) 

New Sûnyatâ Sutras (finished category) 

Sûnyatâ Sutras (finished category) 

Sûnyatâ Sutras 2 (finished category) 

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